Digest>Archives> Nov/Dec 2018

Lighthouse Keeper Theodore T. Gaillard Honored with Marker

By Ted Panayotoff


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Lighthouse keeper Theodore Thomas Gaillard and ...

On the day before Christmas Eve, December 23, 1929, an out of fuel aircraft piloted by John Wolf landed on the beach at the Hunting Island Lighthouse near Beaufort, South Carolina. This event may well have been the most unusual in the thirty-one-year Lighthouse Service and Coast Guard Career of the Hunting Island Lighthouse Principal Keeper Theodore T. Gaillard. A letter on December 31, 1929 from the 6th Lighthouse District Superintendent commended Keeper Gaillard for "the assistance given to an aviator in need of help in an isolated locality . . ."

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Ted Panayotoff, lighthouse director for the ...
Photo by: Jo Panayotoff

While researching the keepers at the Hunting Island Lighthouse, this author discovered that Keeper Gaillard, who was the last keeper at Hunting Island Lighthouse before it was decommissioned in 1933, was buried with his wife, Estelle Ellen, in a local Beaufort cemetery. This discovery began the planning for recognizing the Gaillards by placing a Lighthouse Service and a Coast Guard grave marker at their grave site. This planning culminated in a ceremony Friday, August 10, 2018 sponsored by the Friends of Hunting Island State Park where the lighthouse is located, and as part of a yearlong celebration of the organization's 25th Anniversary and part of other local lighthouse events in August of 2018.

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Historic image of South Carolina’s Hunting Island ...

Theodore T. Gaillard's lighthouse career began in 1911 in Florida at the Jupiter Inlet Light Station as a 2nd assistant keeper after working several years as a seaman on vessels sailing from Savannah, Georgia. He was subsequently transferred to Mosquito Inlet Light Station, Florida in 1916 where he served until late in 1917. This service, which occurred during WW I, was while the Mosquito Inlet Light Station was under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy, resulting in his induction into the U.S. Naval Reserve Force that made him eligible for the World War One Victory Medal.

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The U.S. Lighthouse Service and U.S. Coast Guard ...
Photo by: Ted Panayotoff

He was then transferred to the Georgetown Light Station, then to the Cape Romain Light Station, and finally, in 1926, was appointed Principal Keeper at the Hunting Island Light Station, all in South Carolina. When Hunting Island Light was decommissioned in 1933, Keeper Gaillard went to the Lower Flats Light Station in Savannah, Georgia and from which, now an employee of the Coast Guard, he retired in 1942.

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Vintage image of Florida’s Jupiter Inlet ...

Theodore and his wife Estelle Ellen then moved to Beaufort, South Carolina where they owned a small farm northwest of the city. Theodore passed away in 1972 at the age of 95, having been predeceased by his wife in 1958.

The ceremony to honor the Gaillards was sponsored by the Friends of Hunting Island and hosted by the St. Helena Parish Church of Beaufort, in whose cemetery the Gaillards are buried. The ceremony featured a Coast Guard Color Guard, a bugler to play taps, and representatives of the Gaillard Family, including two great grandsons. Coast Guard Sector Charleston and the Aids to Navigation Teams from Charleston and Savannah were represented by a significant detachment lead by Capt. John Reed (USCG), Commander Sector Charleston. The Hunting Island State Park was represented by the Park Manager, J. W. Weatherford, and the Friends of Hunting Island by their Vice President Ted Temple and the Lighthouse Director, and myself, dressed in a replica lighthouse keeper's uniform. The Rev. Todd Simonis of the St. Helena Parish Church offered a very fitting benediction.

After the ceremony, the attendees adjourned to the church parish hall for cold drinks (the temperature was in the 90s), cheese and fruit, and a special cake with the Coast Guard emblem and Theodore’s and Ellen's names on it.

This story appeared in the Nov/Dec 2018 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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