When Dennis Tardiff lowered the flag at the Rhode Island’s Pomham Rocks Lighthouse on June 5, 1974 as the lighthouse was being decommissioned, little could he have realized that the ceremony would be reversed 31 years later, nearly to the day, as a start of a new life for an old lighthouse.
Pomham Rocks Lighthouse was the first duty station for Tardiff who spent 25 years in Coast Guard. He arrived at the lighthouse in April of 1971 and was stationed there until the final day when the lighthouse was decommissioned. Tardiff recalled that the sky was overcast that day and it was a bittersweet moment as lighthouse keeping came to an end at the historic lighthouse. By the end of the day, control of the lighthouse was turned over from Coast Guard control to the Rhode Island Historical Society, which had made arrangements for a caretaker family to live in the structure.
In later years, when caretakers stopped living on the island, the government decided to put it up for sale, and in 1980 the lighthouse was sold to Mobil Oil Corporation, which later became ExxonMobil. Although ExxonMobil did some routine maintenance to the lighthouse, the elements took their toll on the empty structure and it fell into disrepair.
In 2005 ExxonMobil leased the lighthouse to the American Lighthouse Foundation so that it could be restored by its local chapter, the Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse. The lease signing ceremony held on June 6, 2005 concluded with the raising of the flag and a $25,000 donation by ExxonMobil to the American Lighthouse Foundation toward the restoration of the lighthouse.
Tardiff said he was thrilled and impressed when he first discovered the on-line photos of the flag being raised nearly 31 years to the day when he took the flag down to decommission the lighthouse, and he wanted to share his historic photos to bring the two flag events full circle.
The history of Pomham Rocks took another turn when, on April 17, 2010 ExxonMobil donated the island and the lighthouse to the American Lighthouse Foundation. Tardiff said he is also pleased to know that the lighthouse that he called home for three years in the 1970s is now in the permanent care of the Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse and the American Lighthouse Foundation.
At the conclusion of the 2005 flag raising ceremony, Don Doucette, who went on to become the first chairman of the Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, read Psalm 107: 23-30 and concluded by saying, “Long may the flag of the United States of America wave over Pomham Rocks Lighthouse and long may this dwelling point toward safe haven, a snug harbor and help the mariner to find rest.”
Dennis Tardiff can be proud that his legacy of service and of those who served before him is being carried on into the future, and that Old Glory will always continue to fly high above the Pomham Rocks Lighthouse.
This story appeared in the
May/Jun 2011 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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