Rita Hutton is getting closer to her goal of building a place where relatives of those who died while working on Virginia’s waters can gather to remember.
Land has been donated. A model of the design—a boy wearing overalls and standing next to a pair of adult-size boots, with a lighthouse in the background—has been created.
Now, Hutton and the nonprofit group she founded, Friends of the Virginia Waterman’s Memorial, are trying to raise more than $200,000 to build and maintain the memorial on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a peninsula separating the Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic Ocean.
They’ve got a good start: A woman who, like Hutton, lost a fisherman son, donated $5,000 before she died last year. The group has also begun sending out solicitation letters, mostly to businesses.
The group is gathering names to be listed on a wall of granite at the memorial site. They have about 70 names so far, according to the group’s web site.
“These guys need a lot of recognition. It if wasn't for them, we wouldn’t have our seafood the way we’re getting it now,” Hutton, 73, said in a phone interview from her home in Oyster, a small fishing village.
The memorial is to be built on a 20-foot-by-40-foot plot overlooking the harbor in Oyster. Northampton County is letting the group use the land for free under a 50-year easement, Hutton said.
The design has been expanded to include a lighthouse with a perpetual light, walkways and meditation benches. The wall of names will stand on the opposite end of the grounds.
The monument will be for watermen, or commercial fishermen, and anyone else who dies while working on the water, including tugboat operators, rescuers and divers.
Danny McCready, who runs the group’s web site, became involved with the group in part because his wife’s brother died while working on the water more than 30 years ago.
Hutton has been leading this project for several years, spurred on by her son’s death in a clam boat accident in New Jersey in 1992.
Michael Hutton’s body was never found, but his mother said she got some comfort from having his name on a fishermen’s memorial in New Jersey. That’s why she wants to establish a monument in Virginia, to give others mourning the lost at sea a place to reflect and pray.
Her son’s name will not be on the Virginia memorial. “I’m not doing it for myself,” Hutton said of the project. “I’m doing it for the whole state of Virginia, because I know what the parents are going through, especially mothers. I have not accepted my son’s death as of today. I know how hard it is. If these mothers and fathers and children can come to a place and put flowers for holidays and talk to them, I feel that my son did not die in vain.”
For information or to make a donation, write to Virginia Waterman’s Memorial on the Eastern Shore, P.O. Box 10160, Norfolk, VA 23513-0160 or visit www.virginiaslostatsea.org