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Idyllic Life at Patos Island


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From 1957 to 1958, Coast Guardsman Walter Dorethy and his wife Doris along with their three young children, Joni, Craig, and Debbie, had the wonderful opportunity to be stationed at Washington State’s Patos Island Lighthouse, the northernmost island lighthouse in the continental United States. Walter Dorethy was stationed there with the families of Coast Guardsmen Robert S. McClaskey and William Crumrine, who was the Officer-In-Charge.

Seattle Times reporter Dolly Connley, along with photographer Josef Scaylea, visited with the lighthouse families in February of 1958 when this photo was taken of Walter Dorethy with his daughter Joni and her foot-operated pedal car that she had received as a gift the past Christmas. Dolly Connley wrote:

Patos Island youngsters have a wonderful life, although the toddlers must be taught to stay away from the cliffs. The little ones are a delight to all hands on the island and monopolize the daytime off-duty hours of their doting daddies. They receive far more attention from young fathers than is possible for children “on the beach” (the mainland). And so goes life on Patos Island – in the summer, gardening in a community vegetable patch, fishing and swimming in the protected coves; in winter, fun with the children.

Wives like the life. They often elect to ignore 72-hour liberty granted every third week in remaining on the island for months on end.

Life has its inconveniences. Everything must be anticipated, ordered and acquired in advance for use. Housewives must store away unused electrical appliances, which cannot operate on the island’s direct current, furnished by generator.

But they’ll tell you, as they gaze out at an expanse of sea and mountain, particularly their own, wild and beautiful: “It’s okeh [sic] – this life is really okeh.”

Sadly, the original keepers house at Patos Island Lighthouse was demolished in 1958 when it was replaced by a 3,300-square-foot new keeper quarters, which itself was abandoned in 1974 when the station was automated and subsequently deliberately burned down in 2005.

This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 2019 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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