A collection of blogs and musings from the people that work at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum - Florida's Finest Lightstation.

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Ken Black, Mr. Lighthouse, Leaves Us

Posted by: Kathy Fleming in Speaking Directly

The Director of the Maine Lighthouse Museum passed-over this week. I thought I'd take time to share a little about him. When the Florida Lighthouse Association this last weekend I talked and listened mostly to David D'Amicol tell some stories that involved both he and Ken and various USCG exploits during nor-easters on the Great Lakes. What brave guys!. I did not write this, but here is a snip from Ken's life history from his Obit that went around:

Black is largely credited as being one of the principle founders of the lighthouse preservation movement in the United States, and the first person to have a national newsletter about lighthouses, which always ended with his personal comments and the statement, "Be neighborly," a philosophy that he was known to live by.

Born on June 29, 1923, Black was a Coast Guard veteran of World War II and he saw action at the invasion of Okinawa. After the war served throughout New England and the Great Lakes in various capacities including, being OIC at the Point Allerton, Massachusetts Life Boat Station; Commander of a lightship; Group Commander of the Quoddy Head Coast Guard Station in Lubec, Maine; Commander of the Coast Guard Cutter Ojibwa and he finished his over 32-year Coast Guard career as Commander of the Rockland, Maine, Coast Guard Station.

His interest is saving lighthouse artifacts began when he realized that many items were being discarded as automation changed the way lighthouses had been operating since the late 1700's. He first created an exhibit at the base of Boston Lighthouse in the 1960's, an exhibit that is still there to this day. As well as being the first Coast Guardsman to decorate a lighthouse at Christmastime, he stared the First Marine Exhibit at the Rockland Coast Guard Station, which evolved into the largest collection of lighthouse lenses and equipment in America. By the time he had retired from the Coast Guard in 1973 he was the official curator of the First Coast Guard District.

When I was just a newbie at lighthouse keeping, well I didn't know much about it. I didn't know what a rich community of lighthouse keepers were out there to help and support us here in St. Augustine. I had not yet come to depend on friends like Joe Cocking or Cullen Chambers or architect Ken Smith for advice. I had not yet met Anne Caneer and seen what amazing things she had done at Ponce Inlet. The list goes on and on...but I did sit down and watch a tour of Ken's Black's museum in Maine. I watched him talk about his objects, about aids to navigation, over and over. When I give a tour I still use things I learned that day by listening to Ken talk.

I know a thing or two about museums. And, I know that the museum world lost someone special when they lost Ken Black. But to the lighthouse community it's like loosing our founder and father at the same time. Fair winds Ken, and all our best wishes for happy memories of many years to Dot and the entire Black clan. May you find peace and comfort in your love for each other and for Ken. Our whole community will miss him.

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