The 31st annual Blessing of the Fleet and Reading of Names at the Alaska Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial in Juneau occurred Saturday morning.
The ceremony, held near the memorial on the harborfront in downtown Juneau, was abbreviated and distanced, said Carl Brodersen, a member of the ACFM’s board who helped lead the ceremony. It marked a return to an in-person ceremony, after last year’s distanced ceremony.
“Most large port towns across the world have some sort of memorial to seafarers and fishermen,” Brodersen said in the email. “The drive of close-knit communities with common experience to remember those who went before them is strong, particularly when that common experience can be so dangerous.”
Juneau’s memorial, located next to Taku Fisheries, is host to 245 names, according to ACFM’s website, including nine that will be inscribed on the granite next summer. Of those, 57 were lost at sea. More will be engraved in 2022, Brodersen said, when the firm from the Lower 48 contracted to do the work is scheduled to return to Juneau.
“People have been building cairns by the sea to remember loved ones who never returned since time immemorial. As society progresses, so do the cairns. Our ‘cairn’ is made of granite slabs now,” Brodersen said. “Juneau’s memorial — the Alaska Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial- was built so there would be a place where any Alaskan commercial fisherman could be remembered; and to remind a modern city of the huge importance fishing played in its founding, and still plays in its future. It was a huge logistical effort to get Juneau’s memorial built all those decades ago. It was a labor of love.”
The Rev. Gordon Blue spoke a non-denominational invocation, and performed an area-wide blessing for Juneau’s fishing boats. Brodersen performed the reading of the names, and the crew of the fishing boat San Juan stood in for the wider fleet as they released a wreath in the channel. Musical accompaniment was performed by a detachment of the City of Juneau Pipe Band’s bagpipers.
“It’s a celebration as much as a memorial, for the future as well as the past. There are more people on the Wall who lived long, full lives and died in old age on land than there are folks who were lost too soon in an unimaginable tragedy,” Brodersen said. “There are many, though, who were lost or died at sea far too young. In the case of those lost, the Memorial is sometimes the only grave they have; and for some others there are ashes spread on the rocks below where the flowers land. It’s a sacred site, built to help those who grieve heal.”
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