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Remembering loss continues in Canal Park on anniversary of pier accident

Saturday marked the 55th anniversary of the loss of three teens and a Coast Guardsman who attempted to rescue them when they were swept off by a wave in Canal Park. The ceremony continued this year despite the loss of its organizer in 2021.

remembrance ceremony
A remembrance ceremony on Saturday at the Duluth Shipping Pier marked the 55th anniversary of the April 30, 1967 loss of the three Halverson brothers, who were swept from the Duluth Ship Canal during a storm, and U.S Coast Guardsman Edgar Culbertson, who tried to save them.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Friends, family and U.S. Coast Guard personnel gathered in the wind and rain along the Duluth ship canal in Canal Park to mark the 55th anniversary of the tragic 1967 loss of the three teenage Halverson brothers and the U.S. Coast Guardsman who attempted to save them.

On April 30, 1967, U.S. Coast Guard Boatswain's Mate First Class Edgar Culbertson, 31, drowned while trying to rescue Eric Halverson, 17, and twins Arthur and Nathan Halverson, 16, after they were swept into the water from a wave. Four roses are placed near the plaque commemorating the loss of four lives.

grandson and grandmother
Mary Mackay Gaidis, of Duluth, right, glances at her grandson Wyatt West, of Proctor, before a television interview on Saturday inside the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center in Duluth. They attended a remembrance ceremony marking the 55th anniversary of the April 30, 1967 loss of the three Halvorson brothers who were swept from the Duluth Ship Canal during a storm along with the U.S Coast Guardsman Edgar Culbertson, who tried to save them. Mary's brother, Capt. Tom Mackay, passed away last November and had organized the annual remembrance. Family and friends have vowed to carry on Capt. Tom’s efforts.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

This year also marked the first time the ceremony has been held without its long-time organizer, Capt. Tom Mackay, who died last November.

"Edgar and Tom got to be really good friends," said Mary Mackay Gaidis, Mackay's sister. "After Edgar passed away, Tom started doing the memorial to remember his friend. He'd be here every April 30th at noon. He even rescued the plaque when they redid the pier and made sure it was back out here."

man blows on a boatswain's pipe
U.S. Coast Guard veteran Bryan Rydberg blows on a boatswain's pipe to begin a remembrance ceremony on Saturday at the Duluth Shipping Pier. The ceremony marked the 55th anniversary of the April 30, 1967 loss of the three Halverson brothers who were swept from the Duluth Ship Canal during a storm and U.S Coast Guardsman Edgar Culbertson, who tried to save them.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Fellow memorial organizer Ron Johnson said Mackay was also instrumental in ensuring Culbertson's legacy lived on by requesting that the Coast Guard name a boat after him. The 37th Sentinel Class Cutter was launched February 6, 2020, and commissioned June 11, 2020. The vessel’s home port is Galveston, Texas and its motto is “Braving the Storm.”

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"That probably wouldn't have happened without Tom," Johnson said. "And part of the reason he wanted to do this every year was to recognize the risks that our service people take every day. Most people don't realize the dangers that they encounter and how things can change in just a moment's notice."

man stands in hallway
Ron Johnson stands in a hallway inside the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center in Duluth on Saturday following a remembrance ceremony marking the 55th anniversary of the April 30, 1967 loss of the three brothers who were swept from the Duluth Ship Canal during a storm, along with the U.S Coast Guardsman who tried to save them.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Gaidis said her grandchildren, Mackay's great niece and nephew, would join him every year in the memorial service.

"They'd come out and place the flowers with him and gather people together," Gaidis said. "In fact, one of the first things my granddaughter Olivia said after he died was 'Well, I guess Wyatt and I are in charge of the ceremony now.' They were totally on board and wanted to make sure it continued on."

boy holds roses near a plaque
Wyatt West, of Proctor, holds roses on Saturday at the Duluth Shipping Pier to lay near the plaque commemorating the loss of four lives on April 30, 1967 after a remembrance ceremony.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
people standing near a plaque
Back row from left, Jan Swanson, Elizabeth Mackay, widow of Captain Tom Mackay, Stephanie West and Shannon Schwartz and front row, from left, Wyatt West and Mary Mackay Gaidis pose near the Edgar Culbertson plaque at the Duluth Shipping Pier on Saturday. Captain Tom Mackay was the organizer of an annual event that remembered the loss of four lives, including Culbertson, a U.S Coast Guardsman, on April 30, 1967. Family and friends have vowed to carry on Captain Tom’s efforts.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Rand Sola, resident of Park Point and neighbor of Mackay, said being at the ceremony was "just a small thing that we can do to keep his sentiment alive."

"Tom was a special guy. This is a drop in the bucket compared to what he gave to his friends and his community," Sola said. "He was great at bringing people together this remembrance is very much in keeping with his world."

man blows on a boatswain's pipe
U.S. Coast Guard veteran Bryan Rydberg blows on a boatswain's pipe to begin a remembrance ceremony on Saturday at the Duluth Shipping Pier with a U.S. Coast Guard vessel in the background. The ceremony marked the 55th anniversary of the April 30, 1967 loss of the three Halverson brothers who were swept from the Duluth Ship Canal during a storm and U.S Coast Guardsman Edgar Culbertson, who tried to save them.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
mans holds a bugle
Stu Raygor of American Legion Richard I. Bong Post 435 in Superior holds a bugle on Saturday while standing under shelter at the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center in Duluth ahead of a remembrance ceremony marking the 55th anniversary of the April 30, 1967 loss of the three Halverson brothers who were swept from the Duluth Ship Canal during a storm and U.S Coast Guardsman Edgar Culbertson, who tried to save them.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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