Saturday, April 25, 2015

ISLAND WATERFRONT - Then and Now - What of 75 years? - Part XX

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

When thinking of the significance of 75 years of service, I keep coming back to the idea that there has been community commitment - a two-way commitment:  the ferry company to the Island and the public it serves, and the base of customers who use and rely on that service.

There is no better visual example I can think of than the christening ceremony for the ferry Arni J. Richter, held on May 24, 2003, just before that ferry was placed into service.   Present were Islanders, guests from off the Island, students and many other well-wishers.

I say well-wishers, because I think everyone wanted this ferry to be a great one, reaching the mark in every sense of the term, for the improvement of service it would offer in summer and winter.  Grade school children participated in a coloring contest, and one of the many entries submitted, with a personal message, is shown above. (Sorry, but I can no longer recall the artist's name.)

A chorus of voices led by Dan Hansen, the Island Music Festival Chamber Orchestra under direction of Stephen Colburn, representatives from the U. S. Coast Guard, and representatives of the design, construction, financing and legal support - each necessary to make such a vessel possible - and the many, many people who stood on the pier made this a community celebration.  It was an event for the community, with the intended purpose of providing future service to the community.  If you knew where you were standing on that day, you might identify yourself in the photos below.

May 24, 2003 - AJR Christening (photos by Arni Orman)

We've been blessed over the years to have talented professionals in our area who have furthered the development of our vessels, docks, piers and shore facilities.   Having excellent shipyard facilities, naval architecture design firms and engine suppliers handy, each a part of our regional economic community, has been an immeasurable positive for this business, and for the Island community, in turn.

Tim Graul Marine Design crew from Sturgeon Bay visited in 1998 to
inspect, measure and offer Voyageur improvements.
From left to right are Tim Graul, Arni,
Bob Thompson, Bill Hitt and Charlie Balestrieri.
We mentioned in the last posting that it would be impossible to name any particular event or achievement as having the greatest impact over the past 75 years, but one event that comes to mind that might be easily overlooked would be the naming of the ferry Eyrarbakki to coincide with the 100th Anniversary of the first Icelanders to come to Washington Island.  (The original four young men led the way for a greater Icelandic immigration that followed, here, in other states and Canada).
Launching of Eyrarbakki at Bay Shipbuilding - 1970
(Estelle Richter photo)

 Having made a trip to Iceland in 1969, perhaps with the idea of creating a special celebration in 1970, Arni and Mary Richter visited Eyrarbakki, home of Arni's grandfather, Arni Gudmundsen, and the port of embarkation for many Icelanders.  Ideas for a vessel name were exchanged with his Icelandic cousin by letter in the months that followed, as community plans were prepared for an Island celebration in the summer of 1970.  Arni and Mary settled on the name of that village, Eyrarbakki.

Other communities at that time had their own ethnic celebrations, and Washington Island had for years featured a summer Scandinavian Festival with folk dancing, smorgasbord and such.  But, in keeping with a genuine respect for Island ancestry, this celebration elevated the importance of the Icelandic settlers, and it still provides today a unique notoriety for Washington Island.

So, back to our original question:  what does 75 years in business mean, if anything?

There was certainly no long-term plan that Arni or Carl Richter had for continuing their ferry business as long as possible, but the combination of doing something they enjoyed, activities that proved profitable but just as importantly, served their community.  These were lasting goals that committed them to a particular approach to service.  And from that commitment, I think, came the need and desire to grow, to improve and modernize and do those things for which the community can hopefully benefit, as well as the business itself.

Hoyt Purinton with his grandfather in 1995.
There was never a master plan, but rather,
 uncertain struggle along
the road to business leadership
Now with 40 years under my own deck shoes, and from my association with Arni and all of the fine people I've worked with at the Ferry Line, I believe it is the broad range of talent and skills, people with a similar desire to serve the community in which they live, that instills  dedication in today's employees, excellent people, all.

The second thing I learned, in a somewhat unexpected manner, is that the time will come to provide greater opportunity for others, and that opportunity can be furthered by stepping back, with confidence that there are several ways to accomplish goals, and an abundance of good people to accomplish them.

Ferry crew and family members demonstrate the effectiveness
of an IBA (Inflatable, Buoyant Apparatus) - June 2005.

With the passing of the torch, so to speak, there ought to be - and I find that there is - a great deal of pride in observing the accomplishments of others, and in knowing that commitment and tradition continue.

That, I think, is the best - and only legacy of value - for a business that hits the 75th year mark.
       - Dick Purinton

Steve Propsom of Bay Ship with Hoyt during the indoor construction of
the AJR in 2003.  If there is a "face" of the Ferry Line today, it is that of
Hoyt... and Rich Ellefson, and Bill Schutz, and Bill Jorgenson, and Erik Foss,
and… the many others who make daily ferry service possible.

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