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Couple's summer trip ends in series of tragedies

Rick and Ida Jackson dreamed of living on their 24-foot sailboat the Seafarer this summer as they cruised around Lake Superior, visiting the Apostle Islands and making memories.

But the trip ended unexpectedly earlier this summer when the boat sank just off of Washburn's Weston Park beach, Jackson said, far from their original destination of Ontanogan, Mich., where they intended to store the boat over the winter months.

That touched off a series of calamaties for the couple, culminating with Ida's Sept. 27 death following massive heart attack.

And even as a devestated Rick Jackson deals with his wife's sudden and unexpected death, he's still haunted by the half-submerged hulk of the Seafarer, which remains in the water along Washburn's walking trail, a daily reminder of his tragic summer.

"If this had happened in the Philippines, where Ida was born, we would have been helped already," Rick Jackson said. The couple was married for more than 20 years.

Bon voyage

The retired couple — Rick is 70 and Ida was 75 — set sail from Barker's Island in Superior in early summer with a plan to meander along the South Shore before sailing to Michigan and storing the boat while they wintered in Arizona.

They stopped in Port Wing and Cornucopia, then fueled up in Bayfield before turning south to Washburn. The couple spent four nights in the marina there before learning that they had to have insurance to stay, Rick Jackson, a Duluth native, said.

"We left Washburn under duress," he said.

On the way to Ashland, where the Jacksons traveled to watch fireworks for Independence Day, the boat got caught up on pilings near Bayview Park in Chequamegon Bay. After untangling that mess with assistance, the couple was on their way.

The next blow to hit the couple was a storm that brought winds of over 70 mph, Jackson said. The Seafarer's motor broke, and a friend had to come and fix the motor.

"It's been a nightmare," Jackson said.

The final stroke came when water started leaking into the boat through an improperly-cut hole in the hull where a depth locator was installed.

Rick was ashore as the boat went down, and police helped Ida off the swamped boat and onto shore.

The hull now rests about 50 feet from the beach behind the IGA grocery in Washburn.

Back ashore

Immediately after it went down, the Jacksons camped out on the narrow swath of beach for three nights before police told them they couldn't stay, Jackson said. The Washburn Chamber of Commerce helped by making calls on Jacksons' behalf and providing them with other numbers for assistance.

The couple spent more than $1,000 on hotel rooms before moving to a friend's yard, where they intended to camp until leaving for Arizona in the fall.

That's where they were when Ida had her heart attack. She underwent emergency procedures in Duluth, but died in late September.

As he has coped with the loss of his wife, Rick Jackson also has had to cope with losing everything he owned. While trying to arrange a place to live and then dealing with his wife's illness, the sailboat was plundered and vandalized.

Thieve stole the mast and rigging. At some point, kids swam out and took the boat's compass and discharged its fire extinguisher.

During a September visit to show the wreckage to a reporter, Jackson found thieves back at the hulk, making off with property even as he watched from shore.

"What people don't understand is, that boat was our home. We bought it to live on it," Jackson said.

And the worst may be yet to come.

According to a Wisconsin State Patrol report on the sinking, the Jackson's were told to remove the wreckage from the water by Sept. 6. But they didn't have the means to do that, so the hull sat.

Officials with the state Department of Natural Resources declined to comment on the case, but Jackson said he faces fines of more thanr $300 per day until the boat is removed.

The wreckage

As Bayfield County deputies investigate the theft of the Jacksons' property from the boat, locals are eager to see the boat removed.

Bruce Terry walks the trail along Washburn's shoreline almost every day, and he has watched the Seafarer deteriorate over the past almost three months.

He feels for the Jacksons and the struggles Rick has been through, but he also worries about hazards the boat poses — in addition to it being an eyesore along the shoreline.

"There actually was an outboard motor floating in the water for a while, but I think he salvaged it himself because it was worth a couple thousand dollars," Terry said. "Since then, there have been younger kids when it was warmer out going in and out of the boat, thinking it was fun to play on, and I worried about someone being injured."

But his main concern is what is to come if the boat isn't removed soon.

"If it breaks up in the ice over the winter, that boat will be demolished and all that fiberglass will be spread along shore and that won't be good," Terry said. "I feel bad for him, but it's an environmental and safety issue. I don't think a lot of people realize what the ice can do in the spring. That boat will not survive, and then you can't clean it up if it breaks up. It's a shame. I'm hoping something can be done."

If something is to be done, it likely will be up to local authorities. Jackson said he hasn't the means to remove the boat himself at this point.

"I made a mistake, there is no doubt about that," Jackson said. "If Washburn wants the boat gone so badly, they can remove it and send me the bill."

Indigenous Peoples' Day designation draws mixed reviews




One of the most spectacular sights at any Ojibwe powwow are the Native American women and girls jingle dress dancers, creating a symphony of sound with their dresses made with dozens of metal cones that tinkle with every movement.

The jingle dress dancers take part in competitive dancing, but the dresses and the dances Ojibwe women perform in them have a far deeper meaning in Native American culture. They are intended as a call to healing spirits, through the movements of the dancers.

Red Cliff tribal member Katherine Morrisseau believed in 2018 that that was exactly what the region needed. She worked with puppet artist Chris Lutter to create a 12-foot tall jingle dancer.

Morrisseau said the creation is named Miindoomooaye in the Ojibwe language.

"She was built as a response to the death of Jason Pero, who was killed by an Ashland County sheriff's deputy," said Morrisseau. "I told Chris 'Hey, let's build a jingle dress dancer, because what we need is healing.' When a jingle dress dancer dances, it is the sound of water. When a person wears that dress, and I am a jingle dress dancer, they dance for healing, for healing of the people."

The puppet's latest appearance was on Monday, Oct. 11, the traditional date for the celebration of Columbus Day, this year marking the 529th anniversary of Columbus' first landing in the Americas. Three days earlier, President Joe Biden signed a presidential proclamation also recognizing the date as Indigenous Peoples' Day, recognizing it as a federal holiday.

Although Morrisseau said she was pleased that native peoples were finally getting recognition for the damage caused to them by centuries of harmful policies the declaration was not enough for her.

"He was still acknowledging Columbus Day, so he is speaking out of both sides of his mouth," she said.

Morrisseau said Columbus Day still celebrates genocide and should be eliminated, not celebrated.

"Columbus didn't discover America. We were here a long time before he ever came," she said. "It goes back to the doctrine of discovery and colonization, so I never had any respect for that, it is not something that I need to acknowledge."

Morrisseau said she would rather see Indigenous Peoples' Day celebrated as a day of its own. Biden's declaration struck her as "playing to the room" and is without meaning as long as Columbus still is honored.

Other members of the Native American community were more hopeful. Fellow Ojibwe Becky "Bizy" Wygonik has taken part in several of the jingle dress dancer events, including on Indigenous People's Day.

"It's always cool," she said. "It was wonderful being in that puppet and bringing awareness of our Ojibwe culture to the area. People are always very delighted to see us."

Wygonik agreed that Miindoomooaye's main purpose was to offer a healing influence.

"When I am in the puppet, I try really hard to beam the positive energy, to let people who need it soak it up. I think it is very powerful," she said.

Wygonik said parading on Oct. 11 was making a statement, and that she was pleased with Biden's declaration.

"It thought it was good timing; it is something that I liked to see happen. I am glad that it is bringing some awareness about indigenous peoples in all respects, whether it is culture, or our history or the facts of the oppression," she said. "It is a very public thing to do, changing the name to Indigenous People's Day. It's a good thing. It is progress, however small. It joins things like Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College changing its name — good move. Also sports teams changing their mascots. Little things adding up."

Wygonik said she was generally an optimistic person, and thought these small changes when added up were indications of real change.

"I look at these things as ways to further the stories; it allows indigenous people to tell their stories in the way they need to be told, and respected, amplified and lifted up," she said.

Former Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Chairman Michael J. Isham, Jr., who now serves as executive administrator of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, said that while Native Americans didn't pick Oct. 11 to recognize Indigenous people, it was still a step forward.

"It's much better than Columbus Day and I did see a heck of a lot of stuff in print and on TV relative to Indigenous Day, and more to the facts, rather than we all live in teepees and get drunk and can't leave the reservation," he said. "I guess I am leaning towards the idea that it is a positive."

Isham said he would have rather have Thanksgiving chosen to recognize the importance and value of Indigenous people.

"I was talking to an Iroquois elder out East and he said if the Pilgrims came today, they would probably still help them because they were starving," he said. "If that happened all the time, maybe things would have been different."

Live theater returns with mighty roar
'Lion in Winter' examines power and family

Family dynamics can be tricky — adult children often find themselves lapsing into despised roles assigned when they were youngsters, and these roles often are most keenly realized when families gather for the holidays. Petty jealousies and resentments long buried resurface to be played out on a family stage, often with ugly consequences. For most families, those unhappy moments affect only the immediate family — but when dysfunction is part of a 12th century royal family, those consequences can affect an entire empire.

When King Henry II of England gathers his family together for an 1183-style Christmas celebration in "The Lion in Winter," the 1966 James Goldman play, the knives are out (often literally) as Henry, his estranged Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their three sons, Richard, Geoffrey and John, vie for power, love, attention and scraps of affection. On the line is succession to the throne of England, which at that time included much of present-day France. The presumptive heir and favored son, Henry III, has died, leaving a hole in both Henry and Eleanor's hearts, but more significantly for the three remaining sons, an unclear path to power.

Henry favors passing the throne to the youngest, teenaged, self-absorbed John, while the eldest of the three, war-like Richard, is Eleanor's favorite. Geoffrey, the middle son, is left to connive on his own, forming shifting alliances with both John and Richard.

Added into the mix is French King Philip II, a guest of the court on hand to oversee handing off his sister Alais (currently Henry's mistress) as a bridal prize to the presumptive heir, whomever that may be.

What soon becomes apparent is that whatever warmth and love this family once had for one another has been buried under an all-consuming quest for power. When any family member dares express true affection or tenderness, it is quickly and cruelly used against them. Yet, they fascinate as they rage, scheme and manipulate.

Director Liz Woodworth deliberately chose a play with a small cast to assure as safe an experience as possible for both the cast and theater-goers while COVID is still a concern. And a delightful cast it is, bringing some of the region's best actors back onto the StageNorth stage.

As Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Scott Burchill and Laura Comer portray two powerful regents who have reached pinnacles of power and are now staring down their own mortality. Henry truly is a lion, roaring orders and making sure everyone knows he is the alpha male. Yet he can be charming, too, if never what one would call sensitive. Comer's Eleanor, who has spent the past 10 years as Henry's captive, rather than as his daily court companion, is cold steel. She has been both queen of France and queen of England, a powerful landholder and a force to be reckoned with all her life. If her quest for power has left little time for her children, it was her duty.

The three sons are a truly miserable lot — each scheming to become heir and at the same time desperately seeking approval from their parents — and hating themselves for it.

Jamie Tucker's Richard is a strong warrior on the outside, a man who leads an army into battle, but is afraid to acknowledge his need for love.

Geoffrey, the unfortunate middle son, as portrayed by Alan Filipczak, has little hope of ascending the throne himself, so casts himself back and forth between Richard and John, hoping he will land on the side of power whichever way it falls.

And spoiled, immature John (Leslie Wilson) is about as inept a candidate for leadership as one could imagine, though he is his father's favorite.

Rounding out the cast is Trey Sorensen as King Philip II of France, a young king with his own insecurities, and Lydia Caswell's Alais. Alais, by virtue of gender, is a mere pawn in the royalty game. As a French princess, she will be married off to form alliances. She starts out as something of an innocent as Henry's mistress, but by the end of the "Lion in Winter," she is exhibiting the same sad ruthlessness as her mentor, Eleanor.

Woodworth's "Lion" is set in the 12th century and Jen Hewitt's costuming brings us into the past, Eleanor's black and grey costuming highlighting both her age and her steeliness, contrasting with the flames of passionate red and orange in young Alais's wardrobe.

The set, left over from cancelled 2019 production of "The Merchant of Venice," is a scene-stealer itself. In turns bedchamber or dungeon, the magnificent set evinces a castle in all its cold magnificence.

"Lion" is in turns witty, insightful and heart-rending in its laser focus on familial cruelty. And it's a great way to welcome patrons back to live theater.

If You Go

The StageNorth Groundling's production of "The Lion in Winter" is showing through Oct. 24 at StageNorth Theater, 123 W. Omaha St., Washburn. Tickets can be purchased in advance on the Groundling's website, www.thestagenorthgroundlings.org. Guests will be asked to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test from the past 72 hours. Masks are required.


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