BOB BOLEN KEEPER OF THE LIGHT
September 06, 2002 11:00 pm
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By BILL SCHLICHTING

Pilot Staff Writer

CRESCENT CITY – Bob Bolen became one of only a handful of people in the United States to receive the Keeper of the Light award, the highest honor bestowed upon by the American Lighthouse Foundation.

Bolen, 82, is a resident of Addie Meedom House, an assisted living facility. It was there the St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society met to present the award Aug. 24.

Brookings resident Phil Cox presented the award, which he said "is given to people who have volunteered above and beyond what would ever be expected from one individual in the promotion and saving of lighthouses and their history."

"This project has been a challenge," Bolen said after receiving his award. "Lots of people have been working in the background and I want to thank you all."

Bolen took action when the lantern room restoration was complete.

The glass room was removed from the top of the 146-foot-tall lighthouse situated on a rock northwest of Point St. George. The lantern was put in place in 1890 where it stood for 110 years.

Although the lantern room, which already had most of the glass destroyed, came crashing onto the beach two years ago, Dale Long, owner of Fashion Blacksmith in Crescent City, was able to restore the 19-foot-tall structure after 362 hours of labor, Cox said in an article published in Lighthouse Digest.

Unfortunately, all that remained was the $24,000 needed to hire a qualified air crane pilot to take the lantern room back to the lighthouse, lower it onto the pedestal so all 32 bolt holes would line up.

Cox wrote in the article: "When Bob Bolen heard that funds were not available to bring the restored lantern room back to the lighthouse, he decided he would do something about it. … Bob sold a home (part of his retirement income) and donated the $24,000 needed to bring the lens back to the lighthouse." (Note: The lens was not returned. It is housed in the Del Norte Historical Society Museum).

His only request was that he be allowed to have a seat in the chase helicopter to watch the lantern room being replaced.

His wish was granted. Bolen was able to watch a helicopter lower the 10,000-pound structure onto the top of the lighthouse. The helicopter is owned by Erickson Air-Crane Co. of Central Point. Marty Martin piloted the 88-foot S-64E air crane with a 72-foot diameter rotor powered by two engines generating 4,500 horsepower.

In 2002 it took 20 minutes to place the lantern room atop the lighthouse. In the late 1800s, it took several months.

St. George Reef Lighthouse took 10 years to build and is considered the most expensive lighthouse ever built. It was in service until 1976 when it was replaced by a buoy.

The lighthouse preservation society's next project is to place a beacon in the lantern room to celebrate the 110th anniversary of its first lighting. The illumination is scheduled for Oct. 20. The beacon was made possible from a donation by Smith River resident Glenn Williamson.

Others given the Keeper of the Light award include:

•Frederick Kalisz, mayor of New Bedford, Mass., for the restoration of three lighthouses without using any taxpayer money.

•Kenneth Black, U.S. Coast Guard retired, for the founding of the Shore Village Lighthouse Museum in Rockland, Maine, which has the largest collection of lighthouse lenses in the U.S.

•Anne Webster Wallace, Peter Ralston and Ted Dernago Jr. for the development of the Maine Lights Program, which turned over 30 Maine lighthouses to communities and nonprofits and was the forerunner to the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act.

•Connie Small, author of the book "The Lighthouse Keeper's Wife," who has given more than 550 lectures on lighthouse living. At 101 years old, her latest talk was given to a Rotary Club a month ago.

•Bill Younger, founder of Harbour Lights, manufacturer of lighthouse replicas, for his support of lighthouse preservation throughout the nation.