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The legend lives on: World-class model of Edmund Fitzgerald drops anchor in Ashland

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Paul Wickman heard plenty about the Edmund Fitzgerald as he was growing up in Ashland. His godmother was Mary Louko, the daughter of John Simmons, one of the famous ship’s wheelsman — the guys who steer Great Lakes ore haulers. Louko’s mother’s walls were covered with photos of life on the water; her coffee table laden with books memorializing one of the world’s most famous shipwrecks and her husband, one of five Bay-Area men who died aboard her.


Paul Wickman dropping off the model at the Historical Society Museum and signing papers cementing the loan as Bob Klamerus looks on.


The model is more than eight feet long, and the museum is seeking donations to cover costs of a protective case that needs to be built for it.


A photo of the fully loaded Edmund Fitzgerald as she plied the waters of the Great Lakes in the early 1970s. Contributed photo by Greenmars via Creative Commons.

Every fixture and fitting on the ship was hand-crafted.


When launched in 1958, the Fitzgerald was the largest boat on the Great Lakes, and she remains the largest ever to sink on the lakes. 

Ashland's William Klamerus, an oilman, in the engine room of the Edmund Fitzgerald. He died at his station of a heart attack, and his son was a key connection on bringing the model to Ashland. 


Even the ship's brass bell and the brass ring around the wheelhouse porthole are true to the original.

Even the camber or arch of the deck and hatch covers that helped the ship shed water are accurate. Wickman said those details immediately impressed him when he first laid eyes on the model.


Clemmens built the propellor by hand, painstakingly recreating the curve of its blades.

The level of detail on the model is what makes it remarkable. It took Russ Clemmer 10 years to build — and repeatedly rebuild — to get every fixture and fitting right. 


Every time Russ Clemmen discovered a new photo of the ship, he would disassemble and reassemble his model to make it more accurate. 


William Klamerus, second from right, relaxes with crewmates while at sea.


A mural in downtown Ashland celebrates the city’s shipping history, and includes paintings of William Klamerus, the Edmund Fitzgerald and John Simmons, who went down with the ship. 


The trolley that removed hatch covers and traversed the ship's deck on rails is perfectly recreated, down to the shafts that drove its wheels.


Paul Wickman, second from right, hands over the model to museum representatives at a local restaurant.

(Copyright © 2023 APG Media)

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