Memorial Day message from The Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes

Memorial Day message from The Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes

The Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes, Rev. William H. Law sent a yearly publication of compiled news and stories called “The Message” to all the Lighthouses and Life-Saving Stations in the United States, as well as sending copies to all the Congressmen and Senators in the U.S. Capitol (in an effort to sway their votes toward a bill to provide pensions for the Lighthouse and Life-Saving Services). The 1918 edition of “The Message” was mailed out in the latter days of 1917 during the height of World War 1. With The fight to provide pensions to the Life-Savers already won with the passage of the Coast Guard Act or 1915, Law continued to fight to have the Lighthouse Service brought into the fold of the U.S. Coast Guard. This year’s “Message” began with a “Prayer for the Lightkeepers and their Families”, a section of which I would like to share with you on this Memorial Day: “God bless our soldier boys, our brothers and comrades at the front. May they be sustained and encouraged by the admiration and loving watch care of all true Americans. As they serve under the folds of our beautiful banner may they be inspired to so conduct themselves that not one of the stars shall be tarnished by unworthy conduct and may their hearts be as pure as the white stripes and their willing sacrifice as red as its crimson, and their honesty and truthfulness as true blue as the color in its field. O God, our Father, be merciful unto them if they should fall in battle and grant, dear Lord, that they may not die until their eyes shall rest on the Red Cross and give to understand somehow that it represents all the hopes and fears and love and tears of those back home, and all the red blood that has been shed, and shall be shed in a righteous cause. And, O God, give them to see in that cross the dearest souls in all the world – Christ the Savior of men. And in the hour of their supreme sacrifice may they tighten their grip upon the cross as they relax their hold upon the world and sin and realize they are Thy Children.” –Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes, Rev. W. H. Law, excerpt from a “Prayer for the Lightkeepers and their Families”, “The Message”,...

Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes – For the Birds

Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes – For the Birds

My Wife Kim and I will be taking a trip to Point Pelee near Leamington, Ontario soon for the Festival of Birds. For the birds, it’s migration time and there is no better time of the year to see birds that you would not normally see in your backyard, like the Magnolia Warbler – one of my personal favorites. Now my wife is the true “birder” in the family but I must admit I enjoy tagging along on her adventures, especially since many of the best “birding” locations are found on various points and peninsulas of the Great Lakes. These places are almost always home to a lighthouse or two and usually have a one if not many historical shipwrecks in their surrounding waters. Point Pelee is no exception. The Point is located on the northern shore of Lake Erie and is considered, along with Pelee Island, as the southernmost point of Canada. Parks Canada describes point as “a lush Carolinian forest oasis at the southern tip of Canada, Point Pelee National Park resounds with migrating song birds in the spring, hums with cicadas in the summer, flutters with Monarch butterflies in the fall and is a peaceful place of reflection in the winter.” So how does this trip tie into the book Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes?  Well, during my research of the Rev. William H. Law I found many stories he wrote that didn’t necessarily fit into the story I was trying to tell in the book but did resonate with me as a descendant. In one small part of one story, Rev. Law was fishing in the Les Cheneaux Islands and spent a lot of time observing the various gulls that he would find accompanying him on his trips. “I had noticed that whenever I threw them fish, instead of chewing at it or endeavoring to tear is to pieces, they would throw the fish up in the air two feet or more with a particular twitch so that the fish would fall head first and they would catch it with wide-open mouth and take it down head first. This wise course of procedure was most interesting to me to watch. In doing so they avoided all risks of being choked to death by the fish hanging up in its throat by the sharp fins and scales.” – W. H. Law, 1919 Law was a student of nature among his other passions. There are many stories included the mailings he would send to all the lighthouses and life-saving stations throughout the United States about observations on the lives of birds and other animals he encountered in an around his home in Hessel, Michigan. These stories, while short and not necessarily needed to tell his life story, were of great interest to me as his great-great-grandson because I share many of the same attributes when it come to the natural world around me. Seeing a bit of myself in him brought me closer to the subject of my writing and helped me truly understand just who he was and why he did the things he did. Point Pelee, a long sandspit reaching out into shallow Lake Erie, is also home to a number of shipwrecks, another of my interests. In November of 1906 the Anchor Line steamer Conemaugh was blown ashore on the point when it encountered a strong gale. Lifesavers were able to rescue the crew but the wind and waves took their toll on the ship breaking her apart resulting in a total loss. The wreck lies in about 20 feet of water on the west side of the point and is marked by a plaque on the shore. If you ever get a chance to visit Point Pelee I highly recommend it. It is a beautiful location with plenty of history and plenty of opportunity to see some birds that you most likely will never see in your backyard. “Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes” is Now Available through Amazon.com and Barnes &...

What’s in a name? The Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes.

What’s in a name? The Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes.

When I started research for the book I quickly found that the Rev. W. H. Law was given many nicknames by the people he served other than “The Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes”, which was by far the most popular.  I had intended to call the book “Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes” early on in the writing process but when I found the 1910 character sketch about Rev. Law, “The Laughing Doctor” by Hedwig C. Jankowski, I started to rethink the title. The issue that caused me to rethink the title was Law’s own words in a section of the book where he comments on his many nicknames: “By many sailors, I am called the ‘Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes’. This is a great, big, comprehensive title that puts me on my mettle, and I will have to set you men a good example, for example is almost as contagious as smallpox, and allure to a brighter world, leading the way myself, or I would be a fake ‘Sky Pilot’.” Here was my Great-Great-Grandfather speaking to me from out of the past, telling me personally that he didn’t feel the nickname suited him. Now what was I to do? “Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes” was a great title for the book and the majority of newspaper and magazine articles I found used that name to refer to him. His own wife used the title to refer to him in a letter she had sent out to his friends after the Law’s Bethel Home in Hessel, MI had been lost in a fire. There were other names given to him that I could have used for the title: “Sky Pilot of the Inland Seas” “The Sky Skipper” “The Bishop of Out There” “Apostle to the Lake Sailors” “Jolly Apostle to the Sons of Neptune” And his personal favorite “The Laughing Doctor” I struggled with the title for a while feeling I was doing my ancestor an injustice by using a nickname he didn’t like for the title of the biography. After consulting the issue with my wife and a few others I decided it would be a fine title, especially since he would refer to himself as “the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes” in his own writings more and more as time went on. I felt that if he had eventually accepted it, he would accept it as the title of my book about him. “Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes” is NOW AVAILABLE through Amazon.com,  Avery Color Studios, Barnes & Noble and retail outlets throughout the Great Lakes...