By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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As a boat builder for 42 years in the seaport town, Bernie Arthur knows all about the men and women who make their lives at sea.
“We had a lot customers, a lot of good friends that never came back,” Arthur said.
“It seems like the people that are lost at sea are lost forever; lost from memory. If you're the family of someone who was lost at sea, where do you go?”
Now, Arthur, 75, is looking to pay homage to the thousands of sailors, some of whom sailed on boats built by Arthur's Skookum Marine, who did not return from their expeditions.
He noted a former Jefferson County sheriff was lost at sea after his boat wrecked off North Beach in the early 20th Century.
When he went to get more information from the present-day sheriff's office, nobody seemed to know about it, he said.
“That just shows how easy it is for these lost mariners to be forgotten.”
In a ceremony scheduled for Wednesday, Arthur's family will turn over the deed to 50 feet of shoreline along Water Street to the Port Townsend Kiwanis Club with the hopes it can be used to build a memorial to the mariners.
The deeding ceremony will be at the property, located two streetlights to the south of the ferry terminal, at 1:30 p.m.
“It's a great spot. People can walk off the ferry, go down there and feel that history; remember people who never made it back,” Arthur said.
“I think it's a marvelous idea and a great place to honor those lost at sea,” said Melanie Bozak, chairwoman of the Kiwanis Mariners' Memorial Park project.
“And I can't thank Bernie enough for his donation.”
City, county and state officials are expected to attend the event.
Arthur purchased the property, which includes 50 feet of the seawall and tidelands that extend 200 feet into the sea, in 2007.
He transferred it into his family's trust fund which officially turned it over to the Kiwanis Club in December.
The donation equalled $35,000 with the property and associated costs.
Arthur set out to build the memorial in 2012, commissioning a design by architect Kevin Coker.
Coker's early design would extend the seawall into the beach with a masthead at the tip, with benches lining the sidewalk.
“It's a great design, but it's not cast in stone quite yet,” Arthur said.
He opted to turn the project over to the Kiwanis because the group's nonprofit status makes garnering donations simpler.
“It's just a little more credible than donating to some guy named Bernie,” Arthur smiled. “It also makes it easier for people to get tax write-offs for their donations.”
The Kiwanis are asking for ideas and donations from the public. To do so, contact Bozak at email@example.com.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.