Mariners' Memorial holds fundraiser to complete work

A memorial dedicated to those who made their lives on the sea or perished at sea is in its final stages.

The Wrangell Mariners' Memorial at Heritage Harbor is in a last push for funds, said board member Jeff Jabusch, and is taking applications for commemorative plaques that will be installed at the site.

People who died at sea will have an anchor insignia on their marker, and people who made their lives on the sea but died on land will not, Jabusch said.

The memorial board is holding a fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, at the downtown pavilion. Board members will be available to discuss the project. Samples of the memorial markers will be on display at the fundraiser.

Juneau-based landscape architect and planning firm Corvus Design designed the memorial, which consists of a large, centralized lighthouse pavilion that acts as a shelter and focal point. The memorial includes a series of curved-plate steel walls that mimic the hull of a ship, with the name plaques affixed to the walls.

Designing the plaques will take some finesse, Jabusch said, because those walls are curved and the plaques will have to be curved to fit.

There will be a silent auction on locally donated items as well next Thursday. To donate to the auction, contact Jenn Miller-Yancey at 907-305-0926.

All proceeds support the Wrangell Mariners' Memorial project to complete signs, landscaping, bollard (post) installation, handicap parking, concrete finish work, cleanup and maintenance.

Groundbreaking for the memorial was held in December 2018, with work progressing as funds were available.

Jabusch estimates the nonprofit has spent, in cash, about $300,000 on the effort, but estimates another $150,000 of value through volunteers donating their labor and equipment for the concrete pours, Alaska Marine Lines donating freight to transport materials for the memorial, the people who stood with compasses and made sure the 800-pound granite compass inlaid in the concrete below the pavilion truly pointed north.

Jabusch said the empty circle inside one of the curved walls will contain the symbol of the Star of Bengal, a three-masted sailing vessel that went down on Sept. 20, 1908, at the beginning of its return trip from Fort Wrangell to San Francisco, after the ship struck rocks near the shore of Coronation Island, killing 110 of 138 people aboard.

As of 2015, the wreck of the Star of Bengal remains among the top five worst maritime disasters in Alaskan history, according to "Alaska Shipwrecks," by Warren Good.

Each year, plaques with the names of those who died will be unveiled at the beginning of the season during Wrangell's blessing of the fleet at the Mariners' Memorial, said Jabusch.

 

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