Interview with the Wilhelm Family
March 19, 2001
Bill Wilhelm, Dorothy Lumberg, and Marion Markeson, are the brother and sisters of Blaine Wilhelm. Blaine Wilhelm was an oiler onboard when the ship sank. Please note when answers use the word "I" they are Bill Wilhelm's answers. When they use "we" they are the answers of all three people.
Question: How are you three associated with the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald?
Answer: We are the siblings of Blaine.
Question: What do you think happened to the Edmund Fitzgerald that stormy night?
Answer: We think that it hit shoals. It may also have been the three sisters. (pilothouse windows all blown out)
Question: Do you think the men knew what was going on?
Answer: I do not think that the men knew that it was sinking.
Question: About fifteen minutes after losing contact with the Edmund Fitzgerald, the captain of the Anderson called the Coast Guard on its emergency channel; the Coast Guard then told them to switched to another channel...when they did, contact was unable to be established. Could this lost time have determined whether or not help would arrive in time for the Fitz?
Answer: I think that help may have been able to arrive if time wasn’t lost for all we know.
Question: Do you think that the Edmund Fitzgerald was maintained properly?
Answer: Well, it is yes and it is no. I have heard stories now that there was poor workmanship on the keel. If it is true or not, I do not know.
Question: What resources would you recommend to someone who wanted to research this tragedy further?
Answer: I am not sure, I just know that could go through records that they have now. I would recommend the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.
Question: Why is it important to never forget the men who died on board the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald on November 10, 1975?
Answer: I think it is important because it is just something you do not forget. We did not even find out until the 11th, and many did not find out that it was missing until three days later.
Question: What memorial services for the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald and her crew have you been able to attend?
Answer: We have attended private services for my brother. We also went to the bell service in Sioux Saint Marie when they first brought the bell up. We also went to the dedication of the bell on Whitefish Point. We also went to a service at Sioux with Gordon Lightfoot. We didn't go to the gravesite...too emotional. When we went, coming from the other direction was the Arthur M. Anderson. On their deck were tons of guys waving.
Question: Do you remember any other big storms that your brother went through?
Answer: No, I do not remember any others. The last time I saw him, he was home and he went back to Silver Bay to get on port. When he went in, he made a remark about how much he trusted the captain and the ship.
Question: What was going through your minds the first time you heard the son The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald?
Answer: We could not stand it the first time we heard it, but it tends to grow on you.
Question: Do you think that by making the Fitz carry twice its body weight in cargo they were overloading it?
Answer: I don’t think they made them carry it, I think that was the captain’s request as I understand. I think the captain got paid by tonnage...that is what I heard at least.
Question: Have you three ever had the opportunity to meet Tom Farnquist, Frederick Stonehouse, or Gordon Lightfoot?
Answer: We have met Gordon Lightfoot and Tom Farnquist. GL is very nice to us.
Question: Were you able to attend the consecration of the gravesite?
Answer: Yes….we were there.
Question: What do you think the most touching commemoration has been?
Answer: Oh…well, as we just said, that service out on the lake was very touching. The next one I could think of would be the dedication of the bell.
Question: Why is the Edmund Fitzgerald still remembered after 25 years?
Answer: Well…ha…at the time, it was one of the biggest ships. I think it is also remembered because they all died and there were no survivors.
Question: Do you think that their were things after the sinking that the Coast Guard could've done to make it less of a mystery?
Answer: I don’t think, myself, that they could’ve. They had helicopters out there and I think they did everything they could. They also told the Ford to go back out there. We do not think that there was anymore that they could’ve done. They looked so long that no one would’ve survived.
Question: Do you think that the wreck is becoming too commercial?
Answer: Well, I don’t know. If it is true or not I don’t know, but I heard that GL donated his profits to good causes. GL gave the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum $1,000,000 to add a wing to it. I have not heard of any commercialization.