Northern Michigan Coast Guard units, lighthouse society honor fallen Coast Guard member 46 years after tragedy

Linda Ashley VandenHeuvel and Michael Ashley, joined by Coast Guard Ensign Suzannah Peters of Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, honor their brother, Seaman Don Ashley during a ceremony in DeTour Village, Michigan on Aug. 17, 2017. Ashley, a 22-year-old Coast Guard member assigned to the DeTour Reef Lighthouse, died in March of 1971 when his small boat capsized while making a trip from the lighthouse to DeTour Village, about one mile away. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Linda Ashley VandenHeuvel and Michael Ashley, joined by Coast Guard Ensign Suzannah Peters of Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, honor their brother, Seaman Don Ashley during a ceremony in DeTour Village, Michigan on Aug. 17, 2017.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich — A U.S. Coast Guardsman who lost his life more than 46 years ago while serving at the DeTour Reef Lighthouse in Upper Michigan, was honored and remembered by members of area Coast Guard units and the DeTour Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society during a ceremony in DeTour Village, Michigan, Thursday.

Seaman Don Ashley Jr., 22, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, was making a trip on March 30, 1971 from the DeTour Reef Lighthouse to DeTour Village, Michigan to retrieve supplies and another Coast Guardsman when his 16-foot boat capsized in icy conditions. A large wave washed over Ashley and he never resurfaced.

The Lighthouse had just opened for the season and a spare boat was not yet available to rescue him. His remains were never recovered. He is the only Coast Guardsman to lose his life while serving on the DeTour Reef Light Station.

Ashley’s siblings, Michael Ashley and Linda Ashley VandenHeuvel, traveled from Wisconsin to attend the ceremony, organized by Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie and the Preservation Society, and accepted a plaque of remembrance of their brother. The plaque will be permanently affixed to the DeTour Reef Lighthouse.

“The Coast Guard men and women assembled today continue to stand the watch that Don so bravely stood nearly fifty years ago,” said Capt. Marko Broz, commander, Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie. “Michael and Susan, your brother died in the service of our Nation and while doing his best to protect those mariners who ply these beautiful, but unforgiving waters. We are proud to follow in his footsteps and strive to uphold the standards he set for us.”

Broz, along with Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Roach, U.S. Navy chaplain, and the crews of the Coast Guard Cutter Buckthorn and Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Sault Ste. Marie, were in attendance to remember Ashley’s the sacrifice.

The DeTour Village Community Choir was also in attendance and sang the National Anthem and a powerful rendition of the Coast Guard anthem, “Semper Paratus.”

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