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Don't forget to check out my other websites too!
www.mimbizic.com ("Power of Three" iPad educ. app)
www.babamim.com (American-Serb History 101)
www.moontownshiphistoricalsociety.com (Moon Twp., PA History!)
(click bottom right hand corner of photo to enlarge)
The Night the Captain's Ashes Arrived HOME, 1992.
Many readers may never have heard of Captain Fred Way, Jr. of Sewickley, PA, USA, but he accomplished so much for our local community while at the same time, was considered the world's authority on America's rivers.
From the time I first taught in Quaker Valley School District in the late 1960's, I remember how excited the whole town would be when the Delta Queen steamed by. Why? Sewickley was SPECIAL!
The huge paddlewheeler never failed to stop, drop anchor, and play right in front of retired Captain Way's Sewickley River Street home, "Beautiful Dreamer" on the ship's calliope, our Captain's favorite song. Then the huge steamboat would make its way up the river to Pittsburgh. On the way back, it was the same thing, and we delighted in it once again on its way back to Nashville.
No matter where we were in the middle of a lesson or what we were doing, my school students from the old orange brick Sewickley Elementary School (where Talbots is now, and across from the Sewickley Public Library) would all run to the window and shout, "The Delta Queen is here! Listen, listen!" What joy that simple gesture brought to the whole town!
When Captain Way died in Marietta, Ohio at the age of 91 while staying with his daughter, his ashes were sent back to Sewickley for internment in the Sewickley Cemetery via the Delta Queen.
My family members were all there at the boat landing with about 40 other Sewickleyans for this big night.... nearby was Dr. Robert Fusco, my computer partner, who I called frantically at the last minute to make sure he attended this historical event. Sewickley illustrator and artist George Gaadt was there too....a true historian as well as NFL photographer.
We all waited and waited for the paddlewheeler to come. Night was falling and people were getting restless, about ready to leave thinking perhaps there must had been some informational mistake.
Just then, from around the bend in the far distance came a big light, flooding the river, the beam sweeping from one side of the river to another, back and forth.
The excitement built until the Delta Queen seemed to be right in front of the Sewickley wharf. (Which, by the way in 1992, was blocked off, not used, if I'm not mistaken.)
All the passengers lucky enough to be on the boat for that voyage, leaned forward against the railing to the one side of the boat, towards us, on multiple decks. Luckily, it didn't tip over!
The boat's anchor was lowered. The Delta Queen's calliope played "Beautiful Dreamer." We almost were in tears by now.
Then the gangplank swung out, and the present Captain of the Delta Queen, awash in his crisp, white uniform, stepped forward, but then stood still.
After a dramatic minute's pause, he made his way down the gangplank, and handed Captain Way's ashes to Mrs. B.G.Y. Shields, who was the editor of the Sewickley HERALD at the time, a job that Capt. Way had, and also, President of the Sewickley Valley Historical Society, of which Captain Way was first president. What a sight that was to see! I will never forget it.
The Delta Queen's Captain saluted Captain Way's urn, then all of us, did an "About Face," and clicked his heels, ceremoniously proceeding back onto the boat. The gangplank swung back into position, alongside the paddlewheeler. Once more, the Captain stood with all of the passengers on the boat looking at us, some waving, and we did the same, in almost dreamy-eyed Silence. "Don't forget this moment" our hearts seemed to thump into our brainwaves.
The stillness and quietude ended. One more time, the calliope played "Beautiful Dreamer."
"Remember, remember, you'll want to recall this," thoughts danced in my head.
The anchor was pulled up and off they went.... Memories, memories...
Captain Way's daughter and grandson help carry on his legacy.... shown here at the Sewickley Valley Historical Society meeting on May 19, 2010, in Sewickley, PA. 15143.
No one could tell stories better than Captain Way. I remember one tale he wove so effortlessly into a speech when he was the main presenter at the Man and Woman of the Year banquet one year. It was about one of a famous Sewickley family member's funeral.
......Where the whole town was marching behind the horse-led carriages despite the snow, ice and cold up the hill to the Sewickley Cemetery.
Up, up, up the hill towards the cemetery they climbed, but because of all the ice and snow, they couldn't get any further than where the Sewickley Hospital is now, with this big rocky, ice-covered ledge in front of them. The horses couldn't go on. Ladies and gentlemen in their long coats and furs were slipping and sliding.
A plan was decided on. The town leaders decided that four of the strongest Sewickley lads would climb the hill, then the town planners would throw up ropes to them to hoist and pull the coffin up.
And Captain Way went into great detail, explaining how this idea was finally working. "Pull, pull, pull--"
Then, all of a sudden, the ropes snapped and the coffin went flying straight as an arrow, faster than the fastest sled, down the hilly 3 or 4 blocks right to the middle of town, smashing into one building and the next (he named them all), and then sailing through the door of what was the drug store (where the parklet is now).
Everyone knew about one of the townsman's drinking problems..... but he was currently the one minding the store while all other family members were attending the funeral.
The run-away coffin breaks through the double doors, smashes into the counter in front and flies backwards, coming to rest right in the middle of the store.
The lid pops open.
A very surprised "Dead Man" puts his hand on the coffin surface, sticks his head up and looks around, very bewildered.
The drunk pharmacist says, "Uncle B! What are you doing here?"
The "dead" Uncle B. sneezes and wheezes and finally says, "I don't know, but could you just give me something to stop this coffin?
Oh, how I loved him!
Jon Tschiggfrie, aka pianomanthree16 on YouTube, posted my message to him on the message board at steamboats.org, which is where the majority of the steamboat community congregates to stay in touch. Here's the thread to Captain Way's info:
Thanks Jon for posting!
Once there, I found this information posted by Keith Norrington:
"For those newer steamboat buffs and buttettes who might not be familiar with Capt. Fred's book, here's a list for your MUST READ list!"
Pilotin' Comes Natural
The Log of the Betsy Ann
The Sage of the Delta Queen
Oldest Pilothouse (Histsory Booklet re: Str. TELL CITY pilothouse)
Ways packet Directory
Ways Steam Towboat Directory
Inland River Record...
Keith even posted a photo of Capt. Way and Keith just before a very memorable dinner party aboard the Str. BECKY THATCHER at Marietta, Ohio,September, 1991. Photo by Capt. Roddy Hammett.
In another link on the site, Keith wrote:
"Capt. Fred was often referred to as "The Pope of Steamboating" and his home at 121 River Avenue in Sewickley, Pennsylvania was known as "The Vatican"! Indeed, his numerous books, articles, boat models and paintings are a wonderful legacy of this unique, kind, fascinating and generous man that so many of us revered and were privileged to know. Even those who never had the opportunity to meet him know he was special through his writings of past times on the river - which he never portrayed as glitzy and glamorous - just the true facts!
"Capt. Fred began publishing the S&D REFLECTOR in 1964, beginning with an 8 page magazine that eventually evolved into some issues with 56 pages, laden with articles, photos, timely news of river books, museums, boats, people and all sorts of interesting tidbits that had steamboat fanatics anxiously waiting by the mailbox each March, June, September and December! In those days before word processing, Capt. Fred typed each issue of the magazine TWICE, inserting xxx's to fill out the lines of text. Then, he RE-typed the entire magazine again, putting in the necessary spaces to justify the margins. He continued this practice, even with gnarled, arthritic hands, until shortly before his death on October 3, 1992. To say he published the REFLECTOR as a labor of love is an understatement! For many years, Capt. Fred also compiled and edited the INLAND RIVER RECORD (an annual listing of passenger and towing vessels, etc.) until it was acquired by The Waterways Journal.
"Each time I visit Natchez, Mississippi, I go to the courtyard behind Stanton Hall where the roof bell of Capt. Fred's beloved steamer BETSY ANN reposes. In loving memory of Capt. Fred I give it three taps, a practice begun by Capt. Don Sanders (then a resident of Natchez) at the time of Capt. Fred's passing.
"A long whistle salute to you Capt. Fred, on your 108th birthday! Oh, how we MISS you!"
These 2 photos were posted by Keith. The first one is of Capt. Way at Marietta with the Str. W.P. SNYDER, JR., 1975. The bottom photo is of Capt. Way downbound on the Delta Queen below Louisville, OCt. 1984.
Sewickley HERALD covers the story of the return of Capt. Way's ashes AND history itself!
I couldn't find a calliope version of Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer," so this song in this video showing the Dedication of the State Marker will just have to do. Click on my YouTube link @ the Dedication of Captain Way's marker below:
<------The Pennsylvania State Marker for Capt. Fred Way in Sewickley, PA was dedicated by the Sewickley Valley Historical Society on Wednesday, May 19, 2010.
It notes the Captain was a Riverman, Author, Historian, America's foremost authority on inland waterways. First president of the Sewickley Valley Historical Society, summer editor of the Sewickley HERALD, a pilot of steamboats large and small. Took the Delta Queen through the Panama Canal to the Mississippi river System. For 50 years president of the Sons and Daughters of the Pioneer Rivermen.
SVHS Director, Harton Semple, talks about the marker to the crowd assembled on May 19, 2010.
Attentive listeners gather.....
Taking photos of the historic marker.
A collection of Capt. Fred Way's items on display at the Sewickley Valley Historical Society's Annual Meeting on Wednesday, May 19, 2010.
A print of the Delta Queen given to Mrs. B.G.Y. Shields, from Captain Way, longtime friend.
Mrs. Shields read a story written by Mike May about Captain Way....
More memorabilia from the display honoring the dedication of the marker to Capt. Fred Way in Sewickley, PA, USA!
From an old Family Photo Album.....
Rick Seback, of WQED fame, and creator of all those wonderful films about Pittsburgh, was the main speaker for the special event honoring Captain Way. Rick recalled many of his memories of interviewing the Captain for this movies about the Pittsburgh rivers.
More old photos......
Historic Way Family Home in Sewickley, PA
Mike May, then editor of the Sewickley HERALD, wrote a beautiful editorial on Captain Way. Parts of what he wrote are here below:
Wednesday, October 14, 1992 (The old man and the river remembered)
"Everybody adored him, especially here, in Sewickley Valley, where he was our favorite native son.
"And Captain Way seemed to love everybody back. He never had a bad word to say about anyone. He accentuated the positive. He was one of the last persons on this planet who didn't lock his doors at night.
"He was gracious to all, even the many strangers who journeyed here to seek his knowledge about river esoteria, his specialty. And, he was always the gentleman when introduced to a friend or relative of an adoring fan.
"Furthermore, the captian had that special way of making even a recent acquaintance feel as though they had been friends all their lives.
"Those who made his acquaintance tended to react as if they just met Mark Twain, or Benjamin Franklin or Buffalo Bill COdy---a larger-than-life American who had already transcended the mundane into the realm of legend.
"Captain Way, who died Oct. 3, had, quite simply, become a legend. He was the subject of numerous newspaper, radio and television features, and news of his death at 91 was reported nationally. He even received a large obituary in The Los Angeles TImes.
"Of course, Captain Way never sought fame. Fame found him. He lived the life he wanted to live doing the things he loved to do. He loved the rivers, he loved plying them on the sternwheeler, he loved writing about the rivers. He loved his hometown, its history, its people.
"Not all of us can live a life doing what we love. That's maybe why so many envied Captain Way. He was able to do what few of us can.
"Like the lyrics from 'Old Man River,' Captain Way just kept rolling along. Even as a nonogenarian, he continued to publish the monthly S&D Reflector, a journal devoted to river lore.
"At 91, Captain Way seemed to have died young."
"We feel the spirit of Captain Way---with his pipe, hat and gentle smile---will always linger here in Sewickley, never far from where riverboats cast their waves on the shore and even catfish leap heavenward in the summertime."
Thanks, Mike, for sharing this with me, and us all!
Shipyard Sam wrote on 7/7/2009:
From STEAMBOATS.ORG (2/19/2009)
Larry Durdines shared this story of his meeting with Capt. Way:
"I met Capt. Way once in the late 70's. I was Mate on one of the Steel boats, Ohio Barge Line and we were waiting below Emsworth lock with about 20 other boats. Someone weeks earlier earlier had hit the gates, sunk a barge, damaged the gates and scared the cook. There were replacing the gates and we had been there for days. John Reynolds of Point Pleasant was Captain. John knew of my interest in steamboats and had often shared many stories of his youth on the showboat Majestic. One evening he came to my room and said that Capt Fred Way was downriver visiting an Ohio River Company boat and did I want to run him over in the yawl to visit and meet the old gentleman ? For a small framed man Capt. Fred's handshake was surprisingly strong. I had hair to my shoulders and as he shook my hand he said, "You've got a lot more hair than I and more than any mate I have ever seen," as I smiled back he said: "Well , it worked for Sampson !"
I sat in the pilot house there for a couple hours and listened to these guys sharing old stories. I don't remember a lot of what was said but will always remember the twinkle in that grand old fellow's eyes as they spoke of old boats and boatmen. I will always too, be grateful for John's kindness that day."
Be sure to go to STEAMBOATS.ORG and find the other post by Larry Durdines where he shares information (2/27/09) on Some Early Packet Boats Built on the Monongahela River before the 1848 start date of Capt. Way's book.
ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF THE DELTA QUEEN BRINGING BACK THE REMAINS OF THE BELOVED CAPTAIN FRED WAY, THANKS TO STEAMBOAT HISTORIANS!
Tony Martin to the Rescue,
thanks to Jon and David Tschiggfrie
Hear TAPS being played!
Hear the Delta Queen's Caliope playing "Beautiful Dreamer!"
Click on the YouTube video above!
A very historic moment in history occurred when the famous steamboat, the DELTA QUEEN, brought back the cremated remains of Riverboat Captain Fred Way from Marietta, OH to Sewickley, PA on Oct. 9, 1992. The good captain, well-known river boat captain and author of many books about the Ohio River and the Mississippi River System, had passed away at the age of 91, while staying with his daughter and son-in-law in Marietta, OH,
A Pennsylvania Historical plaque has since been dedicated to Captain Way's memory, and there is another YouTube video about that special occasion at the Dedication of Capt. Way's marker elsewhere here.
That video led to a whole series of events being put into play. Many thanks to Music Teacher Jon Tschiggfrie, and his Dad, David for first finding out about a video existing of the 1992 event, and especially to Tony Martin, who shared this historic footage with all of us. What heroes these 3 are to us!
Thaank you so much!
Jon told his Dad, David Tschiggfrie, about my website and my recollections of Captain Way's last trip on the Delta Queen. David Tshiggfrie was the Caliope (Calliope) player on the Delta Queen at the time., having worked on the Delta Queen from 1969-1982. Tony, who captured his historic footage, was the drummer in the band. Tony had worked in the boat's band from the 1970's to at least 1997. David told Tony, and Tony said, "I think I videotaped that!" And the rest now, is history! Thank you again & again!
Capt. Gabe Chengery had the task of convincing the passengers on the Delta Queen that they WANTED to participate in this historic event, to make an unscheduled stop in Sewickley, to present Capt. Way's ashes to Mrs. B.G.Y. Shields, then Editor Emeritus of the Sewickley Herald and President of the Sewickley Valley Historical Society. Capt. Chengery worked for the company from 1968-2005, variously as a watchman, a purser, and mate before being master of the Mississippi Queen. However, Capt. Chergery knew Capt. Way for years and welcomed the chance to give him one more ride in the Pilot House and bring him home for burial. A fellow named Larry plays taps. This is just a MARVELOUS story that keeps getting better as time goes along.
Besides the people mentioned above, I was grateful to also spy in this footage, Jim Addison-Herald Photographer in the footage, and Mike May, Editor of the Sewickley HERALD at the time.
More information about Captain Way can be found at the website called NOT RETIRED FROM LEARNING.