|Davis Helberg was a good friend to all who knew him, a wonderful source to those of us always looking for information, and an inspiring leader for the Port of Duluth Superior. He died on October 10, 2018. He was a wonderful help and information source for me.
I was undeterred by that lack of knowledge then or now. I meant the DSN to be for tourists and visitors, and I wrote to answer the questions that visitors here asked; the same questions I asked when I first arrived.
One day in the spring of 1997, I went to the Port Authority to talk with Lisa, the Public Relations manager. While I was waiting, a man came into the reception area and asked if I was the author of this. He was holding a copy of the Duluth Shipping News. I said yes. He introduced himself, Davis Helberg. I think at that time I had heard of him but had never met him. I was scared. Had I done something wrong, did I need a license to print the paper?
He responded something like this: ‘This is a great contribution to the local shipping scene.’ He complimented me and offered his help anytime.
I will never forget that moment; the big guy found me and told me I was doing a good job. I floated out of the office.
In the spring of the following year, I got a call from the Port Authority inviting me to go on board the first salty that arrived in Duluth after the long winter. There were a lot of people there and shortly, Davis called us all to attention. First, he introduced folks in the room. It never occurred to me that he would introduce me but he did, as the publisher of the Duluth Shipping News. He then said some nice words about me. Wow. Davis had now introduced me to the shipping community and other local dignitaries. That was a big moment for me, but that was one of the best things Davis did; bind people together, introduce them to each other, explain the business of the port to the larger community.
Below I share some moments watching Davis doing his thing.
|(1) April, 1999: Davis led a group to visit the Federal Mackenzie, the first salty of 1999|
|On Sunday morning, April 11, 1999, Davis led a group of about 100 local officials to the pilot house of the Federal Mackenzie (now the Birchglen). She had arrived the night before and was the first salt water ship to come to Duluth in the 1999 shipping season. In the picture, Davis was talking to Federal Mackenzie Captain I. M. Singh and Port Authority board member Bill Kron. On the other side of the pilot house, the other visitors were sampling food the ship had prepared for the occasion. I took the Captain and his son on a trip to Skyline Drive to see and touch some snow.|
|(2) August, 1999: Party time on the Isa|
|In the old days, the port often organized a party on board a new-build salt water ship when she made her first visit to Duluth. Built in 1999 in Japan, the Polish flagged Isa arrived in Duluth in early August, 1999, her first cargo stop. At left, Davis, accompanied by City Councilman Ken Hogg (right), talks with Isa Captain Edward Bobrowski (left).|
|(3) August, 1999 – Davis knew where the guns were!|
|It is good to know old timers with good memories; Davis had a good memory. I had been told that a salt water ship was arriving Duluth in August 1999 with armed guards on board. I got myself invited onto the ship while it was at anchor waiting to come in. It wasn’t long before I bumped into the armed guards, five Coast Guard sailors, all with a startling array of stuff on their belt, including revolvers. I first saw them in the office of the Captain, Tomislav Radovic, sitting at his desk, at center. I noticed the guns, but also noticed everyone was smiling.|
|On July 5 the Grant Carrier and her crew of 27 left Odessa, a Ukrainian city on the Black Sea, on their way to Duluth. At the time, no ship with Yugoslavian officers was allowed in U.S. waters unless accompanied by armed guards, supplied by the Coast Guard and paid for by the shipowner. That was because our (NATO) planes were bombing their cities at the time.
So the Grant Carrier came to Duluth on August 17, 1999 with a contingent of five armed (but friendly) Coast Guard sailors. The officers and crew were indeed from Yugoslavia, many from Kotor, a city on the coast of the Adriatic Sea in Montenegro.
|This was all very interesting but I talked with Davis, and he told me that was the first ship to ever come into Duluth under armed guard. Only Davis knew that since only Davis had been working in the port since 1959. We lost a lot of history when Davis left us. For more on this story, click here.|
|(4) September 1999, October 2002: Davis on the cruise ship Columbus|
|Davis greeted all the cruise ships that came to Duluth during his reign. Captain Thilo Natke brought the Columbus into Duluth on September 7, 1999. Shortly after that he hosted breakfast on the ship. At left, the Captain, and going clockwise, Ron Johnson, trade development director from the Port Authority, Davis and Duluth Mayor Gary Doty. The photographer was politely asked to leave (not by Davis). Above right, in October 2002, Davis again welcomed the Columbus, her Captain, his crew and passengers to Duluth.|
|(9) October, 2008: Davis, now retired, joined 3 fellow old timers to tour a new US Navy ship.|
|On October 29, 2008, the 377-foot USS Freedom arrived Duluth. She is a new US Navy warship that can be an anti-aircraft weapon, a missile launcher and a landing craft, among many other things. Davis had long since retired so I called him and 3 other old time Duluth mariners. I had asked Executive Officer Kristy Doyle to give us a tour. I knew the old timers were not used to being on a new Navy ship with a female Exec. By now, they were very good at asking questions when visiting a new vessel, but in this case, they weren’t quite ready for all her answers. It was very interesting to watch. They asked all the old questions and Kristy responded with the new answers. I’m not sure what she intended, but she started the tour at what she called ‘the pointy end of the ship.’ The guys might have reassured themselves that Kristy was not going to challenge them; they could fill her in on the details of the ship later.
Then she updated her remarks to call it the forecastle of the ship, and from then on, it was clear she knew what she was talking about and we were there to learn.
Unfortunately, all of these reliable old timers have passed on. Davis left us with a remembrance of his three old friends, included in the Winter 2008-09 issue of the Port Authority Magazine, North Star Port.