Digest>Archives> October 2000

Memorial Dedicated to Edward Rowe Snow

Historian and Flying Santa to Lighthouse Keepers

By Jeremy D'Entremont


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Edward Rowe Snow, the Flying Santa of the ...

On Sunday, August 20, friends, family, and fans gathered for the unveiling of a memorial honoring the late historian Edward Rowe Snow (1902-1982). The dedication took place at Fort Warren on George’s Island in Boston Harbor, now a public park in large part due to Snow’s preservation efforts in the 1950s. A small group of people worked for five years to make the memorial a reality.

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This shade pavillion is adjacent to the Snow ...

Edward Rowe Snow was the author of more than 100 publications, dealing chiefly with New England coastal history. His books included The Islands of Boston Harbor, Famous Lighthouses of New England, Famous Lighthouses of America, and The Story of Minot’s Light.

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The Edward Rowe Snow Memorial Committee: (L to R) ...

Of course, lighthouse buffs know him best as “Flying Santa” to lighthouse keepers. This tradition, started by pilot Bill Wincapaw in the late 1920s, was carried on for over 40 years by Mr. Snow. Each Christmas he would fly in a small plane over the lighthouses along the coast, dropping wrapped gifts for the keepers and their families. The Flying Santa trips brought joy to lighthouse families and also called public attention to the selfless work of people at lighthouses. The tradition is still alive, thanks to George Morgan and the Friends of Flying Santa.

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The Edward Rowe Snow Memorial at George’s Island ...

The new memorial to Edward Rowe Snow, created by Monti Granite of Quincy, Massachusetts, stands next to a shade pavilion where visitors can escape the sun or rain. The inscription on the plaque reads: “Author, historian, and ‘Flying Santa’ to lighthouse keepers, Edward Rowe Snow was the president of the Society for the Preservation of Fort Warren and led the fight to preserve the fort as a public park. The presence of Edward and his wife, Anna-Myrle, will always be felt on George’s Island.”

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William M. Fowler, Jr., Executive Director of the ...

The shade pavilion was built by the Metropolitan District Commission, which manages the island. The granite memorial was erected with many small donations collected by the Edward Rowe Snow Memorial Committee. The committee consisted of John Forbes, Jeremy D’Entremont, and Dorothy Snow Bicknell, daughter of Edward Rowe Snow.

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In this photo from the 1960’s, radio personality ...

Jeremy D’Entremont and Holly Richardson of the MDC shared hosting duties at the ceremony. The keynote speaker was maritime historian Bill Fowler, who is director of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Mr. Fowler spoke of the many years that Boston Harbor was neglected by most, but said that Snow never forgot.

Other speakers included MDC Commissioner David Balfour and Suzanne Gall Marsh, founder of the Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands. Ms. Gall Marsh held a copy of The Islands of Boston Harbor and asked, “Isn’t this what started it all for all of us?”

Dorothy Snow Bicknell and her daughters, Laura and Jessica, read letters from President Clinton, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci, Yankee Magazine Senior Editor Judson Hale, Lighthouse Digest Editor Tim Harrison, Shore Village Museum Director Ken Black, and lighthouse keeper’s daughter Seamond Ponsart Roberts. A proclamation from State Senator Robert Hedlund was also read.

Ms. Roberts’ letter told a touching story that took place when she was a girl on Cuttyhunk Island in Massachusetts, Edward Rowe Snow dropped one of his Flying Santa packages for her. Unfortunately, the doll inside was broken. The following year Snow rented a helicopter and personally delivered a doll to Seamond. She wrote, “He is my Flying Santa, a man I’ll love forever. I know this because I know he cared very much for people and gave of himself. I hope this will be a big part of what people remember him for when they see this monument to Edward Rowe Snow. “

The unveiling was performed by Dorothy Snow Bicknell, Laura Bicknell Carbone and Jessica Bicknell. A poem about Mr. Snow by the late Joseph Kolb was read by Gary Kosciusko. This was followed by a sing-along of “John Brown’s Body,” which originated at Fort Warren. Dorothy Snow Bicknell closed the event by reciting the lines that her father repeated on every tour he gave: “Farewell each pretty isle, farewell each pleasant shore. May you be blest with heaven’s smile ‘til time shall be no more.”

Music was provided by members of the Winthrop High School Marching Band (from Mr. Snow’s hometown) and by Phyllis Meserlian and Don Hovey of the Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands. Also among the highlights was a huge cake decorated with illustrations that pertained to Mr. Snow, including Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse and the Flying Santa plane.

This story appeared in the October 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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