The recent passing of Herb Jason, 91, of Cohasset, Massachusetts, leaves a void in the lighthouse community, but his accomplishments live on.
I first met Herb about ten years ago and knew immediately that he was a man dedicated to preserving a vital link to America’s lighthouse heritage and history. Herb had an illustrious career and he never really retired. He served in the Coast Guard Temporary Reserve in World War II; he was a coppersmith, one of the best around the vicinity, and worked at a number of shipyards in New England over the years. As a scuba diver, he recovered many artifacts from old shipwrecks. He was also a lobsterman for more than 70 years.
But he will be best remembered in the lighthouse community for his work in saving the history and heritage of the famous Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse. All one needs to do is visit Government Island in Cohasset to see what he has, along with his grandson John Small, accomplished.
It was Jason’s lifelong dream to establish a memorial for the lighthouse keepers who lost their lives when the first Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse collapsed into the sea. That dream was fulfilled when the memorial was dedicated in 2000 and now stands next to the replica of the Minot’s Ledge lantern room on Government Island.
But for the sake of space, we’ll tell you about how Herb saved the historic fogbell of Minot’s Ledge Light.
One day in the early 1970s, while lobstering, Herb passed Minot’s Ledge Light. He saw a private contractor lowering the fogbell from the lighthouse into his boat. When Herb confronted the contractor, he was told the man planned to sell the bell for scrap. Herb immediately set about making a number of phone calls. Coast Guard officers arrived on the scene to save the bell, but not before the bronze bell stand, clapper, bell top and mechanism had already been sold.
Later, the Coast Guard gave the bell to the town of Cohasset for display on Government Island. In 1994, Herb and grandson John Small were talking about the bell and decided it should be restored. With the cooperation of public officials, Herb and his grandson started raising money to restore the bell. They made a new bell stand, bell top and clapper from stainless steel. They
also made a ringing mechanism from brass. When the bell was restored, it was put on
display next to the Minot’s Ledge lantern room replica.
The newly restored fogbell, along with the restored keeper's house, was dedicated in June 2000 in a ceremony attended by over 300 people. On the day of the dedication of the keeper’s house, the Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse fogbell rang again for the first time in over 40 years; 1-4-3.
Herb Jason, we thank you. Your legacy will ring forever.
This story appeared in the
October 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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