Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 8, 2013

Memorial will honor sailing heritage

HOLLY SETTER Times Herald (Port Huron)
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) — Port Huron will be getting its first sailors memorial later this year.

“There has never been a sailors memorial that we know of in St. Clair County,” said Susan Bennett, director of the museum. “It is kind of unbelievable.”

She told the Times Herald of Port Huron that local diver Wayne Brusate is making the whole thing possible. Bennett said Brusate salvaged the marine artifact that will serve as the main body of the memorial and has been hanging onto it, waiting for the perfect place to display it.

He and his wife, Donna, are donating the artifact.

Bruce Brown, Port Huron city manager, said the memorial will be a rare freighter propeller blade with the story of the storm of 1913 engraved on one side. The memorial will be installed between the Blue Water Bridge and the international flag plaza.

The city is donating the space for the memorial.

“They want to put up a memorial that recognizes the storm of 1913 and our sailing heritage, and they have asked if they could put it in the space between the bridge and the flag plaza, similar to the mermaid exhibit just to the north of the flag plaza,” Brown said. “We agreed to work with them on a site for it ... We think it’s an important part of our history.”

For four days in early November 1913, a storm with winds between 75 and 80 mph, 40-foot waves and heavy snowfall battered lower Lake Huron. The storm stranded 19 ships, sank 19 and killed more than 250 sailors. The Port Huron Museum will feature an exhibit commemorating the storm from Sept. 14 to Jan. 14.

A Michigan Historical Marker dedicated to the storm is in Port Sanilac.

Bennett said the sailors memorial won’t be the only marker installed in remembrance of the storm; the museum also is working with Brusate to create a headstone to commemorate an unknown sailor who washed ashore in Marysville in 1914 and was buried at Lakeside Cemetery.

“(We) think we actually found the plot of land where this unnamed sailor was buried,” she said. “Wayne has purchased a cemetery marker that will be inscribed with something about the sailor. It will be part of the exhibit that we open in 10 days and then installed at the cemetery in November.”

The committee in charge of the memorials has worked on the wording for both markers, Bennett said.

“This is a marvelous project,” she said.

“On one side (of the memorial) we want to have the story of the storm of 1913, and on the other, a general blessing for sailors. But we are having a heck of a time with the wording ... and we are running out of time to figure it out.”