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Hurricane Harvey rescue boat donated to Katy museum

November 17, 2018

The Johnny Nelson Katy Heritage Museum now is home to a boat used to rescue residents stranded after Hurricane Harvey hit the community.

Andy Wohlgemuth, Bass Pro Shops-Katy community/social media coordinator, donated the boat to the city along with a plaque on Nov. 15.

“When the Harvey flood devastated Katy, the city reached out to Gov. Greg Abbott, who then reached out to our owner Johnny Morris,” explained Wohlgemuth. “Johnny’s response was ‘Whatever you need, whatever it takes’ which set in motion the transfer of some 80 boats from our manufacturing facility in Lebanon, Mo. Within 24 hours, the boats arrived, were supplemented by 20-some boats already in our inventory, and then made available to the Texas National Guard, the City of Katy and other first responders.

“Although the store was officially closed, our general manager Steve Dooley kept the doors open so the first responders could use it as a base of operations for a couple of days,” continued Wohlgemuth. “During that time we also made available to these brave folks anything they needed — like a mountain of beef jerky, dry socks, gloves, rope, batteries, flashlights, you name it. All with no strings attached and no expectation of payment.

“After the boats began to filter back in, we looked at the scratches and dents on them. It occurred to us that each scratch and dent was a story. Our thought was to choose a boat, get the community to sign it, and donate it to the Katy Heritage Museum. To this end, I contacted the mayor and received his hearty approval. We then took the boat to the 2017 Katy Rice Harvest Festival , as well as displayed it in our lobby for a few weeks, giving the community an opportunity to sign it. The boat was completely covered with signatures, expressions of appreciation, and inspiring messages,” said Wohlgemuth.

“A lot of people signed it,” said Katy Mayor Chuck Brawner. “They signed every inch, bottom, sides and edges. Some were affected by the flood and may have been in that exact boat. That boat saved a lot of lives,” added Brawner. “It has meaning. That boat had dents, dings and was beat up from rescues.”

He called the accompanying plaque presented by Bass Pro “absolutely beautiful,” and said it will be mounted in front of the boat. The mayor added, “It was a wonderful thing for Bass Pro to supply the boats. The boats were really needed in the initial stages of rescue.”

Floodwaters had damaged the museum, so Bass Pro Shops waited for the city to give a date for the boat-donation ceremony, Wohlgemuth said. The city hosted a May 24 rededication ceremony of the museum as it was renamed after Nelson, a former mayor and city administrator, who founded the museum that first opened in 2002.

“Although I do not have specific details, I know our company responded in the same manner to the communities elsewhere in the country, who were devastated by flooding during the 2018 hurricane season as well,” added Wohlgemuth.

The boat is a TRACKER Topper 2031 jon. The museum is located at 6002 George Bush Drive in Katy.

karen.zurawski@chron.com

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