Coast Guard has strong Island ties
The Coast Guard's roots run deep on Martha's Vineyard. In addition to the Coast Guard personnel and former personnel interviewed, The Martha's Vineyard Times learned of many other former Coast Guardsmen who served at Station Menemsha.
They include Gregory Monka, Bill Magee, Mike Bernard, Frank Knight and Fred Natusch of Tisbury; Albert Clements of Oak Bluffs; Kenny Ivory of Edgartown; Ashley Hunter of West Tisbury; Dennis Jason and John Armstrong of Chilmark.
Those who served in more distant posts include artist Ray Ellis of Edgartown, John Labell of Oak Bluffs, Everett Poole of Chilmark, and Granville White of West Tisbury.
A collection of yellowed newspaper clippings gathered by Wayne Iacono describe multiple rescues, often under hazardous sea conditions. Many of the names that appear are familiar.
One clipping from the Vineyard Gazette, dated Nov. 15, 1968, described a brief but "intensely violent storm" that struck here with winds that reached 85 miles per hour. At the height of the storm, a Coast Guard boat manned by four men, including Mr. Iacono and Mr. Jason, now the Chilmark harbormaster, set out to rescue three boys who fell from a 14-foot boat while scalloping in Menemsha Pond.
"Capt. Louis Larsen, father of one of the boys, called the Coast Guard which was on the scene almost at once, rescuing Louis Larsen, 14, Stanley Larsen, 11, and Edward Hydemann, 17, all of Chilmark," said the report.
Louis Larsen is the owner of the Net Result fish market in Vineyard Haven and his cousin Stanley owns the Menemsha Fish Market in Menemsha.
Many former Coast Guardsmen maintain a deep loyalty and affection for a branch of military service most closely associated with saving, rather than taking lives.
That was evident last spring when representatives of the United States Coast Guard appeared before voters at the Chilmark annual town meeting. They were there to seek approval to increase the height of a radio antenna on Peaked Hill as part of "Rescue 21," a multi-million dollar nationwide overhaul of the Coast Guard's outdated distress and response radio system.
The request sparked a passionate debate that ebbed and flowed until long-time town moderator Everett Poole handed the gavel to the town clerk and addressed the voters from the floor, something he said he had done only three times before.
"I'm an ex-Coast Guardsman also, and this program is fantastic. It is the most advanced thing. We need it. The whole length of the coast needs it. We don't want to be the one place that holds it up, and the sooner we get ours going the easier it is going to be for the Coast Guard to get permission in places where they haven't got it yet."
Mr. Poole said the Coast Guard provided taxpayers with good value for their tax dollars. "And if they want that tower on Peaked Hill, that's where it ought to go," he said.
The measure passed easily.
For those interested in sharing more stories, Granville White is planning a get-together of former and current Island Coast Guardsmen. He may be reached at granville.white@ yahoo.com.