My name is James Taylor. I recently read Kevin Heimbigner’s Chinook Observer story about Charles W. Sexton on the internet, which was dated April 2012.
I was stationed with Petty Officer Sexton at the National Motor Lifeboat School in Ilwaco. He was my supervisor. I was a fireman apprentice at the time and I was there the evening he passed away. He allowed us to call him Rudy, and he was a great guy. As my career continued after his passing, and when the seas seemed too rough to handle, I would try and think how he would have handled the situation.
This tragedy occurred almost exactly 30 years to the date of the Triumph and Mermaid incident on Jan. 12, 1961. Some of the survivors from the incident in 1961 were in town for their 30-year anniversary. They had planned to place a wreath in the water to commemorate their tragedy from many years earlier. After MK1 Sexton died, they decided to lay the wreath for all of the victims from 1961 and 1991. I was honored to be the individual who was chosen to place the wreath in the water. We positioned the Coast Guard vessel 44381 in the Columbia River near where the Hammond, Oregon Coast Guard station used to be back in 1961, and waited for the ebb tide. I then placed the wreath in the water and watched it float down the Columbia towards the place where so many Coast Guardsmen have given their lives so others may live.
After I retired, I moved back to the Auburn area. My wife is from Renton. This enables me to go visit Rudy when I can. He is buried at the Mountain View Cemetery in Lakewood. I visit him when I can, and I always make it over to spend time with him on Jan. 11, Aug. 4 and Nov. 11 each year, and I place a small American Flag in the ground at his grave. I enjoy the time I spend there and I know he enjoys the company.
I learned a lot from Petty Officer Sexton in the short time I was stationed with him from November 1989 to January 1991. I will never forget his sacrifice and I will also ensure I always go visit him when I can. I owe him nothing less.
MKC James B. Taylor
USCG Machinery Technician Chief Petty Officer-retired 1989