Fishermen’s Memorial seeks new home

More than a hundred people gathered Saturday at the Alaska Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial Saturday for the Blessing of the Fleet and to pay tribute to the people whose names are engraved on the memorial.

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More than a hundred people gathered May 7, 2016 for the Blessing of the Fleet in Juneau. (Photo by Jennifer Canfield, KTOO - Juneau)
More than a hundred people gathered May 7, 2016 for the Blessing of the Fleet in Juneau. (Photo by Jennifer Canfield, KTOO – Juneau)

Eight names were added to the memorial — Charlie Polk, Ronald John Jr., William Newman, Gordon Hallum, Walter Baldwin, Joe Bennett Jr., Patrick Venner and Greg Fisk, the former mayor of Juneau who died last fall shortly after taking office. There are now 211 names on the memorial.

The memorial recently was at the center of a battle between the board of the memorial and the City and Borough of Juneau. Board President Carl Brodersen announced at the ceremony that they were looking for a new home for the memorial.

In an interview, Brodersen said the board is working to mend its relationship with the city and move forward. He said the board’s decision was not an easy one, especially considering that the memorial serves as a kind of gravesite for 47 people whose bodies were lost at sea over the years.

“There is essentially an enormous concrete wall in front of us and so it feels like we’re on the side of a little river as opposed to the ocean,” Brodersen said. “It’s simply not ideal. I recognize that it’s not ideal as opposed to untenable. We’ve made it work today and that’s important, but in terms of the longterm health of the memorial itself I think the best thing is to try to move it.”

Brodersen said the board currently doesn’t have funding or set plans, but they are talking with people working on the Juneau Ocean Center to see if the memorial could be worked into the center’s proposed design.

“It will take years and honestly I don’t know if it will ever even happen but I would like to see it happen in my lifetime or maybe even much sooner than that. But it is a grave and it’s an extremely emotional and contentious issue, so we just have to proceed carefully and gently,” Brodersen said.

Brodersen said anyone interested in helping the board fundraise or come up with plans for a new site should get in touch with him.