DEER ISLE, Maine — When tragedy strikes in Deer Isle or Stonington, the community knows where they can turn for support.
Theresa Gove-Eaton of Deer Isle has been assembling benefit fundraisers for injured and sick islanders, needy children and bereaved families since 2009. It started with “Alfred’s Christmas Fund,” a fundraiser named in honor of her son, who died unexpectedly in 2006.
Alfred’s Christmas Fund helps buy holiday gifts for children of “less-fortunate” families on the island. Last year it benefitted 159 families, she said Friday.
Now, Gove-Eaton is turning her charitable efforts toward the families of Wallace “Chubby” Gray Jr., 26, and Wayne Young, 50, the two lost-at-sea crew members of the Foxy Lady II, which disappeared in Massachusetts waters on Dec. 15.
Gove-Eaton is hosting a fundraiser dinner from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, at the restaurant she manages, Harbor Cafe, in Stonington. Tickets are $15, and each patron can choose an entree of prime rib, baked stuffed haddock or barbecue boneless chicken. Each comes with two sides, a dessert and a nonalcoholic beverage.
Alfred Clough, Gove-Eaton’s son, was a friend of Wally Gray’s, according to Gove-Eaton. She said Gray and her son went to school together, and Gray was often at her home as the two boys were growing up.
“Chubby was a very hard worker. He always had a big smile, and I liked him a lot,” she said. “He was really warm-hearted. Just all-around a great person.”
Gove-Eaton said it seemed only fitting that she should organize a fundraiser for the families of Gray and Young. After all, Young and Gray went missing on Dec. 15, she said, just two days shy of the sixth anniversary her own son’s death on Dec. 17, 2006.
Since her son’s death, Gove-Eaton has dedicated much of her spare time to fundraising in his memory. In 2008, she held a benefit for her brother, Melvin Eaton, who was injured in a snowmobile accident. Then there was last year’s benefit for Steve Blake, who lost his wife in a car accident.
There have been others, she said.
“People approach me, I guess, because I’ve put on so many of these benefits,” she said. “It’s a great community. Whenever something like this happens, people come out of the woodwork to help.”
In addition to the benefit supper, Gove-Eaton said she has placed donation buckets at the Harbor View Store, Burnt Cove Market and Harbor Cafe. She has already raised about $2,000 with those collections, she said.
The money raised through the collection, dinner and a 50/50 raffle will go directly to Chubby Gray’s father, Wallace Gray Sr., she said. The Foxy Lady II was his boat, she said. When it went missing, so did the Grays’ main source of income. She said Gray would distribute some of the proceeds to Young’s family.
The Foxy Lady II was reported missing by Wallace Gray Jr.’s girlfriend on Dec. 17, two days after it was due to return to Gloucester, Mass., the port from where the Deer Isle fishermen operated the 45-foot scallop-fishing vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard launched a full-scale search-and-rescue mission, but halted their efforts two days later, with both men presumed lost. A month after the boat went missing, the U.S. Coast Guard found wreckage from the ship in the waters between Provincetown and Cape Ann, Mass.
The Gray and Young families have declined to be interviewed while they mourn, Gove-Eaton said.
For information on the benefit supper or to make a donation, call Gove-Eaton at Harbor Cafe, 367-5099.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.