Don Sineti, WhaleFest’s ‘Shantyman,’ Dies at 79


Don Sineti performs at the Pioneers Home in 2017. (Sentinel File Photo)

Donald Sineti, a “shantyman” who sang and entertained during Sitka’s WhaleFest for many years, passed away Jan. 5 in Connecticut at the age of 79.

His last appearance at WhaleFest was in November 2019. After COVID hit he sent videos of himself singing, in 2020 and 2021. He had hoped to attend in 2022, but was unable to, a Sitka friend, David Moore, said. The Sentinel ran a photo of him on the front page in announcing the 2022 WhaleFest.

Don first performed at WhaleFest after meeting Jan Straley, a Sitka marine biologist well known for her work with whales, at a whale festival in Hawaii.

Along with singing at WhaleFest events, he would go to the schools, the Pioneers Home and other venues to entertain. With his big smile and his kind words for everyone, Don was a welcome guest.

Don was born June 2, 1943, in Hartford, Connecticut, to Augustino and Yolanda (Lauretti) Sineti. After serving with the military in Vietnam he returned to Connecticut, where he played with a group called The Morgans. Later he and his friends, the group Americana, played in Manchester.

Don was very proud to be a protege of Stan Hugill, known as the “Last Working Shantyman.” One of his prized possessions was a note from Hugill saying Don had “the best shanty voice” he had ever heard.

With that commanding voice and his love of music, Don spent 27 years as “The Shanty Man,” performing as an active member of the Mystic, Connecticut, community.

Along with singing at Sitka and Hawaii whale festivals, Don worked with sailing campers, and he also worked with the Citacean Society to get the sperm whale adopted as the Connecticut state animal.

Don is survived by his wife, Mary (Mead) Dansinghani, whom he married in 2020, and by many other relatives and friends.

A private family celebration of his life will be held later.

Condolences can be sent to Don’s wife at 54 Ellsworth Drive, Bloomfield, CT 06002.

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At a Glance

(updated 1-31-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 12:15 pm Tuesday, January 31.

New cases as of Tuesday: 792

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 291,060

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,436

Case Rate per 100,000 – 108.66

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 70.4

Cases in last 7 days – 6

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,264

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






February 2003

By GIL TRUITT: It seems like only yesterday that I was aboard the Alaska Coastal Airlines Grumman Goose, taking off from Wrangell, headed for my hometown, Sitka, in February 1947. I was a student at Wrangell Institute at the time but that was quickly forgotten when the “Goose” pulled up on the Japonski Island ramp. The big student movement to Sitka from Wrangell had begun. The creation of Mt. Edgecumbe High School was under way.



February 1973

 This year’s theme for the Sitka High School girls third quarter challenge is “Beat the Pudgies.” ... Becoming a member guarantees taking off or readjusting inches, taking off excess pounds, developing muscle tone and losing unnecessary flab.