Light keepers are honored

U.S. Coast Guard personnel salute while honoring lighthouse keepers at a ceremony in Southwest Harbor last week. ISLANDER PHOTO BY MATT MITTERHOFF

U.S. Coast Guard personnel salute while honoring lighthouse keepers at a ceremony in Southwest Harbor last week. ISLANDER PHOTO BY MATT MITTERHOFF

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Seven lighthouse keepers were posthumously honored for their service to the U.S. Lighthouse Service at a ceremony at Mount Height Cemetery here on Wednesday, July 27.

The ceremony was organized by “Lighthouse Digest,” a magazine dedicated to preserving the history of lighthouses and the people who served in them.

The ceremony began with opening remarks from Tim Harrison, the editor of “Lighthouse Digest.” His remarks were followed by the posting of colors by the U.S. Coast Guard and music from Jim Sherman and Stephan Sanfilippo.

Letters were read from Sen. Angus King and Diana Bolton, the chair of the Marshall Point Lighthouse and Museum.

Additional remarks were made by Elaine Jones, the education director at the Department of Marine Resources, and Cornelia Cesari, president of Keepers of Baker Island, on the importance of keeping the history of lighthouses alive and of their connection to the history.

After these speakers, Harrison spoke again, this time about the U.S. Lighthouse Service and why it is important to remember. He said they put on these events because at the time, the Lighthouse Service was considered civilian more than military, and its members were not given the full recognition they deserved.

“As you walk through our cemeteries across this great nation, the private individual in looking at a tombstone would never know of the great service and dedication these people made to our country,” he said.

He also said that the members of this organization served dutifully to keep the men and women on waters alive and that service of that nature should receive the highest honor possible.

“What many fail to remember is that lighthouses were built for one purpose only: to save lives,” he said. “And way too many people do not realize the sacrifices and hardship that was endured by the people who once staffed and lived at our lighthouses, all for the benefit of others.”

Later, a marker and wreath was placed on the grave of Joseph M. Muise, one of the lighthouse keepers honored in the ceremony, by members of the U.S. Coast Guard. That was followed by more music, removal of the colors and a recitation of the Lighthouse Keepers Prayer.

After the ceremony closed, family members of the deceased and members of the Coast Guard placed markers and wreaths on the graves of the other six honored in the ceremony. They were James A. Morris, Joseph M. Gray, Albert Staples, Capt. Elmer Conary, Leverett S. Stanley and Howard “Bob” Gray.

In researching the graves of the keepers in Mount Height Cemetery, Harrison said the magazine found 10 more keepers who were buried there. A ceremony to honor their service and place markers on their graves will be performed sometime in the fall.

The U.S. Lighthouse Service was created in 1789. It went defunct in 1939, its duties overtaken by the Coast Guard, which is why they were involved in last week’s ceremony.

Matt Mitterhoff

Matt Mitterhoff

Matt Mitterhoff

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