Digest>Archives> September 2005

Mr. Hal: Beacon of Light


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Hal Biering being interviewed by CBS-TV 13 in ...

For the past three years, every day of summer, Hal Biering, known as “Mr. Hal”, has been motoring a small boat out to a remote island to begin another long, hard day of bringing life back to the once endangered Little River Light Station in Cutler, Maine.

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Hal takes a moment to pose for this staged photo ...

This is Mr. Hal’s third full summer of making the long trip all the way from Alabama to Maine to help save a vital part of New England’s maritime history.

Hal, a retired consulting engineer now in his late seventies, is a jack of all trades who can build and make anything and everything with his own tools.

A local resident allows Mr. Hal to park his motorhome in their yard and hook up to their electricity. Otherwise, Hal says, he wouldn’t be able to afford a campground or a motel for the entire summer.

Since Little River Lighthouse is on an island in a remote part of Maine, restoration is no easy task. There are no stores in town, not even a gas station; so obtaining supplies is not an easy task.

Although Hal is able to get some supplies in nearby Machias, much of the material needed for restoration can only be found two and a half hours away, which means five hours of driving time for each trip. Plus, he has to make sure he has everything he needs each time, which in itself takes up extra time. Just walking up and down the aisles of the big box hardware stores takes time. If he forgets something, it could delay his planned work for another two or three days. Fortunately, for the first two years, he had his own truck for hauling materials.

Getting the supplies to the island is also a problem. Many days, there are no volunteers around to help him load and unload the boat. Many times, fog would also delay work, making it impossible to get to the island. And other times, also because of fog or bad weather, Hal would get stranded on the island.

Last year, Hal was able to enlist the help of his longtime friend Betty, also in her seventies, who came up from Alabama to visit him. She must have liked working on the island with Mr. Hal because she married him and came back the second year to help him.

Although from time to time volunteers show up to help on weekends, for the most part, Hal works on the island by himself. Hal also acts as a sort of general contractor, finding professional tradespeople to do some of the work he is not familiar with. But even that is sometimes a problem, especially when some found out that they had to work on a remote island. One tradesman had to travel two and a half hours just to get to town, and then he and Hal had to make several boat trips just to bring the equipment and supplies to the island for one small project.

This year saw the fruits of his hard work. Everything began to fall into place; more volunteers showed up and he even had a contingent of Coast Guard volunteers from Southwest Harbor, Maine, lend him a hand. In fact, Hal said, the Coast Guard volunteer help was the best two days of help he had in three years.

But, the facts are clear: The restoration of Little River Lighthouse would not have been accomplished at such a pace, especially with limited funds, if it had not been for Hal Biering.

Amy Sinclair of CBS-TV 13 in Maine interviewed Hal for a regular news segment called “Where’s Amy?” When Amy asked Hal how much he charges for his services, Hal replied, “I do this for free. I don’t play golf, I don’t play bridge, I just like to work. Someday, people will be able to say, ‘A man from Alabama helped save this lighthouse.’”

We are honored to award “Mr. Hal” the Lighthouse Digest Beacon of Light Award for making a difference. If more people like Hal Biering would come forward, we'd save a lot more lighthouses and make this world a better place.

Congratulations Mr. Hal and thanks for what you’ve done! Your legacy will live forever at Maine’s Little River Lighthouse.

This story appeared in the September 2005 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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