Friday, November 9, 2007

Tomorrow is the 32nd anniversary of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I remember this event quite clearly. Mom says she remembers my dad coming home from work and stating that a ship had been lost on Lake Superior. It hit home for him because Captain McSorley of the Fitz was a member of his shipmasters' lodge in Detroit and he knew him. Later in life we would become good friends with Captain Jesse Bernard Cooper, who was the master of the Arthur Anderson, the ship that was following the Fitz. He was the last person to speak to the crew of the Fitz. There were many theories about what caused the vessel to sink. My dad's theory was that the ship bottomed out on Caribou Island, tore a hole in the hull and then foundered soon afterward. The official theory was that the hatch covers were not secure causing the hatches to fill with water. The wreck has been located and the ship's bell was removed and placed in a museum in Whitefish Bay, MI. The Fitz is probably the most famous Great Lakes shipwreck of all time, perhaps helped along by the ballad by Gordon Lightfoot. A friend told he that when he went to buy Lightfoot's album he was told by the clerk at the record store that the 'ship was carrying Christmas trees'. Not true, it was carrying taconite. Mariner's Church of Detroit is the 'musty old hall' sung about in the song. The rector at the time, Father Richard Ingalls, rang the church bell 29 times for each man lost on the ship. My father would sometimes attend the service for the crew of the Fitz, and he would always attend the Blessing of the Fleet service every spring as shipping season began. One of his memorial services was held in this beautiful church on the Detroit waterfront.

If I won the lottery, I'd give money to Mom's day program. They are located in a church basement currently. I'd also make sure that home health aides had health insurance for themselves. This is my dream. I'd also make sure that Mom was well taken care of. And guess what, my sister would love this, I'd move closer to family, I'd buy a summer house on Mackinac Island (which is heaven on earth to our family) and I'd have a place in a warm climate for winter. That's what I'd do with my lottery winnings.


nancy said...

thanks for the history lesson. i remember hearing of it, but not the details.

bless you, i hope you win the lottery. you are a very selfless person!

are you feeling better?

rilera said...

Hi Nancy, Yes, I'm feeling much better. Thank you for asking. I hope you are doing well and taking care of yourself.

~Betsy said...

I remember the Gordon Lightfoot song. I can remember thinking that it was such a tragic thing, but I thought it was something that happened much longer than 32 years ago.

Your dad was a mariner, right? Very cool.

Glad you're feeling better. I saw on TV there was some nasty weather in Duluth. Did you get snow, too?

rilera said...

We had frost on everything on Friday morning, and a really light snowfall. Today it rained though!

My father was a naval architect/marine engineer and also had his shipmaster's license. We had an interesting life. When I was little he worked at a shipyard in Michigan and at the time they were building Naval destroyers and oceanographic ships. We have pictures of us kids posing near the guns on the destroyers. He retired from US Steel where he was a hull engineer for their Great Lakes Fleet of ships (a Pittsburgh connection!).

Anonymous said...

Captain Jesse "Bernie" Bernard Cooper was my great uncle, brother of my grandfather Charles Howard Cooper. Their father was my great grandfather Howard Jeremiah Cooper.

When his boats came into Chicago he would visit and play cribbage late into the night, and, usually I got to go aboard when the boats were drydocked.

If you come across any interesting information I would like to hear it.


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