A guardian angel on Cecil Harvey's shoulder

“I think I’ve got a guardian angel on my shoulder,” Cecil Harvey says.

He just might be right.

Harvey should have been on the Daniel J. Morrell when it went down in November 1966, but fortune smiled at him.

“The winter of 1965, I got a job with the school district,” Harvey says. “When I got my appointment to go on the Morrell that spring, I called the company and told them I needed some time. They gave me some time.  My boss at the district said I was now full-time, not probationary, so I called the shipping company and told them I wouldn’t be back."

“I knew about 70% of the guys on the Morrell,” Harvey says. “One of my buddies, I sailed with him for 5, 6 years. He was from Marine City.”
Cecil Harvey on the S.S Maryland in 1959, where he worked as a Deck Watch.
The close scrape with the Morrell is just one of Harvey's encounters that goes with the territory of being a Great Lakes sailor for thirteen years. 

“One time,” Harvey says, “I was on deck checking the ballast when I was hit by lightning. I picked myself up, went downstairs, and told the mate I wouldn’t be working top side anymore that day.” 

Another time, Harvey recalled “We were in a bad storm. Waves were coming over, rolling down the deck. I was out there working and a wave came and hit me in the back, took me off my feet. If I wouldn’t have been spread-eagled and caught the railing, I would have washed overboard.”

After retiring from sailing, Harvey found a new talent after a visit to his niece in Flint.

“About 60 years ago, my wife and I were in Flint visiting my niece,” Harvey says. “She came out with a little chair, about six inches tall, made out of a pop can, and my wife looked at that and said, “I like that. I wish I had one of them.’

Cecil Harvey at the Senior Talent Show in February 2024 sharing art pieces he makes out of cans.

“I said well I got to get a beer now,” Harvey says. “So I started doing it way back then. Made couches, rocking chairs, all kinds of stuff for quite a while, and then I quit. Then about twenty years ago, I started doing it again just to have something to do.” 

Being a self-professed softball nut, Harvey would take his artistic creations to softball games and give them away, refusing money to the point of telling people that if they wanted to pay, they weren’t going to get one. 

“I made a locomotive once,” Harvey recalled, “and had it at my house. I belong to the Ruby Lions Club and one day, a guy stopped by and said he had to have a locomotive. In a couple of weeks, I gave him one and you’d have thought I gave him a million bucks.”

Harvey says he’s given away close to 500 lawn chairs. What he gets from giving away his art is something money can’t buy. 

“I enjoy giving the pieces to people, the looks on their faces,” Harvey says. “Also, it gives me something for one thing.  I have Parkinson’s but I still do it.  It’s good for me.”
Cecil Harvey volunteers for the Council on Aging by putting address labels on their newsletters.
Another thing going for Harvey is his second home, the Council on Aging. 

“I tell people you should come join the senior center,” Harvey says. “They’re so good; there are a lot of things to do here; I really praise this place.”

“The newsletters that go out, that’s my job,” Harvey says. “I put the names on the newsletters, once a month – 800 or so. To think I didn’t want to come down here at first. But I tried it once and been here ever since.”
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by John Lusk.

John Lusk taught composition and journalism at St. Clair County Community College level for over 30 years. Serving the Port Huron community and practicing the writing craft is his current focus. You may reach him at sutherlandforever@gmail.com.