Veterans fishing outing canceled for first time

One of the organizers of 47-year-old event said she cried when decision was made to forego event because of virus

A GROUP OF happy fishermen at the 2018 Disabled Veterans Fishing Outing showed off their catch. For the first time in the outing’s 47 years, this year’s event has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Press file photo
Ozaukee Press staff

For the first time in its 47 year history, the annual Disabled Veterans Fishing Outing in Port Washington has been canceled.

“I cried after we reached the decision,” Mary Schuknecht, a member of the organizing committee, said. “I know how much the veterans look forward to this, and the volunteers look forward to it as much as the vets. But it’s for everyone’s safety.

“We’re going to keep our options open. We’ll revisit it when we know how things are turning out, and maybe we’ll be able to have a cookout or picnic later in the season or in fall.”

The event, traditionally held on the third Wednesday in June, was canceled due to the coronavirus, Schuknecht said, noting the decision was made by the organizing committee after consulting with the Veterans Administration Hospital staff, she said.

“It’s for everyone’s safety,” Schuknecht said, noting most of the veterans who come to the outing and the volunteers who stage it are among the most vulnerable to Covid-19, as are many of the volunteers.

Never before has the outing been canceled, said Schuknecht, who has been a volunteer with the outing for 43 years. 

The closest they’ve come was in 1996, when the city flooded and the event had to be held a week later than normal, she said. 

“In the 47 years we’ve held it, if they couldn’t get out they still came up (to Port) and had a picnic,” Schuknecht said.  

“If it was bad weather and they couldn’t fish, we’d still play bingo and cards and cribbage. They were disappointed but they were happy to be out of the hospital for the day.”

Organizers had already ordered event caps for the veterans to wear and others to purchase, Schuknecht said. These will be distributed to the veterans.

The remainder will be sold for $10 each at the marina, area taverns, Drew’s True Value and other local shops when these businesses are open again, she said, noting the sales help pay for the veterans’ caps.

The Disabled Veterans Fishing Outing — which is commonly referred to as “The Nicest Day in Port Washington” — was founded by Tom McQuaid, a Port fishing captain who was seriously burned in an explosion on his boat. The community rallied around him as he recuperated at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, and McQuaid vowed he would host his fellow veterans for a fishing outing.

That next year, in 1973, with help from Charlie Graham and Wayne Horman, McQuaid took out a handful of veterans and it quickly grew from there.

The outing regularly draws 60 to 100 veterans — male and female of all age groups who have a variety of disabilities and have served in the military from World War II to the current war on terrorism.

It takes about 200 volunteers — everyone from elementary schoolchildren who make table decorations to high school athletes who help load wheelchair-bound veterans onto boats to fellow veterans —to put on the fishing outing.

The day includes not just the fishing outing but lunch at the Van Ells-Schanen American Legion Hall, aka Inventors BrewPub.

Prizes are awarded for the largest lake trout, rainbow trout, coho salmon and king salmon caught, and the fish are then smoked at Ewig Bros. Volunteers then deliver the fish to the VA hospital, where they’re served to everyone there.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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