Book honors fishermen

Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2006


  The Seafarer's Memorial sits overlooking Kachemak Bay in Homer. The memorial was founded in the early 1990s as a memorial to honor those lost at sea. Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Hom

The Seafarer's Memorial sits overlooking Kachemak Bay in Homer. The memorial was founded in the early 1990s as a memorial to honor those lost at sea.

Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Hom

While undergoing medical treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Drew Scalzi couldn’t sleep. Instead, he wrote “Seafarer’s Memorial — A Tribute to the Living and the Lost.”

Although the disease claimed Scalzi’s life in July, he lives on through his book, which was just released by Wizard Works of Anchor Point. The 60 pages between the book’s covers, complete with photos, call to mind the memorial’s story and the names of many individuals whose vision brought the memorial, found on the Homer Spit, to life.

Short tributes by family members who lost loved ones at sea illustrate the deep connection Homer has with Alaska’s waters. And the book is a testimony to Scalzi’s deep connection to his community and a lifestyle that has been Alaska’s backbone.

Proceeds from sale of the book go to the recently-created Drew Scalzi Memorial Scholarship Fund, which will provide scholarships for residents of the Homer-Anchor Point area.

Two tragic events mark the beginning of the memorial’s development and the beginning of Scalzi’s book — the disappearance of the F/V Aleutian Harvester in November 1985 and the F/V Legend in April 1989. The incidents sparked families and friends on a course of action that resulted in construction of the six-columned structure that now stands on 10,000 square feet of city property on Homer’s shore.

“In the race for fish that has gone on for years, mariners at times put aside prudence to catch their daily bread,” Scalzi wrote. “The limits are never certain, however, and we all know Divine providence often deals out the hands. Because most of us have pushed our limits at some point, we don’t pass blame or judgment too easily. We mourn, yes, but we offer no regrets, as these men and women who died at sea lived a very cherished and rewarding life.”

With the eye of someone who was in the middle of the action, Scalzi’s account of the memorial’s development includes details of securing the land, selection of the design, the numerous and generous donations that made it possible and efforts to raise money to pay what needed paying. One “fun-raising” example that continues is the sale of bricks that, at the time of Scalzi’s writing, had brought in more than $55,500. An order form to purchase a brick is included in the book.

A chapter on the memorial’s centerpiece — a 7-foot statute of a fisherman about to tie up at the end of a long day at sea — answers the “who is that?” question many ask when viewing the statue. And the chapter on construction of the dome-shaped roof offers an account of the ingenuity that went into completion of the memorial.

Scattered through the book are tributes to seven individuals whose love of the sea cost their lives: Doug Cundiff, Steve Nixon, Mike Lyda, Roy “Spike” Hoyt, Clark Sparks, Bruce Babcock and Ron Gribble. And there also is a list of all the names that appear on the walls of the Seafarer’s Memorial as of July 2005.

Scalzi’s account of the memorial concludes with the bell that was added in 2005. As noted by the book’s editor, the bell was heard for the first time at the memorial service for Scalzi on Aug. 5, 2005.

A summary of Alaska’s commercial fisheries is included as an addendum. The last page of the book is not the last page of the Seafarer’s Memorial story, however, as Scalzi points out.

“It is fair to say here that this project is not, nor will it be, finite. It is still growing, as is the human spirit,” Scalzi wrote. “In order that this short time we have here on earth be productive, remembrance to those gone before us is, indeed, a fitting tribute to the living.”

Seafarer’s Memorial and the book bearing its name are just such a tribute to its author.

“Drew’s contributions get high marks when you consider what he left us at the water’s edge for all to see and hear for generations to come,” writes fisherman Billy Pepper in the introduction.

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