Three Generations

Three Generations

Three generations of Law descendants meet up in Rogers City, Michigan. This past weekend my wife Kim and I were at the Rogers City Nautical Festival. Kim was selling her nature and landscape photography feature many of Michigan’s Lighthouses and I was autographing copies of Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes. While it was great being back in the town where I was born one thing happened that was very special, I got to finally meet Chuck (Charles) and David Law.  Chuck is a grandson of Rev. William H. Law, The Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes. His father was William’s son Charles who was with Rev. Law on the trip to Bois Blanc Island in 1900 where the U.S. Lifesaving Service rendered assistance to them and in doing so changed the course of Rev. Law’s mission work. It was this rescue where Rev. Law, after learning about the U.S.L.S.S. and how these men put their own lives on the for other for very little pay, decided to rededicated his life’s work to serving these men and their families, the story of which is outlined in my book. I had spoken with Chuck and his son David, many times on the phone and through email throughout the years while researching the book but we had never been able to actually meet in person. But this year, knowing I would be in Rogers City, they made the trip from Torch Lake in order to spend an hour or so with us. My mother Pam, whose grandmother was Rev. Law’s youngest daughter Ruth, also came for the visit making for a gathering of three generations of Law descendants. When you only know someone by a phone call or two you don’t really get a full understanding of their personality and after this meeting I can tell you that meeting Chuck was a complete joy. He was quick, spry and immediately likable. I appreciate anyone who has a sense of humor and Chuck’s was abundant. I am very glad we finally got the opportunity to connect in person and hope to do so again one day....

Rogers City, The Nautical City

Rogers City, The Nautical City

Roger’s City, Michigan holds a special place in my heart. This small town of about 3000 people is located in Presque Isle county on the shore of Lake Huron between the cities of Alpena and Cheboygan. It calls itself the “Nautical City”, in part because of its location on Lake Huron, its proximity to the 40 Mile Point, Old and New Presque Isle lighthouses and the fact that it houses the Port of Calcite, the world’s largest open pit limestone quarry and one of the largest shipping ports on the Great Lakes, within its boundaries. It also happens to be the city in which I was born. Rogers City was the home port of two ships that went down on the Great Lakes, the SS Carl D. Bradley and the SS Cedarville. The Bradley, while heading home on November 18th 1958 in a November gale, succumbed to the stresses of the wind and wave and sank to the bottom of Lake Michigan, taking with her 33 souls of her 35-man crew, 23 of which were from Rogers City. One crewmember who was lost, Alfred F. Boehmer, was a distant relative of mine, his wife and my grandmother being cousins. While I wasn’t yet born when the Bradley met her fate, stories of that night handed down through my family are among some of my earliest memories. The Cedarville, met her fate in 1965 when she collided with the SS Topdalsfjord in a heavy fog, taking 10 souls with her. Whenever I’m in Rogers City I try to make it a point to visit the memorial for these ships, a plaque mounted on a large boulder located in Lakeside Park. I also have fond memories of the many times as a youth spending a day at the New Presque Isle lighthouse helping to clear brush from the trails leading to the shore then climbing its 139 steps after the work was done to get the great view it provides.  I’ve always loved this lighthouse as it’s one of the tallest on the lakes and the setting, with its many white cedars and occasional birches lining the Huron shore, makes for some wonderful scenery. Then there was the annual trip to the Rogers City Nautical Festival, a nearly week-long event celebrating all things nautical and the rich nautical history of the town. Of course, as a child, my favorite part was the professional fireworks display that would cap the end of the festival. This is year it is my pleasure to take part in the 2016 Rogers City Nautical Festival as vendor. I’ll be signing copies of my own piece of Great Lakes Maritime History, my book, Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes. If you’re in the area August 5-7, 2016, or need a reason to get away, come the Nautical Festival. While you’re there stop by the Arts & Crafts area near the courthouse where I’ll have copies of Sky Pilot available and my wife, Kim, will be showing her photography which includes some great shots of the local lighthouses. It should be a good time. See you...

Wherefore art thou, John?

Well, what can I say? I’ve neglected the blog for a very, very long time. Life has a way of getting in the way sometimes and the blog just kept falling on the priority list. Hopefully this post will bring it back up that list and we’ll see more interesting posts in the future (that’s the goal anyway!) So, let’s step into the time machine and go back a year when I had mentioned in various blog and Facebook posts some ideas for new books I was thinking of writing. One idea was a biography of Capt. Albert Ocha, whom you may remember from Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes. When I was researching and writing Sky Pilot I was very interested in knowing more about Albert as he seemed like a subject worthy of his own book.  Well, I’m proud to say that this book is happening. I am not sure in what form it will come at this time nor am I sure when it will be completed, but I can say that a good 80% of the research is completed and two full chapters have been drafted so far. Also, for this project I am working with a Co-Author. John Galluzzo, author, historian and all-around groovy dude.  He’s been a great help in getting me over some research obstacles and I know that John will proof read all my writing and get out his “red pen” to catch spelling and grammatical errors I will inevitably send his way. I’m hoping he’s not counting on me to the same for his drafts as he’ll have to proof-read my proof-reading as well. And that could lead to a vicious circle of proof-reading, which nobody wants or needs (and the book will never come out!). You can view John’s Amazon Author Profile here: John Galluzzo @ Amazon There is also the question of what to do with all the left-over research on Rev. William H. Law. A good fifty percent of the information I found during my research for Sky Pilot, while very interesting and historically important, just didn’t fit into the scope of that book. So what to do with it? How do I get it out there in a form that can be easily digested? Well, I figured some of the information would make for good articles for various maritime and historical journals. A few have already been published in Wreck & Rescue Journal and The Keeper’s Log. And there are at least five more articles written which hopefully will be published in future editions. But that still leaves a good portion of information that revolves around the Law family’s “pioneer days” in the Les Cheneaux islands. So I’m also writing a book that will focus on this. This project already has about 40,000 words drafted, the rest will come once I figure out how I want it flow. I expect this book will be hyper-local to the Les Cheneaux Islands area and Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan if picked up by a publisher. If not, there are other options to get it out there. We’ll see what happens. I have also been writing semi-fictional, humorous short stories based on my experiences and travels throughout the great state of Michigan. Semi-fictional in that while these events did happen, they didn’t always unfold in the exact manner in which I am choosing to tell them. Sometimes a good story can become a great story through a bit of embellishment. These embellishments also lend themselves nicely to my particular brand of humor and I find it much easier (and much more fun) to write when what I’m writing amuses even me. As of this writing there are 11 of these short stories completed, a handful in various stages of completion and a list of story ideas that I haven’t started on yet. I am hoping to have enough completed to become a collection big enough for publication. Though there is always the possibility they could be released in other forms. Again, we’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll share one of them on this blog in the future. Apart from these projects, I also have list of book ideas I also want to work on if and when I have the time. My wife, Kim, is a nature photographer and has built up quite a large portfolio of her work and I have an idea that might blend her photos with my love of Great Lakes history. You can see some of her work on her website at www.kimberlykotzian.com. The work continues. The blog posts will continue (fingers crossed), though at this time I can’t...

The Sky Pilot Returns

Recently the Historical Society of Michigan asked if it would be all right if they had an actor portray The Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes, William H. Law, at their annual conference. Of course, I said yes. Many thanks the the Historical Society of Michigan for the...

Happy 100th Anniversary to the Coast Guard – Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes

Happy 100th Anniversary to the Coast Guard – Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes

Happy 100th Anniversary to the Coast Guard act of 1915! In case you missed my interview about Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes with Michigan Public Radio’s “Stateside with Cynthia Canty” program yesterday and would like to hear it, there is a podcast available on their website through this link. The interview begins at about the 20 minute mark. Listen Here. On this day, January 28th, 1915 – President Woodrow Wilson put pen to paper and signed in to law the Coast Guard act of 1915, thereby combining the Revenue Cutter Service and the United States Coast Guard into a single service, The United States Coast Guard. This marked a victory in a long-fought battle by the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes, Rev. William H. Law, who since 1900 had been lobbying the government of the  United States to provide better pay and pensions for members of the United States Life-Saving Service. The new act provided pay increases and pensions to those serving in the newly formed Coast Guard. — LIFE  SAVERS’  PENSION  BILL  PASSED;  LAW  HAPPY Duluth News Tribune – January 29 1915 “Sky Pilot of Inland Seas” Worked on Measure for Years W. H. Law,  the  “Sky  pilot  of  the  Inland  Seas,”  is  the  happiest  man  between  Duluth  and  Pawtucket  Light  these  days.  He  has  been working for  years  to  obtain  the  passage  of  the  bill  which  puts  life  savers  on  a  par  with  Navy  men and naval  reservists  and –  this is the big feature of it – pension  them  on  retirement. The bill passed the senate last week, and Mr.  Law, writing from Detroit to W.  H. Cook of  this  city  says:  “I  regard  the  passage  of  the  bill  as  a  birthday  present,  as  the  news  ca me  to  me  on  my  sixty-second  birthday.  I  am  delighted  over  the  victory  for  it  means so much to  the  brave  men  who  have  long  deserved  this  recognition  on  the  part  of  the  government. The  bill  provides  a 10  per cent  increase  in  pay  at  the  end  of  every  five years of service  and  after 20  years  the chance to retire with 75 percent  of  the  salary  and  allowances  as  a  pension,  It  also  places  the  life  saving  service  and  the  revenue  cutter  service  in  a  new  department,   the  Unites States  coast  guards subject  to  orders  from  the  treasury  department. The Bill will affect 2,000  men, 576 in 64  stations  on  the  Great  Lakes,  the  rest  in  224  ocean  stations. For  24  years  W. H. Law  has  been  known  as  the  “sky  pilot”  of  the  Great  Lakes.  His parish extends from the Thousand Islands in the St.  Lawrence River to Duluth.  His  parishioners number  into  the  tens  of  thousands,  Each  year,  be  pays  several  visits  to  every  life-saving  and  light station  on  the  Great  Lakes  bringing  books,  delicacies,  mail  and  good  cheer  to  the  men. Each year he addresses a personal letter to every man in every life-saving and Light station in American waters.  His lecture text is laughter and   optimism: His gospel optimism, laughter and happiness:  his sermon.  happiness,  optimism, good  cheer  and  laughter,  He  preaches the   doctrine  of  “fellowship  of  humanity.” — Happy 100th Anniversary to the Coast Guard act of 1915!  ...

Interview with Stateside with Cynthia Canty – January 27th, 2015

Tune in to Stateside with Cynthia Canty tomorrow January 27th, 2015 to hear an interview I did with Cynthia about the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes and the 100th anniversary of the United States Coast Guard. The show will air at 3:00 P.M. & 10 P.M.on Michigan Public Radio and Interlochen Public Radio stations across the state. A podcast of the interview should be available after the airing on Stateside’s...

A Birthday Present for the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes

A Birthday Present for the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes

One hundred years ago on this day, January 20, 1915, the U.S. House of Representatives, on the recommendation of then President Woodrow Wilson passed the Coast Guard Act of 1915. The bill (S. 2337; a bill “To create the Coast Guard by combining therein the existing Life-Saving Service and Revenue Cutter Service.” ) had been introduced to the U.S. Senate on May 16, 1913 by Senator Charles E. Townsend of Michigan, was referred to committee and ultimately passed by the Senate on March 12, 1914. The bill, if signed in to law, would form the United States Coast Guard by merging the existing Revenue Cutter Service and the United States Life-Saving Service. More importantly to the “Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes” Rev. William H. Law, it would provide an updated pay structure and provide pensions to the men in their service. The battle for a law favorable to the welfare the life-savers and their families had been waged by many as early as the late-1800’s. William H. Law, as part of his mission, took it upon himself to inform the public and their representatives in government of this need as early as 1900, after his own life was rescued by men of the USLSS. In his 1902 publication, “Life Savers in the Great Lakes”, W. H. Law includes the following intent: These pages are written and sent out as an expression of appreciation for the services of the Life Savers in taking the author, his son, and a friend from a stranded yacht, with a hope that the people’s representatives in the United States Congress may be favorably disposed toward a bill pertaining to the Life Savers now in the hands of a committee. Though these earlier attempts at the passage of a bill to enact a pension for the men in the USLSS had failed, W. H. Law persisted in his efforts to garner support for a pension bill to be enacted. Working with Senator Charles E. Townsend, they would draft a bill that the Senator could bring to the floor and have a chance of being passed. One of the main sticking points of such a bill was the fact that the USLSS was in essence a civil service and that by granting pensions to the members they would be opening the door for the pensioning of all civil service employees. In order to get around this, the bill would be worded instead as a reorganization plan, combining the USLSS and the Revenue Cutter service into a new organization called the Coast Guard with provisions to place them under the authority of the military, thus removing them from civil service. “If they pensioned the lifesaver they left the field open to the vast array of civil service employees. They [the government] couldn’t do that, so we decided to ask for a reorganization putting the lifesaver on par with the naval reservist and the navy men, where he belonged,” W. H. Law stated to the Detroit Free Press in 1915. While Senator Townsend was preparing to bring the bill to the floor in 1913, the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes started a lobbying campaign of his own, sending various letters and stories of the brave men of Life-Saving Service directly to the homes of the very Senators and Congressmen who would have a chance to vote for the passage of this bill. The letter was well received and many congressmen and senators wrote back assuring they would do everything they could for the passage of the bill. One senator from a landlocked state sent this reply to Rev. Law: We senators and congressmen from states in the interior have little or no personal knowledge of the Life Savers, and I want to thank you for the information you have given me. I have read with a great deal of interest what you mailed me for it came to my home. Your interesting stories concerning the Life Savers were read by my family and talked over at the dinner table. It was thoughtful of you to send your literature to congressmen and senators while at home, for when in Washington they are very busy. May I trouble you to state, what, in your judgment, would be the best course of procedure to improve Service. From what I have read, I have faith in you and I am sure from your experience in having personally visited all the stations on the Great Lakes, and by keeping in touch with those on the various oceans by mail, you are in a position to give me the material I need in drafting a bill. Rest Assured...