December 18, 2011

Remembering the Captain

How could I not take time to remember my long friendship with Captain Frank Pabst? There are so many indelible connections. Things were different when we first met. Our bellies were smaller. In later years, photographers needed wide-angle lenses when they tried to keep both of us in the frame. To say the Captain was larger than life would be an understatement.

Frank would call and invite me to meet him so he could explain his ideas or vent about why somebody wouldn't espouse his views. He had a way of expressing his frustration that you couldn't forget. You never walked away without knowing where he stood. Just ask his wonderful wife, Ann.

History of the Lake Champlain region is one of the strongest ties that bound us. Frank would sit across the table, explaining why he was passionate about the area's past. I soon shared his enthusiasm and have spent the ensuing years feeding that passion.

He told me of the historic treasures on the floor of Lake Champlain, and my appetite was whetted. I never knew where we were headed when he said, "Gordie, jump in the car. I want to show you something." I always went and was never disappointed. He once took me to a spot near AuSable Chasm to show me the remains of an ancient steamboat. He drew a word picture of what it looked like in its prime and explained where it fit into the historical scheme of things. I was amazed.

The Captain constantly kept me enthused enough to talk often about local history on the radio. He would join me on numerous occasions while we pontificated about that passion.

He told me of his diving group, his salvage work and all his other endeavors. He decided to teach me scuba diving in his inimitable way. He put the tanks on me, and we descended into the murky waters of our "great" Lake Champlain. We swam around a wreck, and I realized my air was running low. I was certain my first dive would be my last. I grabbed at Frank and pointed to my throat. He shrugged and turned away. I was doomed.

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