by Peter Jakey—Managing Editor
Loved ones and friends paid tribute to the men who served on the SS Cedarville during the annual bell-tolling ceremony at the Great Lakes Lore Maritime Museum in Rogers City.
The ceremony is a way for the ship’s homeport to continue honoring the lives of 10 lost sailors, who died because they could not get off the ship or succumb to the frigid spring waters in the Straits of Mackinac.
Wives, brothers and sisters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren along with retired sailors packed into the tight quarters near the museum’s entrance.
The bulk-carrier was traveling with a load of limestone from the Port of Calcite when a Norwegian freighter east of the Mackinac Bridge rammed it.
Former Rogers City mayor Beach Hall welcomed those in attendance to open the ceremony.
“It was 52 years ago, people in this room kissed their loved ones goodbye, shook hands with them, and even though the Cedarville departed in the fog…I don’t think anybody worried that some of their loved ones would not come back,” said Hall of the morning of Friday, May 7, 1965. He said that most believed the trip would be nothing more than routine.
Hall said lives and careers were forever changed that day.
“We are here today to remember that,” added Hall. “The Cedarville sinking, along with the sinking of the Bradley had a profound impact on this community.”
Dave Erickson, one of seven living survivors and three in attendance, took part in the bell ringing.
“The water temperature that morning was 36 degrees (Fahrenheit),” said Erickson. “The air temperature was 40. When the Cedarville rolled over, every man on the Cedarville was put in the water. When we ring the bell today, we will be ringing for the full crew.”
Before Erickson read each name, Cindy Hall gave the invocation. Hall is a new board member and daughter of Cedarville survivor, the late Art Martin.
“Take care of my loved ones in the days and weeks and months when I am separated from them, sometimes with half the lake between us,” said Hall. “Keep me true to them and keep them true to me, and every time we have to part, bring us back in safety and loyalty again.”
Shannon Fleming rang the bell first for her grandfather, Capt. Martin Joppich, and it continued down the list. Cedarville survivors, wives, siblings, a great-grandchild and museum board members walked to the front of the room to ring the bell one time.
The ceremony concluded with Erickson playing the recording of a ship whistle.
The next belling ringing at the museum will be in November for the crews of the Carl D. Bradley and Daniel J. Morrell.