Saturday, February 6, 2016

Phil Karwowski, "Keeper" of Hospital Point Light

I'm very sad to report that Phil Karwowski, an active member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary who was the volunteer keeper of Hospital Point Light in Beverly, Massachusetts, has died at 69. I worked with Phil many times over the years and found him to be a true gentleman with a passion for lighthouses. Here is his obituary in the Salem Evening News:

BEVERLY: Philip Henry Karwowski, 69, beloved husband of Deanna (Bourke) Karwowski, died Friday, February 5, 2016 at home surrounded by his loving family. 

Born and raised in Lynn, he was the son of the late Thaddeus and Blanche (Pryce) Karwowski. He graduated from Lynn Classical High School, Class of 1964 and continued his education, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Northeastern University. In 1966 he met Deanna and married in 1970. They lived in Virginia early on in Phil's Navy career. They returned to the New England area in 1974 and have lived in Beverly ever since. They loved to travel along the coastal area visiting other Lighthouses from Maine to Florida. They also loved cruising with friends to the Caribbean. 

An honorably discharged veteran, he served his country during the Vietnam War as a member of the United States Navy. He served 4 years active duty and 26 years in the Naval Reserves. In 1999 Phil retired as a Master Chief. Phil also was active in the US Coast Guard Auxiliary for the past 12 years.Phil was employed at Stone and Webster Engineering in Boston for over 20 years. He also worked for the Federal Government at the DCMA office in Boston until his retirement in 2012.

A longtime resident of the City of Beverly, he was a member and past Commodore of the Bass Haven Yacht Club in Beverly where he also served on the Board of Directors. He also served on the Board of Directors at the Salem Willow's Yacht Club in Salem. Phil and the USCG Auxiliary have decorated Hospital Point Light for the holidays each year. 

Mr. Karwowski had a passion for lighthouses. As a member of the U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary, he put this passion into action, by working tirelessly with U.S. Coast Guard, Gold Side, to allow tours be given at the Beverly’s Hospital Point Light house to various
Hospital Point Lighthouse in Beverly
groupsand lighthouse enthusiasts. He enjoyed educating the public about the role of this Lighthouse in Beverly’s Maritime history. He was executive director of the “New England Lights”, a documentary film production service. He directed films about Hospital Point Lighthouse as well as other lighthouses along the Northeast Coastline. He received awards for these productions. You can view these films via BevCam Channel 8. 

In addition to his wife, with whom he shared 46 years of marriage, he is survived by two brothers, Theodore Karr and his wife, Maureen of Ipswich and John Karwowski and his wife, Maureen of Swampscott; two nieces, Mae and Claire Karwowski; three nephews, Matthew Karr and his wife, Annette, Joseph Karr and David Karr.They family would like to send their gratitude to Lahey Burlington and Lahey Peabody. 

A special thank you to Susan Bowers, Jesse Brodbeck, Barbara Petricone and all the ladies in Oncology. A special thank you to Patrick, Beatrice, Allison and the staff at Care Dimensions. 

Funeral services will be held at the Campbell Funeral Home, 525 Cabot Street, Beverly, Tuesday, February 9, 2016, at 10:30 a.m. Relatives and friends are invited to attend. Visiting hours Monday from 4 to 7 p.m. Burial in the Central Cemetery, Beverly. Contributions may be made in his memory to the American Cancer Society, 30 Speen St., Framingham, MA 01701 or the Ronald McDonald House, 229 Kent St., Brookline, MA 02446. Information, directions, condolences

Friday, February 5, 2016

World Cancer Lighthouse Project Launched

A World Cancer Day Launch Project 

Today, The Hope Light Foundation launched the World "Beacons of Hope" project to unite lighthouses throughout the world to work together in the fight against cancer. 

The Hope Light Foundation is a 50(c)(3) nonprofit public charity dedicated to the fight against cancer. 

"We feel that launching the World "Beacons of Hope" project today was very appropriate since it is World Cancer Day that promotes uniting the worlds population to get involved in the fight against cancer by raising awareness", said Rudy Bess, Co-Founder of The Hope Light Foundation.  The Foundation "Beacons of Hope" project launch is listed as an activity on the World Cancer Day's website Map of Impact.  

As "Beacons of Hope", participating lighthouses will stand united with other world lighthouses to navigate people to life-saving cancer awareness information, promote early detection and become beacons of hope for cancer patient survivorship and cures for all cancers.  With early cancer detection and treatment, patients have a better chance for survival and a better chance for a cure.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this year, 8.2 million people will die from cancer throughout the world with 14 million new cases being diagnosed.  Within the next two decades, worldwide new cancer cases will increase to 22 million and if left unchecked, cancer deaths will rise to more than 13 million.  This year, in the United States alone, over 573,000 people will die from cancer with over 1.5 million new cases being diagnosed.  

Metropolis Lighthouse in Illinois
"For over 2000 years, lighthouses have been used to navigate ships through dark stormy seas with hope for survival by finding a safe harbor", Bess said.  "This is similar to a cancer patients dark journey into the unknown with hope for surviving this deadly disease.  This is why we are calling upon lighthouses throughout the world to help fight cancer". 

The Hope Light Foundation built the Metropolis Lighthouse aka "Hope Light" in Metropolis, Illinois on the bank of the Ohio River as a means to increase cancer awareness and as a symbol of hope for surviving cancer.  This is the worlds first lighthouse that was designed, built and dedicated to the fight against cancer. Lighthouses throughout the world will have the opportunity to join the Metropolis Lighthouse in fighting cancer by helping raise cancer awareness and save lives.

Bess and his wife Beverly are co-founders of The Hope Light Foundation.  They have visited over 450 lighthouses in the United States and Canada and have gained appreciation for their history and lore. 

"Many people look upon lighthouses as sources of strength and inspiration which has made them popular travel destinations", Bess said.  "I feel the Beacons of Hope project will increase the general public's interest in visiting participating lighthouses while increasing their interest in learning how to detect cancer early and save lives.  As implied by the World Cancer Day's theme, We Can work together to increase cancer awareness and decrease preventable deaths throughout the world."        

To find out how to become a "Beacon of Hope" lighthouse and the features and benefits of participating in the project, lighthouse representatives are asked to visit The Hope Light Foundation's website at

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Portland Head Light - 225 Years Old Today

Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, went into service on January 10, 1791 -- 225 years ago today. President George Washington approved the appointment of Capt. Joseph Greenleaf, a veteran of the American Revolution, as the first keeper. 

At first, Greenleaf received no salary as keeper; his payment was the right to fish and farm and to live in the keeper’s house.As early as November 1791, Greenleaf wrote that he couldn’t afford to remain keeper without financial compensation. In a June 1792 letter, he complained of many hardships. During the previous winter, he wrote, the ice on the lantern glass was often so thick that he had to melt it off. In 1793, Greenleaf was granted an annual salary of $160. 
Greenleaf died of an apparent stroke while in his boat on the Fore River in October 1795. According to the Eastern Argus newspaper, he had “faithfully discharged his duty to the satisfaction of those who occupy their business on great waters.”

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Halloween lighthouse story

Penfield Reef Lighthouse was built in 1874, more than a mile offshore from Fairfield, Connecticut. The saddest incident in the lighthouse’s history took place nearly three decades later.

On December 22, 1916, Keeper Fred A. Jordan left the lighthouse at twenty minutes past noon to row ashore. There were high seas and strong winds, but the keeper badly wanted to join his family for Christmas and to give his hand-made presents to his children. Assistant Keeper Rudolph Iten watched from the lighthouse as Jordan pushed his boat through the waves. About a hundred yards from the lighthouse, Jordan’s boat capsized.

He clung to the boat and signaled for Iten to lower the station’s remaining boat and come to his aid. Iten tried valiantly to do this, but the steadily increasing waves and wind made it impossible to launch the boat. He finally got underway about 1 p.m., but by that time Jordan had drifted a mile and a half to the southwest. Iten said later:

"I did my level best to reach him, but I hadn’t pulled more than half a mile when the wind changed to the southwest, making a head-wind and an outgoing tide, against which I couldn’t move the heavy boat. I had to give up, and returned to the station in a regular gale. From the station I sent distress signals to passing ships, but none answered. At three o’clock I lost sight of the drifting boat. The poor fellow’s body wasn’t found until three months later. He was a fine fellow, was Fred."

Rudolph Iten
Iten was absolved of any blame for Jordan’s death. He was promoted to head keeper and would remain for more than a decade. A few years later another writer visited Iten, and a conversation in the wee hours of the morning turned decidedly macabre.

“They say that all lighthouse keepers are mad,” said Iten as a preface to the following chilling tale, told against the background of the whispering wind and the gentle wash of the waves.

"You ask if there has ever been anything in the nature of a supernatural occurrence at this lighthouse. Well, all light keepers are more or less hard-boiled and not given over to stretches of imagination. While I don’t deny or admit the theory of ghosts, something happened here one night that seemed to point to the establishment of the fact that there are such things as supernatural visitations."

Iten recounted the accidental death of Keeper Jordan in December 1916, then continued:

"Some days later on what was one of the worst nights in the history of Penfield, and the waves were dashing over the lantern, I was awakened – I was off duty – by a strange feeling that someone was in my room. Sitting up I distinctly saw a gray, phosphorescent figure emerging from the room formerly occupied by Fred Jordan. It hovered at the top of the stairs, and then disappeared in the darkness below. Thinking it was the assistant keeper I called to know if anything was the matter, but he answered me from the lens room that all was well. 

"Much puzzled, I went downstairs and to my consternation I saw lying on the table the log-book of the lighthouse, with the page recording the drowning of Poor Jordan staring me in the face! 

"This is the only time the book has been taken from its place by other hands than mine or my assistants, and as to how it got on the table and lay open with the entry about Jordan will always remain a mystery to us here. I have seen the semblance of the figure several times since and so have the others, and we are all prepared to take an affidavit to that effect. Something comes here, that we are positive. There is an old saying, ‘What the Reef takes, the Reef will give back.’ Poor Jordan’s body was recovered not long after his drowning, and in the pocket of his coat was found a note addressed to me – which he probably forgot to leave before he started on his fateful ride in that rough sea – instructing me to complete the entries of that morning – the day he died – as they were not brought up to date."

An undated article in the Bridgeport Public Library claims that, on stormy nights, “the specter of the
reef is said to be flitting among the rocks, poised on the rail of the gallery that surrounds the lantern or swaying, as if in agony, among the black and jagged rocks that surround the base of the light.” The article tells the story of a power yacht that ran into trouble on the rocks but was “piloted through the breakers to safety by a strange man who suddenly appeared amid the surf creaming over the rocks… in a row-boat.”

And then there were the two boys who were fishing near the reef when their canoe capsized, throwing them into the sea. A man appeared “from out of the rocks” and pulled them to safety. When they came to, they entered the lighthouse expecting to thank their savior, but he was nowhere to be found.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

New Lighthouse Cruises from Norwalk, Connecticut

I'll be doing some commentary aboard this cruise on November 7. Space is limited -- make your reservations now!

NORWALK, CT – Venture out on Sat., Nov. 7 for a rare close-up look at five historic lighthouses on Long Island Sound during a Maritime Aquarium Lighthouse Cruise, a new boat outing offered at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

Penfield Reef Lighthouse, photo © Jeremy D'Entremont
Participants aboard the Aquarium’s unique new hybrid-electric research vessel R/V Spirit of the Sound™ will make passes by five century-old beacons: Peck Ledge, Greens Ledge and Sheffield Island lighthouses in Norwalk, Penfield Reef Lighthouse in Fairfield and Stratford Shoal (Middle Ground) Light.

The 4.5-hour cruise departs at 10 a.m.

“As we see firsthand with our annual Festival of Lighthouses Contest, people have a special fondness for lighthouses,” said Tom Naiman, the Aquarium’s director of education. “There’s a respect there for the role that lighthouses play in our maritime history, and an appreciation for the different ways that they were designed and built. These cruises are a great chance to see these unique structures up close and from the water.”

The cruises will pass by:
• Greens Ledge Lighthouse, a cast-iron “sparkplug” lighthouse southwest of the Norwalk harbor (and south of the Five Mile River). It was built in 1902 and automated in 1972.
• Sheffield Island Lighthouse, one of Norwalk’s iconic structures. Built in 1868, the graniteblock lighthouse with a white lantern tower was deactivated in 1902 upon the debut of Greens Ledge Lighthouse. The Norwalk Seaport Association bought the lighthouse in 1986 and re-lit it in 2011 – but not for navigational purposes.
• Peck Ledge Lighthouse, a cast-iron “sparkplug” lighthouse at the southeast approach to Norwalk Harbor. Built in 1906 and automated in 1933. A recent online auction to place the lighthouse – but not the light’s operations – into private hands drew a top bid of $235,000.
• Penfield Reef Lighthouse, a charming granite-block lighthouse with a short lantern tower rising from the white mansard roof. Built in the early 1870s and automated in 1971.
• Stratford Shoal Lighthouse, a granite-block house whose location is still debated: is it actually in Connecticut or New York? Built about 8 miles off Bridgeport on the Sound’s dangerous Middleground Shoal in 1877, the light was automated in 1970.

All the lighthouses are on the National Register of Historic Places. Aquarium educators will offer details, histories, and anecdotes about the lighthouses, and also – since they’re in view – point out the Sound’s visiting winter waterfowl. Binoculars will be provided.

Click here or call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206, to get your tickets!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Maine's Wood Island Lighthouse gets major donation for restoration

August 12, 2015

Wood Island Lighthouse, situated off the coast of Biddeford Pool, Maine, has a major new benefactor for its ongoing restoration work.  Today, Judith Klement, a resident of Savannah, Georgia, and the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse (FOWIL) jointly announced a significant donation from Ms. Klement for the interior restoration of the lighthouse keeper’s house, beginning with an initial increment of $50,000 for work to be done this summer.

“My longtime interest in historic preservation and my fascination with Wood Island Lighthouse from my many summers at our family home in Saco, prompted me to write.” Ms. Klement said.  “Then, two trips to the island to learn about the restoration progress and to meet the FOWIL people reinforced my instinct to help advance the excellent work they are doing,” she added.

Brad Coupe, chair of FOWIL’s executive committee, said, “We are ecstatic and most grateful for Judy’s very generous commitment. With this first piece, we have been able to mobilize and start work on the project, and, with Judy’s further help, it should be possible to complete this phase in approximately a year’s time.”

Much will remain after the interior work is finished to achieve the full restoration of the light station, according to Mr. Coupe, but this phase will largely finish the restoration of the keeper’s house and the light tower.

The first stage of the interior project is the removal of badly degraded plaster ceilings in all nine rooms of the keeper’s house, to be followed by re-wiring of the house and restoration of the plaster walls. The whole interior project is estimated to cost $218,000 and Ms. Klement’s total contribution is expected to fund most of that work.

FOWIL plans to restore the house to its look in 1906, when the current  configuration was created. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the  lighthouse in 1808.  It has undergone dramatic changes over the years, but the 1906 transformation, when the gambrel roof and columned open porch were added, is regarded by FOWIL to be its most pleasing architectural appearance.

FOWIL is obligated to perform work pursuant to National Park Service restoration guidelines as administered by the Maine State Historic Preservation Commission and the U. S. Coast Guard.  “It is exacting work with rigorous standards, but the results are rewarding and authentic,” Mr. Coupe said. “We have been at this since 2003, doing the work as we could raise the funds to pay for it. Judy’s donation, in the end, may turn out to be the largest we have had from any source and it will take us a long way toward realizing our complete restoration goal.  Her confidence in us is a source of great satisfaction and reward to all our volunteers who have devoted countless hours for more than a decade to the work of preserving this historic landmark.”

In addition to its restoration work, FOWIL operates a summer tour schedule taking vacationers out to experience the lighthouse. The group also makes educational presentations to school children and adult groups on the history of this lighthouse and its significance to the maritime commerce in the Saco Bay area. FOWIL is a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, based in Owls Head, Maine.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tours to Baker's Island Lighthouse

One of the most exciting developments in the New England lighthouse world this summer is the launch of tours to Baker's Island Lighthouse in Salem, Massachusetts, run by the new owners, the Essex National Heritage Commission (ENHC).

The tours last about 2 hours, leaving from the Salem Ferry dock at 10 Blaney Street. The trip to the island is aboard the Naumkeag, a specially designed craft that allows passengers to disembark on the beach near the lighthouse.

The knowledgable resident caretaker leads the tour on the island, along with the boat crew. This is a very historic light station, dating back to 1798. For many years there were two lighthouses on the island; one of them was demolished in 1926. Click here to read more history.

The 59-foot rubblestone tower that stands today was built in 1820. It was recently refurbished by the ENHC, and it's in pristine condition.

Visitors are not allowed up the stairs inside the lighthouse, but they are allowed to look inside at the stone stairs.

This is a wonderful opportunity to tour a nineteenth century light station. The trips run until early September.