Digest>Archives> June 2002

Women of the Light

Jeri Baron Feltner: Saving DeTour Reef

By Jeremy D'Entremont

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Jeri Baron Feltner and Lighthouse Restoration ...
Photo by: Larry Baron

Jeri Baron Feltner, secretary and a founding board member of Michigan’s DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society (DRLPS), calls the 63-foot Art Deco-style DeTour Reef Lighthouse “a magnificent monument to Michigan’s maritime history - for the people now and for the future.” Years of persistent and diligent work by volunteers of DRLPS have brought the lighthouse to the brink of restoration, and nobody has worked harder for this day than Jeri Baron Feltner.

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Jeri Baron Feltner at the top of the ladder at ...
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Jeri is originally from Dearborn, Michigan, and for the past seven years has shared a home on Lake Huron’s Drummond Island with her husband Chuck Feltner and two golden retrievers. Their home was built to provide the best possible view of the DeTour Reef Lighthouse located about a mile offshore. “The DeTour Reef Light is particularly special,” explains Jeri, “because it is located at a very strategic point in northern Lake Huron at the mouth of the St. Mary’s River, which leads to Lake Superior and the rich resources of that region. The lighthouse has guided these ships for generations to develop the United States.” In 1997 Jeri was asked to join the team to preserve and restore the lighthouse. “And to also keep her there for our view!” she adds.

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Jeri and Chuck Feltner on the deck of the DeTour ...
Photo by: Steve Belko

For years an avid scuba diver, underwater photographer, and researcher of Great Lakes shipwrecks, Jeri today is president of Seajay Publications, a firm dedicated to the publication of high-quality material on maritime history. Jeri and her husband are co-authors of two books, Great Lakes Maritime History: Bibliography and Sources of Information, and Shipwrecks of the Straits of Mackinac.

In her role as a board member of the DeTour Reef Preservation Society, Jeri’s organizational and administrative skills (she’s a past secretary at Ford Motor Company) have helped the organization build a strong infrastructure. Along with her husband Chuck Feltner, who is currently president of DRLPS, and grant chairman Clif Haley, Jeri has played a major role in the writing of applications which have led to grants of over one million dollars to restore the lighthouse.

Jeri and Chuck have also developed an extensive traveling educational display on the lighthouses of DeTour Passage, and Jeri has conducted video interviews of five previous lighthouse keepers, as well as an interview with the last known person to have been involved in the building of DeTour Reef Light in 1931.

A couple of years ago Jeri helped another Michigan lighthouse group, the North Manitou Shoal Lighthouse Preservation Society, get off the ground. She told founder Mike Sutherland to “not ever give up, as there would be plenty of times he would think about that. They have done an outstanding job!”

On September 5, 2000, the DRLPS received a 20-year lease to the DeTour Reef Lighthouse. Looking back at the years of effort, Jeri reflects, “The amount of work it has taken our society’s dedicated team of volunteers to get to the point of restoration, which begins this year, has been incredible. It has required a tremendous amount of people, passion, persistence, patience and paper, and it has been a very worthwhile experience for me personally, not only for what I have learned and helped the DRLPS accomplish, but especially for the relationships I have developed with some very fine people.”

If you would like more information, you can contact the DeTour Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society, P.O. Box 519, DeTour Village, MI. 49725-0519. Phone 906-297-8888. Or visit them on the web at: www.drummond-island.com/reef.html.

This story appeared in the June 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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