Local Obituaries

Navy SEAL Stuart Sorg, champion of Miami waterfront, dies at 85

Retired Navy SEAL Captain Stuart Sorg championed the placement of a mooring field in Biscayne Bay. The “mooring city” could be a money maker for Miami, he said, as he pointed toward boats moored in the area near Coral Reef Yacht Club in Coconut Grove on Oct. 12, 2009.
Retired Navy SEAL Captain Stuart Sorg championed the placement of a mooring field in Biscayne Bay. The “mooring city” could be a money maker for Miami, he said, as he pointed toward boats moored in the area near Coral Reef Yacht Club in Coconut Grove on Oct. 12, 2009. For the Miami Herald

Update: Funeral services have been scheduled and are detailed below.

Stuart Sorg was the kind of person who learned by diving into the deep end.

From the military to a banking career to one of the leading activists to preserve the Miami waterfront, Sorg, a chairman of Coconut Grove’s Waterfront Advisory Board and a retired Navy SEAL captain, was built for a community surrounded by water.

“He was the most knowledgeable guy in all of Miami on the waterfront,” said former Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff. “He loved it. He lived it. He was a real Groveite and lover and advocate for the waterfront.”

Sorg died May 18 in Aventura of cardiac arrest said his son, Joseph Braxton Sorg. “He came along at the right time and place in history to accomplish the things he did in the Navy, for the City of Miami and Coconut Grove.”

He loved the city and the Grove and found no greater pleasure in working to better the area and sail upon the waters of Biscayne Bay.

Joseph Braxton Sorg on his father, Stuart Sorg.

Sorg, who raced a sailboat named Special Warfare from the waters off Coral Reef Yacht Club in Coconut Grove, learned scuba diving while undergoing basic underwater demolition training. He had enlisted in the Navy at the start of the Korean War in 1950. As part of his training, he had to swim from Vieques, an island that’s part of Puerto Rico, to Roosevelt Roads, a former U.S. Naval base on the east coast of Puerto Rico — a distance of six miles. It took him more than eight hours to swim in the heavy current.

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Stuart Sorg’s Navy portrait. He served for 26 years, between 1950-1992. Courtesy Joseph Braxton Sorg

Between 1950 and 1992, Sorg spent a combined 26 years with the Navy. He was discharged in 1953, studied at the University of Virginia and University of Miami in the 1950s — during which he lived aboard his sailboat, Rainbows End, and worked part time as a dock master at Coconut Grove Sailing Club. He earned an advanced banking degree at Northwestern University in Evanston, a Chicago suburb.

Sorg founded a stockholder-owned savings-and-loan in Virginia, ran a bank marketing company in Virginia, and after settling in Miami in the early 1970s, he was regional vice president of Miami’s former Southeast Bank. He was president of the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce, a founding member of Miami’s International Trade Board, vice president of the Goombay Festival and Vizcayans Association, and a Mercy Hospital Foundation founder member.

But the lure of the waterfront kept tugging. At 39, he re-enlisted with the Navy SEALs and as a reservist, served in Vietnam, and founded the Navy SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce. When Sorg finally retired in 1992, he had completed 103 parachute jumps — the last one at age 62, the oldest-serving SEAL in its history, said Mark Kamilar, a former commodore at Coral Reef Yacht Club and board member at the U.S. Sailing Center.

OBIT SORG special warfare rosenstiel
Retired U.S. Navy SEAL Captain Stuart Sorg on his sailboat Special Warfare in Biscayne Bay, with several University of Miami Rosenstiel School crew members in 2009. Sue Cocking Miami Herald file

Sorg was born Dec. 31, 1931, in Richmond, Virginia. At Saturday’s memorial service at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the Grove, Kamilar said in his eulogy that these early years gave Sorg his particular bearing.

“We Floridians too often forget the finer points of Southern hospitality and the fast disappearing art of being a Southern gentleman. Stuart was a master of both,” Kamilar said.

Stuart lived an exemplary life filled with service to his country, dedication to purpose, and the passion to impose his will on the world. If America is great, it is people like Stuart Sorg who made it great and we are all enriched by his efforts and example.

Attorney Mark Kamilar.

But Sorg could be a fighter when riled. He formed the Coconut Grove Waterfront Marine Committee and clashed with the Miami City Commission when, in 2008, it approved a conceptual $165-million waterfront master plan to build a set of connecting parks that called for consolidating the U.S. Sailing Center and Coconut Grove Sailing Club into a single facility at Dinner Key, and the demolition of the Coconut Grove Exhibition Center. The expo, where “Burn Notice” once filmed, was demolished in 2014. The sailing clubs, which he opposed moving, remain.

More: Read about the opening of Regatta Park in the Grove

“We’ve got a lot of things that shouldn’t change,” Sorg told the Miami Herald in 2007. To Sasaki Associates, the engineers of the project, he said, “I think what you’ve done is excellent. But I support very little of it.”

In his mid-70s, the man who once attached explosives to the hulls of enemy ships taught women’s sailing at Coral Reef Yacht Club and youth sailing for the Orange Bowl Regatta. “That’s what I like to do — teach,” he told the Herald.

OBIT SORG sailing women
Stuart Sorg taught sailing lessons to women at Coral Reef Yacht Club in Coconut Grove. In this 2006 photo, several join him on his boat, Special Warfare. (L to R): Joan Kurucz, Mickey Knecht, Jan Gardiner, Mimi Gardner, Suzie Harbour and Sorg. Miami Herald file

Tough guy? Sure. But…

“SEALs are really good with kids,” Sorg told the Herald in 1999. “Kids and puppies — that surprises a lot of people. But we’re really nice guys.”

OBIT SORG snorkel
Stuart Sorg (right) teaches recreational diving in Biscayne Bay near Coconut Grove’s Coral Reef Yacht Club in this 2002 photo. Sue Cocking Miami Herald file

Sorg’s survivors also include his children Jacquelyn Sorg Barchanowicz, Ginger Sorg Kocjancic and William Stuart Sorg III and six grandchildren.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. June 26 at South Florida National Cemetery, 6501 S. State Rd. 7, Lake Worth. Donations in Sorg’s name can be made to the Navy Seal Museum in Fort Pierce.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen

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