HARBOR SPRINGS, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU)--Pat McKee is at home in a wood working shop. As a finish carpenter for Newberry Homes in Harbor Springs he can turn pieces of lumber into dramatic masterpieces. But when he isn't turning new wood into things like breathtaking staircases, he's turning old wood from a salvaged shipwreck into eye-catching pieces. "The wood itself is usually the ribs off the ships. They are solid oak, and they are heavier than heck. When they got a hole, they sank fast, they didn't last long, but the wood did, thank God" explains Pat.
The wood that Pat is so thankful for has a history. He has a small pile of what used to the Lark, a Great Lakes sailing vessel built in Cleveland during the Civil War. The boat sank near Leland in Leelanau County in 1872. It was buried in the sand until the Christmas Day Storm of 1978, when the wind and waves exposed the wreck. Pat filed paperwork with the state and legally salvaged what wood he could. He took the wood that had sat in Lake Michigan for decades to his workshop, where it sat for 4 more decades. "Looking at it all these years, I thought I have to start putting this stuff together, make it nice, make something out of it, it's a piece of Michigan history" explains Pat.
He decided to start turning those pieces of history into pieces of furniture and art. What he creates out of shipwreck wood is certainly collectible. And in the case of one of his larger pieces, it’s “donate-able.”
"I was in the living room and I saw this thing come on the TV, it was talking about The Gooden family in Leland" recalls Pat. He’s referring to Nate and Maggie Gooden who welcomed their daughter Clarabella into the world, 16 weeks premature. Their tiny baby weighing around a pound and engaged in a battle for her life since the moment it began.
"They were talking about this little baby they have and it just tore me up. I saw it and I thought how cool would it be if something from that town could come back 40 years later and help somebody out there, and I thought perfect" says Pat. He made a connection. There was a family in Leland needing a little financial help while they care for their daughter at a downstate hospital, while at the same time, he had a piece of Leland's past that he could donate to be auctioned off to help them. It was a project that took countless hours of Pat's time to create, but only a second of his time to decide to donate it.
Standing next to the clock he’s donating, he knows where it belongs. "It is such a great piece of history, that's where I think it should go, help those people and go to that town" explains Pat.
Pat McKee knows his way around a workshop, but he doesn't know the Gordon's. He’s never met them. He simply heard their story. It tugged at his heart so he found a way he could help. “I would love to meet them, but that's beside the point, as long as I get this done for them, that's the important part” says Pat.
The auction ends at midnight on March 17th. To get in touch with Pat regarding his donation or to place a bid, you can email him by clicking here or call him at 231-409-4023.