William Joseph “Willbilly” Hathaway is pictured with his wife, Mary, and his daughter, Molly Jean. Hathaway died after a car crash on Dec. 15.…

Community raises nearly $92K in online fundraiser for crash victim’s family

(Jan. 4, 2019) The day 36-year-old Berlin resident William Joseph “Willbilly” Hathaway died following a crash was a dark day for his friend, Stephanie Lisi.

“I laid in bed after finding out what happened to Will, and my heart just broke for Mary [his wife] and [their] baby, and then I just started seeing dollar signs,” Lisi said.

Lisi, 51, of Berlin, launched a social media fundraising campaign on Dec. 16 with an original goal of $200. That goal was met within approximately eight minutes, and she later received advice to raise the target amount to $250,000. The page accrued $91,486 in donations, and was closed on Dec. 30.

“I think they’re going to have a little peace of mind and a little security for right now,” she said.

Lisi said she put herself in Mary’s shoes as a way to gain perspective and try to find a solution because “in such a tragic situation you want to fix things for people.”

“I thought about how my world would probably fall apart, and what would I need to get it together?” she said. “And I know it sounds terrible because it sounds so monetary, but you can’t even grieve if you think you’re going to be homeless.”

Police responded to the crash on Dec. 15 on Old Ocean City Road, just west of Richardson Road, and Hathaway was found slumped over in the center console, and did not appear to be breathing when paramedics arrived on scene, according to a Maryland State Police report. He was pronounced dead at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury.

Police reports show Hathaway called his wife, Mary, and said someone turned in front of him and he had to swerve his Toyota truck into a ditch. However, the report went on to say he told her and several citizens who stopped at the scene that he was not seriously injured.

Police said the crash is under investigation, but circumstances leading up to the crash were unclear.

Hathaway was a crew member on Foolish Pleasures, a charter boat out of the Ocean City Fishing Center in West Ocean City. Lisi said Hathaway and her husband, Dale, fished together, and were on her husband’s boat which appeared on the National Geographic Channel’s television show “Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks.”

“He was a hell of a fisherman. I mean he really was an absolutely incredible tuna fisherman,” she said. “Probably one of the best.” 

Lisi went on to say the couple would often spend time with her family. Mary Hathaway is a teacher at Stephen Decatur High School, and Lisi’s “youngest son knows her as Willbilly’s girl and he knew her as Ms. Malone then Hathaway once they got married last year.”

Lisi remembered a specific characteristic of Hathaway’s: his walk.

“He just he sort of did this shuffle when he walked,” she said. “The feet never left the ground.”

But it was his “laid back” and agreeable personality that Lisi said were reasons that made him a pillar in the community. 

“He was an amazing guy, and he never had a bad word to say about anybody,” she said. “Nobody, I’ve never met anybody that didn’t like him.”

Lisi said Mary Hathaway’s “strength was unbelievable” during the memorial service on Dec. 22 at the Ocean City Marlin Club in West Ocean City.

“Overall I think she feels incredibly loved and very humble through all this, and the outpouring of support and photographs and stories of how other people knew her husband,” she said.

In lieu of flowers, anyone interested had the opportunity to submit memories of her husband to an electronic dropbox link. It has since closed.

Lisi said another fundraiser is being planned for this spring, and the proceeds will go toward a fund for their daughter, Molly Jean’s, education.

Lisi emphasized a part of Hathaway she’ll always have: Molly Jean. The father and daughter looked incredibly similar, Lisi said, noting the facial expressions they share. 

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Molly Jean Hathaway

Molly Jean Hathaway

“There is a little smirk on her face ... and … [when] you get a head-on shot with Will giving his little smile it’s the same exact smile,” Lisi said. “It’s the same squint of the left eye.” 

Lisi said during this time of grief and great stress, Mary Hathaway still finds a way to be strong for her daughter.

“You know if she starts to feel like she’s gonna break, she picks up Molly Jean and holds her because if she gets upset, Molly Jean gets upset,” Lisi said. “Right now, Mary says that’s really her strength, Molly Jean.”

In addition, Chris Mickey created a GoFundMe page on Jan.1 in the hopes of raising $60,000 for an artificial reef in Hathaway’s honor.

“When all is complete, the new artificial reef will become an everlasting memorial that will attract all kinds of life above and below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean,” Mickey stated in the post. “Any surplus funds that are left over in the event that more funds are available than what is needed to complete this project will be given to the wife and daughter of our great friend and legend Capt. WillBilly Hathaway. Everyone who knew William knows how much the ocean meant to him and I cannot think of a better way to honor his life than to create a place that will become for many ocean species a place they call home…The Capt. WillBilly.”

Mickey and Hathaway met about seven years ago on a commercial longline boat. Mickey was also Hathaway’s first mate on the boat, Miss Lilah.

“Capt. Will Hathaway was my fishing buddy, my working buddy, and will always be my dear friend,” Mickey said Wednesday afternoon.

For more information or to donate to the project, visit “WillBilly Memorial Reef Project” on Facebook.

This article was updated to correct that Mary Hathaway is a teacher at Stephen Decatur High School. 

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