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Jeff Spevak's 22 Minutes

Jeff Spevak's 22 Minutes

Ernie Coleman was a Rochester native and survivor of the worst naval defeat in the history of the United States Navy, the Battle of Savo Island. Coleman, who grew up in East Rochester and lived for much of his 95 years in Summerville, was a legendary sailor on Lake Ontario. But throughout his long life, he was haunted by nightmares of the 22-minute World War II battle in which the Japanese navy sank four big cruisers, three American, one Australian. Ernie’s ship, the USS Vincennes, was among them, taking 322 of his crewmates to Iron Bottom Sound.

 “22 Minutes: The USS Vincennes and the Tragedy of Savo Island: A Lifetime Survival Story” tells the story of Coleman’s long and colorful life. Ernie was a sailor who loved to dance, the life of every party. A carpenter, Ernie built things. Houses and sailboats. And he rebuilt his life repeatedly, struggling through divorce and the death of two wives. With the marriages came one adopted child, seven step kids. All of them offering different challenges. How does a man of the stoic “Greatest Generation” relate to a gay daughter whose life is being destroyed by drugs and abuse at the hands of her partner? All paled in Ernie’s mind besides the memory of his escape from the flaming Vincennes, as it slipped beneath the water, an ocean and a continent distant from the waters where he’d learned to sail and swim and dive.


Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle.

He has also been published in Musician and High Times magazines, contributed to WXXI, City newspaper and Post magazine, and occasionally performs spoken-word pieces around town. Some of his haikus written during the Rochester jazz festival were self-published in a book of sketches done by Scott Regan, the host of WRUR’s Open Tunings show.

Saturday, September 28, 2019
1:00pm - 2:30pm
Central - B&L 1st Floor
Central Library
  All Ages  
  Department - Local History & Genealogy  

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