402. The Spirit of Ludington

The Spirit of Ludington

This sculpture was commissioned to honor the memory of Charles Conrad who loved his hometown of Ludington and treasured his family’s generational experience working on the car ferries of Ludington. His father served as Chief Engineer, his father-in-law was a First Mate and as a young man Charles followed that family heritage as a Purser for on the car ferry.

Charles left Ludington in his early 20’s and started a number of businesses during his lifetime. The last business he started was Thermotron Corporation in Holland, Michigan which eventually had 500 employees. After selling the business he retired briefly.

But Charles’ heart always seemed to be in Ludington. When Charles heard the car ferries were going to shut down he was immediately determined to make certain that did not happen. Charles bought the car ferries out of bankruptcy in 1992 at the age of 75. He invested a large sum of money to ascertain that he would get the S.S. Badger operating again. Charles switched the mission of the car ferries from transporting railroad cars to transporting passengers which proved to be successful. He was proven right in that the S.S. Badger was and is critical to the economies of the Ludington region and Manitowoc, Wisconsin region. Charles believed that saving and restarting the car ferries was one of his greatest achievements and he believed he was proven right.

As Charles would have wanted it, this sculpture recognizes and celebrates all sailors, past, present and yet to come and especially those who have sailed out of the Port of Ludington. In its truest sense, this is a tribute to maritime heritage and its economic and symbolic importance to Ludington.

Born in Norway, artist Kristen Kokkin now lives in Colorado. She created the commemorative statue of the late HRH Crown Prince Martha of Norway that was presented as a gift from the United States to the citizens of Norway to celebrate Norway’s Centennial Celebration. The United States was the first country in 1905 to acknowledge Norway’s sovereign status.