The Final Voyage

Last week, our community lost a treasure, and my family, along with many others, lost a friend. The newspaper article about Frank Knowles' tragic and unnecessary death was titled, "Harbor Pilot Was an Institution."

On the ill-fated night of his death, Frank went through St. Andrews Bay Pass into the Gulf on a pilot boat to board a ship. For 37 years, it had been his duty to safely bring ships into the bay and dock them. He was the longest working harbor pilot in Florida. In all those years, he had climbed from the small pilot boat onto a rope Jacob's ladder and then up to the ship's deck high above thousands of times. Sometimes when an empty cargo ship was riding too high for the ladder to reach the level of his pilot boat, the ship's crew created a combination of the gangway and the Jacob's ladder to get its lower end to a usable level.

Such was the case as Frank made his last climb toward the ship's deck. Tragically, the crew rigged the ladder wrong. Frank could not make the transition from ladder to gangway. While trying, he fell into the nighttime waters of the Gulf and could not be located in time since, again, the ship's crew was negligent. They failed to lower the ship's fast response recovery boat, throw its life rafts down, or throw its lighted life rings. As a result, Frank Knowles, a good husband, a good father, and a good friend, perished. The ever present twinkle in his kind brown eyes was stilled.

No nicer person has ever existed. He gave to his family, friends and community all that he had. Even in death, he is giving us something that's very valuable. It is the reminder, due to the untimeliness of his death, that all of us, like the crew of that ship, have a duty to others to do things the right way, not the careless way. Failure to do that has a ripple effect, like a pebble tossed into a still pond, bringing sadness to family and many, many friends. So be safe. No texting while driving, and no intoxication when driving. Wherever you now are sailing, Frank, I wish for you gentle breezes and still waters. Goodbye, my friend.

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