One bitterly cold, but not immobilizing, day during the winter I met with Susan Solon, marketing and communications director for the City of St. Joseph and her newly-acquired project cohort, former St. Joe Mayor Bob Judd to talk about the Lighthouse Forever Fund. Their fundraising project kicked off in April and May, but is still treading softly in the wake of the Senior PGA Tournament over Memorial Day, the opening of the new Inn at Harbor Shores, and scores of events and causes that seem to be going off at once and everywhere around St. Joe and Benton Harbor lately.
The conversation started out normally as these things go: In 2008, the city applied for and, in accordance with the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, took over the ongoing maintenance along with the deed to the property. The state historic preservation office got involved and costs were projected. (These lighthouses need work, who has money for lighthouses?) The former mayor is really good at discussing this issue as you would think he would be. Bob understands fundraising, the politics of the situation and the fact that $2 million is a lot of money to raise for something that is just a bit on the esoteric side. But he has a spin. There’s been some work done, he says, but “not lovingly done.”
“Our lighthouses are around anywhere you look, the whole of Southwest Michigan,” Bob says. “So the way we’re framing the project is what would [the area] look like if the lighthouse wasn’t there?” Pivot to existentialism. “Kids grow up here and the lighthouse out on the pier is an icon of our communities.” The former mayor has a cute story about a little boy he met who can tell you everything about every lighthouse around Lake Michigan. One of the projects in this friend-raising and fund-raising campaign is to help the Lighthouse Forever Fund by sending photos taken with you, your family, your pets for the giant community scrapbooking side note to the preservation fund.
Though I spent an inordinate amount of time in my car this winter ahead or behind the weather, worrying about the weather and staying ahead of it, I used some of that time to reflect on what Susan and Bob had to say that day. I don’t want to imagine our world without lighthouses.
I never get far enough away from Lake Michigan that I actually think about missing it, though I surely would. And I never entertain the “what-if” it wasn’t there in the first place idea. That’s impossible. Unthinkable. Who would I be if I wasn’t near the Lake? Somebody else, I’m pretty sure about that. I have long thought that lighthouses have beautiful symmetry and a past full of grandeur. We have told and re-told the classic lighthouse life-saving stories in the pages of our magazine.
But we have not put a lighthouse on the cover ever, probably because I never thought of lighthouses as particularly attractive.
Not until I thought about how the Lake Michigan shore would look without them.
And thanks to Channel 2's Megan Glaros and her gorgeous family for taking time to romp on the beach for a photo shoot in the lighthouse's shadow on one of the first brilliant days of the Spring season.
Next month, we will return with a Fashion on the Shore special section and mid-season adventures and discoveries.
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