A Father's Legacy
Updated: Jan 23
By Hayley Brown, daughter of Capt. Joe Nickerson
On Thursday, January 23, 2020 Joe Nickerson and his crew, Chris Pinkham perished at sea.
We live in a place where it is not uncommon to know someone who is in the commercial fishing industry. We hear stories from time to time of tragic events that happen, but they always happen to someone else, it never happens to us directly. Until one day, it does and you're left dealing with a tragedy that seems more like a movie plot than real life.
I remember vividly the day the coast guard called my mom and informed her they were searching for the F/V Hayley Ann. I don’t imagine I will be forgetting that day anytime soon.
Many of the details regarding the incident were rather public, something I look at as a ‘blessing in disguise’ as I didn’t feel the need to explain what happened to anyone. People ask questions because not everyone has a connection with the industry.
There is so much I know my dad was willing to share with me but I just never listened. I regret that now.
Growing up I never thought twice about what my dad did for a living. It was normal, I thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I began to realize just how dangerous fishing is, but with the years of experience Dad had under his belt, why would I start to be concerned now? He fished on boats out of Dutch Harbor, Alaska - isn’t that basically Deadliest Catch? My dad survived that, no way anything was going to take him or the Hayley Ann down. I thought of Dad’s accomplishments as a superpower, even into adulthood.
I think stunned is the best way to describe my grief initially. I still struggle trying to comprehend this new reality. I can’t remember much about the days after we received the news -- moments that occurred here and there but it is mostly a blur. I remember trying so hard to stay strong for my mom. To this day I want nothing more than to take away her pain.
As an only child, we were a very close family. I loved spending time with my mom and dad even into adulthood. My dad was one of my best friends. Any problem I had no matter how small or insignificant he could “rig something up” and fix it.
I have felt a lot of guilt because I was able to have him around my entire childhood, but I know my son won’t have that opportunity. I feel my son has lost the opportunity to have the most amazing “Pampy” (That's what my son calls him.).
I struggle each day as my mind tries to play out the scenario of that day. I am haunted thinking of what he had to endure.