Chad Pregracke holds bottles he has found,
some containing messages, in the rivers he helps clean up.
Message Received: Every Bottle a Story
(Nov. 12) - His day job – trawling rivers
for trash and piling it onto the four barges
he operates – might be gritty, but Chad
Pregracke is a romantic at heart.
His position as founder and president of
Living Lands & Waters, a non-profit river
cleanup organization based in East
Moline, Ill., allows him to glimpse the
wishes and prayers of people he’ll never
meet. He and his employees have found
more than 70 bottles containing
messages over the past 12 years, USA
Over hundreds of miles of waterway, from
the Mississippi to the Potomac, have
come fake treasure maps, dollar bills
thrown into the river for luck and even a
personal ad from a “blonde-haired, blueeyed
river girl” looking for Mr. Right.
Then there are heartbreaking messages,
like this plea to a woman’s deceased
child: “I went to visit you last night. Did
you see me there? Always remember
Mommy loves you.”
Pregracke’s favorite find is a song called
“Lavender for You” found in Ohio River
near Paducah, Ky. “Someday I’ll retire on
this music. It will be my hit song,” he told
Every bottle, every message is saved.
“It’s somebody’s story,” Pregracke said.
“It must have meant a lot for them to write
it and send it out there.
“To throw it away wouldn’t be right.”