Wave Wall & Benches Enhance Memorial Site

Sues Bench Seward Mariners Memorial

Didn’t know the location of Seward’s mariners’ memorial? That issue was solved in October 2014 with installation of a 35-foot marine-grade aluminum wave wall proudly announcing “Seward Mariners’ Memorial” from its location on the south harbor uplands.

Four cleat benches manufactured by Port Townsend Foundry were also set in place in memory of Captains Jack Johnson, Mark Walker, Chris Sorenson and Donald and Richard Oldow. Walker and Sorenson’s benches sit side-by-side, commemorating their lifetime of close friendship.

The wave wall was created by Rich Pakker and his wife Pamela Pakker-Kozicki of RP Art in Seattle. This wasn’t just another piece of artwork to Pakker.

“By all right, I could be one of the names on Seward Mariners’ Memorial because I went down twice in boats fishing out of Seward and Dutch Harbor,” stated Pakker. “My connection to these waters and the people on them goes deep,” he added.

Pakker was born in Essen, Germany where he began learning metal working skills. He headed out across the Atlantic as a young man working various jobs and eventually caught a ride on the boat Glacier Castle from Seattle to Seward in 1973. From there he ended up fishing halibut and salmon in Chignik and experienced his first shipwreck fishing out of Dutch Harbor. As fate would have it, once wasn’t enough. Pakker was involved in a second shipwreck in 1975 while scallop fishing when the F/V Owen Gandi caught fire off Yakutat.

It was in that same year that Pakker began creating his art by carving walrus ivory into intricate bottles, tiny chests and jewelry while living in Shishmaref. His work evolved from tall pitchers and urns to bigger sculptures. His first major piece, Nebula Torcida, was installed in 1999 in Microsoft’s Cedar Court campus in Redmond, Wash.

Pakker’s design for Seward’s wave wall came from ideas put forth from the SMM committee. “I took the idea and expanded on it to create the three-dimensional modeling,” said Pakker, who did the design and fabrication of the wall in collaboration with his wife Pamela and her computer modeling skills. 

Pakker considers the challenges of working with large pieces of metal all in a day’s work. “How to manipulate the large pieces of metal, how to fit everything up perfectly so that it will work when it’s installed, how to get the finished sculpture out of my studio and into the shipping container, how to devise mounting the letters and waves so they are easy to install on the site, etc. etc.,” he explained. “All these things are fun for me. It’s why I am a sculptor!” 

The wave wall and benches are part of the final construction phase of the three tiered project that began in 2011 with construction of a lighthouse replica on property donated by the City of Seward. Phase II followed with installation of a 75-foot compass rose in 2013. Both were projects of Harmon Construction. Landscaping and gardens will be the final segment of Phase Three. The SMM committee is working with award-winning garden designer Brenda Adams of Gardens By Design in Homer.

Kudos go out to Samson Tug & Barge for transporting the wave wall and benches from Seattle to Seward and delivering them to the construction site. The memorial project has been made possible by generous grants from the Estate of Sue Kaanta, Rasmuson Foundation, Seward Community Foundation, Kenai Mountains Turnigan Arm National Heritage Site and Holland America Line. Donor plaques are mounted on each end of the wave wall, listing project donors and contributors.

Originally Published October 2014
by Nancy Erickson

Stephanie Millane