A daughter’s dream to visit Maine lighthouses, a mother’s premature passing and the beginning of a great new journey for father, daughter and granddaughter.
My fascination with lighthouses started when I was a young boy living in the suburbs of New York City. My grandmother lived in Manhattan and every time we went to visit her I’d see the little red lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge. On our return trip home, I would keep my eye out for that same little red lighthouse, flashing its bright white beam out across the Hudson River.
It wasn’t until many years later, in Virginia Beach, that I climbed my first lighthouse with my wife, Marta, and daughter, Eileen the third of our three daughters, who was just around the age my granddaughter, Kaitlyn, is today. It was up the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse and the view was amazing! It was a sight that is still fresh in my mind today. Unfortunately, we didn’t do anymore lighthousing, other than to see the occasional lighthouse in our travels, until years later.
It was now sometime in the late 1990s and Eileen had grown from our little girl to a woman in, what seemed like, a flash. She had commented to her mother how her interest in lighthouses had grown and that she wanted to someday visit the lighthouses in Maine. Realizing how interested Eileen had become in lighthouses Marta told Eileen she would take her on a trip to Maine to fulfill her wish. Unfortunately, their trip to Maine would not happen as Marta wife, mother and grandmother got ill and passed away in June 2000.
It was several months later, while working around the house, that Eileen out of a clear blue sky said to me, “You know Dad, Mom said she’d take me to Maine and now she can’t make it.” Having said that she ran to her room in tears. I did my best to comfort her and told her that when things calmed down I would make good on her mom’s promise. It was a difficult winter that year and to help us keep our sanity we started to plan our trip. We decided to make Boothbay Harbor our “home base”. When July came we packed the RV and left for Boothbay Harbor, and for two weeks we went up and down the coast of Maine visiting lighthouses from York to Bar Harbor.
When we were visiting Pemaquid Point Light in Bristol, Maine neither one of us could believe the serenity that we felt while sitting listening to the chatter of the seagulls and the surf crashing onto the rocks. Lost in the peacefulness of our own thoughts, I faintly heard the silence being broken by a strange voice calling to me “sir, sir is that young lady with you” the voice said. When I looked around I saw an unfamiliar woman pointing to Eileen sitting on the rocks. The stranger a local resident stated that Eileen was sitting in a very precarious location on the rocks. She went on to say that every once and a while a rogue wave comes charging in and crashes onto the rocks harder and higher than the rest and has, in the past, swept people out to sea. She suggested very firmly, but politely, for Eileen to move closer to me or the top of the rocks. Eileen, somewhat annoyed that the “spell” was broken, reluctantly moved. Within minutes of her moving a rogue wave crashed onto the rocks right where Eileen had been sitting. We just stared at each other in disbelief and I’m sure that each of us felt Marta’s spirit with us.
We returned home and Eileen found out about New England Lighthouse Lovers NELL and American Lighthouse Foundation ALF. We attended some of the Harbour Lights Regional and signing events, always seeing Ron Foster and the people from NELL there. Eileen asked me if I’d like to join NELL and ALF. I answered yes, I guess so, but I did nothing more. A short time passed and I was asked again, giving the same answer and doing nothing.
A full year had passed and it was winter again with not much going on. I believe that I just didn’t have the desire to reach out to discover new people and things to become involved in. Eileen decided to take things into her own hands and got a family membership for the three of us in NELL. It was soon time for the annual Lighthouses, Hot Chocolate & YOU! For those not familiar with this event it takes place every January and includes a car caravan to various lighthouses, climbs up the towers and ends with friendship, raffles and hot chocolate. It was billed as a wonderful time, and what a time it was!
Since we joined NELL and ALF we have enjoyed becoming part of the lighthouse community and working for the preservation of our historic sentinels. We were delighted when Maine put Pemaquid Point Lighthouse on the quarter and we were able to attend the special ceremony held there. We were finally able to access and climb the tower and to this day enjoy our visits to Pemaquid Lighthouse, which are the most special.
Then the Spring Meeting and lighthouse cruises, trips, meetings. Meeting more and more people. Wonderful people. Not phony people, but real live, down to earth, honest to God people. Friendly people! Warm people! Funny people! Caring people! Loving people! And not just restricted to NELL people. They were all lighthouse people from all over. So far I have found them from Maryland to Maine, Massachusetts to Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula Michigan and beyond. As lighthouses are worldwide, so are these friendly people! Eileen, Kaitlyn and I have visited and climbed over 120 lighthouses Kaitlyn climbing more than I have.
We have toured Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, Canada. We have completed the New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge twice and completed the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge in its inaugural very wet year. The three of us have climbed the 3rd tallest lighthouse in the country and plan on conquering “Mt. Cape Hatteras” in the near future. Eileen and I are the NELL merchandise co-chairs and we have the best “foreman” in Kaitlyn that anyone could have. It is truly the beginning of what I like to call a great new journey for the three of us. A father, daughter and granddaughter. Oh, by the way, I do intend to get to that little red lighthouse, which I now know is Jeffrey’s Hook real soon. Thank you Eileen so very much for getting my life started again, and to all of you in NELL and ALF and the lighthouse community. I love you all!
Author’s Note: Since I first wrote this article two years ago, I have become a member of WILD and the Collector’s forum and beginning this September,
I will be the new Vice President of NELL.
Eileen, along with Kaitlyn and I, did the L.I. Lighthouse challenge in its inaugural year. I have increased the lights that I have climbed and seen to approx 200 some odd and finally climbed more lighthouses than Kaitlyn. This past summer, while attending the Harbour Lights Regional Event, I added New Cape Henry to my list and conquered “Mt. Cape Hatteras,” and in a bittersweet moment, I climbed Old Cape Henry… again.
This story appeared in the
September 2006 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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