STONINGTON, Maine — As snow fell outside, tears were falling inside the Island Community Center on Sunday as the tight-knit fishing community of Stonington-Deer Isle gathered to remember two local fishermen lost at sea in December.
Arriving in the snow long before the 2 p.m. memorial service began, Joyce Gray, a grandmother of Wallace “Chubby” Gray II, the young captain of The Foxy Lady II, chose her steps carefully as she made her way down a slippery hill to the community center’s front door. She clutched husband Maynard’s arm with one hand to keep both from falling. In her other hand she clutched a pink box of tissues.
Once inside, Joyce Gray spent a few quiet moments alone, before the prayers and eulogies began, soaking in the memories sparked by a collage of family photos. Losing a grandson at sea, with no mortal remains over which to mourn or to bury, has been “awful and unreal,” she said Sunday.
Chubby was 26 and his crewman, Wayne Kendall Young, was 50 when Gray’s Gloucester-based scalloping boat went down on the night of Dec. 15 for reasons unknown, apparently about 15 miles north of Provincetown, Mass. The submerged wreckage of the 45-foot vessel was found about a month later, but the bodies were never recovered.
More than 160 family and friends of the two Deer Isle men gathered Sunday in a snowstorm to remember the fishermen, filling the folding chairs, benches and bleachers within the community center’s barrel-shaped gymnasium. While Dave Taylor on guitar opened the service with a medley of traditional hymns, it was Chubby’s only son, Wallace, who just turned 3 years old, who entertained those who mingled and hugged before the tears started to flow.
Dressed in a black suit replete with vest and bow tie, Wallace made a beeline for the basketball rack when he entered the gym. Within 10 minutes young Wallace was barefoot and, in the process of chasing other kids through the legs of a growing maze of adults, somehow lost his pants. He later reappeared, pants restored, but wearing only one shoe.
Two local clergy — Elder Michael Shepard of the Restoration Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ in nearby Sunset and the Rev. Kevin Barrett of the Church of the Nazarene in nearby Burnt Cove — offered prayers and readings in honor of the two lost sailors.
“We are not here to say goodbye,” Shepard told those gathered. “We need to understand that they have passed, beginning a brand-new journey as fishermen who sailed to the other side, to a sea of peace.”
Shepard said those affected by the loss have been “choosing their steps carefully, taking it slow, after receiving news that fearfully they had not wanted to hear: that the U.S. Coast Guard had affirmed that all hands were lost at sea, that the ocean has taken ownership of two more of our own.”
Shepard’s son, Patrick, eulogized his friend Chubby, noting that young Wallace will grow up without his father but will, like his father, “have the unique opportunity to grow up in a fishing community.”
Barrett painted a picture of Young as a father dedicated to his five children, a man who “lived for his grandbabies,” a man who “could always make people laugh, no matter the situation.”
“”Whatever it was — a cookout or a good time on the boat — whatever a good time [with Young] was for you, hang onto that,” Barrett told Young’s family and friends. “No one can take that away from you.”
Chubby’s father, Wallace Gray, also offered “a few words about my boy.”
As he came of age, he said, Chubby took to seamanship to the point where he “not only had his sights set on the boat, but had his sights set on me, suggesting that maybe I should retire, something about being old.”
The hourlong ceremony ended with Shepard offering a rendition of The Fisherman’s Prayer:
I pray that I may live to fish
Until my dying day.
And when it comes to my last cast,
I then most humbly pray:
When in the Lord’s great landing net
And peacefully asleep
That in His mercy I be judged
Big enough to keep.
An earlier version of this story requires correction. Wayne Young's middle name is Kendall, not Kennedy. The reverend at the Church of Jesus Christ in Sunset is Kevin Barrett, not Bernet.