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Family of Jerry Barkley: 'I hate that he's gone, but I'm just real glad we got him home'

Jerry Barkley dedicated 51 years of his life to the sea. (Photo courtesy Cindy Coleman Barkley)

COOS BAY, Ore. -- It's been two days since dive crews recovered the body of the captain of the Patty AJ.

Jerry Barkley dedicated 51 years of his life to the sea before he lost his life to it.

It took nearly three weeks to recover his body from the boat that capsized off the Coos Bay coast.

Now, he will finally be laid to rest.

When the Patty AJ capsized nearly three weeks ago, Terry Barkley and his wife Cindy made a promise to their family -- they would bring Jerry home.

For three weeks the wreckage of the Patty AJ has rested just north of the Coos Bay channel, a painful reminder to the Barkley family.

"Every day that went by I felt like I was doing him a real disservice," said Barkley's brother, Terry.

Rescue crews attempted to recover the body but the surrounding debris made the dive too dangerous.

"It had gotten more and more dangerous as the days went by," Terry said. "There were a number of things in the wheel house. In drag boats you have balls of twine you used to mend your nets; they had all unraveled and scattered all over the wheel house; wiring had come down; a refrigerator had come out."

The situation seemed hopeless until one man came to the rescue.

Michael Smith, a longtime friend of Jerry Barkley, cancelled his return trip to the Philippines when he heard that Barkley's body had not been recovered.

Smith then risked his own life to finally lay his friend to rest.

"It was an emotional day, but a good day," said Terry Barley, "a bittersweet day."

Family and friends can finally say their goodbyes to Barkley, who they describe as a man of honor -- a family man who cherished his wife, six children and grandchildren.

"I hate that he's gone," Terry said, "but I'm just real glad we got him home."

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