The Port of Paducah (Ky.) Propeller Club celebrated National Maritime Day with an awards ceremony and the memorial laying of a wreath on May 20 at the Seamen’s Church Institute’s Center for Maritime Education.
The day included a proclamation, read by Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Wilson, officially marking the occasion in the city of Paducah and noting the river industry’s importance to the city and the region.
While other clubs have chapters, the International Propeller Club has ports, Port of Paducah Propeller Club President Caleb King said. The Paducah port has 125 members representing 68 different organizations. It was founded in 1943.
One of the people who helped shepherd Paducah’s port through those early days was Bob Day, who has been associated with it for the past 61 years, King said. Day served two terms as president, in 1966-67 and 1972-73, and still chairs the golf committee. The Port of Paducah honored Day during the ceremony with its Lifetime Achievement Award. King said Day is critically important to the organization and “has left a tremendous impression here on the industry in Paducah.” He also credited him with helping the club to move forward without losing its focus.
Sonny Smith, former International Propeller Club president, presented King with the Port Person of the Year Award in connection with King’s work, on behalf of the club, to gain a resolution in the Kentucky legislature supporting the Jones Act and recognizing its 100th anniversary. King testified before the legislature in support of the resolution.
Smith noted that when looking at King’s resume, the amount of experience stands out so much “you would assume he is 85.”
That experience includes King being senior operating manager for the Towing Vessel Inspection Bureau, servicing 80 towing companies that operate 998 towing vessels; eight years of active duty in the Coast Guard and more than 15 years as a reservist; along with being a Propeller Club board member for three years, followed by vice president for two years and president for five years. King also has been involved with The American Waterways Operators for more than 20 years and, outside the industry, is involved in radio broadcasts of high school sports in Marshall, Lyon and McCracken counties.
“Caleb is a proven leader in his family, his profession, his church and his community,” Smith said.
Additionally, he noted prolonged service to the club during and following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Holding this club together during the last three years during the COVID pandemic has not been an easy task, and Caleb has done a super job of that,” he said.
King also has helped steer the club in helping at the local level, including providing some funding for student uniforms for a high school Junior ROTC program, for a children’s Christmas event for the Paducah Coast Guard units and for a club social at Paducah’s baseball stadium that helped support the Paducah Chiefs team.
Rep. Randy Bridges was named the port’s Maritime Person of the Year in recognition of his sponsorship of the Kentucky Jones Act resolution in the Kentucky House of Representatives. Bridges represents House District 3, serving Livingston County and a portion of McCracken County, including parts of Paducah.
“Randy has made very purposeful efforts to learn about our industry,” King noted.
Bridges remarked that the inland marine industry was one of the “sleeping giants that you never hear anything about.”
Kentucky has the fifth highest number of navigable inland waterway miles in the country, he said.
“It’s such an important and vital part of our community,” he said, adding that it is his mission to bring attention to the river industry.
“I just can’t tell you enough how honored I am,” Bridges said.
Wilson also presented Bridges with the Duke of Paducah award, the city’s highest award. Both King and Bridges were named Kentucky Colonels, a state award, and Sen. Rand Paul’s field representative, Christina Peterson, presented them both with letters from the senator recognizing their contributions.
Lori Wasbutsky, the club’s vice president and scholarship committee chairwoman, presented two $1,500 college scholarships, which went to Breece Mohon of Mayfield High School and Zakary Morgan of McCracken County High School.
Rev. David Shirk, the Paducah-based chaplain for Seamen’s Church Institute, closed with prayer, thanking God for the merchant mariners who make our way of life possible in this country and remembering those who have lost their lives over the past year.
“What they do is so dangerous and so challenging that sometimes it takes the whole sacrifice to serve us,” he said.
He also asked for blessings on their families before the laying of a red, white and blue memorial wreath and the playing of “Taps.”
Caption for photo: Rep. Randy Bridges (right) received the Maritime Person of the Year award from Port of Paducah Propeller Club President Caleb King. King was presented with the club’s Port Person of the Year award. Both men were instrumental in the Kentucky legislature passing a Jones Act resolution. (Photo by Shelley Byrne)