ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Members of the U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary as well as other members of the Jacksonville, Fla., and St. Augustine communities came together Saturday morning at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum to dedicate a newly restored 1933 bronze bell in memory of a Coast Guard aircrew killed in the line of duty and a St. Augustine resident who was lost at sea.
During the ceremony, Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Deputy Commander, Cmdr. LaDonn Allen, spoke on behalf of the Coast Guard, and Bill Senecal reflected on the life of his late son, Steve Senecal, who departed from the lighthouse boat ramp March 18, 2007 for a solo fishing trip and never returned.
When Senecal noticed how significantly the two-ton bell had deteriorated during the two decades it was on display at the lighthouse grounds, he began the year-long project to restore it in honor of his son’s memory. Assisting him were various members of the community, including the Northeast Florida Chapter of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers’ Association.
"Coast Guard members are a part of the communities in which they live and work, so it's only right we serve the communities in many different ways, such as this wonderful dedication and memorial," said Allen.
The chief's mess is the backbone of the Coast Guard and CPOA members are there to take care of Coast Guardsmen who come before and after them, so honoring those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice is a vital component of the group's functions, said Chief Petty Officer Eric Lange, president of the Northeast Florida Chapter of the CPOA.
A granite marker was installed on the west side of the bell honoring Steve Senecal. A plaque in memory of lost Coast Guard Aircrew 3501 members Duane Stenbak, Craig Lerner, Paul Perlt and Matthew Baker was also refurbished and placed on the east side of the bell.
On Aug. 24, 1990, Coast Guard E-2C Radar Surveillance Aircraft Number 3501 crashed while returning from a mission that originated at Naval Air Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. The E-2C was at mission's end and returning when the crew reported a fire in the port engine. It crashed in a cow pasture one-quarter mile from the runway, taking with it the four-man crew.