The 10th plaque of the Cenotaph of the Gloucester Fishermen's Memorial — a exhaustively researched and assembled narrative of the toll taken from this city by the sea — has been removed, as residents of and visitors to the nation's first fishing port are discovering in this week of the St. Peter's Fiesta.
But the purpose of the removal is to update it, says Gaspar "Gap" Lafata, who heads Gloucester's Cenotaph Committee.
When the plaque is returned to its place on a granite base, there will be five more names speaking in perpetuity to the precarious ways of the fishing life and the whims of the sea, and once the plaque is back, the cenotaph — a memorial to the dead whose remains are elsewhere — will cite 5,384 names of who went "down to the sea in ships."
The new names — John Orlando, Matteo Russo, Jaime Ortiz, Peter Prybot and Duane "Charlie" Rine — will be read with sadness, made more intense by different degrees of the knowledge of overlapping circles of locals.
Russo, 36, captain of the Patriot, and Orlando, 59, his father-in-law and first and only mate, were lost with their trawler on nearby Middle Bank in a catastrophic event in early January 2009.
The Coast Guard discounted a call from Russo's pregnant wife, who was also his business partner, about a fire alarm call to the service contractor, and failed to launch search-and-rescue efforts for nearly three hours. The Coast Guard admitted its shame in its review and before Congress.
Ortiz, a 43-year-old Honduran immigrant who could not swim nor speak much English but came to Gloucester to work on the stern of a lobster boat to earn money for his family in New York and back in Central America, slipped and fell into the water just outside the Dog Bar breakwater in October 2009.
While working in Gloucester, Ortiz lived in the Action Inc. shelter, but his memorial service in the shadow of the Man at the Wheel statue attracted many Gloucester fishermen: some knew Ortiz as a mate or friend, many wanted to make it known that he was one of them.
Peter Prybot, 63, of Lanesvillle, a Saturday columnist here at the Times, knew as much about lobstering as anyone. Indeed, he wrote the book, "Lobstering off Cape Ann," in which he recounted a close call with an entanglement.
In April 2011, his body was found near his boat by the Coast Guard entangled in ropes to his traps not too far from Pigeon Cove, Rockport, his chosen base of solo operations.
A certified diver and Navy veteran, Duane "Charlie" Rine, 51, of East Gloucester, was lost while crewing on a herring boat. He volunteered to put on diving gear, go down and clear netting that had fouled on the screw or the rudder, but drowned when he too became tangled.
Lafata said he was frustrated and disappointed that the updated plaque was not in place already. Although the contract was signed in December to have the 10th plaque shipped to a foundry, which would cut out blank space left on the face to prepare for the certainty of new names, it was only recently taken down.
When the cenotaph was assembled in 2000, providing a narrative explanation and the names of the 5,368 Gloucester fishermen "known" to have been lost at sea, its creation — which semi-circles the great Man at the Wheel — represented the most extreme research by Gloucester's archivists into the city's meticulous municipal records which date to the early 17th century. The effort also included outreach to other ports where Gloucester fishermen worked.
The narrative count has not been changed to match the larger count with the newly documented and recently lost.
Eleven names were added in 2001, eight from the 20th century, as well as those of three fishermen who were lost after the cenotaph was printed on brass plates and assembled on Stacy Boulevard, Lafata said.
They were Omar Inglesios, who was not from Gloucester but was lost from a Gloucester boat in 2000, and two young Gloucestermen — Thomas Frontiero and James Sanfilippo — who were lost with the Gloucester boat Southbound.
"Sustained by the hope of prosperity," the introductory plaque explained, "they came from Canadian Maritimes, Scandinavia and Ireland" in the early days through the deadliest years of the schooners.
Between 1860 and 1906, the memorial notes, "a staggering" 660 ships and 3,880 fishermen of Gloucester were taken by the sea.
"Later, they came from Italy and Portugal," the memorial states.
Now a Honduran name will be added, once the 10th plaque, updated, is put back in its place.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3464, or at email@example.com.