John William Faulkingham was born on February 8, 1914 to William and Lena Faulkingham on Beals Island, Maine. When his father died, his mother married Vernard Alley, who did not get along with the children, which initiated them to be raised by other family members. John lived with a local fisherman’s family where he soon gained his love for the sea. From the time he was a young boy until he joined the Coast Guard he worked at clamming, fishing, and lobstering.
During his Coast Guard career, which stared on February 26, 1935, John W. Faulkingham served at a number of locations, including the Merrimac River Life Boat Station near Newburyport, Massachusetts; and in Maine at the Monhegan Island Lighthouse Station, the Manana Fog Signal Station, the Whitehead Life Boat Station, Egg Rock Lighthouse, Southwest Harbor Coast Guard Station, Baker Island Lighthouse, a patrol boat out of Jonesport, and he finished his career as the Officer in Charge of the Burnt Island Life Boat Station.
Although John W. Faulkingham had a long 23 year career with the United States Coast Guard, very few recollections of his duty assignments seem to have survived. In 1935 John W. Faulkingham married Eva Pinkham and the couple had five children: four sons and one daughter. From 1945 to 1951, the entire family lived at Monhegan Island Lighthouse. It was the only time during his Coast Guard career that his family was allowed to live with him at a duty station. In fact, four of his five children were born while he was stationed at Monhegan Island Lighthouse.
In later years, John Faulkingham’s son Fred recalled that one of his favorite memories of life at the lighthouse was of the visits of the Flying Santa. Three of the Faulkingham children attended a one-room school house on the island with five other island children. For a time, his sister Cynthia was the only girl attending school. Although life was somewhat lonely in the winter months, all of the children had fond memories of living at the lighthouse. In fact, in later years all of them seemed to agree that the happiest memories of their childhood were those years spent at Monhegan Island Lighthouse
In those days there were only a few working vehicles on the island; all were trucks, with the exception of the lighthouse jeep that John Faulkingham used to drive up and down Lighthouse Hill for supplies or use for emergencies. But the kids had to make the walk to and from school. When John Faulkingham had to go to the mainland for business or supplies, his brother-in-law Philip “Pink” Pinkham and his wife Lulu helped the family with chores and maintaining the lighthouse. The family always had to stock up on groceries to allow for times when supplies could not get to the island because of inclement weather. Because of this, for the rest of her life while living on the mainland, Eva Faulkingham always kept her pantry well stocked.
As well as maintaining the lighthouse, John Faulkingham also maintained the island’s only water tower, and often times made many repairs to the structure - experience that helped him later when he had to repair the Coast Guard watch tower at Burnt Island Life Boat Station.
As the respected son of a lighthouse keeper, Fred Faulkingham was able to secure a summer job at the island’s inn and a job as a mail carrier delivering telegrams and mail to the older residents who couldn’t get to the post office. He was even given an official Post Office hat. He also made himself available to the summer people to run errands for them. From the money he earned, he was able to buy himself a bike, which he was quite proud of.
John Faulkingham’s wife, Eva, recalled how she was often required to light the lens at night when John was off elsewhere. He said the children just loved living the island life, and being the son of a lighthouse keeper. But, after their time at Monhegan Island Lighthouse came to an end, something went wrong with their personal life when John got transferred to another post. The couple got divorced. John Faulkingham got remarried three more times after that, but Eva, who never remarried, lived to be over 100 years old, and outlived all of them.
After his retirement, John Faulkingham became a lobsterman, owning his own boat, something he did almost to the end of his life. He passed away on November 16, 2001.
This story appeared in the
May/Jun 2017 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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