TALE OF TWO LADIES
by Jack Eckert
Two ladies honored at two separate solemn events were brought forward from the obscurity of history…………
In the autumn of 1999 two ladies were snatched from the obscurity of history and brought to the present through two solemn ceremonies, one conducted on the West Coast, and the other conducted on the East Coast.
Both of these ladies were a part of Coast Guard history and they should never be doomed to obscurity again.
Neither lady ever met the other. One of the ladies could have been the grandmother of the other. One had a tragic event swirl around her in childhood while the other's contribution began after her family tragedy.
Both were honored at dedication ceremonies by senior Coast Guard Officers within days of each other. Neither knew of the other nor of the respective rites.
One ceremony was conducted in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and the other in Cle Elum, Washington. Neither lady was the principal reason for the ceremony. Their roles at the time that history was being written were secondary. But in honoring them, they took their rightful places.
Seamond Ponsart was a little girl of five in 1944 when she witnessed the loss of the Vineyard Lightship. As the daughter of a Lighthouse keeper, she was with him in the tower on the night the tempest overwhelmed the small ship that was securely fastened to the bottom. She saw the lights and then the lights were gone. She knew of many of the lost souls as her "uncles." They stayed with her family at the Lighthouse on crew change days.
She probably remembers that event as clearly as any of us remembers the day Pearl Harbor was bombed or the Kennedy assassination -- if not more vividly.
Edith Munro was the mother of the Coast Guard's only Medal of Honor recipient. Her son, SM1 Douglas Munro distinguished himself at the Battle of Guadalcanal early in WWII and the award was made posthumously. He is not only considered one of the Coast Guard's greatest heroes but one of the Marine Corps also. Immediately after that tragic event Edith joined the Coast Guard as a SPAR and was commissioned. After her "Boot Camp" she traveled the country helping to sell War Bonds. Not content with that assignment she was reassigned to the Thirteenth Coast Guard District where she ran the District Barracks. She did a lot of trailblazer work integrating the females and males in her charge. She was the first woman officer ever invited to attend 13th District Staff Meetings. After the war she continued to assist in promoting the Coast Guard well into her eighties prior to her death.
She is buried next to her son Douglas at the Cle Elum cemetery.
Seamond Ponsart Roberts was flown from her home in New Orleans to attend the dedication of the monument to the tragic loss of the Vineyard Lightship some 55 years ago as an honored guest. There she was reunited with one of the survivors, a man
who was on shore leave the night of the storm and was due to return to the ship the next day.
I recently was told by Seamond by email that this was the trip of a lifetime for her and she will always remember it.
Seamond Ponsart Parker -1999 Photo
Rear Admiral Blayney, the Commander of the Thirteenth District, in his address at the dedication ceremony for the memorial to Douglas Munro used the major part of his address to honor Edith Munro.
Both were solemn ceremonies. Seamond was in live attendance in New Bedford and I am sure that Edith was present at Cle Elum too.
Two ladies honored at two separate solemn events were brought forward from the obscurity of history and we shall be sure that they remain with us forever as two ladies with strong Coast Guard ties.
Rest in Peace Douglas Munro.
Rest in Peace men of the lost Vineyard Lightship
Our Prayers are with you.
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