Digest>Archives> June 2007

Lighthouses, A Song and Emmaline

By Tara Opsteen-Van Dyke


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Jon and Tara Opsteen-Van Dyke with daughter ...

Five years ago, my husband and I set out for Bayfield, Wisconsin, to celebrate our third anniversary. One of the things we did while on that trip was take the Apostle Islands Lighthouse Cruise. Up until this point, we weren’t really into lighthouses, although living in Wisconsin we had enjoyed a few of them throughout our lives.

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Emmaline Madigan and Tara Opsteen-Van Dyke ...

After taking that cruise, we decided that “hunting” lighthouses would be a really fun thing to do, living near so many Great Lakes and all. Another thing that we did on that trip was hear the Canadian folk band, Tanglefoot, sing at Big Top Chautauqua. They sang about Canadian history and folklore. We were particularly taken with their song, “Emmeline,” which was about the last lighthouse keeper at the Pointe au Baril Lighthouse in Ontario, Canada.

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Emmaline Van Dyke in her Cape Hatteras Lighthouse ...

The song tells the story of Emmaline Madigan (Tanglefoot spelled her name differently than she does) who took over the lighthouse keeping duties when her husband passed away. She kept the light alone, and often times would sit in the lantern room, playing her violin, while making sure the lamps stayed lit. The reason we loved this song so much, aside from its simple beauty, was because of our newfound interest in lighthouses and also because we are both musicians.

After that trip, we saw many other lighthouses, and two years later, we found ourselves blessed with a beautiful baby girl. After searching for just the right name, we recalled the song that we loved so much and decided “Emmaline” would be the perfect name for our daughter. The song combined two of our loves--lighthouses and music, so we knew that the baby girl we love more that anything should have this name.

After our Emmaline was born, I contacted Emmaline Madigan and shared this story with her. She was so touched, and we shared several letters back and forth. When our Emmaline was 11 months old, we traveled to Pointe au Baril to visit Emmaline Madigan. During the summer she lives in the lighthouse, offering tours to boaters. She picked us up in her boat and brought us out to the lighthouse where we had the best lighthouse tour we’ve ever had. She shared so many stories, and gave our Emmaline a beautiful quilt that she had made. Since then, we have kept in contact, and she sends our Emmaline a lighthouse-themed gift for her birthday and Christmas each year. I think our favorite is the Christmas ornament that looks like the Pointe au Baril Lighthouse.

In June of 2007 we are heading back up to Canada to visit Emmaline and her special lighthouse. Our Emmaline will be nearly four, and will love meeting her namesake! In fact our daughter loves to “play lighthouse” on the front porch or at the top of slides. She always asks us to come to the top of the “lighthouse” because she is Emmaline Madigan!

Since Emmaline was born, we have shared so many lighthouse adventures together as a family. When she was only four months old, we toured the Seul Choix Lighthouse in Michigan and also took in the Peninsula Point tower. We recently returned to those lights so Emmaline could see the first lighthouses she had been in. Each summer we take a lighthouse trip, and Emmaline is clearly falling in love with lighthouses just as her mommy and daddy have. She even dressed as Cape Hatteras for Halloween

last year! And following in the footsteps

of Emmaline Madigan, she requested a violin for Christmas!

Editor’s Note: Here is a link to Tanglefoot’s website with the lyrics to “Emmeline”: http://www.tanglefootmusic.com/music/lyrics/fta.htm#emmeline (scroll down)

This story appeared in the June 2007 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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