Lifeboat of S. S. Park Victory to be preserved

In my last S. S. Park Victory post, I promised to tell the story of the discovery of one of the ship’s lifeboats. The Victory ships were outfitted with four steel lifeboats, each 24 feet long with 27- to 29-person capacity.

Lifeboat #1 on the S. S. Park Victory, January 1946. Photo credit: Harold Hoffman.

According to Park Victory historian Jouko Moisala, when the ship sank [link], only three of the lifeboats were deployed. After the rescue of the sailors using them, these three boats were returned in February 1948 to the Luckenbach shipping company that operated the Park Victory.The fourth went down with the ship. But what became of it?

Two months later, Iivari Suni and Erik Öhman were the first two divers to go down to the wreck. Their mission was to see how the coal the ship was carrying could be retrieved. Moisala believes these two divers must have cut the life boat loose, as it was likely in the way of bringing up the coal. As a result, the boat was lost to Park Victory history. That is, until Moisala received an email this past January from a man who had heard one of Moisala’s Park Victory lectures. The man knew the whereabouts of an old lifesaving boat and attached this picture.

Remains of Park Victory lifeboat. Photo courtesy of Jouko Moisala.

Moisala went to see the boat the next weekend. “There it was in the middle of the bed of reeds and full of trash,” he says. “That man told me the boat had been a property of an old smuggler of spirits from Estonia and Poland. This was quite usual in Finland after the war.” Moisala was told the smuggler had gotten the boat in Utö, the island off which the Park Victory sank, and it had been on land since 1960. From comparing photos Moisala took of the remains of the boat with the one taken by seagoing cowboy Harold Hoffman in 1946 that I had sent him, as well as photos of Victory ship lifeboats from the S. S. Red Oak Victory museum in California, Moisala found identifying marks that made him certain this was, in fact, the missing Park Victory lifeboat. What an exciting discovery!

Moisala and his wife set to work in frigid February weather emptying the boat of its trash. Finally in June, the boat was able to be shored up enough to move it off the spot where it had rested for so long.

Moisala gets help from friends in moving the Park Victory lifeboat. Photo credit: Jouko Moisala.

The boat was later moved into Turku to the grounds of a diving equipment manufacturer where Moisala began work on it in August. Moisala has quite a project on his hands! I’ll be eager to see the finished product! As I’m sure he will be, too.

Rex Miller and Jouko Moisala look over the remains of the S. S. Park Victory lifeboat, July 13, 2018. Photo: Peggy Reiff Miller.

Jouko Moisala and I at his S. S. Park Victory lifeboat project in Turku, Finland, July 13, 2018. Photo: Rex Miller.

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Utö islanders commemorate S. S. Park Victory

On our recent trip to Finland, we had the opportunity to travel to Utö, the southernmost year-round inhabited island of the Finnish archipelago off which the S. S. Park Victory sank in 1947. A small island of .31 square miles, it’s history is linked to the sea.

Rex and I on our way to the Utö lighthouse. Photo credit: Jouko Moisala.

With our host and guide Jouko Moisala, we walked all around the island. He pointed out to us the place where the Park Victory rests.

The S. S. Park Victory lies some 40 meters deep on the other side of the narrow rocky island to which I’m pointing. Photo credit: Rex Miller.

Four divers prepare to go down to the Park Victory. Photo courtesy of Jouko Moisala.

On a tour of the lighthouse, guide Hanna Kovanen shared her family’s story of the stormy night the ship went down and the role the islanders played in the rescue of the survivors. The call for help went out at 3:00 Christmas morning. Hanna’s short-statured grandmother trudged through waste-deep snow to get to the pier. She hauled an unconscious man over her shoulder to her house, took off his wet clothes, warmed him, and washed the oil off him. When the man came to, he later said he looked up and thought he must be in heaven because he was looking at an angel. The man was Allen Zepp, captain of the Park Victory.

Jouko shows us the Park Victory display in the island’s small museum. Captain Zepp’s photo is on the wall in the center of the picture. Photo credit: Peggy Reiff Miller.

Hanna’s grandmother took in another man who had dark curly hair that looked like it had been washed, but she thought he was still covered with oil. When scrubbing didn’t take the darkness away, she discovered he was a black man and had, in fact, already been cleaned. She had never seen a black man before.

Hanna said the islanders didn’t have extra winter clothing, so they pulled out their summer things to dress the scrubbed survivors in. Finnish Army clothes were also available from the small Finnish Defense Forces station on the island. The survivors were so grateful for the care they received from the islanders that after they arrived home they sent 100 pounds of sugar and 100 pounds of coffee to Utö, items that were rationed for the inhabitants at the time. The goods were apportioned to all the families on the island. Their gratitude led them to each pay their share for what they received into a fund that was used to commission a memorial for the ten sailors who lost their lives in the wreck.

Candelabra commissioned by the people of Utö in memory of the ten Park Victory sailors who lost their lives. Photo credit: Peggy Reiff Miller.

The Park Victory’s isn’t the only shipwreck commemorated on the island. The Draken went down in 1929 on her way to England with a load of timber. The ship wrecked in a storm against a little rocky island just 150 meters from the shore of Utö. Two men tried to make it to shore. One made it; the other didn’t.

Rex and I at the Draken memorial. The cross is for the sailor who lost his life, the star for the one who lived. Photo credit: Jouko Moisala.

Utö did not have a rope rifle that could have shot a rope to the sailors to pull them ashore. A shopkeeper in Turku on the mainland sent them one two weeks later, and new life was breathed into lifesaving work in Finland, with the Draken’s captain, Niilo Saarinen, becoming head of the Finnish Maritime Rescue Society.

Our island trip ended all too soon, but the Park Victory story doesn’t end here. Another chapter is beginning with the discovery of one of its life boats. More on that in September.

One last personal note on our trip: we were amazed that our four-hour ship ride through the archipelago’s mass of rocky islands to Utö was free! The ship was part of Finland’s public transportation system, making stops at four islands to transport locals and tourists alike to and from the mainland. I still marvel at that!

A map on the ship showing its route. Photo credit: Rex Miller.

A day with Jouko was not complete without ice cream! Photo credit: Jouko Moisala.

Volunteers at Heifer Ranch carry on the spirit of the Seagoing Cowboys

I want to give a Shout Out in this photo essay to the wonderful work that goes on at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas! Just as the seagoing cowboys and innumerable volunteers helped Heifer Project become a viable organization, today’s volunteers help keep the Heifer Ranch and Heifer USA running.

Spring 2018 volunteers, minus the snowbirds who had already left for home. Photo credit: Ian Peters, Residential Staff Coordinator.

For anyone out there who has a hankering to volunteer somewhere, this is a great place to do it! A lively community of both young adult, in-transition, and retired short-term and long-term volunteers (including several from overseas) gathers here. They serve in maintenance, gardening, education, the visitor center/gift shop, dining, the farm – wherever volunteers can be useful. Housing and a stipend are provided.

The mission of Heifer International to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth binds the volunteers and staff together in a common purpose that forms a close-knit community. A potluck meal is shared year-round on Thursday nights. During the height of the snowbird season, game nights are enjoyed on Tuesdays. Special events, like a pie baking contest, Memorial Day cookout, and the annual “Hoof it for Heifer” race at nearby Petit Jean State Park, pop up year round. And Northwest Central Arkansas is a beautiful place to explore on days off.

Since I’m not a volunteer, but rather came to sequester myself to write, I rented one of the apartments available to guests. Very comfortable and enjoyable!

My make-shift office in the dining nook of Rupel Apartment.

Most volunteers live in the private volunteer housing area of the Ranch. The yellow building on the left is the “Com-shack,” the volunteer community building where potlucks, game nights, etc. take place.

The Dan West Visitor Center and Gift Shop is where a visit to the Ranch begins.

Volunteer Aly Pagano from North Carolina welcomes visitors and gives them their first introduction to the Ranch.

Volunteer Susan Bigler from Little Rock sold me a few things!

Three-year farmer apprentice Michelle Michalek from Michigan prepares the chicken nursery for its next batch of chicks.

Volunteer Marie Berniere from France and three-year gardener apprentice Tradesha Clark from Boston tend the garden on a hot day.

Year-long Brethren Volunteer Service worker Bob O’Neill from Pennsylvania spends much of his time mowing the lawns.

My husband Rex uses his building contractor background to design and construct a new electric house for the RV area.

When not needed on the mower, Bob helps Rex finish the electric house.

Mission accomplished! Much to the satisfaction of those who bring their RVs to live in while volunteering.

Nearby Petit Jean State Park is one of our favorite places to go on weekends to soak up the beauty of the Arkansas Ouachita Mountains.

But we needn’t go much further than out our apartment door to enjoy stunning views and absorb the peaceful surroundings to the accompaniment of bird songs.

A wonderful benediction to our two-month stay.

We ended our time at the Ranch June 8. We’ll be back!

Sharing the seagoing cowboy and Heifer Project history at Heifer Ranch in Arkansas

This post will be more personal than my normal posts. My husband Rex and I are currently nearing the end of a two-month stay at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas, where I’ve been sequestering myself to work on my book-in-progress about the first decade of the Heifer Project (today’s Heifer International) while Rex has been volunteering in the maintenance department. Quite by coincidence, and fortunately for me, the Heifer International Board of Directors and the Heifer Foundation Board held their meetings at the Ranch this week. The Heifer Board invited me to sit in on Monday, and I am filled with admiration for the incredible talent of Board members and staff alike, appreciation for the work that Heifer is doing both here and abroad, and anticipation of the wonderful things to come.

A highlight of the meeting for me was hearing Senior Vice President of Marketing Christy Moore tell of the marketing team’s visit to Honduras to see for themselves the impact of Heifer’s work there. Today, Heifer is so much more than just giving an animal to recipients, as it was in the beginning. It’s about building sustainable communities, achieving living incomes for community members through their small farms. At the dairy plant the team visited, Heifer has assisted a small business on the verge of closing by providing the owners with help in how to market the cheese they were making, teaching them good manufacturing practices, and providing capital for needed equipment. Heifer’s signature “Passing on the Gift®” value is achieved when the owners are able to pass on the knowledge of hygienic dairy practices to their small farm suppliers. The business has become so successful that families who had migrated to the United States for work are able to move back home because there are jobs for them there now, from the supply end to the marketing end of the cheese business.

Heifer International mission statement guides the Board’s deliberations.

In front of every Board member during the meetings, on the back of their name card, was Heifer’s mission statement. Another highlight for me was hearing of Heifer’s plans to expand their efforts in working at the last part of that statement: taking care of the earth. They already teach the sustainable methods of agriculture to small holder farmers in areas being affected by climate change, methods that help to reclaim, replenish, and protect the soil and water sources. The next step will be to partner with green investors to be able to expand this work to a scale that will help cool the planet.

Heifer President and CEO Pierre Ferrari (on right) addresses environmental impact issues of Heifer’s work. Photo credit: Peggy Reiff MIller.

The third highlight for me was to hear the Board begin their planning for a major global celebration of the organization’s 75th anniversary next year. It seems like only yesterday that we were celebrating the 70th! I’m looking forward to seeing what the planning committee comes up with this time around and to participating in whatever ways I’m asked and able.

Heifer’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Christy Moore (second from right) introduces the 75th Anniversary agenda item. Photo credit: Peggy Reiff Miller.

Together again with “Sister” Jan. Photo credit: Jessica Ford.

The culminating highlight of the day for me was to share the evening stage with Heifer founder Dan West’s daughter in what was billed on the Board’s agenda as “An Evening with Jan Schrock and Peggy Miller,” or as Jan likes to call it, “The Jan and Peggy Show.” This is the fourth time we have presented together, with Jan sharing stories about her father and how he became Heifer’s founder and me sharing the history of Heifer’s beginnings, including stories of the seagoing cowboys and Heifer’s legacy. A bonus was having longtime Heifer Executive Director Thurl Metzger’s daughter Kathleen McNamee present to share about her father’s role in purchasing the Heifer Ranch. The Ranch staff created a very festive atmosphere in an outdoor pavilion and served a delicious meal using Ranch-raised meat and produce that set just the right tone for a delightful evening with the Board members, Heifer International’s Leadership Cabinet, and Heifer Ranch/Heifer USA staff and volunteers. A night to be long remembered.

Jan West Schrock tells how her father’s service in World War I set him on a life-long path of working for peace. Photo credit: Peggy Reiff Miller.

It was an honor to share the history of Heifer’s beginnings with the people who carry on its legacy today. Photo credit: Rex Miller.

Next post: A tour of Heifer Ranch with the Heifer Foundation Board.

Delivering Hope to the Next Generation

I’m late with this post, as I was absorbed last week in the Church of the Brethren National Older Adult Conference where I was a keynote speaker. I invite you to listen to the live streaming of my illustrated presentation that gives the back story of how I became the documenter of the seagoing cowboy history, the legacy of the seagoing cowboys and the Heifer Project, and the importance of continuing to deliver hope to the next generation. The speech, which you can find here: https://livestream.com/livingstreamcob/NOAC2017/videos/162425620 begins at 13 minutes into the session and lasts for 70 minutes. I know — that’s a long speech! But that’s what I was contracted for and that’s what I gave. If you wish to jump to the seagoing cowboy part, you can start at 25:30 minutes (including the reading of my picture book The Seagoing Cowboy) or start at 35 minutes to skip the picture book reading and stop wherever you wish. Enjoy!

Next post will pick up Part II of the pre-WWII seagoing cowboys.

Planning ahead on the Seagoing Cowboy story and looking back on a great year

I’ve completed six months of bi-weekly blog posts now about the Seagoing Cowboy and Heifer Project histories. I’m in the process of planning my calendar of posts for this year; and to that end, I’d be happy to know what questions my readers might have that you would like answered about these two histories. I’d also be happy to know what you have particularly enjoyed and what you would like to see more of. You can share your questions or comments with me either through the reply feature of this blog or by emailing me at prmiller@bnin.net.

In this, my first post of the year, I invite you to look back with me at some of my personal highlights of 2014:

Jo Israelson and Peggy Reiff Miller at Heifer International, March 2014

Jo Israelson and I. Photo by Alan McNamee

 

Opening night of Jo Israelson’s exhibit “Heifer Relief: Compass, Ark, Berth” at Heifer International headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas, March 13, 2014, where I was the speaker along with two amazing seagoing cowboys: Merle Crouse and Howard Lord.

 

Okanogan County, WA, seagoing cowboys

Seated, L to R, Seagoing Cowboys Dave Henneman, Bill Pyper, Jick Fancher, Bill Dugan. Standing, L to R, Jack Lorz, whose brother was a seagoing cowboy; me; Neoma Vandiver who husband was a seagoing cowboy. Photo by Rex Miller

 

A speaking trip to Tonasket, Washington, the end of August that included interviews with all four seagoing cowboys pictured. I was invited by college classmate and friend Sandra Brightbill, President of the Okanogan County Historical Society, to honor the seagoing cowboys from their county.

 

 

Rex and Peggy Reiff Miller

Rex and I at the Ellisforde Church of the Brethren in Tonasket, WA, where I spoke August 24, 2014. Photo by Jerry Brightbill

 

 

And what a joy it was to have my husband, Rex Miller, with me on that trip.

 

 

 

 

Seagoing Cowboys at Beyond Hunger Northern Indiana, Sept. 2014

Heifer International honored the Seagoing Cowboys who came to the Beyond Hunger Northern Indiana event with a “Make a Difference Award.” I’m in the upper left and Heifer’s CEO Pierre Ferrari in the middle of the third row. All the others were cowboys or cowgirls. Photo courtesy of Heifer International

Heifer International’s Beyond Hunger Northern Indiana event at Camp Alexander Mack in Milford, Indiana, September 12-14, 2014, was one of the 70th anniversary celebrations Heifer sponsored across the country last year. I co-chaired the event; the planning took up a large portion of my time during the year, but it was worth every minute of it when the event brought together 25 seagoing and flying cowboys and cowgirls from all over the country to be honored by Heifer.

Seagoing Cowboys of the Rock Springs Victory.

Howard Lord, Richard Hoblin, and Bob Heimberger reunite. They served together on the SS Rock Springs Victory to Ethiopia in 1947. Photo courtesy of Heifer International

 

 

What a wondrous reunion it was!

 

 

 

 

John Baker shares his story

John Baker shares highlights of his trip to Poland on the SS Mexican in December 1945. Photo courtesy of Heifer International

 

 

And full of great stories!

 

 

 

 

Seagoing Cowboys at Beyond Hunger Manheim, Oct. 25, 2014

Seagoing Cowboys honored by Heifer International at their Beyond Hunger Manheim event, October 25, 2014. Photo by Rex Miller

Another glorious cowboy reunion in Pennsylvania. I participated in Heifer’s Beyond Hunger Manheim event, October 25, 2014, that brought together 35 more seagoing cowboys.

Seagoing Cowboy Al Guyer and Peggy Reiff Miller

Seagoing Cowboy Al Guyer and I, October 25, 2014.

A joy for me at this event was being reunited with the first seagoing cowboy I interviewed, in January 2002, Al Guyer. He was on the same SS Mexican trip as John Baker pictured above at the Beyond Hunger Northern Indiana event. Al’s Christmas story appeared in my December 26 post.

 

 

Marketing meeting with Brethren Press team

Brethren Press Managing Editor James Deaton describes illustrator Claire Ewart’s image on the screen to Publisher Wendy McFadden and me. Photo by Jeff Lennard, Brethren Press Marketing Director

The final highlight of my year was a marketing meeting in Elgin, Illinois, with Brethren Press staff in November for my upcoming children’s picture book, The Seagoing Cowboy, due out this fall. We had our first glimpse of illustrator Claire Ewart’s sketches for the book. An exciting day!

Watch for more news about the book’s progress as the year goes along.

 

 

Next post: How ten Manchester College students ended up on a cattle boat to Europe