Recently two unsung heroes of the lighthouse community spent an early chilly morning and the better part of a day doing what most others never think about, taking care of the gravesites of the lighthouse keepers of yesteryear.
After a visit to the Vine Hills Cemetery early this past spring Doug Bingham of the American Lighthouse Foundation, noticed that the gravesites of some notable lighthouse keepers who served their country somewhat thanklessly in near anonymity a century ago, needed some major work.
Buried side by side in a small plot at the cemetery are: Milton H. Reamy (1818-87) a keeper at Narrows Light in Boston Harbor, the Plymouth (Gurnet) Light in Plymouth Bay and Minot’s Ledge Light off the coast of Cohassett and Scituate, Massachusetts; his son, Octavius H. Reamy (1876-1955), apprenticed at age twelve and appointed his first job as second assistant keeper at Graves Light when it was commissioned in 1905; Milton’s son George (1879-1977), who served at Deer Island Light in Boston Harbor; Milton H. Reamy, Jr. (1851-1925) and Henry M. Bailey (1892-1957) who was Milton, Sr.’s son-in-law and served as an assistant keeper at Eastern Point Lighthouse in MA.
Bingham mentioned to a friend, John Galluzzo of the Scituate Historical Society about the condition of the gravesites and before long the two of them showed up with a truckload of equipment to work on the neglected sites.
They trimmed the grass, and scrubbed the facades to bring back the inscriptions on them. They cleared the site of debris, and spread cedar mulch around the tombstones.
When they were finished they placed an American flag at the base of each lighthouse keeper’s grave. A simple act of gratitude and respect for these men who served their country and now are nearly forgotten, except by the few who work diligently to keep their memories alive.
As Bingham and Galluzzo prepared to leave the cemetery, Bingham pointed to a gravestone on a nearby hill. There overlooking the small family plot of lighthouses keepers was buried a woman named Grace Darling Chandler, obviously named for England’s most famous lighthouse heroine. Now, if they could only find out the story behind it, another unsolved piece of lighthouse history could be saved.
What can you do to help?
Hardly a day goes by that Lighthouse Digest doesn’t get a question from someone who asks what they can do to help save lighthouse history. What Doug Bingham and John Galluzzo did at the cemetery is one easy way for many people to help preserve our nation’s lighthouse history. Too often we think of saving the towers only, when there is so much else associated with lighthouses that can help.
Our lighthouse keeper families are buried in cemeteries all across the country. It is important to locate these gravesites, document them, restore them if necessary, clean up the area if required and maintain them into the future. Only the readers of Lighthouse Digest can help. If you know of the gravesites of lighthouse keepers, please photograph the site and send a photo to us. Then try to get some of your friends and neighbors to pitch in to either restore or take care of the site. And then whether it be on Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day, Coast Guard Day, or National Lighthouse Day (Aug. 7), place a small American flag at their gravesite as a simple remembrance of the men and women who helped make these United States the great nation that it is today.
This story appeared in the
June 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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