When the Gales of November Came Early – 42 Years Ago (Repost)

Every November 10, I reblog my post on the Edmund Fitzgerald. 42 years seems like a long time to most of us, but to the families of the crew lost, it must seem like yesterday.
 
Ever since I moved to Michigan, and especially since I have now been to Whitefish Point and seen the bell and the other ephemera at the Shipwreck Museum, it is even more poignant.
 
I hope you will read, enjoy, and comment on the story. It would be especially interesting to hear your memories.

If you’re reading this in email, Twitter or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

November 10, 1975. Do you remember?

“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called ‘Gitche Gumee’
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.”

 Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” 1976

 

I remember it well. I can still “see” Harry Reasoner sitting at his desk on the evening news talking about the apparent loss of the ship “Edmund Fitzgerald” and crew of 29. For some reason, it struck me – viscerally. Perhaps it was because we were so used to seeing great ships going under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (although they were not nearly as large as the Great Lakes freighters). I remember following the story at the time. I never forgot the sadness I felt. Then, too, there’s that song…it’s one of those that sticks in your head and takes forever to get rid of.

The last voyage of the Great Lakes Freighter “Edmund Fitzgerald,” captained by Ernest M. McSorley, started in Superior, Wisconsin on November 9, 1975. The “Fitz” was loaded with over 26,000 tons of iron ore pellets. The ship was scheduled to transport the cargo to Zug Island on the Detroit River. She left port with the Arthur M Anderson whose captain was Bernie Cooper. It was determined that the Edmund Fitzgerald would take the lead as she was the faster vessel.

Both captains were acutely aware of a building November storm entering the Great Lakes. Captain McSorley and Captain Cooper agreed to take the northerly course across Lake Superior, where they would be protected by the Canadian shore. They would later make a turn to the southeast to eventually reach the shelter of Whitefish Point.

Weather conditions continued to deteriorate. Gale warnings had been upgraded to storm warnings early in the morning of November 10. While conditions were bad, with winds gusting to 50 knots and seas 12 to 16 feet, both Captains had often piloted their vessels in similar conditions.

 

Last Voyage

As the Fitzgerald approached Caribou Island, it appeared to Captain Cooper on the Anderson that the Fitz had passed far too close to Six Fathom Shoal. He could clearly see the ship and the beacon on Caribou on his radar and could measure the distance between them. He and his officers watched the Fitzgerald pass right over the dangerous area of shallow water. By this time, snow and rising spray had obscured the Fitzgerald from sight

According to transcripts and quoting from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum website, “At 3:30 pm that afternoon, Captain McSorley radioed Captain Cooper and said: “Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have a fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I’m checking down. Will you stay by me till I get to Whitefish?” McSorley was “checking down” his speed to allow the Anderson to close the distance for safety. Captain Cooper asked McSorley if he had his pumps going, and McSorley said, ‘Yes, both of them.’”

There were no more extraordinarily alarming reports from Captain McSorley that afternoon. However, at around 5 p.m., a wave smashed into the Anderson smashing its starboard lifeboat. Winds were reported to be almost 60 knots steady, with gusts to 70 knots. Seas were running 18 to 25 feet.

Again, from the GLSM website, “According to Captain Cooper, about 6:55 pm, he and the men in the Anderson’s pilothouse felt a “bump”, felt the ship lurch, and then turned to see a monstrous wave engulfing their entire vessel from astern. The wave worked its way along the deck, crashing on the back of the pilothouse, driving the bow of the Anderson down into the sea.

“Then the Anderson just raised up and shook herself off of all that water – barrooff – just like a big dog. Another wave just like the first one or bigger hit us again. I watched those two waves head down the lake towards the Fitzgerald, and I think those were the two that sent him under.’”

The first mate of the Anderson spoke to the Fitzgerald one last time, about 7:10 pm.

Fitzgerald: “We are holding our own.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll be talking to you later.” The mate signed off.

The radar signal, or “pip” of the Fitzgerald kept getting obscured by “sea return,” meaning that seas were so high they interfered with the radar reflection. Around 7:15 pm, the pip was lost again, but this time, did not reappear. The Anderson’s First Mate called the Fitzgerald again at about 7:22 pm. There was no answer.

Quoting Captain Cooper, “At this time I became very concerned about the Fitzgerald – couldn’t see his lights when we should have. I then called the William Clay Ford to ask him if my phone was putting out a good signal and also if perhaps the Fitzgerald had rounded the point and was in shelter, after a negative report I called the Soo Coast Guard because I was sure something had happened to the Fitzgerald. The Coast Guard were at this time trying to locate a 16-foot boat that was overdue.”

Captain Cooper kept asking the few other ships in the area if they had seen or heard anything from the Fitzgerald. As there had been no word, he persisted with the Coast Guard. Captain Cooper and his crew had just managed to pilot the Anderson to safety in Whitefish Bay. They were all breathing a huge sigh of relief when the Coast Guard made a huge request of them.

There were no Coast Guard ships in the immediate area. Could the Anderson go back out into the storm to look for the Fitzgerald? I can’t imagine the anxiety. Here they had just reached safety after being hammered by a huge storm including two huge, rogue waves (called “two sisters” in maritime lingo), but the seaman’s unwritten code is that you go to try to help fellow seamen.

The Anderson became the lead boat in the search. The Anderson was again severely pounded by the storm and was rolling badly, but they were able to locate the Fitzgerald’s two lifeboats (empty) and other debris, but no sign of survivors. The William Clay Ford also left the safety of Whitefish Bay to help. These two were later joined by two Coast Guard cutters and a fixed-wing aircraft.

The Coast Guard continued the search. On November 14, a specially-outfitted, U.S. Navy plane got a strong signal 17 miles off Whitefish Point. In the next few days, the Coast Guard cutters used different technologies (including side-scan radar) to check that area. One of them located two large pieces of wreckage on the bottom in the same area. A similar search took place in late November. However, winter was closing in. There would be no chance to continue until spring. As large as the Great Lakes are, Mother Nature and winter are stronger. The Lakes become impassible with ice.

In May of 1976, they returned to try to determine if these sonar responses were, indeed, the wreckage of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Navy submersibles took thousands of feet of video and hundreds of still photos. On May 20, 1976, all question as to the final resting place of the “Fitz” was removed as photos were examined and the name “Edmund Fitzgerald” was clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake.

Depiction of the Wreck

In November of 1994, family members of the crew brought their concerns to The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS). They were worried that technology was getting to the point where more and more divers were able to dive the wrecksite of the Fitzgerald. They, naturally, considered this sacred ground as it is the final resting place of their loved ones. The families were still trying to find some form of “closure.”

After discussions with the families, a long list of U.S. and Canadian government agencies, and the owners of the wreck, it was determined that a single, significant artifact – the ship’s bell – could be removed from roof of the pilothouse and brought to shore. A replacement bell, inscribed with the names of the 29 sailors who lost their lives on the Fitzgerald, would be returned to the pilothouse.

The bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald broke water at 1:25 pm, July 4, 1995 as family members watched. A wreath was placed on the water following the recovery. Family members there that day finally had the opportunity to express their grief, say goodbye and for some, bring closure after 20 years. The replacement bell would be returned to the wreck.

The Fitzgerald’s bell was stabilized and then delivered to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. From there, the museum continued restoring the bell for use as the centerpiece of a memorial to the men who died in the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. You can see it, today, as the centerpiece of their museum along with a photo of Captain McSorley and additional information about and pictures of the Fitzgerald.

The Edmund Fitzgerald will forever, legally, remain off-limits to divers as it is the final resting place for the 29 souls lost that fateful night.

 

Christening of the “Fitz”

“Life” moments of the Edmund Fitzgerald

8/7/1957: Keel laid

6/8/1958: Hull #301 is christened “Edmund Fitzgerald” after the CEO of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company

9/24/1958: The Fitzgerald makes her maiden voyage

1972: Captain Ernest McSorley takes command of the Edmund Fitzgerald

11/10/1975: Last day of the great ship

5/20/1976: More than 40,000 feet of video tape from expeditions to the purported wreck by submersibles is examined. The words “Edmund Fitzgerald” were clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake

7/4/1995: The bell of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald is raised, restored, and replaced on the ship by a new bell with the names of the twenty nine men lost. This is the last time the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald will ever again be legally dived upon

 

To this day, the true reason for the sinking goes unsolved. Did the Fitzgerald essentially scuttle herself on the shoals in the storm? Were the hatches properly fastened? Did the two giant, rogue waves (the “two sisters”) that hit the Anderson continue to build and swamp an already listing Fitzgerald driving her into the bottom? We’ll never know. There were no survivors to tell the tale.

“Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
May have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

 

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Comment” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about. Be sure to “subscribe” to my blog. You will be automatically notified of each new post.

 

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

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When the Gales of November Came Early – 42 Years Ago

If you’re reading this in email, Twitter or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 November 10, 1975. Do you remember?

“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called ‘Gitche Gumee’
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.”

 Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” 1976

 

I remember it well. I can still “see” Harry Reasoner sitting at his desk on the evening news talking about the apparent loss of the ship “Edmund Fitzgerald” and crew of 29. For some reason, it struck me – viscerally. Perhaps it was because we were so used to seeing great ships going under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (although they were not nearly as large as the Great Lakes freighters). I remember following the story at the time. I never forgot the sadness I felt. Then, too, there’s that song…it’s one of those that sticks in your head and takes forever to get rid of.

  

The last voyage of the Great Lakes Freighter “Edmund Fitzgerald,” captained by Ernest M. McSorley, started in Superior, Wisconsin on November 9, 1975. The “Fitz” was loaded with over 26,000 tons of iron ore pellets. The ship was scheduled to transport the cargo to Zug Island on the Detroit River. She left port with the Arthur M Anderson whose captain was Bernie Cooper. It was determined that the Edmund Fitzgerald would take the lead as she was the faster vessel.

Both captains were acutely aware of a building November storm entering the Great Lakes. Captain McSorley and Captain Cooper agreed to take the northerly course across Lake Superior, where they would be protected by the Canadian shore. They would later make a turn to the southeast to eventually reach the shelter of Whitefish Point.

Weather conditions continued to deteriorate. Gale warnings had been upgraded to storm warnings early in the morning of November 10. While conditions were bad, with winds gusting to 50 knots and seas 12 to 16 feet, both Captains had often piloted their vessels in similar conditions.

 

Last Voyage

As the Fitzgerald approached Caribou Island, it appeared to Captain Cooper on the Anderson that the Fitz had passed far too close to Six Fathom Shoal. He could clearly see the ship and the beacon on Caribou on his radar and could measure the distance between them. He and his officers watched the Fitzgerald pass right over the dangerous area of shallow water. By this time, snow and rising spray had obscured the Fitzgerald from sight

According to transcripts and quoting from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum website, “At 3:30 pm that afternoon, Captain McSorley radioed Captain Cooper and said: “Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have a fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I’m checking down. Will you stay by me till I get to Whitefish?” McSorley was “checking down” his speed to allow the Anderson to close the distance for safety. Captain Cooper asked McSorley if he had his pumps going, and McSorley said, ‘Yes, both of them.’”

There were no more extraordinarily alarming reports from Captain McSorley that afternoon. However, at around 5 p.m., a wave smashed into the Anderson smashing its starboard lifeboat. Winds were reported to be almost 60 knots steady, with gusts to 70 knots. Seas were running 18 to 25 feet.

Again, from the GLSM website, “According to Captain Cooper, about 6:55 pm, he and the men in the Anderson’s pilothouse felt a “bump”, felt the ship lurch, and then turned to see a monstrous wave engulfing their entire vessel from astern. The wave worked its way along the deck, crashing on the back of the pilothouse, driving the bow of the Anderson down into the sea.

“Then the Anderson just raised up and shook herself off of all that water – barrooff – just like a big dog. Another wave just like the first one or bigger hit us again. I watched those two waves head down the lake towards the Fitzgerald, and I think those were the two that sent him under.’”

The first mate of the Anderson spoke to the Fitzgerald one last time, about 7:10 pm.

Fitzgerald: “We are holding our own.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll be talking to you later.” The mate signed off.

The radar signal, or “pip” of the Fitzgerald kept getting obscured by “sea return,” meaning that seas were so high they interfered with the radar reflection. Around 7:15 pm, the pip was lost again, but this time, did not reappear. The Anderson’s First Mate called the Fitzgerald again at about 7:22 pm. There was no answer.

Quoting Captain Cooper, “At this time I became very concerned about the Fitzgerald – couldn’t see his lights when we should have. I then called the William Clay Ford to ask him if my phone was putting out a good signal and also if perhaps the Fitzgerald had rounded the point and was in shelter, after a negative report I called the Soo Coast Guard because I was sure something had happened to the Fitzgerald. The Coast Guard were at this time trying to locate a 16-foot boat that was overdue.”

Captain Cooper kept asking the few other ships in the area if they had seen or heard anything from the Fitzgerald. As there had been no word, he persisted with the Coast Guard. Captain Cooper and his crew had just managed to pilot the Anderson to safety in Whitefish Bay. They were all breathing a huge sigh of relief when the Coast Guard made a huge request of them.

There were no Coast Guard ships in the immediate area. Could the Anderson go back out into the storm to look for the Fitzgerald? I can’t imagine the anxiety. Here they had just reached safety after being hammered by a huge storm including two huge, rogue waves (called “two sisters” in maritime lingo), but the seaman’s unwritten code is that you go to try to help fellow seamen.

The Anderson became the lead boat in the search. The Anderson was again severely pounded by the storm and was rolling badly, but they were able to locate the Fitzgerald’s two lifeboats (empty) and other debris, but no sign of survivors. The William Clay Ford also left the safety of Whitefish Bay to help. These two were later joined by two Coast Guard cutters and a fixed-wing aircraft.

The Coast Guard continued the search. On November 14, a specially-outfitted, U.S. Navy plane got a strong signal 17 miles off Whitefish Point. In the next few days, the Coast Guard cutters used different technologies (including side-scan radar) to check that area. One of them located two large pieces of wreckage on the bottom in the same area. A similar search took place in late November. However, winter was closing in. There would be no chance to continue until spring. As large as the Great Lakes are, Mother Nature and winter are stronger. The Lakes become impassible with ice.

 

In May of 1976, they returned to try to determine if these sonar responses were, indeed, the wreckage of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Navy submersibles took thousands of feet of video and hundreds of still photos. On May 20, 1976, all question as to the final resting place of the “Fitz” was removed as photos were examined and the name “Edmund Fitzgerald” was clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake.

Depiction of the Wreck

In November of 1994, family members of the crew brought their concerns to The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS). They were worried that technology was getting to the point where more and more divers were able to dive the wrecksite of the Fitzgerald. They, naturally, considered this sacred ground as it is the final resting place of their loved ones. The families were still trying to find some form of “closure.”

 

After discussions with the families, a long list of U.S. and Canadian government agencies, and the owners of the wreck, it was determined that a single, significant artifact – the ship’s bell – could be removed from roof of the pilothouse and brought to shore. A replacement bell, inscribed with the names of the 29 sailors who lost their lives on the Fitzgerald, would be returned to the pilothouse.

The bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald broke water at 1:25 pm, July 4, 1995 as family members watched. A wreath was placed on the water following the recovery. Family members there that day finally had the opportunity to express their grief, say goodbye and for some, bring closure after 20 years. The replacement bell would be returned to the wreck.

 

The Fitzgerald’s bell was stabilized and then delivered to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. From there, the museum continued restoring the bell for use as the centerpiece of a memorial to the men who died in the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. You can see it, today, as the centerpiece of their museum along with a photo of Captain McSorley and additional information about and pictures of the Fitzgerald.

The Edmund Fitzgerald will forever, legally, remain off-limits to divers as it is the final resting place for the 29 souls lost that fateful night.

 

Christening of the “Fitz”

“Life” moments of the Edmund Fitzgerald

8/7/1957: Keel laid

6/8/1958: Hull #301 is christened “Edmund Fitzgerald” after the CEO of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company

9/24/1958: The Fitzgerald makes her maiden voyage

1972: Captain Ernest McSorley takes command of the Edmund Fitzgerald

11/10/1975: Last day of the great ship

5/20/1976: More than 40,000 feet of video tape from expeditions to the purported wreck by submersibles is examined. The words “Edmund Fitzgerald” were clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake

7/4/1995: The bell of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald is raised, restored, and replaced on the ship by a new bell with the names of the twenty nine men lost. This is the last time the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald will ever again be legally dived upon

 

To this day, the true reason for the sinking goes unsolved. Did the Fitzgerald essentially scuttle herself on the shoals in the storm? Were the hatches properly fastened? Did the two giant, rogue waves (the “two sisters”) that hit the Anderson continue to build and swamp an already listing Fitzgerald driving her into the bottom? We’ll never know. There were no survivors to tell the tale.

“Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
May have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

 

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Leave a Reply” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about. Be sure to “subscribe” to my blog. You will be automatically notified of each new post.

 

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

Old Friends at Old Friends – A Visit to Great-Grandpa’s Grave

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

Great-Grandpa is buried at Old Friends? Yes. Our very first mare’s name was Permanent Cut. (If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll undoubtedly recognize the name.) She was bred by Dan Lasater in Florida. Her sire (dad) was a son of the great European champion, Ribot. Her dam (mom) was by the very good Nasrullah son, Jaipur. Even more interesting was that her grand-dam (grandmother) was by the great son of Nasrullah, Noor. Noor is buried at Old Friends.

Noor (Stallion photo)

Noor
(Stallion photo)

Here’s Permanent Cut’s pedigree

PERMANENT CUT (USA) b. F, 1981 {16} DP = 7-4-7-0-4 (22) DI = 1.93   CD = 0.45

  Permian (USA) 1971 Ribot (GB) 1952 Tenerani (ITY) 1944
 
  Romanella (ITY) 1943
 
  Pontivy (USA) 1959 Battlefield (USA) 1948
 
  Mahari (USA) 1954
Permanent Cut
(USA) 1981 Jaidan (USA) 1969 Jaipur (USA) 1959 Nasrullah (GB) 1940
 
  Rare Perfume (USA) 1947
 
  Dawn Fleet (USA) 1953 Noor (GB) 1945
 
  Monsoon (USA) 1942
 
Permanent Cut in 1989

Permanent Cut in 1989

 

Permanent Cut Noor's Great Granddaughter

Permanent Cut
Noor’s Great Granddaughter

Noor was born in 1945 in Ireland. The black son of Nasrullah was bred by the Aga Khan III. He was first raced by his breeder but purchased as a two-year-old by Charles S. Howard. If the name Howard rings a bell, you probably either read the story of Seabiscuit or saw the movie. While Noor won on the turf in Britain, he excelled on the dirt in the U.S.A.

Noor (Photo from Charlotte Farmer)

Noor
(Photo from Charlotte Farmer)

Even those who don’t follow horse racing closely probably recognize the name “Citation.” Citation was one of Calumet Farms’ triple-crown winners from the 1940s. He also had the longest unbeaten (16 straight) streak in thoroughbred racing for almost 50 years. He could beat almost every horse on any track – that was until he met Noor.

Noor's 1950 Hollywood Gold Cup (photos from "Noor: In Memory of a Champion" Facebook Page

Noor’s 1950 Hollywood Gold Cup
(photos from “Noor: In Memory of a Champion” Facebook Page

Noor (whose regular jockey was the famous Johnny Longden) defeated Citation four times, in the Santa Anita Handicap at 1¼ miles, the San Juan Capistrano Handicap at 1¾ miles in world record time, the Forty Niners Handicap at 1⅛ miles in track record time, and the Golden Gate Handicap. In the latter event, Noor conceded weight to Citation and set a world record of 1:58 which stood as an American record on a dirt track until Spectacular Bid broke it 30 years later. Citation’s times in these races would have also been records, but Noor ran faster than any horse in history up to that point.

Noor & Johnny Longden American Handicap

Noor & Johnny Longden
American Handicap

Noor - Johnny Longden up (Photo from Devora Berliner, creator of Noor Facebook page)

Noor – Johnny Longden up
(Photo from Devora Berliner, creator of Noor Facebook page)

On his way to being named 1950 U.S. Champion Handicap Male Horse, Noor beat not only Citation, but he also beat Horse of the Year Hill Prince, Derby winner Ponder, and twice overtook another Triple Crown winner, Assault. This made Noor the only horse in American racing history to defeat two Triple Crown winners. Sadly, Charles Howard died in June of 1950 and never saw his horse crowned champion.

Noor Battles Citation 1950 San Juan Capistrano)

Noor Battles Citation
1950 San Juan Capistrano)

 

Noor Wins By A Nose (1950 San Juan Capistrano)

Noor Wins By A Nose
(1950 San Juan Capistrano)

After his championship year, Noor was retired to the breeding shed. He first went to Kentucky (where he sired our mare’s grand-dam, Dawn Fleet, who was born in 1953 – the same year as I). He sired 13 stakes winners, but Dawn Fleet went on to become a very important mare and she and her dam, Monsoon, went on to be foundation mares for many, many stakes winners (not including my dear old Permanent Cut) and can be seen in the pedigrees of many top horses.

Noor on His Way to Kentucky with Trainer Burley Parke

Noor on His Way to Kentucky
with Trainer Burley Parke

Noor Arrives in Kentucky

Noor Arrives in Kentucky

Noor (What a Beautiful Head!)

Noor
(What a Beautiful Head!)

After 1954, Noor returned to the sight of his greatest achievements, California.

Noor with Trainer Burley Parke

Noor with Trainer Burley Parke

Noor was an imposing individual with terrific balance. He was very tall – over 17 hands (one hand equals 4 inches) at the withers. He was very much the same size as the amazing Zenyatta Unlike his sire, Noor was known to have a very pleasant disposition until the age of 29 when he developed equine dementia. Even Zenyatta’s trainer, John Shirreffs, became a fan of Noor. As a very young man, Shirreffs would tack a 19-year-old Noor up during the winter and ride him around the back arena at Loma Rica Ranch.

Noor Obituary (Photo from Horseandman)

Noor Obituary
(Photo from Horseandman)

He lived at Loma Rica until his death in 1974. Upon his death, Noor was buried in an unmarked grave (which was common in that era) the infield of the half-mile training track at Loma Rica. He was gone and almost forgotten by many. In 1999, however, Blood-Horse Magazine released their list of the 100 top champion thoroughbred racehorses of the 20th Century. Noor was listed at number 69. Then, in 2002 (any far later than one would think), Noor was inducted into the Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga in New York.

 

That was not to be the end of his story. Loma Rica Ranch was sold and a business park and residential development were planned for the land. That is when racing enthusiast, Charlotte Farmer, got involved. Not willing to see the beautiful champion remain buried under what would become a parking lot, Ms. Farmer went to work and got the wheels in motion to have Noor disinterred and brought to Old Friends in Georgetown, Kentucky. 

Charlotte Farmer (Noor's Greatest Fan)

Charlotte Farmer
(Noor’s Greatest Fan)

In March of 2010, using ground penetrating radar, Noor’s remains were located. On August 26, 2011, the bones of the great racehorse were very carefully exhumed from the earth and reverently placed in a wooden coffin. The long trek across country began. On August 31, 2011, Noor was buried with a fitting funeral/memorial at Old Friends. Ms. Farmer completed her mission of love by attending the service and seeing that Noor had a fitting headstone. I’d like to take this moment to, personally, thank Ms. Farmer for her dedication to making sure that Noor finally got the respect and resting place he so richly deserves.

 

Great Grandpa's Grave (the Amazing Noor at Rest at Old Friends)

Great Grandpa’s Grave
(the Amazing Noor at Rest at Old Friends)

This past summer (almost exactly two years later), I finally got to pay my respects to a grand champion and the great-grandpa of my beloved mare. I couldn’t help but shed tears for Noor and for my old girl. I wish I’d known Noor. He embodied all the things in a horse I’d grown up loving. He was big, black, could run like the wind, and – by most accounts – had a very pleasant personality for a stallion. He was, in all ways, a Champion.

Noor's Headstone (With Utmost Thanks to Ms. Charlotte Famer)

Noor’s Headstone
(With Utmost Thanks to Ms. Charlotte Famer)

This is the final post in my current series on Old Friends. I want to particularly thank Lorraine Jackson for her article on Noor, and Devora Berliner, creator of the Noor Facebook webpage “Noor: In Memory of a Champion.” I want to send special thanks to the amazing Charlotte Farmer for sharing her photos and research, and for her fortitude and persistence in not allowing this magnificent horse to be forgotten. As always, a huge “thank you” goes to all the wonderful people at Old Friends for finding a special burial plot where many can come to pay their respects and learn about this worthy champion.

Noor's Headstone (epitaph by Ms. Charlotte Famer)

Noor’s Headstone
(epitaph by Ms. Charlotte Famer)

Remember, it takes a great deal of money to support all the horses at Old Friends. They give the horses the kind of life they so richly deserve. Old Friends gratefully accepts donations (which are tax-deductible) and has some terrific items for purchase (some on Ebay). All of the profits go to help the horses. Please check out their website ” (www.oldfriendsequine.org ) and see if you, too, might want to be one who helps Old Friends and their tremendous mission.

 

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. From there, click on “Follow.” I hope you will. You will be notified of each new posting. I also hope you will jump in and comment on my posts.

 

Looking forward to “seeing” you next time here on Colmel’s Blog!

Working for a Legend

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

Some people are lucky. They find a job/career they absolutely love. The luckiest are those who find it early in life. I think those who are the next luckiest are the ones who find that job they love after years and years of drudging away in jobs that just get them by. I count myself in the last group.

“Our” first 747-400 (N740CK)

My dad and my brother were always talking airplanes, so I grew up with an appreciation for aviation. Of course, the love of my life – my husband, Jim – has been in aviation his whole career. In 2008, I started working at Kalitta Air and began my own career in aviation. Better late than never! One of the main reasons I enjoy my job so much is that the owner of the company is a hands-on individual who surrounds himself with people who would walk through fire for him. Why? Because we all love him – that’s why. We know that Connie Kalitta is a stand-up guy who appreciates his people. We aren’t numbers to him – we’re people. That would be enough. There’s more to Connie Kalitta, though. He’s a bona fide legend.

Me with Connie “The Bounty Hunter” Kalitta

To give you some background, I’m going to paraphrase – and downright steal – from both the Kalitta Air and Kalitta Motorsports websites. Why reinvent the wheel when one already goes zero to 300 in less than 4 seconds? (I want to especially thank the exceedingly talented Todd Myers for writing such fabulous prose.)

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Connie with Jeff Arend (after a win)

Connie “the Bounty Hunter” Kalitta has been an icon in the world of professional drag racing for over 50 years as a team owner. Kalitta, who has been involved in the sport as a driver, tuner, and as an owner, has dedicated an amazing amount of time and resources to building one of the most successful teams in the history of auto racing. Kalitta Motorsports has won five world championships. The first came in 1977 when he served as crew chief for Shirley Muldowney. He earned the next two, 1979 and 1982, when he drove to IHRA championships. The last two came as team owner of Kalitta Motorsports when his late son Scott drove to the NHRA titles in 1994 and 1995.

 

Connie’s experience in the airline industry goes back to 1967 when he began transporting parts for the automotive business with a twin engine Cessna 310 (purchased with his race winnings) that he piloted himself. Over the years, Kalitta grew from a one airplane operation into American International Airways, Inc. (AIA), that used B747, L1011, DC8, B727, DC9, Twin Beech and Learjet aircraft in worldwide airfreight, air ambulance and charter passenger operations. AIA supported the Desert Shield/Desert Storm operations with award-winning efforts.

Kalitta Air is Born

In 1997, AIA merged with Kitty Hawk, Inc. and Connie resigned from the company and the Board of Directors to pursue other interests. When Kitty Hawk International (the former AIA) ceased operations and filed Chapter 11, Connie fought to purchase the Aircraft Certificate and resurrect the airline. Kalitta Air received its DOT and FAA authority to begin operations in November 2000 and immediately began revenue service.

 

Connie quickly obtained the necessary approvals from the government and secured contracts with the USPS and the DOD. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, when airports were closed and all flights were grounded, there was one plane in the sky that night that was not an F-16 fighter. It was a Kalitta Air 747 hauling relief supplies from the West coast to aid disaster workers. In 2003 Kalitta was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for support of the Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom Operations and Kalitta continues to support the USPS with scheduled flights delivering mail and packages to the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

To sum up how Connie feels about his two worlds…”I do what I love, and I love what I do, I’m very blessed.”

 

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Connie & me at the Employee Appreciation event

This is the man I work for. Unlike so many who have large businesses, Connie is here, on-site, almost every day. He’ll always wave and smile when you see him walking through the hangar. Up close, he’s quick to say hello. I’ve never felt as appreciated nor known where I fit in the grand scheme of things as much as I do at Kalitta Air. When the man at the top is quick to show his appreciation with luncheons and family picnics, you know you are valued. Connie has been very generous. When things are going very well for the airline, paychecks have been known to reflect that fact. No wonder virtually every employee reveres the man. We know where we stand with him and he knows we’ll work our hardest and best for him.

Patron Funny Car

A great example of how Kalitta Air shows its appreciation is the party that was thrown in our hangar on October 12. They were racing the weekend that had been set-aside for the Kalitta picnic, so they cancelled it and brought the party to us. There were door prizes (including large, flat-screen televisions, Ipads, Ipod docking stations, and apparel from all the companies). Kalitta Motorsports also brought over one of the Funny Cars.

Jim & me with Patron Funny Car

Lest I make Connie sound like an angel, let me point out right away that he is a hard-nosed business man. He knows every inch of his aircraft (which he could also pilot in a pinch) and has his finger firmly on the pulse of his businesses. He has an expectation that things will be done right. If something isn’t done up to his standards, he’ll let you know – in no uncertain terms – and in the strongest possible language. No, Connie is no angel; but he’s one hell of a boss.

 

That is what it’s like to work for THIS legend!

 

This is the Patron show car. It was formerly (and could easily once again be) ready for the track.

Here’s a photo taken with Doug Kalitta. Doug drives the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster. Doug has earned 31 wins over his 12-year career.

Kalitta Charters (returning a hero)

Doug is Connie’s nephew. He also owns Kalitta Charters (a charter airline service). “Charters” does executive charters, air ambulance and cargo services. They carry anything from organs for transplant to Kentucky Derby horses. Kalitta Charters is honored to be the sole company that has a contract with the government to fly the remains of soldiers to their final resting places

 

Up Next: Why We Call it “Fall”

 

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What I Did on My Summer Vacation (Prologue)

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

I know! I haven’t blogged in too long. Hope I didn’t lose to many subscribers. I seem to either go full speed ahead or not at all when it comes to blogging. I’m going to try (mind you, not promising anything) to post more regularly. If it works out the way I hope, there will be two posts a week. If I were smart (again, I’m not saying…), I’d write bunches of blogs at a time and post them twice a week so I could get ahead and have some “in the can” for when I reach my fallow periods.

 

Jim and I actually took a summer vacation this year (GASP!!!) It’s hard to believe that the last real vacation was when our adorable niece, Caitlin, graduated from high school. That was two years ago. We’d planned a trip last summer for our 25th anniversary, but we cancelled them when friends asked about visiting. We also had really hoped to get to our nephew, Allen William’s (named after my dad), graduation this year, but it was on a Thursday (odd) and at a time we were going through a major inspection at work.

 

As we could only take a week off from work, we decided to explore Michigan. We took the week including July 4 so that we only had to take four work-days. Jim was born and raised here, but his family never got to go explore the state much. As y’all know, I’m a southern girl who only moved here nine years ago. NINE YEARS AGO???!!! Anyway, we decided to visit parts of this beautiful state that were new to us both. The obvious answer was the Upper Peninsula (UP).

 

To all my non-Michigan friends, the state of Michigan is actually two completely disparate peninsulas. This goes back to an argument with Ohio (and they still go at it – hammer and tongs – especially in football season). Way back when (1830s), both Michigan and Ohio were laying claim to a strip of real estate that contained the port city of Toledo. This actually came to a head with shots fired and the U.S. government had to intercede. An agreement was struck. Ohio got Toledo and the border with Michigan was drawn just north of that city. Michigan got the Upper Peninsula (which – if you look at a map – is really more akin to Wisconsin). Ohio got the port, but Michigan got a natural treasure with shoreline on four of the five Great Lakes. The abundance of trees for lumber, copper and other minerals made it a long-term, great trade-off for Michigan.

Map showing “Toledo Strip” shamelessly “borrowed” from Wikipedia

 

Over the next several weeks, I’ll tell you about our travels in the UP. I’ll tell you about the places we stayed, the restaurants we found, and the sites we saw. It truly was a great trip and we trolls (that’s what Yoopers – Upper Peninsula residents – call those of us who live “under the bridge”) had a wonderful time. I hope I can entertain you and help you see what a fabulously beautiful state Michigan really is. Maybe you’ll even want to plan a trip to Michigan.

 

Up Next: Mackinaw City and Going Over the Bridge

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