by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor
The emergency-steering wheel owned by a Rogers City family for decades will soon be in its new home.
The Stone family has donated the wheel to the city of Rogers City for the next 40 years so it can be part of the beautification projectat the intersection of Third and Erie streets and represent a piece of Rogers City’s rich maritime heritage.
The centerpiece of the project/display will be a restored Fresnel lens that was on the Port of Calcite breakwater. The wheel will be placed between the lens and the front of Family Dollar.
For Marilyn Stone, the wife of the late captain Paul Stone, the wheel has been following her around for the better part of a half-of-a-century. She lives in a well-kept farmhouse along County Road 441 in Belknap Township.
The wheel had been along the road on a concrete pad for the past several years. It was replaced by a large granite rock that sparkles. The wheel is now in the department of public works garage waiting to be moved to its place of honor.
“That wheel has been following me forever – like a dog,” said Marilyn. “We were on Woodward (in Rogers City) and I don’t know where it came from.” It is believed to have come from the Great Lakes’ freighter the T.W. Robinson, but that may never be confirmed.
According to Mark Thompson, Presque Isle County Historical Museum curator/executive director, who sailed the lakes, higher-ranking officers were afforded the opportunity to claim these types of pieces when ships were decommissioned.
“I know it showed up in my yard on Woodward,” said Marilyn. “I had (Paul) chain it down so the kids’ legs would not get caught in the thing, and it needed to be painted.” When they moved from Woodward to another home on Larke Avenue, the wheel followed.
“I was sure, it was not going to follow because it was so heavy,” she said. “Well, Bill Gross used a crane to move it. When we moved out here (Belknap) T thought that was the end of the wheel (and) I don’t have to look at that anymore. Paul put a piece of cement in and it ended up in my front yard.” That’s where it was for 17 years, come rain, shine, or blizzard.
Born in Onaway, Paul grew up along Section 12 Highway south of Rogers City. He finished high school at 16, went to a business school for a year before spending the rest of his working days on the Great Lakes. “He went sailing when he was about 17,” said Erik Stone, Paul and Marilyn’s son, who has been a Rogers City attorney for many years.
Paul served in the Merchant Marines during World War II, transporting supplies across the Atlantic Ocean. “A lot of sailors from Rogers City did that at the time,” added Erik. “A lot of sailors had to get permission to do that because the steel industry was essential to the war effort.
“There are good stories about the only spitzer game ever played on the Atlantic.”
Many merchant mariners never came back. The proportional casualty rate for the United States Merchant Marines may have either exceeded that of any of the uniformed military services, or slightly less than the United States Marine Corps. Marilyn said her husband did not talk about his time serving the country.
Upon returning, Paul went back to the peaceful waters of the Great Lakes. He sailed for a total of 41 years.
“He was a true sailor,” said Marilyn. “He was a good captain. He would do a winter run when they thought the ships could run all winter and the men that went with him were all volunteers. So, that tells you what a good captain he was. Everybody trusted him.”
Marilyn not only was a sailor’s wife for four decades, but her Dad John Miller was a sailor too.
“So, I did not know any difference. I was raised that way and that’s how I raised my kids. Our routine went according to when the boat was coming in. He was a good sailor and a good dad.” Paul retired in 1978. His last 10 years of sailor were as captain.
The ship that wheel came off of was more than likely decommissioned at the Port of Calcite. Just like his mother, Erik does not know how it ended up his front lawn.
“I don’t know where there is anything like this,” said Erik. While the traffic control light in Rogers City is gone from the intersection, Erik believes the new display will give people a reason to stop and take photos, including the Stone family wheel.
“It will be a good interactive display for the city,” said Erik. “We want it displayed like it is so that people can pose with it like I just did and I think people will do that.”
“I think it is wonderful,” said Marilyn. “Paul would like (the display). He loved Rogers City.”