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Edmund Fitzgerald

Old 11-07-2005, 09:10 PM
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Default Edmund Fitzgerald

This Thursday is the 30th anniversary.

Ohio NewNovember 7, 2005

30 years later, legend lives on for the Edmund Fitzgerald

A life ring and a life vest from the Edmund Fitzgerald hang in an exhibit, along with a painting of the doomed ship, at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point, Mich.



When the 25th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald near Whitefish Point, Mich., was commemorated in 2000, some people thought the event, over time, might gradually fade from public view.

That has not been the case.

With the 30th anniversary approaching on Thursday, the Fitzgerald story has continued to grow in stature.

Consider that:

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is expecting about 400 people on Thursday for its annual ceremony marking the Fitzgerald sinking, twice the number in attendance last year.

Officials at the Mariners' Church in Detroit, which has held a Fitzgerald service every year since 1976, are expecting to fill its 550-seat parish near the Renaissance Center on Sunday.

A piano concerto, "The Edmund Fitzgerald," premiered Saturday in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

A memorial service, which includes the performance of a play about the Fitzgerald by students from Wayne State University in Detroit, will be at 7 p.m. Thursday aboard the SS Willis B. Boyer museum ship in International Park in Toledo. Tom Walton, vice president and editor of The Blade, who served on the Fitzgerald in 1963, is the keynote speaker. His uncle, Ralph Walton, was aboard the ship when it sank.
The reasons for the continued fuss are many and varied. But one explanation supersedes all others.

"The mystery of the sinking remains. The loss is unexplainable; we still don't know what caused the ship to take on water. This hotly debated question has contributed to the legend," said Tom Farnquist, executive director of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society, which operates the museum and oversees the memorial ceremony every Nov. 10, the anniversary of the sinking.

The Edmund Fitzgerald, at the time the Great Lakes' largest freighter at 730 feet, went down near Whitefish Point on a stormy, snowy night in Lake Superior in 1975, sending 29 crew members to their deaths. The ship's captain, Ernest McSorley of Ottawa Hills - one of 13 Ohioans aboard -- had radioed a nearby ship just after 7 p.m., saying, "We're holding our own."

That message, coupled with the unexplained reason for the ship suddenly vanishing and taking an entire crew with her 10 seconds after the captain's broadcast, has fueled an insatiable curiosity about the Fitzgerald that has only grown over the years, particularly in a computer age, when so much information is readily available.

"Literally thousands come to Whitefish Point [every year] who are interested in lighthouses and shipwrecks. Many of them who do come went to the Internet and popped in Fitzgerald," Mr. Farnquist said.

In the days and months following the sinking, several events occurred that elevated the Fitzgerald to legendary status.

Shortly after news of the ship's demise spread, the Rev. Richard Ingalls, Sr., of the Mariners' Church in Detroit, in a spontaneous gesture, rang the church bell 29 times, once for each of the Fitzgerald's crew. Mr. Ingalls' tribute quickly gained international attention, quickly adding to the Fitzgerald's lore.

Among those who read about the ship's sinking and Mr. Ingalls was singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, who in three days from his Toronto home wrote "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," a song that further cemented the ship's legacy.

Two years later, Frederick Stonehouse, a Marquette, Mich., author, penned a book of the same name that has sold more than 250,000 copies.

Over subsequent years, other books were written, Mr. Lightfoot's song never strayed far from the airwaves, the media fueled various theories on what caused the Fitzgerald to sink, and a cottage industry involving ship memorabilia grew - keeping the legend aloft.

Still, people such as Mr. Ingalls, 79, thought interest in the event would wane.

"I thought that after the 25th [anniversary], we would not have a highly publicized service. I talked to the bell ringers about dropping the service if no one was interested in it or if the [event] became a gimmick. But it's never become a gimmick here. Throughout the year we get many requests for material and information; there is just something about it that it refuses to die," he said.

Mr. Stonehouse wonders why such a compelling story has not found its way to the cinema.

"I'm really surprised Hollywood has not come together with a film," he said. "The argument has been that, unlike the Titanic, it's too regionalized. But it's a good tale that could make a great movie if they don't get too lost in the details."

Mr. Stonehouse said he was not aware of the Fitzgerald concerto being composed, but is familiar with a pair of stage productions, at least one other book, and everything from coffee cups and T-shirts to Fitzgerald hats.

"The most tasteless thing I've seen was a [Edmund Fitzgerald] Christmas card," he said.

For years, the Mariners' Church was the focal point of the anniversary commemoration

But, in 1995, members of the Canadian Navy recovered the Fitzgerald's bell, which now rests at the shipwreck museum. Since then, according to Mr. Farnquist, the museum has become a significant part of the Fitzgerald's legacy, particularly for the crew's family.

"We never had a grave or a place to go," said Ruth Hudson of North Ridgeville, Ohio, whose son, Bruce Hudson, perished in the sinking. "To the families, we now have a place to go and remember our loved ones. We have two places [really]; the [Mariners'] church has provided a lot of support to the families over the years."

Mrs. Hudson said she hopes to attend both services this year, as will other family members, many of whom will participate in the bell-ringing ceremonies.

At the shipwreck museum, the Fitzgerald bell will be rung 30 times, according to Mr. Farnquist.

"One more time for the 30,000 [sailors] who died in 6,000 shipwrecks on the Great Lakes - and that's a conservative number," he said.

Mr. Farnquist recalled that Mr. Lightfoot turned up for the ceremony at the shipwreck museum 10 years ago when the bell was recovered.

"He was nervous," he said. "He thought the family members didn't like him for capitalizing on their loss. It turned out to be the opposite. He was keeping the memories [of their loved ones] alive. Now, anytime he has a concert in the Midwest, family members show up and they go backstage to talk to him. He's a real trouper."

Mr. Farnquist said another reason for the Fitzgerald's staying power is the radical change in Great Lakes shipping that likely would prevent another such incident from occurring.

"At the turn of the century, there were about 3,000 ships on the Great Lakes. Now there are less than 150. Navigation is better. Weather forecasting is better. And even large freighters are cautious about going out in storms now," he said.

Mr. Farnquist and Mrs. Hudson aren't sure how long the Fitzgerald will spark interest.

"I don't know what the future holds. [But] the ship is so important to those interested in maritime history," Mr. Farnquist said.

Said Mrs. Hudson: "I don't know what the years will bring, but the men will be remembered. This anniversary is about remembering them."

Contact George Tanber at: [email protected] or 734-241-3610.

2005 The Blade. By using this service, you accept the terms of our privacy statement and our visitor agreement. Please read them.
The Toledo Blade Company, 541 N. Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660 , (419) 724-6000
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The Toledo Times

Last edited by RedDog382; 11-07-2005 at 09:17 PM.
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Old 11-07-2005, 09:27 PM
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Default Re: Edmund Fitzgerald

on the big lake they call it shagoomey..........from the song........m.m.....
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Old 11-07-2005, 09:32 PM
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Default Re: Edmund Fitzgerald

My aunt and uncle have a picture of them standing in front of the ship .. you can see the name in the pic ..

Thanks for posting that. Ill email it to my uncle.
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Old 11-07-2005, 09:36 PM
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The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well seasoned
Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ship's bell rang
Could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?
The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too,
T'was the witch of November come stealin'.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the Gales of November came slashin'.
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind.

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin'.
Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya.
At Seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in, he said
Fellas, it's been good t'know ya
The captain wired in he had water comin' in
And the good ship and crew was in peril.
And later that night when his lights went outta sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
May have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams;
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the Gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral.
The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call 'Gitche Gumee'.
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early!
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Old 11-07-2005, 09:37 PM
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thanks Chris. i had no idea the captain was from Ottawa Hills.
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Old 11-07-2005, 09:39 PM
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Always wanted to trailer up there and go over to the graveyard. It's fairly close offshore. Not many go-fasts on Superior, engines should run good in the cold water. I have snowmobiled close to the museum, not much around there. Good thread, tnks RedDg.
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Old 11-07-2005, 09:40 PM
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Default Re: Edmund Fitzgerald

They are all still remebered.
It's not a joke how the Great lakes can kick up. I've seen it many times first hand.

Thank you for posting that.
I hadn't realized the anniversary.
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Old 11-07-2005, 09:55 PM
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God Bless....Thanks Chris.
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Old 11-07-2005, 10:21 PM
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Default Re: Edmund Fitzgerald

There were a seven Toledoans on the Ship including the wheelman and chief steward. In fact 14 of the crew hailed from Ohio. The Fitz's home port was Toledo even though it was owned by a Wisconsin insurance company and leased to Ogleby Norton.

Also, even though the song says the catherdal in Detroit the first memorial was held one week after the sinking at the Naval Armory on the Maumee with about 500 people in attendance when "the bell was tolled 29 times" Then a wreath was cast far offshore in Lake Erie.

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Old 11-07-2005, 11:39 PM
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Default Re: Edmund Fitzgerald

Originally Posted by Racegirl3
My aunt and uncle have a picture of them standing in front of the ship .. you can see the name in the pic ..

Thanks for posting that. Ill email it to my uncle.

It's in the Toledo Blade. I could not do a quicklink for some reason.

My grandfather used to be a commercial fisherman in the Western Basin of Lake Erie. My mom loved lighthouses, freighters, and the tale of the Fitz. My dad built a boat from scratch when he was 16 years old ... my older brother still has it.

It's in the blood ...
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