Inlet Lost at Sea Memorial brings tears and closure

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014

  • Updated Thursday, April 17, 2014 6:18 am

Anita Crone/For The Times A flower tribute adorns the plaque for Ernest Lee Turner, who was lost June 7, 1962, aboard the Melissa Lee off the North Carolina coast.

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The sun’s warmth was not quite enough to dry the tears Sunday as one more name was officially added to the Lost at Sea Memorial at Morse Park Landing in Murrells Inlet.

A bell tolled for each of the 30 people whose names now are imprinted on the granite, and for each name, there is a story.

“He went out alone on a 21-foot sailboat, and that was the last time I saw him,” said Al Erwin, whose son, Aaron Dale Erwin is enshrined with four others lost in 2007.

Erwin and his wife, Hannah, come each April, reaching out to touch the name of their son.

For some family members and friends, the name on the memorial stands as a testament to the life lived.

“This brings closure to people,” said the Rev. John R. “Randy” Riddle, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Conway, who presided over the ceremony.

“For the people who do not have the body of a loved one to bury, this becomes the place they come, the place of honor.”

It was the memory of his brother Kurtis that brought Brian Hutchison of Pittsburgh to Murrells Inlet on Sunday.

“Every time he came home to Pittsburgh, we would tease each other,” said Brian Hutchison, who served in the Air Force while Kurtis was in the Army Reserves after a stint on active duty.

Kurtis Hutchison was killed April 21, 2013, near Bird Island, after he swam after a friend’s boat that was drifting away and was struck by a commercial vessel.

Hutchison’s name is the 30th put on the plaque and the first name added since 2011.

The memorial is the brainchild of the family of Johnny Brown, who died April 2, 2005, when his boat, the Tracie Lynn, was hit by a rogue wave off the North Carolina coast.

Brown’s niece was selling T-shirts bearing the memorial logo while his mother ensured events went smoothly.

Her family pays for the names to be added to the spire, although donations are always welcome.

People who wish to donate may send a check or money order to the Lost at Sea Memorial, 1250 Birch Ave., Conway, SC 29526.

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