Community Rallying For Popular Local Fisherman With Massive Fundraising Effort; ‘Willbilly’ Died After Saturday Crash

Community Rallying For Popular Local Fisherman With Massive Fundraising Effort; ‘Willbilly’ Died After Saturday Crash
William J. Hathaway is pictured with his wife, Mary, a local teacher, and daughter, Molly Jean.

OCEAN CITY — The local community is once again rallying around its own this week after a Saturday afternoon accident on Old Ocean City Road in Wicomico County claimed the life of a popular and beloved fixture in the resort fishing community.

William Joseph Hathaway, 36, of Berlin, perished in a single-vehicle accident on Old Ocean City Road just west of Richardson Road in Wicomico County just after 4 p.m. on Saturday. Hathaway, the affable mate on the Foolish Pleasures out of the Ocean City Fishing Center in West Ocean City, was wildly popular among the tight-knit fishing industry.

Hathaway leaves behind an infant daughter and wife, a Stephen Decatur High School teacher. His fishing prowess was legendary and he appeared on the popular National Geographic Channel reality show “Wicked Tuna” along with his captain and other crew members on the Foolish Pleasure. More importantly, Hathaway, or “Willbilly” as he was lovingly known, was just a genuine nice guy and who always garnered smiles from those around him.

As the news of his passing spread through the fishing community and beyond throughout the night on Saturday and into Sunday morning, his fishing family and the resort community in general immediately began rallying for his young family. By Sunday morning, a Facebook fundraising page was set up with the stated goal of reaching $250,000, and by Monday morning, nearly $54,000 had been raised.

According to the Facebook fundraising page, Hathaway “was an exceptional human being whose passion was the sea. He always brightened the day of anyone he met. His wife and newborn baby girl he was most proud of. Due to his untimely death, we are asking for donations to help them stay on their feet while trying to survive this tragedy.”

Around 4:10 p.m. on Saturday, the Maryland State Police Salisbury barrack received a call from a concerned citizen after passing a vehicle in a ditch along Old Ocean City Road just west of Richardson Road. After that initial call, the MSP Salisbury barrack received several other 911 calls for the same incident.

According to police reports, Hathaway called his wife from a cell phone and told her he was okay, but that someone had turned in front of him and that he had to swerve into a ditch. According to police reports, Hathaway’s wife also heard him state to other concerned citizens that stopped at the scene that he was okay.

However, when MSP troopers and EMS arrived on the scene, they found Hathaway to be not breathing and slumped over the center console. He was immediately transported to Peninsula Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced deceased.

According to police reports, minimal damage was sustained by the 2008 Toyota truck and the damage did not appear consistent with a driver suffering fatal injuries. For example, there was no airbag deployment. The investigation is ongoing.

Meanwhile, the Facebook page accepting donations for Hathaway’s family can be found on the social media platform under Mary and Molly Jean Hathaway at

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.