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.
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.
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."
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.”
"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."
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."
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."
1/5: Waves crash into rocks on Lake Superior near the Duluth Shipping Pier 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 and U.S Coast Guardsman Edgar Culbertson, who tried to save them.
2/5: People gather inside the lobby at the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center in Duluth on Saturday ahead of a remembrance ceremony.
3/5: Roses laid next to the Edgar Culbertson plaque at the Duluth Shipping Pier following a remembrance ceremony on Saturday. Culbertson, a U.S. Coast Guardsman, tried to save three teenage brothers who were swept from the Duluth Ship Canal during a storm on April 30, 1967. All four people passed away.
4/5: The Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center in Duluth as seen on Saturday.
5/5: The Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center in Duluth as seen on Saturday.
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.