by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor
A sailor with ties to a crew member of the Carl D. Bradley is looking for research help. Captain Andrew Stempki, 38, of St. Ignace is in the final stages of preparing a screenplay for a possible Hollywood studio to produce into a feature film. He is looking for local stories and reflections of the victims to complete his project and asking those interested to contact him.
Stempki’s first cousin, John Fogelsonger, second mate on the Bradley, lost his life that fateful night in November, 1958.
He was so impressed with the story, as a songwriter and ship’s captain that he crafted a song about the men lost on the Bradley.
“The song came out to be 13 minutes long. But it was so long that I decided to marry this together with text, video and images of the entire incident and call it a songumentary, a documentary married with a song,” Stempki said.
The result of that, titled “The Men Long Forgotten Songumentary,” turned out to be 16 minutes long and is available to view on YouTube (https://youtu.be/KppCic9FviE.)
That inspired the next step in the process, composing a screenplay, nearly ready for a Hollywood production company to get involved. Stempki, who has recorded three musical albums and published three books, set his goal on getting the screenplays finished.
“I get things done. I don’t screw around. I actually hired and teamed up with a screenwriter, Nelsie Spencer, who helped me put it all together,” Stempki said.
His plea for assistance to top off his screenplay is to capture more of the flavor of the area from those who lived through the times.
“I came to you guys (at the Advance) because I just want to get the stories from Rogers City. I want to know about the Rainbow Club and the bar that used to be down there and all of that little stuff to get worked in. It is called “The Men Long Forgotten” and when I was looking at the faces, I know all these guys’ lives were just forgotten. It was so long ago,” Stempki said.
Famous singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot’s song “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is burned into the memories of those who remember the sinking of the freighter in 1975. Stempki had the chance to meet Lightfoot earlier this year and asked him if he heard about the Bradley. Lightfoot said he had heard about it.
“I just smiled at him and said thanks for not picking that ship,” Stempki said. “He was reading a Time Magazine article about the Fitzgerald and that is how he got the idea. He heard about the Bradley later.”
The screenplay is almost done, Stempki said, and he has poured thousands of his own dollars into the project. To finish it all off will be another expense, he said. Then it can get listed on Hollywood’s blacklist, a shopping place of sorts for those promoting their screenplays. The story, and a potential film version, has merit, he said.
“I always argue it is not only the greatest shipwreck story I have ever heard, but it is one of the greatest American tales. From the time of them finding all that gravel there, pushing to build boats bigger, the self-unloaders, pushing those guys to getting the boat across to get more and more, and American greed,” he said are factors that drew him to the story.
He also focused on the irony of having a German ship, the Christian Satori, that was near the sinking of the Bradley, attempting to rescue the crew.
“They were guys on each ship fighting a war against each other 15 years before. Everybody in the story is just so honorable,” Stempki said.
Stempki met with Warren Toussaint, a crewman on the Coast Guard cutter Sundew, that rescued survivors Frank Mays and Elmer Fleming.
“I became a Coast Guard corpsman to honor Warren Toussaint,” Stempki said.
Stempki graduated from Albion College and moved to the Gulf Coast to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. He later sailed to Destin and became a schooner captain for 10 years. He left that occupation to become a political operative to candidates across the United States. He then became a corpsman in the Coast Guard. He is currently building a company brand resort called The Tropical Liaison in St. Ignace while serving in the reserves and working on various ships.
Stempki may be reached at (850) 714-2735 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also has a website at www.themenlongforgotten.com