2022 Blessing of the Fleet brings families and friends together

For more than 50 years, Grays Harbor County residents have gathered to mourn their loved ones lost at sea, and on Sunday, May 29, two families shared a brief glimpse into their family members.

During the 2022 Blessing of the Fleet at Fisherman’s Memorial in Westport, 54 names of those who have died at the hands of the ocean were read in order to honor their deaths. Each name that was read was paired with a single striking of a brass bell at the base of the flag pole that hoisted the U.S. Flag at half-mast.

Bryan Scott Moore, who was 26 when he died Feb. 4, 2018, worked on multiple ships throughout his career that spanned from the Pacific Northwest to Eureka, California.

Bryan died near Eureka. But, his home dock was in Westport, where he is memorialized like so many other fishermen and U.S. Coast Guardsmen who have died at sea.

There’s also Bob Bolam, a fisherman who died on Jan. 28, 1960. During his life as a fisherman on the “Barbara Lee,” he helped save a U.S. Coast Guard crew when the crew ran into trouble on the boat, “The Invincible.” His son Mark Bolam was there to pay respect with his wife, Marla, as they have the last five years.

“It’s been our tradition to come out here,” Mark Bolam said.

The event itself included a Colors presentation by members of the U.S. Coast Guard, a raising of the U.S. Flag by South Beach Regional Fire Authority, a soulful performance of the Star Spangled Banner and some timely words from local religious leaders, including one from Reverend Myron Ness of the Grayland South Beach Christian Center of the Assemblies of God.

“It’s a great gathering here for our community today as we come together to not only pray a prayer of blessing over our fleet as they go out to fish, but also we remember those who have lost their life on the sea,” said Ness during his introduction. “We gather as we have for over 50 years to acknowledge our need of God’s help, his provision and his comfort.”

Before the event, Tamra Pejsa and Judith Smith laid three wreaths with the names of Cole Rutzer and Dylan Furford, who died two years ago. The third wreath featured the words, “Inspire,” “Peace,” “Cherish,” and “Celebrate,” and held a Holy Cross.

“I’m here to dedicate (to the memory of Cole and Dylan,)” said Pejsa, who was holding her dog. “They went out almost three years ago. They were young, just barely out of high school.”

Once the event came to its conclusion, a few people stayed behind to continue to pay respects to their family members, despite the windy, gray day that Westport offered on Sunday.

Bryan’s family — his parents, John and Audrey, his sister, Caitlin — and one of his captains, John Terry, talked about Bryan’s love for fishing, and his navigational gifts.

“It was a passion for him,” Audrey said. “He was obviously taken too soon from us, as was everyone’s loved one here.”

John Moore championed Bryan’s fishing acumen. He called him the “fish finder.”

“Bryan was a really good fisherman,” John Moore said. “He was so good, people wanted him. They kept trying to poach him.”

Audrey confirmed her husband’s story.

“They kept trying to take him away from me,” she said with a laugh.

John Terry said he missed having Bryan onboard his vessel, the “Island Star.”

“You didn’t need SONAR, you had Bryan,” John Moore said.

The solemn occasion brought a large crowd of people who lined the jetty near the memorial.

The Moore family gave kudos to those who organized the yearly event.

“I think it’s a very admirable thing they do every year to keep their memories alive,” Audrey said.”

One of the organizers of the event “WEfish,” was on the mind of Bryan’s parents as they both wore sweatshirts with the nonprofit organization’s name.

“They actually support families who have lost loved ones,” Audrey said. “A great majority of them have lost loved ones as well. They pretty much volunteer to help with these functions, and I guess are just a really good support group.”

Audrey said when she and her family lost Bryan, “WEfish” was there for them, and how the nonprofit organization helped them set up his memorial. Bryan has two memorials. The other one is in Eureka, near where Bryan died.

“That’s because he was so well-known up and down the coast,” Audrey said.

John Moore said everybody wanted to hire his son.

“All the way from here to (San Francisco,) they wanted him,” John Moore said.

Before the Moore family, and John Terry left, Bryan’s loved ones left a single blue flower and a single bottle of Lagunitas Brewing’s “A Little Sumpin Sumpin Ale” just below a plaque that read “Beloved son, Brother and Friend. Lost At Sea. Take Me Home.”

John Moore was asked if the beer they were leaving at Bryan’s memorial was his favorite.

But, Bryan’s father insisted his son wasn’t picky.

“Cold beer was pretty much his favorite,” John Moore said.