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Engineers Honored for Role in Bridge Construction

May 21, 1987

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A wreath was cast into the dark waters beneath the Golden Gate Bridge to mark the spot where 10 workmen were killed in a fall shortly before the span was completed five decades ago.

The quiet memorial service Wednesday was one of the events on the first day of the famed suspension bridge’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Earlier, seven living engineers who worked on construction of the bridge were honored in a ceremony at its toll plaza.

That ceremony was conducted in the sunshine before a statue of Joseph Strauss, the chief engineer on the project, amid colorful flower beds photographed by thousands of tourists each year.

The event was sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which designated the bridge a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

″No one can stand for long in the presence of a magnificent structure like the Golden Gate Bridge without being moved by its sweep and grandeur,″ said Albert A. Grant, president-elect of the society.

Mayor Dianne Feinstein presented keys to the city to seven of eight known surviving civil engineers who worked on the bridge. The eighth, Viggo Bertelsen of Oakland, was unable to attend.

The seven were Blair Birdsall of New York, Edwin Davenport of Scotts Valley, Wesley Getts of Burlingame, Charles Kring of San Jose, Mac Silvert of San Francisco, Jonathan ″Buzz″ Wright of Kensington, and Howard Schirmer of Oakland.

Also honored was E.C. ″Slim″ Lambert of Honolulu, one of only two workers who survived the tragic plunge into the ocean that killed 10 workers on Feb. 17, 1937. Lambert, 77, is the only one still alive.

The accident occurred when scaffolding derailed and fell into the safety net, which ripped loose and fell into the water hundreds of feet below.

″The net was built to catch a man,″ recalled Lambert. ″The staging weighed tons. The net tore like tissue paper.″

More than 100 engineers worked on various aspects of the towering bridge, and Feinstein praised them all for avoiding bulky, unpleasant designs.

″What you see here, I think, is a tribute to engineering,″ she said. ″It soars.″

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