Edmund Fitzgerald sinking remembered

Nov. 9, 2010 at 6:19 PM
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DETROIT, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- The daughter of the cook on the Edmund Fitzgerald says she learned of his death from a newspaper account of the vessel's sinking on Lake Superior in 1975.

Pam Johnson is to speak Wednesday at a ceremony in a Detroit suburb marking the 35th anniversary of the loss of the "Mighty Fitz," the Flint (Mich.) Journal reports. Robert Rafferty, her father, was one of 29 men killed on Nov. 10, 1975, when the Fitzgerald, carrying a load of taconite from Superior, Wis., to Detroit, went down in Canadian waters during a vicious storm.

The sinking became the best-known one on the Great Lakes, partly because of the Gordon Lightfoot ballad "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," which was released a year later. The cook and the captain, although not named, are the only specific members of the crew mentioned.

Johnson, who now lives in Kansas, said she met Lightfoot backstage at a concert 24 years after she lost her father. He asked her if she was offended by the lines about her father and she told him she was "honored."

"He was proud that he sailed in the Great Lakes and that he was a cook," she told the newspaper.

The ceremony Wednesday is to be held in River Rouge, near Detroit.

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