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Columnist
Rehabilitation isn't always smooth sailing, but the effort is there
By Burt Constable | Daily Herald Columnist

Viking ship in Geneva..

 

Rick West | Staff Photographer, 2008

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Published: 6/24/2010 12:00 AM

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That old line about a boat being a hole in the water into which you pour money couldn't be more wrong in the case of the neat, old Viking ship on display Saturday in Geneva. The people pouring money into that vessel know the Viking ship will never be a hole on the water again. They just want to keep it whole on dry land for future generations to admire and study.

"A proper building could display it with its mast up," Lorrain Straw, president of the "Friends of the Viking Ship," says dreamily as she imagines the 118-year-old ship restored to its original glory. "But that's a long way off."

Built in 1892 by a Norwegian shipyard following the design of a 9th Century Viking warship that was unearthed in the 1880s, the 75-foot, 28-ton wooden "Viking" sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in time for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. After the expo, the ship sailed down the Mississippi River to New Orleans as the first leg of a trek that was scheduled to end with a spot in the Smithsonian collection in Washington, D.C. But things didn't work out as planned. The ship returned to Chicago and was tied to a dock when a freakish rainstorm did something the Atlantic could not.

"It was one of those gully washers," Straw says, noting the Viking's crew hadn't prepared for all the rain on the deck. "She sank in the Chicago River near Randolph Street."

Quickly pumped back to the surface, the boat spent the next century poorly stored in less than ideal conditions, including a long stretch at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Private donations and a grant request written by Liz Safanda of Preservation Partners of the Fox Valley resulted in a $52,000 grant from the American Express Foundation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation that stabilized the ship, Straw says. Ship supporters are constantly seeking new grants and donations, she adds.

"Clearly the ship has to be in a museum, in a temperature-controlled environment," says Naperville attorney David Nordin, chairman of the maintenance committee for the ship, which is open to school field trips and scheduled tours.

Adults ($10) and children (free) can tour the ship between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday at the Swedish Cottage Walk & Viking Ship tour at Good Templar Park, 528 East Side Drive, in Geneva. For more information about the ship, visit the website www.vikingship.us.

•••

Rehabilitation for Prospect Heights native and Stars & Stripes war correspondent Kevin Dougherty is coming along much faster. The 49-year-old Dougherty is rehabbing from broken legs, a broken wrist, a fractured skull, head trauma and other injuries he received when he was stuck by a car April 28 while walking along a rural stretch of Illinois Highway 64 west of Rockford.

Dougherty was making good on a boyhood plan to walk across America in honor of a friend who died of cancer. He walked from Maine to Prospect Heights in 1990, took off two decades to work, marry and be father to his 14-year-old daughter, and had just restarted his journey when the accident happened. Dougherty says he doesn't think about the accident or any lawsuits that may come of it, concentrating instead on getting strong enough to walk again.

A reporter on the battlefronts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Kosovo, Bosnia and other hot spots during his career, Dougherty refuses to feel sorry for himself.

"While I'm lying on that mat for therapy doing leg lifts or whatever and it really hurts, it sounds corny, but I think of the soldiers," Dougherty says. "Some of them are missing a limb or two. I'm lucky. I'm happy to be here."

Messages for Dougherty can be sent to the East Bank Center, 6131 Park Ridge Road, Loves Park, IL 61111-4098.