May 4, 2012

Reflections of the Captain

Friday sadly was my daughter in law’s father’s funeral. She and her family lost their rock, a much loved and cherished man. Ray was a resident of our small community all of his life, and was well known all around by all. He was a good man, and raised a family of five with his wife JoAnn of forty years. I watched Ray’s grandson, Torin [also my grandson of course] on Friday while they paid their respects. As I looked after Torin now almost two years old, and watched him play, it reminded me…..

I was five years old when my Grandpa Raeburn died. Not old enough to form vivid lasting memories of my own. Very, very few cameo appearances flash within my mind of him. I must rely on family members to tell the story of our very interesting patriarch. Many of those folks that could tell the story have come and gone, and few remain that can still tell me about the Captain. Miscellaneous photographs, newspaper clippings and a little oral folklore are what remain. No scrapbook of his life, or written accounts of his tales on the lakes. I am, a witness in the third person to his life, but will try in any event to put together a recollection of who this man was. In time. Not all to be done in just a day…..

Ernest Ferrier Raeburn died April 6, 1965 at his home in Sault Saint Marie, he was 82 years old. A then retired Great Lakes captain, father of five grown children, and husband to Ethel for fifty-two years; he was also granddad to eleven grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He was a grand story teller and weaved stories of adventures on the lake when he came home in the winter to his children, perhaps the townsfolk when he took his daily winter strolls around town. Ernest was raised on a farm in Ontario near Collingwood, and came to the Michigan Soo with his parents at age 16. He may have developed a love for the water visiting relatives in Collingwood, near the shipyards. I have been told he left home and joined an academy for sailing in Ontario, and as we know now later became a captain after a few years as a shipmate.

As I am told a large funeral was attended by not just his family and local friends, but also old lake captains and shipmates he knew. Remembrances of lake tales, and events of old times. Someone told me that my father, who was 46 years old at the time, was pacing back and forth (for what reason I am not aware) baring a ‘striking resemblance’ to Ernie. In my mind I tried to picture my grandfather, at 46 years old, in his captain’s uniform. I really should have written down the stories I was told, but at the time never thought I would want to be recalling the details. I was young, and we all know the young are foolish. I need someone to wave their magic wand and make those stories reappear! I have some work to do…perhaps, more to come : )

My sister Kim, my Dad and I, and Grandpa Raeburn at grandpa's house in the Soo.