US Coast Guardsman Honored In DeTour Village Nearly 50 Years After His Death

A U.S. Coast Guardsman was honored in the Upper Peninsula on Thursday, nearly 50 years after his death.

Don Ashley Jr. is the only member of the U.S. Coast Guard to lose their life while stationed at the DeTour Reef Light in Chippewa County.

His story remains virtually unknown.

The date was March 30, 1971, he was 22-years-old. Don was on his boat in Lake Huron on his way to get supplies for his crew.

It was the start of shipping season much of the lake was still frozen over.

“A higher calling, Don Ashley had, to do that which the average person on the street may or may not be willing to do. And that is to place themselves in harm’s way to save and preserve life,” said U.S. Coast Guard LTCDR Joseph Roach.

On the way back his 16 foot boat capsized between the ice, he fell into the water never to resurface.

“It was judged to be too dangerous to search for his body at that time due to the conditions. Consequently Don Ashley’s remains were never recovered,” said DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society President Joe Henne.

Four decades later a plaque in his memory now stands at the base of the lighthouse. It’s a way for his family to remember their loving son and brother.

“Since his body wasn’t recovered his lighthouse to me is like a memorial out there, like one you see in the cemetery,” said Don’s Brother, Michael Ashley.

A memorial of a legacy no longer forgotten.

“It’s amazing, there are some really nice people here. 46 years later they’re doing this for him, there was not much done back in 1971. It’s very touching and very emotional,” expressed Michael Ashley.