1 year after tragic sinking, St. Lawrence marks anniversary with memorials to those lost at sea

The heartache is still as fresh as it was one year ago for Kerri Lynn Kettle.

Kettle lost her husband, Isaac Kettle, when the fishing vessel Sarah Anne sank off St. Lawrence in May 2020. Now, she’s raising two little boys on her own.

“It’s been a living nightmare. We are slowly getting through it,” said Kettle.

Three other men from the community lost their lives when the crab fishing vessel went down on May 25, 2020: skipper Eddie Joe Norman, 67; his son, Scott Norman, 35; and his nephew, Jody Norman, 42.

What makes things even harder for Kerri Lynn Kettle is that her husband wasn’t even a commercial fisherman. Isaac Kettle, 33, had been working as a driller at a gold mine in Ontario.

He was back in Newfoundland and had just finished pandemic isolation when he decided he’d like to go out on the water, to help his buddies and see what crab fishing was all about. 

Kerri Lynn Kettle describes her husband Isaac as a doting father who adored his children and spent as much time with them as he could. (Submitted by Kerri Lynn Kettle)

“That really killed me because he didn’t need to be out there. But he went just because that’s the type of person he was. He just wanted to help everyone else out,” said Kettle.

When the four men didn’t return to the wharf when they were due, on May 25, their friend Brian Drake issued a mayday and took part in the ensuing search.

“I was hoping, at the time, that we were just going to go out and they were going to be broken down and Ed was going to go off the head at me for calling the coast guard,” said Drake. “But, the farther we got out, we realized there was something wrong.”

There was no sign of the vessel. The next day around 4 a.m., searchers found the body of skipper Eddie Joe Norman. Soon after, they also recovered the bodies of Scott and Jody Norman. Isaac Kettle was still nowhere to be found. 

“I had 12 days of waiting, wondering, fighting,” said Kerri Lynn Kettle. “It was exhausting, mentally, physically, emotionally.”

A memorial now stands in Doughboy Cove where fishermen discovered the body of Isaac Kettle. (Submitted by Kerri Lynn Kettle)

On June 6, fishermen from Arnold’s Cove discovered what would be confirmed to be Isaac Kettle’s body on a beach in Doughboy’s Cove.

“It was just like a thousand pounds was lifted right off my shoulders,” said his wife. “It was the best, worst day of my life. It was so relieving, just knowing that he was finally coming home to us.”

Kerri Lynn Kettle says she feels grateful that her family has a place they can gather to remember Isaac.

In Doughboy’s Cove, they’ve set up a cross. Isaac was a trusted member of the local volunteer fire department, so on a small platform on the beach, they’ve placed a pair of his bright yellow rubber boots. He was also an avid hunter, so at this waterside memorial, there’s a colourful painting of a moose.

Kerri Lynn Kettle and her husband Isaac had been together for 18 years. They hadn’t even celebrated their second wedding anniversary before he died. They had two boys together. Luke is now 10 and Sam is seven. (Submitted by Kerri Lynn Kettle)

Friends and family plan to travel to the cove this year and camp overnight, on the anniversary of the discovery of Isaac’s body. 

“It’s just our own little piece of happiness in such a sad time,” said Kettle. 

While the Transportation Safety Board investigates what happened, back in St. Lawrence there are plans for a special place to remember the fishermen of the Sarah Anne and others in the community who lost their lives on the water.

Kerri Lynn’s mother, Amy Doyle, is raising money for a fishermen’s memorial on the beach, looking straight out across the harbour.

“Water is not our best friend, but the waves are soothing,” she said.

Doyle says it’s been heartwarming to see her community support her daughter and the families of the fishermen who were lost. 

They’ve been getting calls from across the province, across Canada and the United States. Doyle says some donors have also lost loved ones to the sea.

“We pray every day for every boat that we see going out on the water that they come home safe and hope and pray it never happens again,” said Doyle.

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