Digest>Archives> July 2002

Mainers mourn mysterious death of modern day keeper


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Dick Curtis, the caretaker from Goat Island Light ...

Richard Curtis, one of the best-loved characters along the southern Maine coast and caretaker of the famous Goat Island Lighthouse died of unexplained causes.

With four dogs in his 14-foot aluminum boat, Curtis went out on a Friday night for one of his usual boat rides. Curtis, who for the past eight years had lived alone at the lighthouse, wasn’t reported missing until the following night. A massive search was soon underway by officials from many different agencies including the Coast Guard.

The search went into the following day when it was called off at two in the afternoon because of high winds and heavy surf. Later that same day, his boat was spotted and a life jacket that officials believed was his was also found.

The following day, Sunday morning, the Marine Patrol and State Police Diving Team found Curtis’s body on the northeast side of Goat Island. He was not wearing a life jacket.

His body was discovered in a dangerous section and an unusual location, as it was the side facing the ocean. Friends thought this was uncharacteristic suggesting that he must have decided to take a tour around the island.

Two of the four dogs were later found on shore, tired and hungry.

The coroner ruled his death a drowning. What actually happened will never be known.

Curtis was a beloved person by all who knew him, and from time to time he stopped in at Lighthouse Depot, usually to look at what new books might have arrived. He loved the outdoors and his way of life. He had a special interest in birds and during migration would place driftwood at strategic spots on the island for birds to perch on. At night he would study the stars, and what better place to do it from than an island away from the bright city lights.

As well as being the “keeper” at the light, he held a full time job for the past eight years at a lobster and fish business. Although he was an employee, most tourists who frequented the place thought he was the owner. John Green owner of the business said Curtis was his friend first and right-hand-man second.

This story appeared in the July 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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