She’s been dubbed “Mrs. Lighthouse” largely because she’s married to Maine’s nationally renowned “Mr. Lighthouse,” Ken Black, who’s beloved in lighthouse circles for preserving the lenses and other artifacts that are now on display at the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland. But Dot Black has earned the title on her own terms, too. Her leading role in the restoration of the unique 1902 Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse has proven that she’s a shining star in the lighthouse universe.
Dot was born in Newark, New Jersey, but was only five when her German-born parents moved the family to Maine. “We moved to Hupper’s Island in Port Clyde,” she says, “with a perfect view of Marshall Point Lighthouse.” Dot traveled to school each day by motorboat. After nine months of island life, the family moved to a chicken farm in Union, Maine.
“As a child, I can remember coming to Rockland and seeing the beautiful lighthouse at the end of this enormous breakwater in the middle of the ocean,” Dot recalls. “It was a great treat to be able to go for a walk out to the lighthouse when there was time.” Little did she know that the lighthouse and the community of Rockland would later play central roles in her life.
Dot, who has two sons (Joe and Jim) and three grandchildren (Christopher, Travis, and Keegan) by a previous marriage, met retired Coast Guard Commander Ken Black back in 1981. He took her to see the collection he had amassed at Rockland’s Shore Village Museum (recently relocated to the Maine Lighthouse Museum). The rest is history, says Dot. “He got me hooked, and I went on trips with him, collecting and talking about the importance of saving lighthouses.”
Ken and Dot eventually married in 1998 and moved to Dot’s home in Union, rather than Ken’s home in Rockport. Why? “I have a pool and it’s not on Route One,” explains Dot.
A few years ago, the Blacks’ good friends Tim Harrison and Kathleen Finnegan of the American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF) invited Dot and Ken to take part in a meeting for the formation of a new friends’ group to restore Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. As officers were being chosen, Dot congratulated Ken for not volunteering for yet another cause. Before she knew it, she was voted in as chair of the Friends of the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, a chapter of ALF. “And so it goes,” says Dot. “It gets under your skin. Raise a little – or lots – of money, do a little work. It gets to be such a celebration of the accomplishments.”
“All lighthouse groups need volunteers,” says ALF Chairman Tim Harrison. “But they also need good leaders to guide the volunteers through the fundraising efforts and restoration projects, and Dot Black is one of those leaders.” Dot is also a member of the Board of Directors of the American Lighthouse Foundation. Harrison adds, “She plays an active role in the growth and development of the organization and is one of the organization’s most steadfast supporters.”
Bob Trapani, executive director of ALF, describes Dot Black as “a true keeper of the lights,” adding, “The combination of her passion for Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse and her steadfast leadership serves as the guiding light for the preservation of this wonderful beacon.”
Dot’s rightfully proud of the extensive restoration that’s taken place at Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse in recent years, and she especially enjoys it when lighthouse buffs return year after year and remark on the progress. She says she feels lucky to be chair of such a wonderful core group of volunteers. “This group does everything from open houses to dessert parties, attending work sessions, cleaning the lighthouse, selling merchandise. You name it, they do it,” she says.
Dot has fond memories of accompanying Ken to some of his lectures. When he’d get
to the part about Minot’s Light being called the “Lover’s Light” because of its 1-4-3
(I-LOVE-YOU) flash, he’d tell the audience,
“I bought my love a necklace that has the
1-4-3 flash,” and he’d direct the laser pointer in Dot’s direction.
“I am extremely proud to be ‘Mrs. Lighthouse,’” says Dot, “as it means I’m married to one of the greatest men I know. He’s a keeper! No pun intended.” Lovers of Maine lighthouses would agree that Dot’s a keeper, too, in every sense of the word.
This story appeared in the
August 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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