In July, when we were on our family vacation in the Upper Peninsula, I drove up to one of my favorite spots on the planet – Whitefish Point. It’s breathtakingly beautiful – rolling waves, seemingly endless expanses of sky and water and miles of rock covered sand.
I wandered along the beach for several hours shooting video, taking pictures and of course, picking up rocks and driftwood. As I was lugging my bag of treasures back up the beach, I stumbled across what I thought was a pile of stones and driftwood made by bored kids, but as I looked closer, I realized it was a makeshift memorial by the families of three of the sailors on the Edmund Fitzgerald – Ransom Cundy, Bruce Hudson and Thomas Bentsen.
I was a little kid when the ship sank, but I remember going to mass at my grandparents’ church with my mom and gram and saying prayers for the sailors. When we moved to a city near Detroit a few years later, the radio stations would broadcast the ringing of the bells at the Mariners’ Church (aka the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral) every November 10th. It was such a sad, mournful sound. Somehow, it sounded worse over late 1970s FM radio. When I came upon the memorial I stopped for a minute, the memory of those sad, static-y bells perfectly clear in my head. I added three rocks to the pile.
Even though it’s been 35 years, these three men still have families that love and miss them. They don’t have a grave to visit, but they have this gorgeous, peaceful spot. I’m guessing they must come to Whitefish Point fairly often since the memorial wasn’t there when I was up there two years ago. I think it’s a really beautiful testament to love and remembrance.