Stamp to commemorate lighthouse

June 16, 2007 12:00 am

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Miller still remembers the precise coordination between the skippers he sailed with at the boom operators at St. George Reef Lighthouse when U.S.S. Cape Carter, a guard cutter brought supplies, personnel and mail to North West Seal Rock.

"It was a dangerous job," said the former gunner's mate. "We would come within three feet of the rock."

Miller, representatives from the city and postal service, and members of St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society will share their comments and thoughts about the old lighthouse next week at the Crescent City Post Office.

Thursday's event marks the date that commemorative stamps honoring five Pacific Ocean lighthouses go on sale. Crescent City's St. George Reef Lighthouse is one of the lighthouses whose images are on the stamps.

It should be, lighthouse preservation society members say. At $700,000, the lighthouse cost more than any other in the nation.

It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, having been successfully nominated in 1993 by the preservation society.

The organization has restored and renovated the structure since 1983.

"It's like a medieval castle," said Jim McLaughlin, a society board member. "It's huge."

He is one of the speakers at Thursday's event, which also features Crescent City Mayor Dennis Burns, Manager of Marketing for the U.S. Postal Service Lani Meneses, and St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society President Guy Towers.

McLaughlin has worked on the structure for 20 years, making 25 helicopter flights there to do so.

His wife, Marilyn, has cooked for the work crews when she's accompanied McLaughlin.

"She has a photo that shows something that wasn't there," Jim McLaughlin said. "It's an eerie place."

The photo was taken in the bosun's locker of the structure's engine room.

"It gave us goose bumps when we looked at it," Marilyn McLaughlin said.

Also known as "The Sentinel of Death," duty at the facility resulted in death to a total of seven light keepers and Coast Guard personnel.

"My pastor told me that anywhere there's been death, there are spirits," Marilyn McLaughlin said.

The group can't get grants to preserve the lighthouse because of its lack of public access, but the McLaughlins agree it is "well worth saving."

"You have been abandoned, but never will you be forgotten," Officer in Charge James Sebastian wrote in the lighthouse log book as he left the rock. "Farewell, St. George Reef Light."

If You Go

•What: Unveiling of St. George Lighthouse stamp

•When: 8 a.m. Thursday

•Where: Crescent City Post Office