Hello, my name is Dave Kavanagh and I am the president and founder of the Sun Ship Historical Society. I wanted to take this opportunity to both introduce myself and my personal experience at the Yard and to explain the goals associated with the establishment of the website and the historical society.
I grew up in Sun Village in the City of Chester, PA, in the shadow of Sun Ship, and attended St Michaels and St. Roberts (now St.Katherine Drexel) grade schools and graduated from St. James High School and have had the good fortune to maintain friendships from that time of my life. Unfortunately, St. Michaels and St. James, like the Yard, have all closed.
My first job after graduating from St. James High School in June of 1964 was at Sun Ship thanks to a gentlemen from Sun Village (Chester, PA) named Harry Larkin. I started as an electrician's helper in 33 Dept, Electrical Installation working in ship engine rooms under Mike Fasano and Tony Pelligrino. In Sept of 1964 I obtained an electrical apprenticeship thanks to Foreman, Emil Rohne, which included spending 2 years on the "Boats" and 2 years in Plant Electrical Maintenance. At the end of my apprenticeship, I worked in Electrical Crane Repair under Supervisor, Nick Foreacre and then was promoted to 'Leader' for Electrical Maintenance on 3rd Shift under Superintendent,Joe Rusak, then to 2nd Shift under Superintendent Bob Martin, Asst' Supt. Whitey Sellers and Asst' Foreman Al McCann and finally back to First Shift as an Asst' Foreman under Foreman, Bob Uhl in Electrical Facilities. I returned to Electrical Maintenance as Asst' Foreman under Foreman Bill Martin and Assistant Foreman, Bill Walls. Eventually, I became Foreman of Electrical Maintenance under General Foremans, Dick Bible and later, Ron Anderson and was later promoted to General Foreman of Plant Maintenance under Superintendent Roger Bligh and later, Dick Bible, being responsible for 33M (Elect.Maint), 34M (Pipe Maint), 73(Garage), 74(Tool Rm.), 76 (Transportation), 81(Labor & Bricklayers), 83 (Power House), 84 (Mech.Maint) and 95 (Heat Plant & Yard Patrol) Departments.
When Sun Ship became Penn Ship in Feb. of 1982, I became Superintendent of the Plant and left the Yard in May of 1982. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that were offered to me during my time at the Yard. Most important for me however is the relationships and memories that I keep from my 18 years at Sun Ship.
The website www.sunship.org was started in 2001 and the Sun Ship Historical Society in 2004. Both, to honor Sun Ship,it's employees and many accomplishments throughout its 66 year history. 2007, was the 25th anniversary of the acquiring of the Yard by a Texas shipbuilding company and being renamed Penn Ship and 2016 was the 100th Anniversary of the establishment of Sun Shipbuilding Company.
First: through the website's 'Guestbook', we wanted to offer an opportunity for past employees a means to
contact friends and associates and possibly renew old acquaintances from their time at the Yard.
Third, to establish a means of acquiring and displaying artifacts associated with the Yard so those interested in
the history of Sun Ship can review many of the Yard's accomplishments and take pride in their contribution
to the Yard's many successes.
The Sun Ship Historical Society's mission statement encompasses the following tasks:
Second: develop a resource where individuals, either past employees, relatives of employees or individuals
doing research on the Yard, could at their leisure, review the yard's history and accomplishments.
Page updated on 01/23/2017
My Personal History at Sun Ship
SSHS Mission Statement
During my Sun Ship research, I reviewed many books looking for facts and sentiments that I feel are pertinent to the history of our yard and our ships. In this process I have found, upon occasion, words written by others that express my thoughts intimately and, in my opinion, could not be improved upon. I came across the following paragraphs and thought they are so appropriate to both the building and the sea-life of our ships, that they needed to be included in our history..
In reference to those paragraphs, while I cannot claim experience to 'Man-the-Seafarer' I feel that my 18 years at Sun Ship and the many years of researching the glorious history of the Yard and her ships, has qualified me in some fashion, to be associated with 'Man-the-Shipbuilder'. Every day, I am grateful for the place in my heart, set aside for our yard, the shipbuilders, our ships and their seafarers. Dave Kavanagh
A Ship's Life: From Launching to End:
"The launching of a ship, be she a twelve-foot dinghy, ocean-going liner or great battleship, is a solemn occasion.
At this moment the future looms nearer, unseen but not unfelt; and pride of workmanship becomes humbled
before the immensity of the challenge to mighty elements and a fate beyond man's control.
Man-the-Builder has toiled for days, months or even years to shape this new and shining tool. Now it is to be committed to the sea, to a hidden destiny; and Man-the-Seafarer must put forth in her to test the mystery of oceans and to give her the life for which she has been cunningly made.
No one can tell if that life will be short or long, a maiden voyage wreck or years of tramping the seas to an honorable discharge in the shipbreakers yard.
Men may die for her or because of her, others may become rich or ruined through her and great issues may hang upon the seamanship of her crew or the strength of her keel."
Note: These words were borrowed from Peter Shankland and Anthony Hunter's fabulous book 'Malta Convoy',
published in 1961, which, in part, describes the critical role our tanker 'Ohio' played in the success of that
convoy in World War II. Please see our page on S.S. 'Ohio' Hull 190 in our Ships-of-Sun Ship series.