Mariner's Memorial - The Final Gift

By Nancy Erickson, 2011

In memory of Sue Kaanta, who would have celebrated her 66th birthday April 10, 2011.

It’s hard to find a port town in Alaska that doesn’t have a memorial to mariners lost at sea. Such a project was begun in Seward in 2003 and recently received a boost into reality from the legacy of one of the memorial’s founding fathers – or should I say, Mothers.

Sue Kaanta succumbed to cancer in June of last year. Her involvement in realizing a Seward mariners’ memorial remained steadfast even after her death, with a living trust donation to the project that enabled the committee to leap forward with the anticipation of breakup and the beginning of construction this spring. What better legacy to receive from one so dedicated to seeing our mariners’ memorial to fruition.

There are no accredited medical tests, but Sue was born with saltwater in her blood. As a child, she sailed the San Juan Islands near her home in Anacortes. Graduating with a degree in communications from the University of Washington, the call of the sea proved more powerful.

Sue came to Seward in 1982 and worked as an off-shore bull cook for Stateside Catering before hiring on with Amoco Oil as a roustabout. She worked the oil platforms for five years until she chose to sail south with the love of her life. Together, she and Norm sailed the Pacific Coast and Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. After Norm’s death, she returned to Seward and worked for a time at the harbormaster’s office. 

Landlocked for too many years, Sue dreamed of owing her own boat. After months of searching for just the right fit, Sue and the M/V Morning Star began their journey to Seward up the Inside Passage from Seattle in 2009. Mechanical problems forced the initial leg of the journey to halt in Sitka. Sue returned home with anticipation of returning the following spring to bring her boat home. 

Fate had other plans. The Morning Star arrived in Seward via barge, her master too ill to take the helm. The Morning Star, skippered by friends, carried Sue’s ashes to her final resting place in Resurrection Bay last year. The Seward Mariners’ Memorial will honor those whose legacy remains with the sea – with Sue Kaanta at the helm.

Stephanie Millane