Family members of those lost to USS Conestoga wreck write of gratitude, sadness
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.
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 …”
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.
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.
“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.