Northern Michigan in Focus: Frank Mays

On January 7, 2021 the Great Lakes community lost a man most people loved.

His name was Frank Mays and if you ever met him, his stories touched you.

He survived a shipwreck that killed 33 of his shipmates and then was left to keep their memory alive…and he did that.

Corey Adkins shows you a small portion of his story on this week’s Northern Michigan In Focus.

“What happened was the ship was old and ripe and the keel broke, she just couldn’t take the twisting and turning anymore,” said Frank.

It was a horrible and tragic moment nobody wanted to happen.

November 18, 1958 35 men on the Carl D. Bradley were caught in a storm on Lake Michigan and were about to make history.

Frank Mays was one of them.

“I remember each and every detail. What was going through my mind was survival and how to survive,” said Frank.

In this interview done in 2004, Frank remembers seeing the Bradley starting to split in two. He started to run down the deck.

That’s when he ended up in the cold, dark lake.

“I was washed off by a huge wave, as we we’re going down we were listing to the port side and the ship is going in a position like this (gestures).  Up and down and one come up on the starboard side and we were listed and it just took everybody with them,” said Frank.

Luckily, he found a raft and helped three other guys on it, as they watched the Bradley sink. The men were Gary Strzelecki, Dennis Meredith and Elmer Fleming.

The Bradley sank around 5:30 p.m.

After she went under there was no more light and it was a long night ahead for the four men.

“You we’re just out there at the mercy of the sea then.  Just four people on the raft. We had no way to propel our raft. No sails, nothing. We were at the mercy of the sea and it went where it took us,” said Frank.

Unfortunately, the lake took Gary Strzelecki and Dennis Meredith that night.

“I said if we make it until daylight we will be found, however, during the middle of the night we lost 2 people.  Denis Meredith and Gary Strzelecki, and Elmer and I made it until daylight,” said Frank.

33 men died that night, many of them from Rogers City. Only Elmer and Frank survived.  Elmer Fleming passed in 1969.

Since then, Frank Mays became a world traveler visiting over 80 countries.

But the story of the Bradley was always top on his mind.

He wrote two books about that horrible night telling people what he went through.

Just about every summer you could see him at museums around the Great Lakes talking to people about his story and his lost shipmates, who should never be forgotten.

“The Carl D. Bradley was the ship that time forgot.  The Fitzgerald took all the thunder, which to me, the Fitz lost 29 and we lost 33 but everything about the Bradley got pushed aside, and that’s not to be,” said Frank.

Frank Mays passed away on January 7, 2021.

He was 89-years-old and I think this quote says it best.

“Never say goodbye, because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting”.      

         – Peter Pan

We will never forget the 35 crewmen of the Carl D. Bradley.

Categories: Northern Michigan In Focus