Warren Leback

Obituary of Warren G Leback

Captain Warren G. Leback of Skillman, NJ, passed away on November 21, 2019 at the age of 95.  Warren had a 65-year career in the maritime industry starting at the age of 18 as a cadet midshipman on the liberty ship Joseph McKenna during World War II. 


Warren was the son of the late Captain Vernon and June Leback of Astoria, Oregon.  He and his twin brother, Calvin, were born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1924, and were nicknamed Pat and Mike, respectively.  Warren was predeceased by his wife, Dorothy Jewel Leback, his twin brother, Captain Calvin C. Leback, his sister, Mary Leback Shook, and his son-in-law, Simon Sitwell.


He is survived by his children: Warren Thomas Leback and his wife Chloe, Christine Leback Sitwell, and Karen Frances Leback.  He is also survived by his grandchildren: Todd Leback and his wife Lisa Grové, Emily Leback Achin and her husband John, Peter Leback, and Sergey Sitwell.  His surviving great-grandchildren are Miles, Maude, Henry, Clover, and Violet.


Warren met his wife, Jewel, during World War II in San Francisco where she was serving in the United States Coast Guard as a SPAR.  They were married in New Paris, Indiana, in 1947, and began their 67-year marriage in New York City.  They also lived in Barranquilla and Cartagena, Colombia; Wyckoff, Franklin Lakes, Chatham, Princeton, and Skillman, New Jersey; New Orleans, Louisiana; Houston, Texas; and Washington, DC.  Warren was an active member of numerous maritime organizations including serving as National President of the United States Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association and National President of the Council of American Master Mariners.  He also served as deacon of the Wyckoff Reformed Church and elder of the Nassau Presbyterian Church, Princeton, NJ.


After graduating from Astoria High School in January 1942, Warren completed training at the Cadet Basic Training School on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay in June, 1942, and reported for duty on the McKenna, which was operated by Grace Line.  He spent seven months at sea.  During his first voyage, his ship brought back from Pearl Harbor the stern section of the destroyer USS Cassin, which had been bombed on December 7, 1941.  On a second voyage, the McKenna delivered military supplies to the American troops on Guadalcanal; on this voyage he was awarded a Merchant Marine Combat medal.  After being discharged from the McKenna, Warren reported to the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY, to complete his studies and graduated in January, 1944.  He then he returned to Grace Line to sail in the South Pacific Theater.  In 1947, Warren received his Master’s (Captain’s) License, which he maintained until his death. 


Warren worked for Grace Line until 1960 serving as third, second, and chief mate on several vessels and Master of the passenger cargo ship Santa Monica.  He also held managerial positions in Barranquilla and Cartagena, Colombia; and in New York City.  Warren subsequently held positions with Central Gulf Steamship Corporation, Sea-Land Service, Inc., Interstate Oil Transport Company, El Paso LNG Company, and Puerto Rico Marine Management, Inc.  He was appointed Deputy Maritime Administrator in the Department of Transportation by President Ronald Reagan.  He later served President George H. W. Bush as Maritime Administrator.  He retired as President of First American Bulk Carrier Corporation.


Warren received the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy’s Outstanding Professional Achievement Award in 1964, the Alumnus of the Year Award in 1978, the Distinguished Service Award in 1984, and the Meritorious Alumni Service Award in 1989.  In 1997, he was elected to the Academy’s Hall of Distinguished Graduates.  A classroom in Bowditch Hall at the Academy is named in his honor.  In 1991, he was honored with the Admiral of the Ocean Sea Award by the United Seamen’s Service.  He received Honorary Doctorates from the Maine Maritime Academy and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. 


A memorial service will be held in Princeton at a later date.  Warren’s wish was for donations to be made to United States Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association and Foundation, Kings Points, NY or American Merchant Marine Museum at the US Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, NY in his memory.  Warren’s ashes will be buried with his wife’s ashes in the cemetery at New Paris, Indiana and spread over the Columbia River bar in Oregon.

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