Fraternity rebuilds burned medieval boat


But one week ago, an unknown suspect set fire to his boat and stole away into the night. Wolfe was woken suddenly from his bed by a loud banging on his door from the East Lansing Fire and Police Departments. His boat was burned to ash, and the flames had barely missed the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity house he lives in with his brothers.

But the loss of his boat did not deter him — instead, he regrouped. With the help of his fraternity brothers, he set out to rebuild his ship.

Erin Hampton / The State News

“The smart thing to do would be just let it go and forget about it,” Wolfe said. “But that’s not what we do around here.”

Police confirmed the arson took place between 1 and 1:30 a.m. on April 10 in the front yard of the Delta Kappa Epsilon house. East Lansing Fire Inspector Don Carter said officials will investigate t he incident.

Wolfe originally wanted to build the boat just for fun, but said the boat’s rebuild evolved into an opportunity to help out one of his favorite charities, Habitat for Humanity.

Wolfe said since the boat burned down, “the fire under” him to complete the project grew greater than before. Determined to finish the ship around spring commencement, Wolfe bought materials with his own money, a cost he estimated to be around $500.

“This started out as a hobby,” Wolfe said. “But now since I said I would get something done, I’m going to do it, even if I have a shorter time.”

Former Delta Kappa Epsilon MSU chapter President Phil Rowe led the philanthropy aspect of the boat build.

He said because the line to actually volunteer for Habitat for Humanity was so long, the fraternity decided they wanted to help out by donating money.

“Now we actually have a goal set for when we want to get the boat done, it’s more than a hobby now, we are trying to prove a point, prove them (the arsonist) wrong,” Rowe said. “They might have had fun for 10 minutes, but we’re not going to let that slow us down. Life will throw you curveballs and will never give you the perfect scenario. It’s how you react after it that determines your character, and this house is not giving up.”

Other brothers in the house were skeptical of the project at first, but quickly got on board to help Wolfe complete the project in time for graduation.

Chemical engineering freshman and fraternity member Sean Miller said the turning point was when the house saw the first boat float for the first time.

“At first, everyone kinda said, ‘You’re stupid for making a boat,’” Miller said. “But then we all saw how cool it was, and it was really great when we put the old one in the water and it floated. Everyone was amazed.”

Delta Kappa Epsilon plans on sailing the boat down Red Cedar River, with stations along the way equipped with tables for donations, a 50/50 raffle and possibly objects for pa ssers-by to throw at the brothers sailing the ship.

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