Northern Michigan in Focus: Remembering Sailors Lost on the Great Lakes

Every November 10, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society holds a memorial ceremony to remember those lost on the Edmund Fitzgerald and all the sailors lost on the Great Lakes.

For this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus, Corey Adkins introduces you to a woman who’s worked at the museum for decades and shows you why she thinks it’s important to remember.

“I look at the lake and it’s awesome. It’s calming to sit there and look at that lake,” said Bev Purcell.

It’s the time of the year when fall starts to meet winter and Lake Superior shows its might.

Bev Purcell has lived in the Paradise area for decades. For more than 20 years she’s worked in the light keeper’s quarters at Whitefish Point.

“I greet people and take care of the oldest lighthouse on Lake Superior, the oldest building. It was built for the keeper of the light. It was built in 1861 when our President Lincoln just took office,” explained Bev.

For 158 years the light has stood watch over Lake Superior.

“The men on the freighters say when they see the light they know they have a long way to go, and then when they’re coming down bound they see the light and they say the worst of the trip is over,” said Bev.

But sometimes the worst wins and tragedy happens. 44 years ago the lake claimed the 29 crewmen of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

“Well, you know, you have to really think back and think of what those families went through. They heard it on television and the radio that morning that that ship sunk and they didn’t hear anything from the company,” explained Bev.

No one will ever know what happened, but what’s important is to remember.

“Every November 10th we have that ceremony. The bell is taken out of its protective cover and still some family members are able to come and ring it. Each man’s name is read and somebody comes up and rings that bell in somebody’s honor, and the 30th ring is for all the people that lost their lives on the Great Lakes. It’s done with deep respect for these men who lost their lives and it means a lot to their families,” explained Bev. “It still has a hurt that they never ever get over. And I think it’s good to keep that memory alive for their loved ones and for us to always remember what it was many years ago, and how many men braved that lake and did their job.”


Categories: Northern Michigan In Focus