NEWPORT — Well over 100 friends, family and community members gathered at Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site Wednesday night to pay tribute to the who men died when the Fishing Vessel Mary B II was swamped by a wave on the Newport bar late Tuesday.
Joshua Porter of Toledo and Stephen Biernacki James Lacey, both of New Jersey, died in the accident.
The podium at the front of the fisherman’s memorial where friends and family gathered in vigil was filled with photos of other fishers who have perished at sea previously.
“The first time I ever met Josh, I was painting a sign,” said Luke Frechette, a South Beach Church pastor who was close to Porter. “I don’t paint very good, and Josh came up and watched me paint and knew I needed help. He grabbed a brush and started helping me.”
Such were the stories many had to tell about Porter, with friends saying he helped them through some of their darkest days.
“He forced me out of my comfort zone and led by example,” said Troy Hart, a friend of Porter’s. “He lived his life out loud. He was transparent and happy.”
Hart found out Porter died from a phone call not long after Porter’s crabbing boat capsized.
“I got a call when the boat went down,” Hart said. “I didn’t believe it at first. It was a huge loss.”
A longtime resident of the area, Porter knew many members of the community who fished with him over the course of his life along the central Oregon coast, went to church with him or knew his family.
“I’ve known him since forever,” said Anthony Johnson, another local man close to Porter. “I was here last night watching the rescue and then I went home. I got a call last night saying it might be Josh.”
Many like Porter who set out on the open seas to catch fish or crab know the dangers of the ocean. According to Johnson, Porter knew what was at stake.
“He knew what the risks are,” Johnson said. “I’ve been crabbing with him. He crabbed his whole life.”
Porter was the kind of person who he could talk to, Johnson said, and he trusted the Toledo man with secrets he would otherwise have kept to himself.
“I told him stuff I never told anyone,” Johnson said.
The crabbing vessel capsizing is just the latest of many such accidents to happen along this stretch of the Oregon coast, at least one person at the vigil said, and it was clear the community feels this loss no less acutely than the last.
“I’ve been here 30 years,” said Christine Briggs, a local woman at the vigil. “Over the years, there’ve been memorials here.”
Briggs was one of many in the fishing community who knew Porter and described the Newport area as a place where they were both in their playground.
“He touched a lot of people,” Briggs said. “And he was very special.”