Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Cayucos Seaside Rotarys president when the group assumed sponsorship in 2010 of the Lost at Sea event was Dan Costly. Sherry Sim was president at the time.
Military or civilian, fisherman or first responder, the Central Coast will soon have a permanent place to celebrate loved ones lost at sea. The Lost at Sea Memorial Committee invites the public to its official site dedication at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Cayucos Pier. Discover the design and plans for installation intended to happen by Memorial Day.
“We’re close,” said Navy veteran Ron Janney, who was drafted to chair and coordinate the committee formed in 2011 to complete longstanding efforts for a memorial. “We need $5,000 to build the base and for future maintenance.”
Janney researched the history of the project. In 2000, Joe Eyraud, known to radio audiences as “Atascadero Joe,” called Bill Benica’s talk show and suggested the idea. Benica and wife Nancy met several times with Eyraud, Dave Congalton and the Rev. Doug Carroll to brainstorm about funding a lost at sea ceremony.
The first official ceremony was held at the Cayucos Pier on Memorial Day 2002. Benica, a Navy Vietnam veteran, was master of ceremonies until 2009. Navy veteran Tom Madsen succeeded Benica. Retired Navy Chaplain Bill Houston memorializes all lost at sea.
For 11 years, Trudy O’Brien has represented the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization, which donates a biodegradable wreath. It provides closure to the ceremony and, regularly, to families of those lost. Army veteran Dick Hathcock recognizes those missing in action.
The Memorial Day ceremony is brief, nonpolitical and intended for all. While Sherry Sim was president, Cayucos Seaside Rotary took over underwriting the event. The Cayucos Lions, which manages the Veterans Memorial Lions Hall where the ceremony occurs, offers support. The Coast Guard also participates.
“The ceremony is on a tight schedule,” Janney explained, “because we include a missing man fly-over by the Estrella Warbirds Museum. We must be ready for them.”
Soon after the 2002 ceremony, Carroll located a vintage World War II bell to toll. In 2012, retired Navy member John Lindsey assumed tolling duty before attendees walk to the pier’s end to launch the wreath. Early memorial plans included an obelisk and bell. They were approved for the Cayucos Pier Plaza and funding was secured, but the effort lost momentum until 2011, when a formal committee was established. Besides those mentioned, others actively working on the project are Navy veteran Jim Scott, Cayucos Lion Chuck Stoll, Air Force veteran and Rotarian Donna Archer and San Luis Obispo County planner Curtis Black.
Dedicated funds are managed by the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation. The committee will accept donations at the rain-or-shine dedication ceremony, or send donations at www.sloccf.org by searching for “lost at sea.”
Judy Salamachas column is special to The Tribune. Reach her at email@example.com or 801-1422.