Duluth Coastie Named Reservist Of Year For Keeping History Alive

By KBJR News 1

May 20, 2013 Updated May 20, 2013 at 1:19 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)
Sunday, May 19th, 2013, was a gray and gloomy one at Duluth's ship canal but the weather wasn't severe.
It was a completely different story here on Sunday, April 30th, 1967, though.
That day, a powerful storm lashed the Twin Ports.
Three teenage boys were seen stranded near one of the lighthouses near the Aerial Lift Bridge.
Coast Guardsmen Ed Culbertson, Richard Callahan and Ron Prei tried to rescue them.
"We never did find the boys so they must have been washed over the side. On the return trip, Ed Culbertson washed over the side and died attempting to save the boys." said Prei in 2009.
In 2009, this ceremony paid tribute to the missing boys plus Prei, Callahan and Culbertson.
Culbertson's story was researched by Coast Guard Reservist Kevin Rofidal.
"Rofidal's quest to find out more about the incident began when he found this plaque down by the piers." said reporter Dave Anderson in Duluth.
After nearly 40 years, the loss of the boys, the attempted rescue and the commemorative plaque had been nearly forgotten.
"I was out here on drill one weekend and somebody came up and asked me about it. I didn't know the story and I wanted to find out more." said Rofidal.
Since then, Petty Officer Rofidal has researched and paid tribute to other Coasties lost in action.
"Then Keith Brubaker up in Grand Marais that passed away also. The most recent was BMC Carl Gustafson that died off the Coast of New York."
Rofidal is a maritime enforcement specialist in the Coast Guard Reserve.
His history detective work is done on his own time.
"It's all side work. Nobody tasked me with it. Nobody asked me to do it."
But, the petty officer's volunteer work to memorialize lost shipmates through history caught the attention of his superiors.
On Saturday, Kevin Rofidal was named Reserve Enlisted Person of the Year for the Coast Guard's 9th District that covers all the Great Lakes.
He says researching long forgotten records for information is time consuming and tedious but others looking for information on their loved ones should persevere.
And, if that loved one is still alive, get their story laid down for history.
"Take the time and put a tape recorder down in front of them. Capture their story because they're not going to offer it up but almost every one of them will tell you their story." said Rofidal.
Rofidal feels that tip is especially important for those of us that have World War Two era people in our families.
"Not necessarily veterans but people from that generation and I still draw a lot of inspiration from them and that's what drives a lot of this."
In Duluth, Dave Anderson, KBJR 6 and Range 11.

When Kevin Rofidal isn't serving as a Coast Guard Reservist in Duluth, he's a police sergeant in Edina, Minnesota.