Impact of the Wreck

In 2000, eight grader Tim McCall built the website S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald as an extension of a school project that had sparked his interest. Since then, McCall has earned a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in social psychology and has spent decades compiling information about the Fitz. He has interviewed eight family members of the Fitzgeralds crew. All direct quotes on this page are attributed to these interviews.

Family Interviews

Navy /Marines

“He said to us a lot of times they didn’t think they would make it with how rough the seas were. ” – Carol Ross niece of mechanic Joseph “Jugsy” Maze

The Fitzgerald’s Bell

Heidi Brabon rings the bell to honor her father, Blaine Wilhelm.

Heidi Brabon rings the bell of the Fitzgerald to honor her father, Blaine Wilhelm.

“To him I think it was more of a job that just involved being gone a lot, not really his “life.”  During the summers he loved being home- we went swimming a lot, but we had to pick blueberries first so he could have pie.  He loved blueberry pie.  He fell overboard once and he had a sign on his door for a long time that read Mark Spitz Jr. and mom kept for years.  I think he enjoyed sailing.  I don’t think he liked being away from his children, but it was part of his job.” – Heidi Brabon, daughter of Blaine Wilhelm, oiler onboard the Edmund Fitzgerald.


Why the Fitz Sank

 I’m not sure if it’s important to know why it sank- it has been 30 years.  At this point I think all it would do is open wounds that are finally healing for the families.

Should the Wreck be Explored Further?

“I don’t want to see any more exploration at this point.  I was present for the consecration- it’s a gravesite.  What purpose would expeditions serve now?  Let the men be in peace.” – Heidi Brabon, daughter of Blaine Wilhelm, oiler onboard the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Miss Clark-Nabozny, granddaughter of wheelsman John Simmons (pictured), echoed this sentiment, saying, “It is a grave site, it should stay gravesite.  I don’t think anyone diving down will learn anymore today or in twenty years.  If there were survivors, it would be different, but there weren’t, and they need to leave it alone.”

“Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald” Gordon Lightfoot”

Family members of the Fitzgerald’s crew have differing opinions of Gordon Lightfoot and his hit song “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” One common theme is that the family members originally hated the song and found it in bad taste, but many families grew to love the song over time as it raised awareness of the wreck and became cathartic for many people.

Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot. Sourced from YouTube.

“I don’t know if it [the wreck] got that much recognition originally.  Gordon Lightfoot made the song, and my sisters and I got mad and shut it off every time it played (at the time) we were very mad they [Gordon Lightfoot] did that because we were so close to Jugsy.” – Carol Ross, niece of mechanic Joseph “Jugsy” Mazes

The song keeps the legend alive. It also tells the story. I have honestly hardly been able to listen to the song all the way through, though. Even 25 years later. Mr. Lightfoot really got to the heart of everything when he wrote that song.” – Susan Hills, niece of wiper Gordon MacLellan.

“I think that Gordon Lightfoot’s song has helped, and it also happened when television was just coming of age. I’m not sure why the interest has grown, maybe people just like knowing the history, but whatever the reason I’m glad the crew isn’t forgotten.” -Heidi Brabon, daughter of oiler Blaine Wilhelm.

Gordon Lightfoot engaged w families at memorial services, ect.