John Kotzian was born in Rogers City, Michigan located on the shore of Lake Huron and raised some 30 miles away in Hillman, Michigan. He is the great-great-grandson of the “Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes”, Rev. William H. Law.
His passion for the Great Lakes and its history grew from the stories handed down through both sides of his family about Rev. Law’s travels and relatives lost in the sinking of the S.S. Carl D. Bradley.
He currently resides with his wife, Kimberly, in Brooklyn, MI.
Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Avery Color Studios; First Edition edition (April 24, 2014)
SOCIAL MEDIA & CONTACT
“This is by far one of the best lighthouse related books to have been published in years, which uncovers many forgotten slices of America’s forgotten maritime history. We give it a “5 Star” rating.” – Lighthouse Digest Magazine
“You can’t have a complete understanding of Great Lakes maritime history until you read this book.” – Frederick Stonehouse, Maritime Author and Historian.
“Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes is a very educational and entertaining read.” – Grace Truman, Co-Author of Storms and Sand: A Story of Shipwrecks and the Big Sable Point Coast Guard Station
SAMPLE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
How did you discover the story of the “Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes”?
Through the pure luck of having been born into the family. The Reverend Will H. Law, a.k.a The Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes, was my Great-Great-Grandfather on my mother’s side of the family. Growing up I had heard stories about him but there wasn’t much in the way of details. I would hear relatives say things like “Y’know, he sailed around the Great Lakes visiting the Lighthouses.”
As a kid I would think, “That’s cool. I want to do that!” In the summers my family would go up to the Straights of Mackinac area and/or Hessel, MI to camp, fish and visit with relatives. I have always loved that area and I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t captivated by the lighthouses, the ships and the overall history of the region. In researching “Grandpa” Law (as he was always known to me), I was able to put a reason why to it.
Did you find any similarities between your Great-Great-Grandfather and yourself while researching him?
I did. As the full picture of his life started to develop for me, I noticed a lot of similarities. When he would get an idea, like his mission work for the Lightkeepers and the Life-Savers, he held a passion for ti that would not die. Nothing was impossible to accomplish as long as you held a good attitude toward the work and were willing to put in the effort. He was not afraid to “cold call” people he thought might be able to lend assistance in some form or the other either. I do the same thing. When I get an idea for a project, like this book, I know that there are things I don’t know yet and I’ll reach out to someone who has already done it.
In the case of this book, it was Fred Stonehouse who wrote the first Great Lakes Maritime book I ever read, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. My personal library has many of his books in it, including one, Wreck Ashore, which had a small chapter on Rev. Law. So I found Fred’s website and sent him an email explaining what I was trying to do and asked for guidance. It worked, Fred gave me the materials he had on Law and was always there to guide me when I ran into uncharted waters, including finding an editor and a publisher. Had I not reached out to him the book may not be out there now for others to read.
What do you think sets your book Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes apart from others in the genre?
This book is a little different that most Great Lakes Maritime books in my collection in a couple ways. One it’s a complete story from beginning to end, the life and works of William H. Law. A lot of maritime books are compilations of stories, whether it be shipwrecks, lighthouses or Life-saving events. This book has all of those things, but set across the timeline of one man’s life who was there to witness them or to have met the people involved and hear the stories first hand after they happened. I’m just glad he wrote these stories down so I could find them.
Another thing that I think makes the story stand out it you get to watch America grow up around you through the eyes of someone who was there. When Law came to the United States in 1885, you get to read and feel what is was like for him in that time and place. It is a real “wild frontier” story. As the story, his life, continues the geographical range of the story expands and we start to the introduction of gasoline powered boats, electricity, radio and a myriad of other technologies emerge. We also get to see how Law embraced these new technologies to further his mission.
If you could re-enact just one of the stories told in the book, which would you choose?
Hands down, it would be the story where Law visits Stannard Rock. If you’re not familiar with the Stannard Rock Lighthouse, it sits alone on what is basically an under-water mountain in Lake Superior, About fifty miles Northwest of Marquette, Michigan. Imagine being stationed at this light in the early part of the 20th century. It’s just you and a couple other men, living for months in and about this spire sticking out of the water, the nearest civilization is out there somewhere over the horizon. No telephone, no radio, no TV and no news except for when a lighthouse tender ship would come to restock your supplies.
Rev. Law decided to bring these men some joy and so he travelled to Marquette and made arrangements with a fishing vessel that was headed that way to take him to the light. When he got there he asked the men to go fetch a cooler he had brought with him that contained some treats. The cooler contained some fresh fruits, candy and a tub of ice cream. The men were ecstatic. They could hardly believe that they were about to eat ice cream at Stannard Rock.
Someday, I would love to visit Stannard Rock and bring with me a tub of ice cream.
Do you have plans to write another book?
I have a few ideas and little trepidation about writing another book. I am very interested in finding out the complete life-story of one of the people who plays a big part in Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes, Capt. Albert Ocha. However, Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes was a labor of love. I was very passionate about this story since I am a descendant of the main character and the story had never been fully told. There’s also the fact that I didn’t set out to be an author, I was just researching an ancestor at first and basically stumbled onto a much larger story.
Many stories of Capt. Ocha have already been published multiple times by multiple authors so if I was to take this on for a new book, I would want to find the information that hasn’t been told to try to piece his entire life together. Right now I’m not sure if the information I would need is even available. I would like to write another book, but I wouldn’t want to just go through the motions. So I’m stuck with reservations like what happens if I get two years into the research and the information dries up before I have a full picture? I need to think more about these ideas before deciding to take the plunge.