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Mariners honored at annual ceremony

BY LAUREL BLACKlblack@paducahsun.com

Figures in the river industry flooded Maiden Alley Cinema on Saturday for the International Propeller Club Port of Paducah's celebration of National Maritime Day, which recognized two people for their accomplishments in the inland marine towing industry and honored deceased mariners.

Stan Knight, senior health and safety coordinator at AEP River Operations, was named Port Person of the Year, while Capt. Frank Johnson, senior vessel operations manager at Ingram Barge Company, was named Maritime Person of the Year.

"Receiving this award was very humbling," Johnson said after the ceremony. "A lot of great people have been recognized with this award in the past."

Johnson started his career in the river industry as a deckhand in 1971. He transitioned to shore side duties in 2002 and now oversees Ingram's daily operations on the Mississippi River system. In his introduction of Johnson, John Operle described the captain as a committed man who knows the lower river like the back of his hand.

Knight boasts a long record of service with the Propeller Club Board of Governors, where he is past president. His initiatives include organizing the Paint the Drains Environmental Awareness effort in downtown Paducah. He was described as a man who always keeps a list, maintains a clean desk and uses a level to hang pictures.

"I hate hanging pictures," he told the full house at Maiden Alley as he accepted his award.

But in all seriousness, "It's a great honor," he said. "It's easy if you surround yourself with a bunch of great people."

City Commissioner Carol Gault proclaimed May 17 to be Maritime Day and recognized the men as Dukes of Paducah. Michael Pape, a district director for U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, stood in for the congressman to thank the merchant mariners and speak about the economic importance of the river industry.  

"The maritime industry in this state alone is worth $2.7 billion annually," he said.

The event concluded at the Paducah riverfront with a wreath-laying ceremony by the U.S. Coast Guard in honor of mariners who have passed away. Paducah Tilghman High School freshman Ariana Munday played Taps during the ceremony.

Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.

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