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Family members of those lost to USS Conestoga wreck write of gratitude, sadness

UPDATED: May 3, 2016. Updated photo for Edward Goodin
May 3, 2016 They were just sailors: 56 young men from all corners of the country, from all backgrounds and faiths. And when their ship, the USS Conestoga, sank on its way from California to Pearl Harbor in 1921, they left behind families they would never see again.
Diane Gollnitz, granddaughter of Ernest Larkin Jones, Commanding Officer of the USS Conestoga, recently learned of the discovery of the ship. For 95 years, the fate of her grandfather, the crew, and the ship have been an unsolved mystery.

Earlier this year, when NOAA and the U.S. Navy announced they had found the wreck of Conestoga, buried in the silt and sediment at the bottom of NOAA’s Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary off San Francisco, news spread around the world.

Since then, relatives of some of the Conestoga’s crew have contacted NOAA, and their letters often reveal a sense of relief at finding out what happened to their long lost relative, tears for their losses — and how those losses affected others.

“I want to convey my deepest and most heartfelt gratitude to you and all those involved not only in the finding and nearly impossible task of identifying the ship,” wrote Diane Gollnitz, whose grandfather, Ernest L. Jones was the ship’s commanding officer. “The comprehensive efforts of all the agencies involved are greatly appreciated not only by our family, but I'm sure by every relative …”

Lieutenant Ernest L. Jones was the commanding officer of the USS Conestoga when it sank in 1921.
Lieutenant Ernest L. Jones was the commanding officer of the USS Conestoga when it sank in 1921. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

My family is thrilled that NOAA has revealed the mystery that has puzzled our family for 95 years.

—Kelly M. Goodin

Another letter from Helen Shue, 62 years old spoke of her grandfather, Harry Benjamin Shue, who was a third class cook on the Conestoga. He had two children, a daughter who was 3 years old and a son who was 1½ years old when Harry went off to sea — and never returned.

Harry Benjamin Shue, taken in Norfolk, Va. He was a third class cook on the Conestoga.
Harry Benjamin Shue, taken in Norfolk, Va. He was a third class cook on the Conestoga. (Helen Shue)

To the day Helen's father died, she says, he missed his father's presence and ran into troubled times. Her father and his sister were shuffled from family member to family member because their mother was a widow and unable to financially support her children.

Kelly M. Goodin is a U.S. Navy Commander with the Dental Corps stationed at Naval Hospital Sigonella, Sicily, Italy. Her grandfather’s older brother, Edward Bernard Goodin, was an engineer, a second machinist mate, on the Conestoga.

Edward Bernard Goodin, from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, enlisted in the Navy in 1920.
Edward Bernard Goodin, from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, enlisted in the Navy in 1920. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

“My family is thrilled that NOAA has revealed the mystery that has puzzled our family for 95 years,” she wrote.

Edward Goodin grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, after his parents immigrated from County Meath, Ireland. He was working as a machinist’s apprentice at Bethlehem Steel Company, and joined the Navy in 1920.

When the ship sank, Edward Goodin perished along with 55 shipmates, battling a storm as officers and crew attempted to reach a protected cove in a desperate and noble act.

He was 21 years old.

Learn more: Watch the video and view a gallery of photos and images of the Conestoga and its crew.