by Sandy Gholston - May 4, 2010
Writing about some of the largest and most legendary shipwrecks that have taken place on Michigan's Great Lakes has proven to be a labor of love that has been both rewarding and challenging for Ferris State University Professor of Languages and Literature and author Andy Kantar.
Recently, Kantar made local headlines and enjoyed an appearance on the Ferris State Live television show to discuss his book, Deadly Voyage: The S.S. Daniel J. Morrell Tragedy, released in 2009 through Michigan State University Press. The book was an especially popular topic throughout the month of April in and around the Big Rapids area. Extending beyond the classroom, Kantar is indicative of the talent and skill of Ferris faculty as illustrated by the painstaking research it took to tell the story of Hale and the Morrell.
As part of the Mecosta County "One Book, One County Reads" program, Kantar had a unique opportunity to discuss his book with a man who knows the story of the Morrell as well or better than anyone: the ship's sole survivor, Dennis Hale, a 26-year-old watchman at the time of the 1966 wreck.
In the case of the Morrell, the history lives on through Dennis Hale.
Kantar and Hale had a unique opportunity to discuss the book with audiences in Mecosta County and did so to rave reviews as they toured the area to share the experience as a duo. The labor of love, that helped produce the book, had a long and lasting impact on Kantar, who described in vivid details the powerful emotions he experiences as he hears some of the harrowing tales from those who experienced the shipwrecks and from those who lost loved ones in tragedies. The impact has lasted long after he closed the final chapter of his book.
Writing Deadly Voyage: The S.S. Daniel J. Morrell Tragedy, had a particularly strong impact as Kantar got to know Hale and learned what is inside of him and about what it took for him to survive that horrifying shipwreck.
"It had a profound effect on me. While I was writing the book, it affected me emotionally and psychologically to the point where I woke up gasping for air with nightmares of drowning," said Kantar, who has been employed at Ferris since 1986 and serves as director of the Writing Center. "I had this recurring nightmare here I was driving with my family in this car where we came upon these vast expansive black waters at night and the car starts filling up with water and I don't know what to do. But, the bottom line here is I can wake up from my nightmare."
Kantar's first two books were 29 Missing: The True and Tragic Story of the Disappearance of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, a 1998 book that was a Read Michigan Selection, and Black November (a 2006 book which chronicles the history of the Carl D. Bradley), a finalist for the ForeWord Book of the Year Award (young adult nonfiction). All three of Kantar's books have been published by Michigan State University Press.
Kantar earned his bachelor's and master's degrees as well as his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Beyond his work as a writer of books geared toward young adults, Kantar also has served as a Fulbright Scholar in Norway for two years and was a 2006 recipient of the University's Award for Academic Excellence.