Sunday, March 5, 2017

Farewell Jens Pedersen

Photo by Elinor DeWire

For at least fifteen years, Jens Pedersen, who grew up at lighthouses in Washington, was my friend. He passed away about a week ago. My heart aches for his loss--no more pleasant conversations with him, laughs, hugs, and enjoying his smile. He was indeed a wonderful man with lucid memories of a life on the lighthouses.

Jens Pederen, fourth from right, spent a few years of his youth at Turn Point Lighthouse on Stuart Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington. His father, Jens Sr. is second from left. Jens' older sisters are in the lineup, along with the children of Edward Albee. Photo courtesy of Ila Albee Lee (third from right).

His father, Jens O. Pedersen, was a lightkeeper at several Washington lighthouses. most notably Point Robinson Lighthouse on Vashon Island. The elder Pedersen retired from there in the 1950s as one the last keepers from the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment era. Now, his only son is gone. Several other Pedersen children also have passed. Those us of in the lighthouse community mourn these losses--sure indicators that the chapter of human lighthouse keeping is fast coming to a close.

Jens Pedersen, Sr. on the lantern of Point Robinson Lighthouse, about 1950.

Jens, Sr.'s retirement in the mid-1950s. Beside him, his faithful wife Elsie looks on with pride. Jens Sr. died in 1958, a short time after his retirement. He was 64.

Here, I'm sharing a few images of Jens Pedersen, Jr., plus a tender and much-deserved tribute to him from the President of the Keepers of Point Robinson, Capt. Joe Wubbold.

My Dear Members of the Point Robinson Family,

For the second time in a month, it is my sad duty as your Captain to tell you of the death of one of our own.  Our friend, colleague, faithful attendee at all of our events and gatherings and former resident of Quarters A,  Jens, died last week.  I had a call from his nephew Tom, who wanted to know how to make a donation to the lighthouse.  I must have been particularly dense and obtuse, because it took a minute for me to realize that this was a memorial to Jens.  I had then to back down and ask, right between the running lights, if he was telling me that Jens was dead.

Snow was rare at Point Robinson. A youthful Jens, Jr.. combined snow shoveling with fun (note the face peeking out of the snow on the left side of the walk). In the background is one of the station's tanks and the family car.

The story becomes a little complex at this point, and I am awaiting further word from his family.  Jens did not want any ceremony, nor any memorial, just a party.  So if the family is willing, we will all help in that final wish.  What form that will take, when it will be, and other details must await the fullness of time.  It seems to me that the most appropriate place, and in fact, the only place, to have this would be in Quarters A, in which he lived when his father was stationed at Point Robinson.  
It was never in our thinking that our houses would be the site for the departure ceremonies for our friends.  When we had good memories of Ka, just a few weeks ago, Carol wanted it to be in the house in which he had put so much of himself.  So also is it with Jens.  We had his 90th birthday party there, and we have had our Open Houses there on the first Sunday of December.  When Jens did not come to the top of the lighthouse this last year, a tradition we had observed for years, I was concerned, and hoped it was only a minor ailment.  It turns out, now, that it was much more serious.

As we hope for all of us, when the final call is sounded, he did not die alone.  And we will honor his wish for no sadness, or actually a lot, but also for that party.  I will put out more information as I get it,  I have included former Board members, people who knew Jens but are no longer directly connected with the Keepers of Point Robinson, and some people who I just want to know.

Jens and his two sisters reunited about 2009 on Vashon Island. Jens humorously labeled this photo "A thorn between two roses."

Jens and I had a special relationship.  Look at the Vashon Then and Now on Point Robinson, and you will see a charming part about Jens and our resident "daughter of the light", Mirabelle.  Jens and I had a tradition of his coming up to the top of the tower to "make his number with Captain Joe", whenever I was there, and he came to the Station.  Whenever he would do that, I would introduce him to the people taking the tour, and he would tell stories of what it was like to live as a child on a light station.  Jens, you were such a gracious man, generous of spirit.  We will have that party, and you will be there.

I am, as always when I have to do this, reaching out to each of you, and asking that we remember a lovely man.  That he was over 90 does not make me any less sad today, just thankful that he had admitted me to his friendship.  This is the same affection that I feel for each of you.

From the top of the lighthouse, Quick Flash 2, every 12 seconds, for that is the characteristic of Point Robinson Light,

Your Captain Joe

Jens and me on opening night of the Centennial Exhibit for Point Robinson's 100th birthday in October 2014. An entire exhibit panel was devoted to the Pedersen family and their time at the lighthouse in the 1930s through the middle 1950s. (Photo by Jonathan DeWire)

Below, the handsome fifth order lens at Point Robinson shines for all the keepers and their family members. Dear Jens, rest peacefully in lighthouse heaven!
(Photo by Bruce Robie)

All images courtesy of Jens Pedersen, Jr., except those otherwise labeled.

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