On my return to Washington, I was sent to my old district where Captain Monteiro had succeeded me. The Captain welcomed my inspection with open arms. I was not aware that he was over sixty years of age and had a bad heart. I followed the Captain’s energetic pace; difficult climbs of many light towers, a long hike across Mona Island in the broiling sun. When we reached isolated Navassa Island, he led me with alacrity up the difficult landing ladder, up the half mile, steep, rocky path to the 150-foot concrete tower at the top of the Island to show me proudly how well the automatic light that I devised was working.
When we arrived back on board the tender, the Captain was exhausted and complained of indigestion. He was promptly put to bed and the Tender sped to the Panama Canal. He became steadily worse and was rushed to the Naval Hospital and died there of a heart attack. I felt terribly about this. The Lighthouse Service had no means at its disposal to handle such cases. Captain Monteiro surely died in the faithful performance of his duties.
I wired the Bureau and Mrs. Monteiro in San Juan. She had to cable money to me for funeral transportation expenses and requested burial for her husband in New Orleans. I had the body embalmed and travelled with it on a United Fruit Company steamer to New Orleans for the funeral. Indeed, this was one of the saddest experiences of my life to witness the last rites of my colleague who had died in the effort to show me the progress made in my former district.
This excerpt is taken from “Superintendent of Lighthouses on General Duty: January 4, 1927 to September 1, 1933” in The Making of a Lighthouse Engineer, the unpublished memoirs of Commodore Frederick P. Dillon.
This story appeared in the
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