Portsmouth fishing tourney, party honors fallen comrade

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PORTSMOUTH — Ralph Craft and his wife, Shannon, never met Christopher Potts, the Army National Guard staff sergeant who was killed in Iraq in 2004. But they're both veterans, having served in separate medical units around the same time as the late Tiverton resident was deployed.

"It's been nine years since he passed. It's easy to move on when it didn't affect you directly. But I've always said, I don't care what your politics are, but you support the troops," said Mr. Craft, the event coordinator for the 8th Annual SSG Christopher Potts Fishing Tournament, a week-long event raising money for the Potts family that kicks off Friday, Sept. 6.

SSG Potts was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 103rd Field Artillery Regiment, Army National Guard, Providence. He died on Oct. 3, 2004 — his 38th birthday — in Taji, Iraq while conducting traffic control operations. He left a wife and two sons behind.

"We're raising money to put toward the memorial fund, which is going to help the family," said Mr. Craft.

Staff Sgt. Potts loved to spend time fishing with his family. The tournament in his memory, which starts at noon Friday and ends at noon on Saturday, Sept. 14, is hosted by the Aquidneck Island Striper Team. It costs $25 each (free for kids) to take part.

"They can sign up at local bait shops," said Mr. Craft adding that about 100 to 200 anglers usually sign up.

But what he's really trying to get the word out about is the party — free and open to all — that's set for 3-7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Portuguese American Citizens Club, 34 Power St. The party is where the tournament awards are handed out, but it's not just for fishing enthusiasts.

"It's for the family. There will be games for the kids, tons of raffle items, food and more. Music is by Triple Threat. They're a well-known band in this area and they basically donate their time," he said. "We celebrate life. Even if you don't fish and are not part of the actual tournament, you can come to this, bring the family, have fun and support the cause."

Mr. Craft will be the emcee for the event. "We have a lot of fun just making fun of the guys who fish," he said. "It's a good time. It's one day that we forget about the bad and celebrate the good."

Anyone who wants to donate money or items to be raffled off at the party — or has any other questions — should contact Mr. Craft at 401/297-6062 or craftyonecustoms@gmail.com. (Donations may also be mailed to Riverside Marine, c/o SSG Christopher Potts Fishing Tournament, 211 Riverside Drive, Tiverton, RI 02878.)

"Any donations that we can raffle off are gladly accepted. We basically take it and turn it into money for the family," he said.

If you'd like to help out at the party, the final two volunteer organizational meetings will be held at the VFW in Common Fence Point at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 4, and Thursday, Sept. 12.

Anywhere from 300 to 500 people turn out for the party, and Mr. Craft is hopeful that many veterans attend to honor their fallen comrade, who made the ultimate sacrifice.

"It takes courage to sign on the line," said Mr. Craft, adding that Staff Sgt. Potts' motto was, "Lead from the front."

"I hate to say it, but that's one of the reasons he's not with us anymore, because he led from the front," he said.

For more information about the SSG Christopher Potts Fishing Tournament, check out the Facebook page here.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.