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Published: Saturday, 9/12/2009

Great Lakes historic group lauds museum ship's savior

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Paul C. LaMarre III spearheaded a campaign to support the Willis B. Boyer after Toledo ended its funding. Paul C. LaMarre III spearheaded a campaign to support the Willis B. Boyer after Toledo ended its funding.
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Paul C. LaMarre III walked into an unenviable situation shortly after the city of Toledo hired him to oversee the Willis B. Boyer museum ship: It decided to cut off funding for the vessel docked at International Park.

Mr. LaMarre's decision to fight for the freighter's future two summers ago, instead of washing his hands of it, will be honored next weekend when he picks up the Association for Great Lakes Maritime History's 2009 Award for Historic Preservation.

The award recognizes "an individual who has made a major contribution, over many years, to the preservation of Great Lakes maritime history," according to a letter written by Bob O'Donnell, chairman of the history association's awards committee. The award is to be presented Sept. 19 in Bay City, Mich.

Originally the Col. James M. Schoonmaker, the Boyer was the world's largest freighter at the time of its 1911 launch and loaded its first cargo, a shipment of coal, at the Maumee River dock where it now is moored.

"I'm humbly honored that the Great Lakes historic preservation community recognizes the importance of the effort it took to save this ship, and that the Boyer/Schoonmaker is important to the history of the Great Lakes as a whole," Mr. LaMarre said yesterday.

The vessel last plied the Great

Lakes under its current name in 1980, in the employ of Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Co. Toledo acquired it in 1986 and for more than a decade arranged with volunteers to manage it.

But in 2007, city officials declared they no longer could afford to provide for staffing or upkeep, and said it would end Mr. LaMarre's seasonal contract to oversee the ship that June.

That spring, Mr. LaMarre persuaded the port authority's board of directors to negotiate with the city to take over the ship, a deal consummated last year.

In the meantime, Mr. LaMarre spearheaded a publicity campaign that boosted both attendance and volunteer support.

"It was a grass-roots campaign that touched the hearts of the Toledo community," Mr. LaMarre said.

Mr. LaMarre, whom the port authority hired in 2007 as a special assistant to then-President James Hartung and who now is the agency's manager of maritime affairs, credited Mr. Hartung with sharing his vision for preserving the Boyer, which faced dereliction on Toledo's waterfront, if not scrapping had it gone unstaffed and unmaintained.

"If there was anybody who recognized the importance and value of that historic vessel, it was him," Mr. LaMarre said, noting that he has invited Mr. Hartung and wife Anna Hartung to accompany him, his wife, and his father to the ceremonial awards dinner.

The Boyer could be moved to a slip near the Toledo Maritime Center as part of a proposed move to Toledo by the Great Lakes Historical Society's museum in Vermilion, although dredging the slip is expected to cost $2 million and the museum move is not yet a certainty.

"Paul has been instrumental not only in the preservation of the Boyer but also with the port authority's recent conversations with the Great Lakes Historical Society on the potential relocation of its museum to the Maumee riverfront," said Michael Stolarczyk, port authority president. "His efforts with this project could bring a fantastic part of Great Lakes history right here to our community. Paul is well-deserving of this honor and is a true asset to the maritime industry."

Chris Gilchrist, the historical society's executive director, said Mr. LaMarre, at 28, is the youngest person to win the association's preservation award, and it's valuable to have "somebody who is making a difference at the beginning of their career."

The award not only validates Mr. LaMarre's work, Mr. Gilchrist said, but also recognizes the port authority "for stepping up and providing its resources" to help preserve the Boyer at a critical transition time.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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