In ceremonies in Rockland, Maine, the United States Coast Guard presented a well-deserved lifetime achievement award to Ken Black for saving lighthouse artifacts.
Ken Black, a retired Chief Warrant Officer in the Coast Guard, is founder of the Shore Village Museum in Rockland, which has the largest collection of Fresnel lenses and lighthouse machinery of any museum in the nation.
Ken, known in lighthouse circles as “Mr. Lighthouse,” started his first exhibit many years ago at the base of America’s first light station in Boston Harbor.
When he was commanding officer of the Rockland Coast Guard station in the 1970’s, he created a display of artifacts at the entryway building at the base of the tower, and before anyone could realize what was happening, the collection started to grow by leaps and bounds. When the Admiral in charge of the First Coast Guard District in Boston saw what Ken was doing, he named Black as the official curator of the First Coast Guard District Marine Exhibit.
That put Black in a position he relished and he never hesitated in using the Admiral’s name to convince people to turn over lighthouse items to his care.
Over 100 well-wishers and Coast Guard personnel attended the ceremony held at the American Legion Hall in Rockland.
Although it was originally the Admiral in charge of the First Coast Guard District who had given the okay that started the collection, the current Admiral was unable to attend the gala ceremony but she sent her best wishes and congratulations.
A number of dignitaries spoke highly of Ken and read letters of congratulations from Senators and Congressmen, and even Gail Fuller, the Coast Guard Curator from Washington DC, was hand to give a few remarks.
CWO2 Barry Cates who opened the ceremony said he was first introduced to Ken Black through the files in the cabinets, and the more he read the more he needed to meet him and meet him he did. In referring to Ken Black’s illustrious Coast Guard career on lightships, ice breakers, group commander and a curator, Cates thanked Ken for making our waterways a safer place.
Captain Harry E. Haynes, Commander, USCG Group Southwest Harbor, remarked on Black’s amazing career to his country. He went on to comment about how every man, woman and child have been touched in someway by Ken’s actions and that the nation is truly in his debt.
Next year, the Shore Village Museum, which Ken founded, will move to a larger and more spacious area on Rockland’s waterfront and its name will change to Maine’s Lighthouse Museum. However, in his remarks, Capt. Haynes said, in referring to the collection Ken Black has amassed, “I feel it deserves the title of ‘America’s Lighthouse Museum.’”
Captain Scott Keene, who has a real affinity toward the Coast Guard’s lighthouse history, and also has the good fortune to live in Nobska Lighthouse on Cape Cod, gave the keynote remarks. Capt. Keene, who is the Chief, Aids to Navigation & Waterways Management Branch of the First Coast Guard District said, in referring to the period of automation of lighthouses, “It was during this period of automating lighthouses that Ken Black provided a valuable service. Ken saw the historical significance in the Fresnel lenses and other lighthouse artifacts. On his own initiative, he sought approval and collected many of the artifacts that are now on display in the museum. We are all very fortunate that Ken saved these artifacts for future generations to view.
As Ken accepted the Public Service Commendation, it was obvious that he was humbled by all the wonderful remarks that were made about him during the presentation. He recalled how many times he has watched, as people would come into the museum and see the gigantic lens in the first room and say “Wow.” And then they’d walk into the next room and “Wow. Wow.” And now all I want to say is “WOW. WOW.”
This story appeared in the
July 2004 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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