Digest>Archives> July 2002

Women of the Light

Nancy Younger—Keeper of the Flame

By Sharon Coartney


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Vivacious, enthusiastic, inspirational. These words describe many women who campaign for the preservation of lighthouses. These words, and more, can sum up the qualities of Nancy Younger, of Harbour Lights, because she isn’t willing to give up the fight - not as long as there is hope.

Nancy, and her husband Bill, founded Harbour Lights in 1991 to honor the noble sentinels of America. Along the way, she became an ambassador for lighthouses, helping to increase public awareness of projects around the nation. Nancy does not credit herself, but rather praises the dedicated hard work performed by Harbour Lights Collectors Society members.

Nancy founded the Collectors Society in 1995, planting the seeds of unity among Harbour Lights fans. Soon, the Society Members were participating in some of the most ambitious preservation projects out there, for instance, raising considerable funds for Tybee Island (more than $60,000, including $25,000 in initial funds from Harbour Lights). In addition, Society Members volunteer at their local lighthouses, share project opportunities with each other in the Legacy Newsletter, and even compare notes in the Collector Forums at www.HarbourLights.com.

Society Members across the nation have taken up the cause by volunteering at lighthouses, holding fundraisers, writing elected officials, and much more. Nancy recalls one young lady, living in San Diego, “I met this women when she first discovered Harbour Lights. She joined the Southern California Harbour Lights Collector Club and started volunteering with the group at the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, tending to chores and cleaning up. Now, that young lady dresses in period costume and conducts tours of the beacon, giving visitors a fresh insight into the lives of the keepers who lived there. She is truly keeping the tradition alive and I am proud to know her.”

The dedicated members of the independent Harbour Lights Collector Club - Great Lakes District, operating out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is undertaking an incredible renovation project at the Pottawatomie Light. These volunteers devote quite a bit of their personal time helping with restoration and maintenance, selflessly supporting the preservation of this precious sentinel.

Nancy believes that many hands make light work, so she tries to encourage folks to take an active role in preservation. Near or far, there are lighthouses out there that still need caretakers, people to watch over them and ensure their survival. No job is too small and nothing is unimportant when it comes to saving lighthouses. A very small donation can make an incredible difference.

It is at the most unexpected moments that Nancy finds her inspiration. While on a Lake Superior Lighthouse Tour, with Dave Snyder of the U.S. Lighthouse Society, she was invited inside the parlor at the Sand Hills Lighthouse. The keepers wife, upon discovering Nancy’s identity, exclaimed, “Oh my word, I have just the piece of music for you!” There, in the old fashioned parlor, the keeper’s wife played Harbor Lights on the piano, singing along and thoroughly enchanting the entire tour group with her tender voice. The moment was timeless; it could have easily been the first keeper’s wife at the piano that day.

Nancy has great hope for the next generation. School children send in their reports and hand drawings, sharing their newfound knowledge of lighthouses. The media has gained interest in the subject, reporting on various projects and shooting documentaries. The public is more aware than ever of America’s “castles”. Nancy is just happy to be a part of such a great group of people who work to spread the word of hope for our nation’s historic beacons.

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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