The S.S. Willis B. Boyer museum ship has a new executive director - one who won't need any help getting acquainted with the historic freighter.
Paul LaMarre III, the new manager of the city-owned floating tourist attraction, grew up with a four-foot model of the ship on the family mantel in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
"I'm a marine historian myself and have been since a young age, so this is a dream job for me," Mr. LaMarre said. "The Boyer has always been one of my favorite places."
Mr. LaMarre, 25, took over managing the Boyer in International Park Monday after a chance encounter several weeks ago led him to applying for the job.
Recently discharged from the Navy, Mr. LaMarre brought some friends to visit the Boyer. Finding it locked, they started to drive away when Mr. LaMarre noticed someone on the ship.
He went back and rang the bell until the volunteer opened the door and explained that the director position was vacant and that no tours were being provided. Mr. LaMarre, who lives in Milan, Mich., decided to apply and was hired.
He resigned his job as a second mate and engineer on a Detroit tugboat to take the position, which is a significant pay cut.
Dennis Garvin, the city's acting director of parks, recreation, and forestry, said hiring Mr. LaMarre was a stroke of luck.
"He knows a lot about Great Lakes shipping. He's very vision-oriented," Mr. Garvin said.
Mr. LaMarre will be paid $15 an hour as a seasonal employee through October. His job is to manage ship tours, promote the ship for events, and recruit volunteers.
The 617-foot retired lake freighter was at one time the largest ship on the Great Lakes. It was built in 1911, retired in 1980, and has been tied up in Toledo since the city acquired it in 1986 to be a museum.
Mr. LaMarre named three other lake freighters that are museum ships on the Great Lakes in Duluth, Minn., Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and Superior, Wis. But he said Toledo's is the most historic because of its size and luxuriousness.
"She's the largest museum ship on the Great Lakes and really has the potential to be the finest maritime museum on the Great Lakes," he said.
He said the ship's original owners, Shenango Furnace Co., were known for building quality ships with elegant appointments, such as wood-paneled rooms, for the captains, owners, and passengers. The Boyer retains the original woodwork.
"The Shenango boats were known as the most luxurious, well-maintained fleet on the lakes," he said.
He said the ship is in relatively good shape but needs a lot of work to get ahead of deterioration. His goals are to organize volunteers and a fund drive.
The short-term goal is to hire a marine surveyor to recommend repairs.
"The ship needs to be improved aesthetically as well as structurally," Mr. LaMarre said. If a paint job is in the ship's future, he said the paint scheme should match the original colors - emerald green hull, white cabins, and black stack.
Mr. LaMarre graduated from the California Maritime Academy and spent nearly four years in the Navy, part of that time as a public affairs officer.
Mr. LaMarre's relatives have been involved in Great Lakes shipping for generations, including great uncles who were ship captains. His father, Paul C. LaMarre, Jr., the owner of the ship model in the family home, is a noted marine artist and historian.
Former director Kim Danes, who was appointed one year ago, resigned later in the year. She has remained active as a volunteer and as a member of the International Park Board.
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