Digest>Archives> September 2000

Salute to the Coast Guard: Coast Guard Vessel Honors Namesake


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Commander David Foley (far right), on the deck of ...
Photo by: Paul St. Germain

This past spring when the new U.S. Coast Guard Keeper Class buoy tender Maria Bray was on its way to its new homeport in Mayport, Florida, it made a brief stop in the waters off the twin lights of Massachusetts, Thacher Island Light Station, to honor its namesake.

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The twin lights of Thacher Island Lighthouse are ...
Photo by: Paul St. Germain

The ship took on some local guests from the Thacher Island Association to help them honor the memory of Maria Bray. In attendance were Paul St.Germain, Bob Smith, John Krenn and George and Dottie Carroll, the last full time civilian keepers of the lighthouses.

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Two Coast Guardsmen about to place the wreath ...
Photo by: Paul St. Germain

Before the wreath honoring Maria Bray was placed into the ocean, Coast Guard Commander David Foley spoke about the heroic deeds.

“In 1864, her husband Alexander Bray was named lighthouse keeper for the two lighthouses at Thacher Island.

When his assistant keeper became ill, Bray rowed him to the mainland to get medical treatment, leaving Maria and her 12 year-old nephew alone on the island.

Before he could return home, a ferocious winter snowstorm hit the coast and Alexander could not make it back to the island. Who would tend the light? Sadly, Alexander realized no one would. But Maria took charge of keeping the lights going — realizing that many lives could be lost during the storm without its guidance.

So, for the next four days, Maria repeatedly made the quarter mile trip between the twin towers, climbed the 148 steps of each 124-foot tall tower and kept the lights trimmed, oiled and burning.

Fortunately, the story had a happy ending. At daybreak on Christmas Day, 1864, the wind lightened, and Alexander made a run for the island. He found a tired, but unharmed Maria and her nephew asleep at home.”

Foley ended his remarks by saying, “I think the Coast Guard made the right decision to honor Maria Bray.”

At that point two Coast Guardsmen solemnly placed the blue and white wreath of flowers into the ocean to commemorate Maria Bray’s heroic service that helped save lives and ships during the Christmas week storm of 1864.

Photographs by Paul St. Germain.

This story appeared in the September 2000 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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