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Paul Brailsford

IPSWICH — Paul Brailsford did a lot of living in his 96 years.

Described by his daughter, Robin Brailsford, as a "force of nature," he sailed the world as a merchant mariner and worked to make a difference, both as an anti-nuclear and peace activist and in business, introducing new innovations to the fishing industry.

Brailsford passed away April 28 and will be remembered in a 10 a.m. celebration Saturday, May 12, at Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church in Danvers, where he was a longtime member.

"He was a very gregarious person," Robin said of her father. "... He was often like a bull in a china shop, (but) he never meant to be anything but himself."

Brailsford "always put himself in the middle of things," Robin said.

He penned a near-constant stream of letters to the editor at The Salem News, often on shipping, political and environmental issues.

"He was always ahead of his time," Robin said. "He saw where things (in politics and culture) were going, was alarmed by things before other people."

Brailsford was an active leader in several local peace organizations, including a local chapter of Veterans for Peace. In the 1990s, he journeyed to Russia and Cuba as part of peace delegations.

After a rocky childhood, "he didn't understand much about how to do family," she said. But he found a niche — and a second family — through his peace activism.

Robin said her father used his tough upbringing as a positive.

"(He lived to) keep moving forward," she said, "express yourself, don't dwell on the past. Find your passion and pursue it."

Brailsford was born in London in 1915 and left England at age 16. He was a master mariner, a certification that meant he could captain any vessel.

He commanded banana ships, tankers and cruise ships around the world; in 1943, he was part of a World War II convoy to supply allied forces with fuel to invade the Philippines.

When he settled on the North Shore, he sailed as a member of the Manchester Harbor Boat Club.

In 1949, he married Frances Wosmek, and the couple raised two children, Brian and Robin, in Beverly Farms. He later moved to Ipswich, remarried and divorced but always cherished the relationship he had with the daughters of his second wife, Robin said.

Tragedy hit the family when Martha Conant Brailsford, the wife of Brailsford's son, Brian, was murdered in 1991. Brailsford's daughter-in-law, who lived in Salem at the time, never returned from a sailing trip with an acquaintance.

Thomas Maimoni was charged with her death and convicted of second-degree murder in 1993.

Brailsford went to every day of the trial and subsequent parole hearings and was always grateful for the support the family received from the community of Salem, Robin said.

"He felt a strong connection to Salem, and the people of Salem," she said.

In business, Brailsford worked in sales and started his own company, Brailsford Associates. He introduced items into the U.S. fishing industry to increase safety and productivity, from boxes to pack fish in without ice to survival suits, which are now a standard safety item.

Brailsford will be remembered for his poetry, art, love of Greek dancing, and penchant for chocolate and real whipped cream — none of that fake "whipped topping" stuff, Robin said.

If he stopped for gas, he'd usually come out with a few candy bars in his pocket, Robin said. A regular at Lewis' restaurant in Essex, he would look at the dessert menu first and pick his dinner based on whether or not he'd be having dessert.

Brailsford was active and articulate until the day he died. Robin remembers their most recent conversation, in which he was "furious" at the captain of the Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship that grounded and sank in January.

He was surrounded by friends and family when his heart stopped working, Robin said.

"He went out with his boots on," she said. "He was fully Paul Brailsford to the end."

Staff writer Bethany Bray can be reached at bbray@salemnews.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.