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Detroit church to remember sailors lost on the Great Lakes, including those from the 'Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald'

29 men, including seven from Northeast Ohio, died when the Fitzgerald broke apart and sunk on Lake Superior 47 years ago. The service will take place this Sunday.

DETROIT — Sailors who lost their lives in shipwrecks on the Great Lakes and Michigan waterways will be remembered at a historic church in downtown Detroit.

The annual Great Lakes Memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday and will be livestreamed from Mariners' Church along the Detroit River.

An estimated 30,000 deaths and roughly 6,000 shipwrecks have occurred on Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario. Thursday is the 47th anniversary of possibly the most notable wreck: the Nov. 10, 1975, sinking of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald.

The freighter was carrying a load of iron ore pellets to a Detroit steel mill when it plunged to the bottom of Lake Superior during a storm, 17 miles from Whitefish Point in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Singer and songwriter Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" tells the tale of the sinking and the power of the massive inland lake.

In 1976, a year after the Edmund Fitzgerald was lost, a memorial service was held at Mariners' Church and included the ringing of the church's "Brotherhood" bell 29 times — one for each crewman aboard the freighter. Seven of those who died were from Northeast Ohio:

  • First Assistant Engineer Edward Bindon - Fairport Harbor
  • Deck hand Bruce Hudson - North Olmsted
  • First Mate John McCarthy - Bay Village
  • Watchman Karl Peckol - Ashtabula
  • Second Mate James Pratt - Lakewood
  • Deck hand Paul Riippa - Ashtabula
  • Deck hand Mark Thomas - Richmond Heights

"The Great Lakes represent a rich bounty for the entire country, and especially for those of us fortunate enough to live by their shores," said the Rev. Jeffrey Hubbard, pastor of Mariners' Church of Detroit. "But they can become treacherous and unpredictable."

"Six thousand shipwrecks, and more we aren't even aware of yet, and the 30,000 lives lost in them are all the proof we need of that," Hubbard said. "That's why we take the time each year to reflect on those lives and to pray that there will be no more wrecks and no more deaths on the lakes in the future."

Mariners' Church was founded in 1842 as a place of prayer and reflection for sailors. It now is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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