Digest>Archives> April 2002

Women of the Light

The Lighthouse Lady - Carole Reily

By Jeremy D'Entremont


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For Carole Reily it all started with an antique postcard she found in an uncle’s attic. Her grandfather published the card, and it showed the Cross Ledge Lighthouse, which had been destroyed in 1962. Something about the image of the lost lighthouse piqued her interest. She soon found out that none of the Delaware Bay’s lighthouses had been shown on postcards for nearly 100 years, so she decided to publish her own.

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The staff at her local photo shop fittingly dubbed her “The Lighthouse Lady,” and the name has stuck. Today “The Lighthouse Lady” is a prominent preservationist as well as the designer of successful lighthouse merchandise, including a four by five foot Delaware Bay Lighthouse tapestry weave afghan, adorned with 14 lighthouses plus a lightship.

Carole’s fascination with lighthouses led to a deep interest in the lives of their keepers. She found an ally in Bill Johnson of Newport, New Jersey, now 80 years old. Johnson served at Miah Maull Shoal Light and Ship John Shoal in the 1940s and had plenty of good stories about wartime incidents. A keepers’ reunion was held at Johnson’s home in 1995, and this event led to the founding of Delaware Bay Lighthouse Keepers & Friends Association (DBLHKFA).

“The most exciting and rewarding thing,” Carole says, “is when someone contacts me and tells me they had a father, grandfather or even a great grandfather who tended a Delaware Bay light station. I get goose-bumps looking at their beautiful old photos!”

The DBLHKFA now has over 200 members from all over the U.S. and holds four meetings each year, with one being their annual Reunion Banquet. They publish a quarterly newsletter, The Bay Run. Carole is president of the Association and also editor of The Bay Run. The DBLHKFA also works to educate the public about lighthouses and keepers, and they make several donations a year to worthy lighthouse organizations. As a fundraiser, they hold four sunset lighthouse cruises each year out of Fortescue, New Jersey. “Our captain gets up right alongside the lighthouse caissons and scares the daylights out of all 65 passengers!” says Carole with delight. “He makes every trip exciting!”

Carole is optimistic about the future of lighthouses. “Lighthouses are such an important part of our rich maritime history and were seemingly ignored for too many years. Even the kids are getting involved, which is great! Kids represent the future of lighthouse preservation.”

“The Lighthouse Lady” lets nothing get in her way, including a long battle with rheumatoid arthritis. She was first diagnosed at the age of 18. Gaylord “Dusty” Pierce, a former keeper and now vice president of the DBLHKFA, says, “You can’t stop that woman. The keepers love her for it. She’s touched our lives in a way we’ll never forget.” She is one of today’s modern “Women of the Light.”

Anyone interested in obtaining any of Carole’s Delaware Bay Lighthouse Keepsakes can call her at 856-697-3260 or email her at: TheLHLady@aol.com

For information on joining the Delaware Bay Lighthouse Keepers and Friends Association, contact Carole Reily or by email at DBLHKeeperfriend@aol.com

“Women of the Light” is a new column that will be featured every month in Lighthouse Digest. The column will feature either a famous woman from lighthouse history or one that is heavily involved in lighthouse preservation in modern time. If you know of someone who should be featured in the column, please contact us by writing to Jeremy D’Entremont, Lighthouse Digest, P.O. Box 1690, Wells, Maine 04090 or email Jeremy at keeper@lighthouse.cc

This story appeared in the April 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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