Digest>Archives> Jul/Aug 2015

Keeper's Korner

Tidbits and Editorial Comment From the Tower

By Timothy Harrison


Lighthouse Goes Solar

The Nagayalanka Lighthouse on the east coast of India on the Bay of Bengal has completely switched over to solar power. The lighthouse is tucked away between a dense mangrove forest and the Bay of Bengal. An official said that being a lighthouse keeper stationed here is like being on a permanent holiday in an exotic location, but dangerous in the case of a medical emergency.

Seacow Head Delayed

The ownership transfer of 1864 Seacow Head Lighthouse in Fernwood, Prince Edward Island, Canada from the Canadian Coast Guard to the local community could now be delayed for as much as three years because it has been stated that the lighthouse has adsorbed hazardous mercury. In the meantime the Coast Guard will not paint the lighthouse, and a local group refuses to paint the lighthouse unless they know for sure that they will get ownership. When the lighthouse was automated in 1959, the keeper’s house was sold and moved away. In 1979 the lighthouse was saved when it was moved back from the eroding bluff. Many of the opening scenes of the Canadian TV show Road to Avonlea, which aired from 1990 to 1996, featured the lighthouse. Some episodes aired in the United States under the titles of Avonlea and Tales from Avonlea.

Ready to Work at St. Joseph

The St. Joseph City Commission has approved nearly $990,000 to immediately start the rehabilitation restoration of Michigan’s St. Joseph Pier Inner and Outer Lighthouses. The money comes from the $1.7 million raised so far by The Lighthouse Forever Fund. The restoration of the catwalk will be done after the lighthouses themselves are restored.

Chinese Lights Disputed

China recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of two lighthouses in internationally disputed waters in the South China Sea. China’s Ministry of Transport hosted the ceremony for two multifunctional lighthouses on Huayang Reef and Chigua Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, said that China is carrying out construction projects in the region to facilitate activities such as maritime search and rescue, disaster relief, environmental protection, and navigational security. However, the United States and other countries claim that this is just a ruse to expand military installation in high traffic shipping zones.

Cape San Blas on Register

On May 7, 2015 Florida’s Cape San Blas Lighthouse was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places. In August of 2014, in an epic move, the lighthouse was moved from the eroding bluff on Cape San Blas to Bayside Park in the City of Port St. Joe.

Keeper’s Descendant Dies

We are saddened to report on the passing of Julian Kilton (1940-2015) of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina who was a past volunteer at Little River Lighthouse where his great grandfather, Charles A Kenney, was the lighthouse keeper from 1912 to 1921.His great grandfather had also been a lighthouse keeper at the other Maine lighthouses at Petit Manan, Libby Island, and St. Croix River. Also, his grandfather, Harold L Kilton, was also a lighthouse keeper who served at Libby Island Lighthouse, Goose Rocks Lighthouse, and Doubling Point Range Lighthouses.  As well as being a volunteer at Little River Lighthouse, Julian Kilton was also an early financial supporter of the restoration of Little River Lighthouse. Our condolences go out to his family and friends.

Aircraft Carrier Exhibit

There is an exhibit at Michigan’s Grand Traverse Lighthouse that features World War II aircraft carriers that served to train landing signal officers and pilots, including 19-year old George H.W. Bush. The exhibit is primarily about the aircraft carriers, the Wolverine and the Sable, which were not massive steel ships, but wooden, coal-powered side wheel paddle-boats landlocked to the Great Lakes to be used specifically for training purposes. The exhibit will run until the first week in December. FMI call 231-386-7195 or go to www.GrandTraverseLighthouse.com.

USFS Honors Volunteers

The U. S. Forest Service recently honored Ron (“Gilly”) and Karen Gilmore as Volunteers of the Year for their work as caretakers at the Point Iroquois Lighthouse in Brimley, Michigan. The Gilmores, who have been living at the lighthouse, oversee the care and upkeep of the building and grounds during different seasons, and they have welcomed visitors from all over the world. They also developed programs incorporating period character performances based on local history. Congratulations to the two of them.

Mission Point Director Quits

Celia Villace, director of Michigan’s Mission Point Lighthouse, has resigned from her job, citing a lack of support from officials of Peninsula Township who own the lighthouse. The announcement came after a 5 to 1 vote that denied her to sell more items in the gift shop at the lighthouse. Officials were worried that the gift shop would be competing too much with other local business. Apparently, some of these short-sighted officials have never researched other lighthouses with gift shops that also have local businesses also selling souvenirs with no real effect on each other. One good example of this is the gift shop by Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine.

Purcell Corbett Dies at 96

We are saddened to report on the passing of Purcell W. Corbett (May 29, 1918 - May 18, 2015), the last surviving child of veteran lighthouse keeper Willie W. Corbett who served at Saddleback Ledge, Tenants Harbor, Monhegan Island, and Little River lighthouses in Maine. His grandfather was Roscoe Johnson who was also a lighthouse keeper at Little River Lighthouse and at Libby Island Lighthouse, also in Maine. Another relative, Ephraim N. Johnson, was a lighthouse keeper at Great Duck Island and West Quoddy lighthouses in Maine. Over the years Purcell shared many memories of growing up at Little River Lighthouse. Among those who attended Purcell Corbett’s Celebration of Life Ceremony were Timothy Harrison and Kathleen Finnegan of Lighthouse Digest; Terry Rowden, a former Coast Guard keeper at Little River Lighthouse; and George “Bubba” Eaton, a former Coast Guard keeper at Maine’s West Quoddy Head Lighthouse who was also a member of the Military Honor Guard for the service. The closing hymn for the service was “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning.” Our condolences go out to Purcell Corbett’s family and friends.

Gay Head Related Move

The Gay Head Lighthouse isn’t the only thing to be moved on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The 1st order Fresnel lens from the Gay Head Lighthouse that has been on display since 1952 in a replica lantern on the grounds of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum will also be moved. Jim Woodward, one of the nation’s leading experts on Fresnel lenses, who recently examined the gigantic lens, said, in referring to the lens, that in his opinion “the lens is as close to factory-perfect as he’s ever seen.” A new building will be constructed at the old Marine Hospital where the Martha’s Vineyard Museum will be moving to.

Spanish Lighthouse Motels

The Spanish government has announced that the Malaga Lighthouse and the Marabella Lighthouse will both be turned into tourist attraction hotels. Government officials stated that this was the preferred idea to prevent the lighthouses from falling into a state of disrepair.

Changes at Little River

The 2015 season at Maine’s Little River Lighthouse started with some changes that most people won’t even notice, but nevertheless, the changes were significant. Since the end of last season, Dave Corbett, Timothy Harrison, Cheryl Corbett, Kathleen Finnegan, and Richard Knight all resigned as officers of the Friends of Little River Lighthouse, a chapter of The American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF). ALF has disconnected the local phone number, closed the local post office box, and all reservations for overnight stays and donations are now handled and accepted by ALF’s Rockland office.

While some of these people may continue to be volunteers at the lighthouse, this will be the first time in the past 14 years that most of these officers will not be involved in the day-to-day management, care, and ongoing restoration of the historic lighthouse.

The remaining officers of the Friends of Little River Lighthouse, who are Cynthia Rowden and Judy Corbett, will stay on as volunteers, and Terry Rowden, a former Coast Guard keeper of Little River Lighthouse, will be the island’s caretaker.

Kathleen Finnegan, who helped start the Friends of Little River Lighthouse, said, “We are proud of what we accomplished over the years at Little River Lighthouse, but there is still so much that needs to be done. We wish to thank the many volunteers who helped over the years. And, there is no one better suited to be the on-island caretaker than Terry Rowden, who has his heart and soul into the place.” The officers who have resigned wish Cynthia, Judy, and Terry the best of success in the ongoing care of the lighthouse.

Lighthouse Kickstarter

Essex Heritage, the nonprofit which obtained ownership last year of the Bakers Island Lighthouse in Massachusetts, has announced a Kickstarter Campaign to help raise money for the lighthouse. For more information you can visit their website at www.EssexHeritage.org/Bakers.

Reprieve at St. John’s Point

The plans by the Commissioner of Irish Lights to remove the historic Fresnel lens from the St. John’s Point Lighthouse, as told in the last issue of Lighthouse Digest, has been delayed for two years because of a massive public protest not only by the local citizenry but by protests from around the world. You can follow their progress on Facebook at “The Lighthouse People (Killough)”.

Lighthouse Craft Lady Dies

Dorothy J. Peterson, 82, of Delaware has passed away. For 29 years she worked for the DuPont Company, but in later years she was known locally at craft shows as “The Lighthouse Lady” for the many lighthouse crafts that she made. Our condolences go out to her husband Robert “Bob” T. Peterson, her children, and other family members and friends.

Painting at Hereford Inlet

New Jersey’s Hereford Inlet Lighthouse will be repainted in a three-part project that will finish up in the spring of 2016. The $50,000 in labor is being donated for free by Ed Pearce, a local painting contractor. However, the Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse will have to pay for the material and paint, some of which is being donated by Soltz Paint and Decorating Centers.

Lost Women Found at Light

Two women who went missing this past April while touring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula were found two weeks after they disappeared and were removed by helicopter from the beach near the Crisp Point Lighthouse. The two sisters, one from Nebraska, and the other from Oklahoma, had been visiting family members in Michigan and no one knew exactly where they were headed for at the time that their disappearance was reported. Apparently their car got stuck in the mud and snow on the remote Crisp Point Road that eventually leads to the lighthouse. Since cell phones don’t work out there, they had no way to call for help. They survived on Girl Scout cookies and other munchies. By chance, a police helicopter spotted a reflection off the car through the trees, which led to their rescue.

Philmore Wass Dies

We are saddened to report on the passing, at the age of 97, of Professor Philmore B. Wass, author of the best-selling book, Lighthouse In My Life, about his life at Maine’s Libby Island Lighthouse where his father, Hervey Wass, was the head lighthouse keeper from 1919 to 1940. Philmore Wass was born to Hervey and Mabel Wass at Maine’s Whitehead Lighthouse on August 16, 1917 where his father was the assistant keeper from 1913 to 1919. With proceeds from the sales of his book, he established a scholarship fund. Philmore Wass is shown here in 2001 to the left of Lighthouse Digest editor Timothy Harrison. Donations in Philmore Wass’s memory can be sent to the Lighthouse Keepers Memorial Scholarship, Attention Amy Lentz, University of Maine Machias, 116 O’Brien Ave., Machias, ME 04654.

Voice of GLLF Dies

The Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival has lost a 19-year volunteer and good friend in the passing of Bob Fournier. Robert Lee Fournier, known as the Voice of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival because he handled the microphone during each year’s festival. Bob was a retired Major in the United States Air Force and was known for his patriotism. Our condolences go out to his friends and family. Bob, may you rest in peace while keeping the light on for the rest of us. You will be missed by so many of your lighthouse friends. Thanks for the memories.

Lighthouse Caretaker Dies

We are saddened to report on the passing of Michelle K. Dirksen, 59, who, in 2008, was the second caretaker of Maine’s Little River Lighthouse for the Friends of Little River Lighthouse.

Michelle was very active and passionate in lighthouse preservation, and before Little River Lighthouse she had been a caretaker at Race Point Lighthouse on Cape Cod. While at Little River Lighthouse, she made a report from her past experiences at Race Point Lighthouse on things that would improve the experience of overnight guest stays at Little River Lighthouse, many of which were immediately implemented, and were still is use as of last year. Michelle was the recipient of ALF’s Len Hadley Volunteerism Award for her work at Little River Lighthouse. Michelle was also an active volunteer for the Nauset Light Preservation Society on Cape Cod.

Michelle is shown here in the middle in a photo taken in 2008 that we labeled, “The Past, The Present, and the Future,” because it showed George and Wendy Morrison (left), who were the first care-takers, with the second caretaker Michelle Dirksen, who was then the current and outgoing caretaker, and Linda and Rodger VanTatenhove (right) who were the caretakers for the end of the 2008 season, and later for the entire 2009 season. 

Our sincere condolences go out to Michelle Dirksen’s family and friends, who were many. Services were held at Nauset Lighthouse in Eastham, Massachusetts.

This story appeared in the Jul/Aug 2015 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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