My long-time friend Carroll Vogel passed away this 4th of July weekend, a victim of prostate cancer the same cruel disease that took the life of my other close friend, the great Robert Hunter in 2005.
I went to visit Carroll a week before his death at the hospice at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkwood, Washington. I held his hand and was surprised at the strength of his grip and the sparkle still twinkling in his eye. He was a man at peace with his fate and though his body was rapidly fading, his mind remained strong and his sense of humour, still very much in evidence.
Its very hard thing to see a good friend die and Carroll had been my close friend for nearly three decades, since 1981, when he first volunteered as my chief engineer on the Sea Shepherd II when we had docked in Seattle after our return from a campaign to defend whales in Soviet Siberia.
Carroll had commanded the engine room on numerous voyages including the long trip down the West coast through the Panama Canal in 1983 and up to Newfoundland to blockade the Canadian sealing fleet in St. John's harbour.
Back then being a Sea Shepherd engineer was much different than now. We were very poor and keeping the engines running without spare parts and proper tools was a difficult task and one that only a resourceful engineer like Carroll could have pulled off. And he did so brilliantly, keeping the old British built slow turning diesel chugging along through Northern sub-arctic ice fields and tropical waters for thousands upon thousands of miles.
When not crewing onboard a Sea Shepherd ship Carroll ran a nonprofit (Student Conservation Society) for young people from the inner city or who were handicapped to come to the wilderness to build trails and bridges in national parks. He then went on to establish his own bridge building company Sahale, and I was proud to have invested in the seed money to get it off the ground. He leaves that company behind along with a legacy of one hundred incredible bridges constructed around the world, each one a work of art. Some of these beautiful bridges can be seen at the company website at www.Sahale.com.
Carroll was also a folk singer and a skilled musician whose talent with the guitar, cello, violin and mandolin was much appreciated by friends and shipmates. I remember his playing during my fortieth birthday on Orcas Island and around campfires in the Washington mountains.
Carroll's house in Seattle was always a place for Sea Shepherd crew to stay and when Sea Shepherd volunteers needed a job, Carroll would sometimes put them to work in the mountains and forests making trails and building bridges.
Carroll last sailed with us in 1998 when we defended the Gray whales at Neah Bay, Washington and he was a longtime director of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Carroll married environmental engineer Jennifer Knauer and they had three children. The eldest, Skye, is my God-daughter.
And although raising a family and building a construction company did not allow him to return to sea with us, he became a Sea Shepherd director and his business skills were a great asset to us. We also called him the dragon slayer because when we needed to remove a difficult crewmember or staff member, in other words to fire someone, Carroll did it with a firm and calm dignity that we all admired.
Over the years I came to know Carroll's family very closely, his parents, his brother and sister, his wife and children. They were, and are in many ways my family also.
I will always cherish the joy in Carroll's eye when he proudly brought me to one of his bridges to explain the construction and the challenges. He was a man who loved life, loved nature, loved his family, loved his friends and defended all with an amazing strength of character.
Fifty-five is a young age to depart this life and especially difficult when leaving three young children and a loving wife behind.
Here was a man with a passion for nature and adventure blazing in his heart who took on impossible missions and fulfilled them. His love for this planet, for his family and for life was clearly evident in his volunteerism, his constructions, his music and his relationships with friends and family.
He was my most passionate engineer and never hesitated to sail with us into harm's way to protect seals, whales, dolphins and fish.
His last words to me were, "it's all a continuum Paul, we are recycled and life continues and in this way we never really die!"
I will miss him very much.
Carroll Vogel wrote this dedication to the Drift Creek Bridge in memory of his friend Scott Paul in 1998. Much of what Carroll said of Scott Paul is relevant to Carroll's own life and passions.