On Friday June 21, 2019, long time Vermilion resident Jane Smith will smash a ceremonial bottle of beer (yes, beer) over the bow rail of the recently restored tugboat, OHIO, which will open as a museum ship at the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo, Ohio. Christopher Gillcrist, Executive Director of the museum said that when it came to choosing one of the volunteers to christen the museum tug, the decision of the staff was immediate and unanimous—-Jane Smith!
Jane Smith was an employee of the museum for many years when it was open in Vermilion. She staffed the museum gift shop and greeted guests with not only a warm smile but a knowledge of all things Vermilion—where to eat, where to shop, where to get a prescription filled and of course, where Ritter Library was located. Gillcrist said that Jane thought nothing of coming in and volunteering in a pinch even though she was an employee. When the museum began to prepare for its move to Toledo, Jane joined the ranks of the volunteer crew full time. “Mailings are Jane’s specialty. She can stuff, stamp and seal like no one else” said Gillcrist. When the museum opened in Toledo in 2014, Smith continued volunteering with trips to Toledo six to eight times per year. “Because Jane never gave up on the museum, we are honoring her service by asking her to christen the museum tug.” When notified of the honor, Jane Smith stated, ““this is an extreme honor for me. Many members of my family have in the past and currently work on the Great Lakes and to be able to take that legacy into the 21st century is very exciting”.
The tug was donated to the organization in 2018 by The Great Lakes Towing Company and the museum has been hard at work restoring the tug. According to Gillcrist, “what makes this event unique is that not one but two tugs will be christened at the same event.” Great Lakes Towing Company will christen their recently built Damon tug and it too will bear the name OHIO! “Two Tugs, one name, the past meeting the present and the future” said Gillcrist. “It’s almost kismet!” The new tug OHIO will enter the Great Lakes Towing Company’s fleet of tugs that support the commercial shipping industry all over the Great Lakes.
The public is invited to attend the christening. Tickets for the christening (tickets to the christening event on June 21, admission to the museum, the Schoonmaker Museum Ship, the Tug Ohio Museum Ship and dockside viewing of the new Great Lakes Damon Tug) are $25 per person or $20 per person if you are a member of the museum. If you can’t make the christening event, you can come out on the weekend of June 22-23 for $17 per person and see everything but the christening. The museum tug will be available for tours from that point on. Members of the museum are admitted free on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available at nmgl.org or can be purchased by phone at 419-214-5000 extension 0.
The museum’s tug has a long history on the Great Lakes. She was built in 1903 as a Milwaukee Fireboat and served in that capacity till 1948. As a fireboat, M.F.D.S No. 15 participated as a first responder ins some of Milwaukee’s worst disasters including the CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS disaster which took multiple lives. Great Lakes Towing Company purchased the fireboat around 1952 and refitted her out as a lake class tug. She served under two names while owned by Great Lakes Towing—the LAURENCE C. TURNER and OHIO. During her service as a G-Tug she did all of the traditional things tug boats do. She towed barges, participated in salvage and wrecking activities, and towed freighters to the scrap yard. She is thought to be the only tug on the Great Lakes to have participated in the towing of two US Navy Submarines—the USS RUNNER and the USS CROAKER which came onto the lakes at two different times.
For more information go to http://www.nmgl .org or call 419-214-5000.