When Michigan’s Tracy Nemecek died four days ago, reportedly from complications of injuries sustained in an accidental fall, Northern Michigan’s Boyne Thunder Poker Run didn’t just lose one of its biggest boosters and most dedicated organizing committee members. The entire go-fast boating world lost its most colorful, 62-year-old dentist, a big-hearted guy who owned a vibrant 47-foot Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats V-bottom as well as a bunch of equally colorful shirts with sleeves large enough to carry his giant heart.
In rough water or calm, Tracey Nemecek loved and lived performance boating. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
“You always knew when ‘Doc T’ showed up to the party,” said Bob Mathers, his longtime friend and fellow Boyne Thunder organizing committee member. “If you didn’t know, he would make sure you did.”
Nemecek left behind his beloved wife of 10 years, Connie, their beloved Shar-Pei canines—from which he derived his “Wrinkleface” screen-name on offshoreonly.com—and friends around the country who loved him. Within hours of his passing those friends began sharing remembrances of him in a discussion-thread on the performance-boating website.
Tracey and Connie Nemecek enjoyed their life together on and off the water.
Still, Nemecek always will be linked to Boyne Thunder. Figuratively and literally, he was close to event—his office overlooked Round Lake, the immaculate gateway between Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan. The event is celebrating its 19th anniversary this year and has long-demonstrated what can grow from a dedicated group of organizers working as a team.
Nemecek also will be remembered by those who knew him for his near-constant use of the word “fella.” And in every way, he was Boyne Thunder’s “Original Fella.”
Peter Oppermann, a Northern Michigan optometrist with a significant go-fast boating habit and a longtime seat on the Boyne Thunder organizing committee, described Nemecek as “instrumental” in the growth of the event. Nemecek actually took him to Lake Charlevoix for the first time.
“He didn’t just love boating, he loved boaters,” said Oppermann, who owns a 37-foot V-bottom from Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats. “He was of the opinion that all boaters are on the water for the same reason he was—that it is simply and extremely enjoyable.
From his often-colorful wardrobe to his love for Shar-Pei pooches, Tracey Nemecek was one of a kind.
“He was also a very good swimmer,” he continued. “I remember one Memorial Day he swam in the frigid waters from his boat to a friend’s dock—and back. It had to be 70 yards and the water temp had to be 45 degrees. When we would anchor and tie up to other boats, he also felt he needed to swim down and check the anchor and be sure it was set.”
Current Boyne Thunder Poker Run event coordinator Ingrid Day, who took over for longtime committee chairman Bob Alger, praised Nemecek for his passion as an event organizer. She described him as a valued member of the Boyne Thunder team often credited with helping to grow the event.
“His real talent was bringing a boating perspective—and a hearty laugh—to team meetings,” she said. “He was always helping, from running his boat to using it as marshal vessel during the event. We will miss seeing Tracy on the shores of Lake Charlevoix.”
Day’s longtime predecessor knew Nemecek well.
“Tracy served on the organization committee for quite a few years before leaving four of five years ago to dedicate more time to his dental practice, although he never really left the event because he continued to be a pace-boat and was first up in offering to give rides to the kids,” Alger said. “He had a great pulse on what was being said on social media when we were really working to grow the event.
“I believe much of Boyne Thunder’s growth was a result of not only his work, but his charisma and personality as he talked about the boating experience in Northern Michigan and what the event means for the beneficiaries,” he continued. “He was the best ambassador for Boyne Thunder that anyone could have asked for.”
In 2015, speedonthewater.com interviewed Nemecek for its “Sunday Fun Day” series. When we asked him to describe his ideal Sunday on the water, his answer was exactly what we expected.
“For us, the perfect Sunday Fun Day would be to launch in Lake Charlevoix (Mich.), idle through Round Lake and out to Lake Michigan with as many boats/people who want to go with us. We’d boat to Leland, Bay Harbor or Harbor Springs for lunch. Then we’d head back to Lake Charlevoix for some rafting up while enjoying the company of good friends.”
For those friends, many of whom will celebrate his life today during a memorial service in Charlevoix, life won’t be the same without him.
“Tracey was a special guy with a huge heart,” said Michael Knoblock, the owner of longtime Boyne Thunder sponsor American Custom Marine. “He always was willing to help others, especially his boating friends. I have boated with Tracy for more than 20 years and his true passion was to be on the water in his Nor-Tech. He always will be loved and appreciated by everyone who knew him.”
Tracey Nemecek will be remembered as Boyne Thunder’s Original Fella. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill PIx.
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