Traditions make up the culture of the river, and one of the most treasured is that of the mentor. While the exact process or definition of a mentorship can be elusive, that time honored tradition of a more experienced crew member helping to guide a less experienced crew member over time lives on today, and is still being passed on to our next generation of river folk!
Today, Carrie Stier, Owner of the Riverboat Twilight - Mississippi River Cruise, shares with us the legacy of Captain Dennis R. Trone.
Captain Dennis Trone and Carrie Stier
"Beginning in the late 1950s and continuing to the present day, millions of tourists and residents of river cities have enjoyed excursions on America’s inland waters. And a large part in the story of modern-day excursion boating is because of the vision, creative talent and skill of Capt. Dennis Trone.
I was working at a Bonanza restaurant on University Street in Peoria IL when I first met Captain Trone. He was one of my “regular” customers. He would come in, load up his plate from the salad bar, sit down and, completely ignoring whomever he came in with, read the newspaper – in its entirety. As happens with “regular” customers, you get to know what they like (sauerkraut and coffee) and where they work (on a boat) and you start a friendly banter with them. I was nineteen and looking to find a “real” job. I noticed there was an ad in the paper for an office position at the JULIA BELLE SWAIN. I mentioned this to him and he said “Hey! My daughter will be interviewing people for that position. You should come down and apply.” I had no idea at this point he OWNED the boat; he had only told me he worked there. Typical Denny Trone! Long story short, I got hired and started what would end up as a 21year career as “girl Friday” to the best riverboat Captain who ever lived. (Perhaps I am a bit biased?)
Moon & Capt. Trone
My relationship with Captain Trone was unique compared to what others, like Captain John Vaughn, experienced because I never actually worked on the boat itself. I worked strictly in the office. Denny taught me everything from selling a sightseeing ticket to booking bus tour groups to writing professional letters to ordering parts for a steam boiler. Denny kept a large address book where every significant piece of information needed to run the boat was kept. He guarded that book with his life. Over time, I learned from him who to call for fuel, where to buy marine paint, how call the boat through the marine operator (before cell phones) and more. I remember one time the boat got stuck somewhere. I can’t recall if a bridge broke down or a lock was closed, but the boat had to land for the night and I had to find a place for them to take on water. I was able to reach someone and have a water line in place within 20 minutes. I can still remember how good it felt when he told me what a good job I did and how proud he was of me.
Denny taught me everything there was to know about running a successful passenger boat business by simply trusting me to do it. I had a wonderful 21 years of learning and growing along side Capt. Trone before he retired to spend more time working on his antique airplanes, a passion he held from boyhood. He sold the business, which had grown to include the Riverboat TWILIGHT to me and my husband Captain Kevin Stier and we still run it today. Kevin is another of Capt. Trone’s prodigies, but that is his story to tell.
Capt. Trone as a young airplane pilot.
Denny was a man of greatness but also of the utmost simplicity and genuineness. His heart always belonged to the underdog and he was generous to a fault, be it with money, his talents or simply his presence. I still hear his voice whenever a big decision about the business comes along. Am I doing the right thing? Am I keep his legacy alive and well? Would he be proud of me?
Captain Trone was killed in a single engine airplane crash on May 5, 2008. For his friends in the close-knit communities of riverboats and airplanes, the death of Denny meant the loss of a great deal of knowledge and experience that can never be replaced. To me, it meant the loss of a dear friend, mentor and hero. I can never repay the debt I owe to him for the kindness and loving support he showed to me all of those years. He made me the person I am today.
I still have that black book and guard it with my life. "
We would like to help YOU tell the story of your mentor to our community! Who helped make you, you? When was the first time they trusted you? What piece of advice do you come back to, over and over? Why did their style of leadership stick with you? Sharing the journey of your experiences can encourage others to follow your lead—to step up, become a mentor themselves, or reflect on the guidance they’re receiving right now! To find out more or to submit your personal experience for Mentor Monday, contact Andra at email@example.com