Unbuilding the Grace and Pearman Bridges

For Sparky and myself, curiosity drives passion which in turn fuels our life's engine. Our passion was capturing the story of both unbuilding the Grace (1929 - 2007) and Pearman (1966 - 2007) Bridges and discovering the unbuilders. It takes a lot of passion to track a project from July 2005 until April 2007 - rain, shine, hurricanes or moving to Singapore. We discovered the joy of discovery learning. Ken Canty opened the front door for us - then Steve Testa, Ponch Billingsley and Mickey Rogers opened many side doors. Below are the highlights of what we discovered, who we met and what we learned.

And a reminder from T.S. Eliot (East Coker from the Four Quartets)

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

April 1, 2006:
Cooper River Bridge Run

It all started in Mt. Pleasant - the annual Cooper River Bridge Run. And what a memory for me. When Ellen and I first moved to Charleston, we lived in a small kitchen house attached to Bob and Benita Schlau's home. As good fortune would have it - Sparky renovated Bob's first home. Then I discovered that not only were Bob and Benita world class runners, but that Benita was a major part of the annual bridge run. So a big thanks to Bob and Benita for their introduction to the brige run.

Here is the start

and the serious runners

and real runners

and the walkers

But this is also a story about Sparky Witte and his family - here with Liza and Sparky 2 and Liza's husband, Matthew. Lets watch them walk the race course

Here is the family and the Ravenel Bridge - the virus that infected me with this passion to track the building process and brought many many new friends

and here is the back span about one year ago

And, surprise, here is Pio and Richie with Sparky's family

A view of what remains of Pio's legacy - the base of Grace

High up on the Grace is Chucky and another ironworker. Like Jack Foley and Michael Hebb and their sun glasses, you can always identify Chucky Squires by the tight wrap of his jeans at his boots. No loose clothing to snag anything!

Another view of Chucky, a piece of the Pearman and the Grace

Smiles all around

Walking down the west back span

and the back span about a year ago

Walkers along Meeting St

and then closer to Calhoun

Down King St. past Marion Square

Two inseparable Sparkys

Across Calhoun and down King St

and under the finish

Charleston and MUSC have given me much. Here was a small opportunity to give back. The PBC team organized a helicopter flight so that I could get some photos of both the old and new bridges. Just before I left for my move to Singapore, the bridge folks asked if they could use it for the race. How could I refuse? Sparky found Jez Tomlinson, who flew from Scotland, to run the race. Here he is with his plaque and a photo from my adventures with Palmetto Bridge Constructors - the same image as at the top of this page. Thanks to Charleston, thanks to MUSC, thanks to PBC and thanks to SCDOT!

Finally - Sparky's parents had their 65th anniversary the evening of the Bridge Run - and here is the clan

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

C. Frank Starmer