Monday, February 3, 2014

Fair Winds & Following Seas, Ron Foster!

My interest in lighthouses goes back to 1973 when I moved to Maine as a new bride. My husband was stationed at the Brunswick Naval Air Station, and we lived in the little maritime town of Bath. It had a shipyard on the Kennebec River and a wonderful maritime museum. On our jaunts in our '67 Volkswagon beetle, we discovered the area lighthouses. I was fascinated with them....and 41 years later, I still am.

Over the years, I've lived in many places and met many wonderful people who share my love of lighthouses. Sometimes, they contacted me by mail or email or attended my talks. Sometimes, I met them by chance in my travels. Sometimes, I discovered them just down the street. This is how I met Ron Foster--down the road a bit! Back in the mid-1990s, he had a hand in launching a group called NELL--New England Lighthouse Lovers. I knew about the group when it debuted, but I had no idea that a one of the founders lived in my town in Connecticut.

One day, I went to the post office to pick up my mail and found a letter from a man named Ron Foster. He told me he loved lighthouse and was part of a new lighthouse group called NELL. He asked if I would speak at a meeting. I was delighted to not only to speak, but also to meet a group that had formed so close to my home. It was a terrific day when I visited the group at Avery Point, Groton, on a satellite campus of University of Connecticut. I had a special place in my heart for the campus, since I'm a UCONN alum! I gave a talk, signed books, and was so impressed by the passion of this group I donated my speaking fee back to their effort.
This is me on the left, with Ron and his wife, MJ, at that NELL meeting. It was the beginning of a cherished friendship!

Ron Foster has given me many happy experiences and good collaborations. Ron is a fantastic photographer and has allowed me to use his images in several of my books and articles. I went on a few lighthouse tours with him, and we always had fun together sharing our mutual love for the sentinels. A few years ago, when Ron was visiting the Puget Sound area, I invited to my home. That's how special Ron is; I consider him a close friend as well as a cohort in the lighthouse preservation.

NELL eventually became part of the American Lighthouse Foundation. Also part of the effort is the Avery Point Lighthouse Society, dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the the small lighthouse that stands on the UCONN campus at Avery Point, not far from Ron's home. Ron was instrumental in launching the group and helping with restoration of the lighthouse. Much of the work happened after I left Connecticut, but Ron and the group have always kept me informed and included me in their effort. They even gave me an award for my work and an honorary membership in the group. 

The Avery Point Lighthouse was a beacon for me when I returned to college in the 1980s to finish my B.S. and then complete an M.A. I met my mentor there--Stephen Jones (above), a former Coast Guard lightkeeper, author, and professor of English. He supported me through college and my writing career and appears on the cover of my Guardians of the Lights: Stories of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers. We still keep in touch. The photo above shows us together at a an APLHS meeting in 2001. (The lighthouse and moon photo is on the APLS website.)

 Top photo shows restoration work on Avery Point Lighthouse. (Ann Trapani photo) The bottom before-and-after images, are by Ron Foster, showing how the lighthouse looks after the APLS funds and work returned it to its former beauty.  

The lighthouse was built in 1944 and was lighted from 1944 until 1967. It sat neglected for nearly forty years. APLS spent several million dollars to restore it, and they relighted it in 2006. This is the kindest act anyone or any group can do for a lighthouse--rekindle its beacon. It's like returning sight to the blind, I think.

You can learn more about this special little lighthouse and its active preservation/education group at

Ron Foster sent me an email this past weekend to say he is retiring from his job at Electric Boat after more than 40 years of work there. Today, February 3rd, is his first official day of retirement. I hope he's having fun today, and I suspect he's doing something "lighthouse." I know he is planning many lighthouse trips and projects for the coming years. And he'll continue to work tirelessly for the Avery Point Lighthouse Society. Some of the kindest, most dedicated and hardworking people I know are "lighthouse folks." Ron is among them.

Have fun in retirement, Ron. You deserve it. And keep shining as you always have! (Photo below taken in 2001 by Ron Drummond)

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