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Family remembers man killed in shipwreck

David Holl holds up a plaque commemorating his uncle, George Holl, who died on the SS Edmund Fitzgerald when it sank in Lake Superior.

The haunting lyrics and mournful melody of a ballad that hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts in the fall of 1976 continues to tell the tale of a 45-year-old tragedy that involved a Butler County native.

George Holl, who was born and raised in the Marwood neighborhood of Winfield Township, had planned to retire in September 1975 as the chief engineer on the lake freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald, but decided to wait until January, so he could retire alongside his captain and friend, Ernest McSorley.

That decision would cost Holl, 60, his life.

Holl and 28 other crew members succumbed to the icy water of Lake Superior on Nov. 10, 1975, when the 728-foot Fitzgerald sank 17 miles from Whitefish Point, Mich., in an epic storm as it hauled 26,000 tons of iron ore from Superior, Wisc., to Detroit.

The sinking would have been all but forgotten by those not in mourning for the crew of the ship had singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot not seen an article in Newsweek magazine about the event.

A portion of this story is shared with you as a digital media exclusive. To read the full story and support our local, independent newsroom, please subscribe at butlereagle.com.

George Holl with his sister-in-law Ruth, who is David Holl’s mother, on her wedding day.Submitted photo