This past September 2nd, a bell on the grounds of Florida’s St. Augustine was dedicated as a new memorial and rededicated for its original memorial.
It all started when Steve Senecal first saw the somewhat neglected bell on the grounds of St. Augustine Lighthouse and the idea came to him that the bell could also be used as a memorial for his son Steven who had been lost a sea in 2007. His body was never recovered.
In 1991the U.S. Coast Guard gave the bell to the Junior Service League, the organization that restored the lighthouse, to honor a flight crew of the USCG E2C radar plane that were lost during the war on drugs on August 24, 1990. The four Coast Guardsmen who had lost their lives in the line of duty were: Duane E. Stenback, Craig E. Lerner, Paul E. Perlt, and Matthew H. Baker.
Bill Senecal said, I saw the bell for the Coast Guard crew and it wasn’t showing itself in the best light. So that’s when I started to put together some ideas.”
However, using the bell to create a new memorial would require a lot of conversation with the proper people, not to mention the cost of restoration and the moving of the 2-ton bell that had been cast in 1933. A $10,000 donation from the Senecal family got things started. That was followed by a major contribution from the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum to fund a masonry platform with an etched compass rose that would eventually be as installed on the east lawn of the grounds of the light station upon which the bell would rest upon.
The project to restore the bell was taken on by the Chiefs Mess of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, and Eddie Conlon, a former Coast Guardsman and owner of Tree Medic, provided the equipment to lift and move the bell.
Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum said, “We’re excited that the bell is now restored to its original glory and will shine on in memory of loved ones lost.”
A granite marker honoring Steven Senecal was placed on the west side of the memorial and another memorial plaque was placed on the east side in memory of the Coast Guardsmen to whom the bell was originally dedicated.
Although, Bill Senecal said, “It finally gives us a little bit of closure,” the new memorial also helps keep alive the memory of Coast Guardsmen who lost their lives in the line of duty. Hopefully the many people who visit St. Augustine Lighthouse will stop and spend a silent moment at the memorial by the bell.
This story appeared in the
Nov/Dec 2013 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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