Cordova Chronicles: Flying forget-me-nots

On May 12, in flower beds alongside Cordova Community Medical Center, local gardener Sharon Ermold and USCG pilot Lt. Scott Kellerman discuss which forget-me-nots he would like to helicopter back to Kodiak. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times

Spring is in the air, and Cordova gardening enthusiasts have been out in full force to take advantage of the first plant sales of the season.

On May 8, Sharon Ermold, a local gardener well known for her green thumb, was among those looking over the many choices spread out in a pop-up sale at Pioneer Square on Adams Avenue.

She noticed a pair of unfamiliar shoppers who seemed befuddled by all the options and offered to help them find what they were after.

It turns out the duo was looking for forget-me-nots, which they had been unable to find in Homer or Kodiak.

Surprised by the breadth of their search, Ermold discovered they were flight crew members from the USCG Mile 13 Air Station. They were about to finish a two-week rotation here before heading back to Kodiak, and were on an unusual mission on behalf of Lt. Scott Kellerman, their helicopter pilot.

Sharon, always an ambassador for our Friendly City, mentioned that it was unlikely that forget-me-nots would be found at plant sales, as they grow so profusely as to be regarded as somewhat of a nuisance.

However, she mentioned that she would be happy to offer them some growths of Alaska’s state flower if they would drop by the planters along the sides of the Cordova Community Medical Center.

On May 12, near the entrance to Cordova Community Medical Center, USCG rescue helicopter pilot Scott Kellerman is delighted to accept several forget-me-not plants from gardener Sharon Ermold. They were flown back to Kodiak Air Station the following day. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times

She and Mary Britt had been busy doing volunteer work there, and the petite blue flowers were quite plentiful. With military precision, the Coast Guard duo showed up right on time the next day, and graciously accept the starters.

It turns out Lt. Kellerman’s search was on behalf of his wife Sheila, who wanted something Alaskan in the large flower beds of their home at Kodiak Air Station.

Lt. Kellerman was so impressed when his crew presented their bounty that he decided to ask gardener First Class Ermold if he could garner some more.

Certainly space would not be an issue on the massive Sikorsky Jayhawk H-60 Rescue Helicopter on its three-hour, 305-mile flight back to Kodiak. After all, it has a lift capacity of 9,000 pounds.

Kellerman, a Navy Academy graduate with over 3,000 hours of airtime under his belt, met up with Sharon outside the CCMC clinic on May 12.

He was quite impressed with the gardens and chatted about his military experiences. He had served in an exchange program with Canadian units, and his wife, from western Canada, was a skate-ski instructor. He said she would love not only the forget-me-nots, but also Cordova’s vast cross-country terrain, which is hard to find in Kodiak.

On May 13, Lt. Scott Kellerman gives a thumbs-up from the cockpit of his Jayhawk helicopter as he passes over Cordova carrying forget-me-nots from the Cordova Community Medical Center gardens bound to Kodiak. Photo courtesy of Lt. Scott Kellerman

During the tour, Ermold explained that the gardening and landscaping around the hospital was done by many volunteers, with the Hospital Auxiliary purchasing the plants and supplies, and the CCMC maintenance crew taking care of the grounds about the facility.

She and Lt. Kellerman discussed various flowers, and she also mentioned the hospital landing pad for rescue helicopters in the background.

She expressed how grateful Cordova is for the USCG presence here. And while handing over more forget-me-nots, noted that a few such flowers were the least that could be shared as a gesture of appreciation.

So how appropriate Cordova forget-me-nots went flying to Kodiak on a USCG helicopter the next day.

The USCG motto is “Semper Paratus”, which translates into “Always Ready.”

Which really means, when called upon for help, they never forget.

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Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and 2020, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes. Reach him at shorn@gci.net.