His Fishing Gear Was Insured, But Not His Life!

sddThere is an eerie legend about Lakewood, NJ’s Lake Carasaljo that its quiet appearance does not tell. It is a bizarre tale that goes back to the 1880’s or perhaps even to an earlier date.

As the legend has it, Mr. Joseph Brick, wealthy Lakewood iron and land business entrepreneur of the time, had three daughters named Caroline, Sally and Josephine who tragically lost their lives while swimming in the lake. In his grief, Mr. Brick named the lake after the loved ones he lost to it – Cara (Caroline) Sal (Sally) Jo (Josephine).

All of those details surrounding the drowning of the three girls except for the naming of the lake in their tribute, I am told, are purely fictional. It is a story that has absolutely no basis. The three daughters of Joseph Brick, in reality, were a health bunch, grew up, married, built families and led ordinary lives.

Yet, the cloak of serenity veiling the beautiful Lake Carasaljo hides something powerful. Nestled deep within its rejuvenating force of life-giving freshness and loveliness, Lake Carasaljo has the dreadful power to strangle and kill…

It happened about ten years ago in the summer when the endless train of nature-lovers would hike and bike around the water’s bed, take in the fresh air and the sights of sound G-d’s glory. During this time, local and not-so local fishermen would take advantage of the sport that, depending on the status and importance they placed upon the hobby, demanded an array of gear.

One evening, two friends of mine decided to cycle around the beautiful lake as the sun began its majestic descent. As they made their way towards the boardwalk, just off of the main road, they noticed orange tape blocking off the lakeside road to traffic. Ambulances and emergency cars were flashing their lights in the cut off area. Crowds of onlookers had positioned themselves in a distance.

“What’s going on? What’s the excitement about?” they asked an acquaintance.

“They’re looking for someone in the lake. It seems two young boys from a neighboring town were rowing in the lake while their father, all geared up in fishing trappings, was fishing on the shore. The boys tipped over. The father panicked. Still wearing his heavy attire, he swam for them. The boys were saved by a passersby. The father… they did not find him yet… Divers are skimming the bottom of the lake now… ” The somber answer was followed by silence.

My friends just looked at each other. They remained quiet. This was no time for talk.

My friends made their way peddling past the orange tape. Then they saw a stranger talking on his cell phone walking the opposite way of the excitement.

Some people, they thought to themselves, were so insensitive… Imagine! Conducting mundane conversations while tragedy strikes so close…

As they peddled on, coming closer to the man, they noticed that the fully-grown man was indeed talking on the cell phone – while he was unabashedly crying bitter tears.

My friends soon confirmed their dreadful premonition. The ‘callous’ stranger had been a relative of the fisherman. The fisherman had invested countless dollars into his fishing gear – even making sure his homeowners policy protected it all. Now he had been found at the bottom of the lake, leaving behind two orphans and a young widow…

My friends stuffed some cash into an envelope and sealed it. On the front one wrote – Collection for Widow and Orphans. It was the least they could do for the unfortunate family that had invested into a policy that protected their fishing gear but not the life of the head of the household…

Lake Carasaljo. Its beauty and grace astounds the onlooker. It is a haven for the artist, as well as the artist at heart. Nature and peace seem to rest in this very place. Who would have imagined that a young man would be downed in a short instant by it? Who would have imagined a young family would be left alone without a husband and father and no means to live because of a lack of a life insurance policy?