Digest>Archives> January 2002

Jeffrey Canter: Lighthouse Keeper

By Jim Merkel


The Cape Hatteras Light has brought on many an infatuation with lighthouses. But there are few cases where it came as early as with Jeffrey Canter.

Jeffrey was all of 11 months old when he got a glimpse of the Hatteras light. His parents say something happened on that visit, and who are we to say it didn’t?

Only seven, the second grader at Stedwick Elementary School in Gaithersburg, Maryland already has visited more than 125 lighthouses on family vacations or weekends. When he’s not out visiting lighthouses, Jeffrey is at home with his parents, Rick and Elizabeth Canter, where they spend their evenings playing lighthouse games. He’s worn out several copies of “American Lighthouses: A Comprehensive Guide,” by Bruce Roberts. Anyone with a computer can see evidence of Jeffrey’s love for lights, at:


“It started at Cape Hatteras, and I started to like lighthouses. They look beautiful and they have a lot of history,” Jeffrey said.

Just before Labor Day last year, Dad and Jeffrey were adding another lighthouse to their list, when they visited the White River Light Station Museum on Lake Michigan at Whitehall, Mich. That day, they saw six lights in all on the eastern side of Lake Michigan. They rushed through the museum and bought souvenirs from museum curator Karen McDonnell before heading out the door.

Before they left, Jeffrey and Dad posed for a picture in the museum’s parking lot. Dad talked about his son, the ultimate lighthouse aficionado.

Before Jeffrey came along, Dad and Mom only had a mild amount of interest in lighthouses.

“He was 11 months old when he saw Hatteras Light and he just had this googly look on his face, of pure joy,” said Dad, a facilities manager. “The last couple years or so we’ve just gotten completely obsessed with it.”

Jeffrey saw a total of 64 lighthouses in seven states and one province in a whirlwind trip from Aug. 19 through Sept. 2. Mom took off work for part of the trip, because that’s all she had to spare.

In a follow-up E-mail, dad said Jeffrey does more than study lighthouses.

“Jeffrey is quite multi-faceted: he holds a red-belt in karate, enjoys geography and history, drawing, Pokemon, Gameboy, movies and hiking, is a good student and reads on a third grade level. I just don’t want you (or others) to think of him as one-dimensional,” Rick Canter said. “But, alas, he LOVES lighthouses.”

In a follow-up E-mail, Rick Canter explained more about his son’s love of lighthouses and how it all started.

“Mom and Dad enjoy traveling and Dad’s interest in lighthouses has begun to rival his son’s. We seem to feed off one another’s enjoyment,” Rick Canter wrote. “In the evenings, we play ‘I’m thinking of a lighthouse’ and it can be quite competitive or a good way to bond and pass the time.”

As Canter sees it, Jeffrey’s epiphany into the world of lighthouses came in 1995, during a traditional sojourn to the Cape Hatteras Light.

“As we left the grounds, Mom made an effort to show little Jeffrey the very tall striped building,” Canter said. “She kept showing it to him, but Jeffrey was oblivious. Finally, as we walked away for good, Jeffrey was looking backward over his mother’s shoulder and ‘got it.’ He smiled, pointed at the lighthouse and suddenly understood what his mom had been trying to convey to him. So we looked back with smiles all around.”

Elizabeth Canter said Jeffrey could read road signs when he was a baby.

“He would just absorb everything he would see,” she said. When he got a good look at the Cape Hatteras Light, “I saw Jeffrey’s face light up.”

Jeffrey didn’t say much during the brief interview in the parking lot of the White River Light Station Museum in Whitehall, Mich. But he opened up in an interview with his dad.

“Cape Hatteras is the famous moved lighthouse in America. Boston Light is also a famous lighthouse,” Jeffrey said.

Jeffrey and his dad are both impressed with and worried about the Mispillion Light in Slaughter Beach, Del., which is a 120-mile drive from their home. That light is listed on the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List.

“It’s in terrible shape,” Rick Canter said.

“It looks ruined, so I hope it can be restored or be saved,” Jeffrey said.

Fortunately, many lights are in good shape and Jeffrey has seen a number of them, and loved them. Among his favorites are Crisp Point west of Whitefish Point, Mich.; Munising Rear Range in Munising, Mich.; Cheboygan Crib in Cheboygan, Mich.; and Goderich in Goderich, Ontario.

“Things I learned about lighthouses that are most interesting are the moves, especially the two moves of Nauset on Cape Cod,” he said. The first move, he explained, was from Chatham to Eastham. The second brought it from the eroding cliffs.

One light he visited, he said with a giggle, was named after him: Jeffrey’s Hook Light in New York City.

This story appeared in the January 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.

All contents copyright © 1995-2024 by Lighthouse Digest®, Inc. No story, photograph, or any other item on this website may be reprinted or reproduced without the express permission of Lighthouse Digest. For contact information, click here.

to Lighthouse Digest

USLHS Marker Fund

Lighthouse History
Research Institute

Shop Online

Subscribe   Contact Us   About Us   Copyright Foghorn Publishing, 1994- 2024   Lighthouse Facts     Lighthouse History