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Ingleside Company Restores Iconic Conn Brown Landmark
By Mark Silberstein,
Aransas Pass Progress Friday, March 10, dignitaries gathered at Conn Brown Harbor in Aransas Pass to celebrate one of the most symbolic pieces of the restoration that’s taken five years for the City of Aransas Pass to close a chapter on following the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The crucifix above the Seaman’s Memorial Tower has been replaced, the original blown away by the fury of the storm. DMR Services of Ingleside, usually busy with fabricating jobs for recreational boating, recreated the metal cross out of aluminum tubing with rounded edges to make it more durable should another hurricane hit the area.
On two sides of the tower pink marble slabs are engraved with the names of fishermen who perished, the sea a dangerous and unforgiving landscape for many whose livelihoods depended on shrimping, and still do. Charlie Marshall, a respected local funeral director, donated the stone tablets. Aransas Pass Progress
Aransas Pass Progress A lithograph print shows what the original memorial looked like when it was built in May 1970.
Aransas Pass Progress
On the grounds of the memorial is this anchor, a marker nearby indicating it had been donated by a fisherman who pulled it up from the ocean floor, its origins likely more than 100 years old, believed to have come from a Civil War-era gunship that once plied the waters. Aransas Pass Progress
An aerial view offers a different perspective of the majesty of the Seaman’s Memorial Tower with the new crucifix at its peak. Courtesy: City of Aransas Pass
It’s taken more than five years to complete, and a ceremony that lasted just 15-minutes to acknowledge work had concluded, but City of Aransas Pass officials announced Friday, March 10 that with the replacement of a crucifix atop the Seaman’s Memorial Tower at Conn Brown Harbor the recovery efforts following Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 are – for the most part – done.
Reviewing the history and symbolism of the tower at one point brought Mayor Pro Tempore and City Councilman, Place 1, Carrie Scruggs to choke up with tears. She broke down as she summarized the importance of the cross, a sign of everlasting life after death, the names of seamen and fisherman who’ve been lost to the ocean’s depths etched on pink marble tabcontinue lets at the base of the tower, the stones donated as part of the project by local funeral director Charlie Marshall when the structure was originally dedicated on May 9, 1970.
“Faith in God cuts across denominational lines,” Scruggs announced, regaining her composure.
“This tower is part of the soul of Aransas Pass,” she added.
The original cross was blown away by the wrath of Harvey, a category 4 storm, meaning it had sustained winds anywhere from 130156 miles per hour. The original crucifix had straight edges. So, when the city ordered a replacement, an engineer’s design called for rounded ones, meant to be more resistant to another such powerful event. The project was completed by DMR Services at 1457 FM 2725 in Ingleside, the company’s business usually involved with fabricating custom sun awnings for pleasure boats. This was a definite first for owner Dan Roberts who attended last week’s dedication ceremony. The crucifix his staff constructed was made of thick, aluminum tubing.
Were it not for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and numerous non-profits Scruggs admitted on behalf of the city neither the crucifix nor any of the city’s rebuilding efforts would have been possible, revealing at least $40-million in aid as the estimated final figure.
Dianne Nichols was also invited to speak, her father helped build the tower.
“This tower remains an important part of our history,” she said, explaining how it came about through the strong support of the once prominent Aransas Pass fishing industry, now merely a shadow from its peak decades earlier. For miles, Scruggs described how the cross could be seen from the ocean and land, serving as a beacon guiding fishing fleets back to the safety of Conn Brown Harbor, or a familiar landmark to citizens, visitors and tourists.
Designed with a small chapel at its base, stainedglass windows glowed with daylight last Friday. Someone had left two sets of Rosary beads on a concrete altar, perhaps a simple gesture of kindness for those who might kneel and pray.
Outside, on the tower grounds are several maritime relics, all donated by local fishermen including buoy markers. But perhaps the most intriguing of them all, based on what’s inscribed on a stone marker, is an oversized anchor, black in color. It had been hoisted from the ocean bottom, its origin believed to have been from a Civil War-era gunship that plied these waters more than a century earlier.
On an easel stood a framed lithograph reflecting an image of what the original tower looked like and the crucifix above. Included in the portrait is what is labeled ‘The Fisherman’s Prayer’. Notably absent from the ceremony was an invocation, even though at least two local clergymen were present.
It reads: “O Almighty God, who has made the sea and all that moveth therein: Bestow thy blessing on the harvest of the waters, that it may be abundant in its season; and on our fishermen and mariners, that they may be kept safe in every peril of the deep; so that we all with thankful hearts may acknowledge thee, who art the Lord of the sea and of the dry land; thru Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen,” quoted from the Irish Book of Common Prayer.
Built with a small chapel at its base, there’s references to Christianity everywhere, including stained-glass windows that beamed with bright colors thanks to the warmth of daylight, even though the sky was overcast for the ceremony. Rosary beads left behind offer some solace for those seeking to pray for those lost at sea, the memorial built and dedicated by the Shrimporee Association, long since under the care of the city.