Tom Kuber's Opening Speech at the Christening of the James L. Kuber
Welcome: Thank you for coming.
People have come from many places to celebrate today. I would like to recognize Our Congressman Bart Stupak and his wife former Menominee Mayor Laurie who are here. They have been indefatigable workers for assisting commerce on the Menominee River. Laurie while Mayor of Menominee did a Tax Incremental District that enabled the Menominee River to be dredged from 21 feet to 24 feet from the lighthouse to our dock. Bart as our Congressman has worked for six years to get authorization to dredge the Federal channel to 26 feet from the current 23 feet. He steered his legislation through the House and gathered the necessary Senate sponsors to pass the legislation including overriding President Bush’s veto. Lt Commander DuFresne of the USCG is here. Jim’s wife of 46 years Marie is here, Jims’ children, grandchildren, sister, nephews, nieces, and cousins are here. Two college classmates from ND traveled to be here. Shipping industry people are here – Richard Mc Creary – MMC, Scott Bravenor, and Jim Siddall – Founders and CEO’s of Lower Lakes Shipping & Grand River Shipping are here, A sidebar story about them. "In the history of the sea it has always been a common practice to go to the assistance of a ship in peril. The Reserve was scheduled to go on dry-dock December 3rd at Bay Shipbuilding. When it became apparent we would not be ready for December 3rd I called Scott Bravenor who had the December 17th date for the dry-dock and asked Scott if we could swap. Even though we are competitors Scott obliged and swapped dates to assist a vessel in trouble". " Thank you Scott".
And my good friend Pat O’Hern from Bay Shipbuilding who has helped me in so many ways since undertaking this endeavor is here. GE Capital and Associated Bank are here – They have provided the long term and short term financing to make these boats possible. The sailors who will sail the boats are here in blue shirts
A christening is a celebration of joy. Whether it is a newborn child or the rebirth of a ship a christening is a celebration.
Today there is a lot of joy being shared at this dock.
We are celebrating the boat - new life being given to a boat.
We are celebrating the man - memorializing James Lewis Kuber in a way he would have never dreamed.
We are celebrating the pioneering vision of Clyde Van Enkevort.
We are celebrating the workers who toiled so hard for eight months to create this magnificent boat.
The Boat -
The steamship Reserve was a wonderful boat impeccably maintained by its’ previous owner Oglebay Norton. She was loved by the sailors who sailed on her.
However, the costs to operate her as steamship meant she struggled economically in recent years.
Given rebirth as an integrated tug barge she will proudly serve the Great Lakes customers for many decades into the future.
Today we Celebrate the rebirth of the Reserve as the James L. Kuber.
The Man -
James Lewis Kuber was many things to many people. He was a Son, an Eagle Scout, a Navy Man, a Husband, a Father, a Businessman, and a Philanthropist. He was the right kind of philanthropist in that everything he gave was done anonymously.
But to me he was my big brother. Ten years my senior we never had any sibling rivalry. I was little Tommy to Jim and his many friends. When our parents went out his idea of babysitting was to take me out with him. Mind you he was 16 and I was 6. He wasn’t going to be stuck at home because his parents had had this ooops in their forties. He bribed me by telling me that if I ever told Dad or Mom I would be dead. Actually – it was so much fun being with all the older guys I didn’t want it to end. The stuff I saw from four to eight would have shocked my parents. I could tell you many heartwarming and funny stories but that would take all day.
Jim was my Best Friend. He was my Best Man at my wedding. He was my Mentor. He was my Advisor. He was always available to help his younger brother. It was comforting for me to know there was always someone I could turn to. And for the last five years I have missed that.
Jim, like our father, was a Navy man. Lewis J. served in the Navy during WWI crossing the Atlantic 38 times. Jim served during the Korean War after graduating from Notre Dame in Washington DC where he met his wife Marie. After living in Chicago and New York, they moved to Fond du Lac where Jim started their printing business and they raised four children including the two daughters who will christen the boat today.
Jim loved the water, boats and ships. He was a sailboater who enjoyed nothing more than to be out on the water feeling the rush of the wind, and hearing the waves.
Today we Celebrate the memory of Jim Kuber, a friend to many, a Hero to many of us.
The Visionary -
We would not be here today if it were not for the pioneering vision of Clyde Van Enkevort.
When most men are thinking about retirement, Clyde in his sixties, was dreaming of converting old Lakers ready for the scrap heap into integrated tug barges. The industry titans thought this small businessman from the Upper Peninsula had lost his marbles. The consensus was a tugboat pushing a barge the size of a large laker would never ever work.
For six years in the 1980’s he toiled here at this very dock converting the (Joseph H.) Thompson into his dream. He next brought the McKee Sons to this dock and converted it to a barge. These two boats changed Great Lakes sailing and they are sailing successfully today.
In the late 1990’s Clyde had the vision of all visions – to build the first new commercial self-unloader on the Great Lakes in 20 years as an ITB at a cost of over $38,000,000. His two partners in the first two boats thought he really had lost his marbles at 75 years old to be dreaming of building a new boat at such an astronomical price. But build it he did. Launched in 2000 his new vision of all visions is recognized by everyone in the industry as being the finest boat on the Great Lakes today.
Clyde has been a good friend since he converted the Thompson and the McKeesons at this dock and he has guided me through converting the two boats you see here today.
His family business Van Enkevort Tug & Barge manages these two boats along with the Thompson and the Great Lakes Trader creating a pool of four modern integrated tug barges.
His daughter Jill and son Jack are with us today carrying on the proud tradition of the VanEnkevort family tradition.
Today we Celebrate the vision of Clyde Van Enkevort who with his family revolutionized shipping on the Great Lakes.
The Workers -
The workers who converted this boat are a cause for celebration. This huge undertaking represents tens of thousands of man-hours that were done in true Yooper fashion.
Bill Holmes was our superintendent, chief engineer, and ramrod. I learned quickly that if steam was coming out of Bill’s ears it was best to steer clear that day. We wouldn’t be here today without your special genius. Thank you Bill.
Brad Paulsen’s’ Paulsen Welding Company crew did the steel construction. At one point when we were pushing to get the boat to Bay Shipbuilding for dry-docking the crews worked 21 straight days. Brad literally didn’t have time to get a haircut from August 3rd until December 17th. Something I know Brad and Bill found very rewarding was the ABS and USCG inspectors and the people at Bay Shipbuilding all complimented the steel work done by his crew. Thank you Brad.
Clint Stewart’s Corporate Piping crew did all of the piping and pneumatic systems on the boat and they were instrumental in rebuilding the Victory tugboat that will be connected to the James L. There is nothing we have asked Clint to do that he hasn’t done. Thank you Clint.
John Brezini came out of retirement to spearhead the electrical work. John along with a few helpers from Town & Country has done an incredible job of rewiring the boat. Thank you John.
Five crewmembers that sailed on the Reserve stayed in Menominee and worked doing the tough grunt work that needed to be done everyday. They told me many times they had never worked so hard in their lives as they did converting this boat. Their leader was Scott Tomlinson. Thank you Scott.
The KK Integrated Logistics dock workers have toiled doing a myriad of things to help the cause under the supervision of our dock manager Dale Boland. Thank you Dale.
Many others have been involved: Plutchak Fabricating, Northern Machine, Bosk Painting, Walt Genske electronics, Bill Martin Machining, Ray Dufrin, L & S Electric, Northeast Technical did the naval architecture, ABS did the regular inspections, Lt Commander DuFresne’s USCG crew did their inspections.
It takes an incredible effort by a lot of people to build an integrated tug barge. The leaders have been recognized but how about all of the workers in our midst. They are wearing the James L. Kuber hats.
Today we are celebrating the workers. The crews of the companies hired to do the long hard laborious creative work required to build a ship. Without each and every one of you we would not be hear today. Let’s hear a thunderous applause for all of the workers who built this boat.