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Dory fisherman's ashes to be spread at sea

A veteran since 1971 of the iconic Newport Beach fishing fleet dies of lung cancer. He was 64.

February 11, 2011|By Joanna Clay, joanna.clay.dailypilot@gmail.com
  • Frank Leal and his wife, Leslie, renew their wedding vows on Nov. 27. Frank Leal, a veteran Dory fisherman, passed away Feb. 1.
Frank Leal and his wife, Leslie, renew their wedding vows… (Courtesy Linda…)

Editor's note: This corrects Frank Leal's birthday.

NEWPORT BEACH — The ashes of one of the last four surviving Dory fishermen will be scattered at sea, where he had toiled for decades to haul in the early-morning catch.

Dory Fishing Fleet veteran Frank Leal, the son of a Portuguese fisherman, died of lung cancer at his Costa Mesa home Feb. 1. He was 64.

"He wanted to be put on his favorite fishing spot," his widow, Leslie Leal, said.

Frank Leal's life will be celebrated with a memorial service at the Newport Pier at 11 a.m. Sunday. After the service, his ashes will be spread over coastline off Newport Harbor.

Born in Costa Mesa on April 29, 1946, Leal grew up in the Newport-Mesa area. He attended Newport Elementary and Ensign Middle schools, but dropped out when he was 13 to work for his father's business.

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His father had emigrated from Portugal and brought his fishing business with him, teaching his son to work the mackerel boat at a young age.

Leal joined Newport Beach's storied commercial fishing fleet in 1971. Although the original Dory market was operated by fishermen, nowadays it's rare to meet a Dory fisherman who goes out to the surf and gets his own catch.

He and Leslie met at a bar in Placentia called Finnegan's Wake, which no longer exists, she recalled. She was then a student in medical school.

Leal's bride started fishing with him in '71 aboard the fleet's boats. There were around 22 fishermen then, she said, but their numbers have since dwindled to four, which included her husband.

When Leal was diagnosed with cancer in the fall, it was already at stage four. He hadn't complained of any aches or pains and kept fishing and working up to 16-hour days until Oct. 15, Leslie Leal said .

After receiving the bad news, the Leals decided to renew their vows in a ceremony on Nov. 27.

Now, only three of Leal's Dory fishing mates remain: Jim Baker, Doug Bray and Strada Voyatzis.

At the Dory marketplace on Friday, friends and former coworkers remembered Leal as a quiet and kind man.

"He was a good fisherman and a good guy," said Voyatzis, who worked with Leal for 40 years. "Not just a nice guy — a very nice guy."

"Captain Bob" Tierney, the self-proclaimed manager of the Dory Fishing Fleet, met Leal in the 1980s. Tierney, then a film producer, came to Newport because he was thinking of making a documentary about the Dory fishermen.

He never made the film, but he stayed on.

"He was our oldest working fisherman," Tierney said. "He's going to be really missed. A lot of people come every week for him."

Tierney is currently working on photo collages for Leal's memorial. At the Dory marketplace Friday, flowers marked the spot where Leal used to sell his catch.

Leal is survived by his wife, daughters Francesca and Felicia, and grandson Hayden.

Leslie Leal is asking that donations be made in lieu of flowers. She is raising money to have her husband's name added to the monument in front of the Dory Fishing Fleet in McFadden Square.

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