30th Anniversary of Fitzgerald Sinking
Thursday, November 10, 2005

A special ceremony honoring the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and all sailors lost on the Great Lakes, was held Thursday evening, November 10, 2005, aboard the museum ship SS Willis B. Boyer in Toledo, Ohio. An estimated 100 people gathered on a very cool, windy night in a heated tent on the Boyer’s deck to hear keynote speaker Tom Walton, followed by a performance of the 1986 play “Ten November.”

Commander Russell Proctor (U.S. Coast Guard, Toledo Station) introduced Mr. Walton, a former Fitzgerald crew member who is now editor of The Toledo Blade. Walton told those attending about his memories of working as a porter on the Great Lakes freighter. He spoke of the special working relationship the Walton family had with the Fitz – Walton’s father had served many times as her Chief Engineer, and his uncle Ralph worked on her as an oiler. On the night of November 10, 1975, Ralph Walton was aboard the Fitzgerald when she went down in a violent storm on Lake Superior and was lost.

After Mr. Walton’s talk, the Wayne State University theater department presented the play, “Ten November” by Steven Dietz, about the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The author makes no attempt to establish blame, and presents several conflicting points of view surrounding the disaster. His primary focus is the myth of invincibility in our culture, and our attempts to deal with loss and grief. In the words of the playwright…

“We got cocky with nature. Technology has enabled us, we think, to reinvent it in our own image. Our machinery has made us, we think, invincible. Nature is what we do on Sunday. This belief christens our ships, launches our rockets, and bombards our atoms. Ultimately, however, nature refuses to be scenery. In the case of the Fitzgerald, the fallibility of invention was made known to us. Nature is active. It still melts our wings when it needs to. In the case of the Fitzgerald sinking, to claim ‘human error’ would be like trying to establish blame for the wind. Nature is both cause and effect. It is the force against which we play out our lives.”

After director Lavinia Hart said a few words about the work and her WSU students, the play began. It was a moving, memorable performance by very talented young actors – a fitting tribute to the Fitzgerald and her crew.

Boyer Executive Director Kim Danes ended the evening by thanking the actors, sponsors, volunteers, and all those attending. She then invited everyone forward to the Grill Room, where light refreshments were served.

Click on each image to view a larger version
Ticket and program for Edmund Fitzgerald 30th anniversary memorial service
The audience gathers on the deck for
the evening's ceremony and performance
U.S. Coast Guard
Commander Russell Proctor
Toledo Blade Editor
Thomas Walton
Program cover for "Ten November" Title page autographed by cast "Ten November" cast list
The bell from the Boyer (former Col. James M. Schoonmaker)
was rung for each of the 29 men lost on the Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald Memorial Article from The Toledo Blade
Somber ceremony honors 'grand ship'

The Boyer is located in International Park, directly across from downtown Toledo on the east side of the Maumee River. Take I-75 to the Miami Street exit and go east past the grain elevators. A sign for International Park is on your left. If you miss it, keep going to Main Street (a corner with Wendy's and McDonald's) and turn left. Turn left again at the light after going under the railroad bridge.

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