Tribute from Senator John Kerry to Joe Garland


Mr. KERRY: Mr. President, over the course of the past half-century, Joe Garland served as the unofficial historian of Gloucester, MA—its fishermen, its boats and its life. But Joe Garland not only wrote history in his books and newspaper column—he was part of history, guiding his beloved hometown through headwinds and troubled waters. Joe Garland passed away August 30, and his family and friends gathered October 1 for a memorial service. I would like to share with the Senate the thoughts and memories of Joe that I shared with those who were part of that service honoring this great champion of all things Gloucester.

If you visit the Fisherman’s Memorial on Gloucester’s waterfront on a stormy winter day, the statue of the Heroic Mariner seems to be steering the whole town into the wind toward fair weather. And if you look closely at the statue, you can almost see Joe Garland in its carved granite face, full of grit and determination, guiding his be- loved Gloucester through headwinds and troubled waters.

‘‘Beating to windward’’ is the art of sailing into the wind. ‘‘Beating to Windward’’ is also the name of the column Joe wrote so many years for the Gloucester Times. And it is no surprise to any of us who knew him that Joe used the column to champion all things Gloucester.

Joe didn’t just chronicle Gloucester’s history—he was a part of it. In his column and in his books, he brought to life the era of the great schooners—like the 122-foot Adventure, the flagship of Gloucester, and the larger-than-life Gloucestermen—like the ‘‘Bear of the Sea,’’ Giant Jim Patillo, and the ‘‘Lone Voyager,’’ Howard Blackburn.

But he also used the sharpness of his pen to make his case on all kinds of civil causes—opposing unbridled economic development, warning about the loss of local control of the hospital and water supply, complaining about compromises on the environment or demanding the preservation of Gloucester’s beauty. And trust me—Joe never hesitated to offer his advice to a certain U.S. Senator, if he felt like I needed it.

Joe wrote with passion, conviction and humor, never with ill will or with the intent to wound. He was a gentleman. And always, whether in his column or in his books, he promoted the interests of Gloucester’s fishing fleet. In my office in Washington, I have a copy of the book he wrote in 2006, ‘‘The Fish and the Falcon,’’ about Gloucester’s role in the American Revolution. His inscription to me expresses his appreciation ‘‘for your efforts to relieve the fiscal crisis that has long haunted our beleaguered fishing industry.’’ He urged me to keep up the fight, and I have.

Joe wrote 21 books, and I always enjoyed his sharing the latest with me. In my Boston office, I have a copy of his book about the Adventure, which he helped to restore. It arrived with an invitation from Joe to tour the schooner and, of course, I didn’t waste any time accepting his invitation. He welcomed me aboard, and his tour made the Adventure’s history come alive—from its construction in 1926 through its career as a ‘‘highliner,’’ the biggest money- maker of them all, landing nearly $4 million worth of cod and halibut during her career.

But the book that spoke to me the most was his last, ‘‘Unknown Soldiers,’’ his memoir of World War II and his journey from a student at Harvard to a ‘‘dogface’’ with a close-knit infantry in Sicily, Italy, France and finally Germany. It is a clear, eloquent and unflinching panorama of the mundane and the horrific in war. It is, by turns, humorous, poignant and gut-wrenching, with the common soldier perspective long associated with journalist Ernie Pyle or cartoonist Bill Mauldin, a point of view with which soldiers from my war, from any war—a band of brothers stretching through generations of Americans—can identify.

I was deeply saddened to learn of Joe’s passing. But I am glad that his passing was gentle, his last moments of his life near the window of his beloved house by the sea, surrounded by loved ones and squeezing the hand of the woman he loved—Helen, his wife, his World War II pen pal.

And how fitting that in those final moments, the schooner Lannon fired a farewell cannon salute to Joe as it headed out to sea. Joe loved the tradition of cannon salutes, so much so that he fired one at the wedding of his stepdaughter, Alison, only to have it backfire, burning a hole in his jacket and covering his face with gunpowder, just in time for the official wedding photos. But that was Joe, and a face smudged with gunpowder underscored what we all know—truly, his was a life well lived.

There is an anonymous quote I once read which may well describe how we should think of Joe’s passing. It says:

“I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, ‘‘There! She’s gone.’’

Gone where? Gone from my sight— that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone at my side says, ‘‘There, she’s gone,’’—there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, ‘‘There she comes!’’ And that is dying.” [See editor’s note.]

Because Joe loved the sea so much— and because he enjoyed watching seagulls soar—I close with a special poem. It is titled ‘‘Sea Joy’’ and it was written in 1939 by a little girl named Jacqueline Bouvier. America eventually came to know her as Jackie Kennedy. But when she was 10 years old, she wrote:

When I go down by the sandy shore

I can think of nothing I want more

Than to live by the booming blue sea

As the seagulls flutter round about me

I can run about—when the tide is out

With the wind and the sand and the sea all about

And the seagulls are swirling and diving for fish

Oh—to live by the sea is my only wish.’’

To Helen and Joe’s family, I extend my deepest sympathy, but with a reminder that Joe’s work, like the sea he loved, is eternal and booming, and that Joe’s life, like the seagulls he enjoyed so much, swirled and soared.

And to Joe, from one sailor to another, I wish him ‘‘fair winds and following seas.’’

Editor’s Note: The quote “I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean…” was written by Henry van Dyke (1852- 1933), an American educator, clergyman, and author.

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