News Archives 2004 &
For other years, please click here to go back to the News page.
News from the island:
We are very excited and utterly grateful to Lori and David Morrison of Traverse City for their most generous donation.
We would also like to thank the board of the Maritime Heritage Alliance in Traverse City, MI. After all, the boat had been given to them for their annual Boat Auction, and it was their idea to pass it on to our group.
We were told that one of the engines needs repair. Now we are looking for a mechanic who is willing to volunteer an assessment of the engines some time in summer, i.e. as soon as the donation proper has taken place and we know a bit more about what's wrong with that engine.
Sandy Bradshaw & Greg Reisig
June 6, 2005
Leelanau.com has selected our Web site as the Northern Michigan Site of the Week. This means more than it may sound like, because this award is not a weekly matter. According to their mission statement, "The Northern Michigan Site of the Week is designed to honor web sites made in Northern Lower Michigan (& the UP) that deliver something extra."
Many thanks to Andy McFarlane!
Hans Joerg Rothenberger
June 1, 2005
Northport, Grand Traverse Lighthouse: May 26, 2005, a cold rainy day turned into a sunny evening to host the South Fox Island Research Project Exhibit Opening. Northport and Fife Lake fourth and fifth grade students' work over the winter culminated in what is now a year-'round display of photos, memorabilia and information on the South Fox Island lighthouse and Great Lakes maritime history. Approximately ten stations are now on display filled with facts and photos. Included in the display is an original brick from the lighthouse proper as well as an original log book and a screen double door from the lighthouse building.
On hand to watch the opening ceremony were over one-hundred guests who clapped in appreciation as the ribbon was cut allowing entrance into the new museum quarters. Doug McCormick, a former S. Fox lighthouse resident as well as keeper at Grand Traverse Lighthouse, was on hand adding more wisdom to the special event.
A gift shop is now open adjacent to
the new exhibit. It includes items pertaining to South
Fox Island as well as Grand Traverse Light.
May 27, 2005
Our first visit to the boat to be donated to us had to be rescheduled to the first week of June. Sorry about the inconvenience if you've come back to read more.
May 18, 2005
Here is a sketch of the boat, just what she roughly may look like. The picture does not show the boat we are going to get. It was sort of stitched together using patches from various photos of boats of the same type and vintage.
Here she is:
Currently we are seeking a slip, mooring or berth, if possible in the northern part of the Leelanau peninsula. Since financial support isn't coming in as long as we haven't gotten non-profit status yet, this is a pretty difficult task. If you know of something that could be available and affordable, please contact Sandy Bradshaw (contact address on our home page).
More information on the boat will be available around May 20.
Hans Joerg Rothenberger
May 10, 2005
We were told that a boat will be donated to our group. Not just a boat, though. She's a beautiful and powerful cabin cruiser. This utterly generous donation will solve our transportation problems. Some work will be needed before she can be used, but she's beyond anything we could ever have dreamed of. The funniest thing is, our partner John McKinney, of whom we believe he's our president, is off on an archeological dig on the Shiant Isles (Outer Hebrides) of Scotland. He doesn't even know about this donation...
Details to be announced a.s.a.p..
Hans Joerg Rothenberger
May 3, 2005
If you are interested in learning more about South Fox Island and its light station, please attend the presentation at Northport School Wednesday, April 20, 2005 at 7:00 p.m. To see details click here.
Hans Joerg Rothenberger
April 18, 2005
An informal meeting of some board members took place on April 7 in Suttons Bay. A bank account was opened. This will allow us to receive much needed contributions. Details will soon be published on the new Donations page of this Web site.
Another important item on the agenda was the name of the group, which had been discussed already on the occasion of the meeting of Jan. 13, 2005. So far, we had only used the name of the project, South Fox Island Lighthouse Restoration Project. This is a pretty long and bulky name, as is its acronym, SFILRP. So we decided to keep the old name for the project proper but to use the new name Fox Island Lighthouse Association (FILA) for the group.
We hope to have the non-profit (501C-3) status by mid-summer. Persons who donate to FILA may deduct their contributions on their income taxes.
Currently we are seeking permission from DNR officials to assess the buildings in the hope we are able to get a one year Land Use Permit from the DNR as discussed in prior news releases.
An important problem yet to be solved is how to get to the island in summer for some basic work to prevent further deterioration. If there are boat owners who are willing to take a few of us (3 - 5 persons without heavy equipment) out to the island and back the same or next day, we would be very glad to be contacted. We don't need a speedboat that guzzles a 30 gallons an hour. An hour or two more for one leg won't matter. Needless to say we will pay your extra expenses.
If you are a boat owner who wants to help, please .
Sandy Bradshaw &
Hans Joerg Rothenberger
April 11, 2005
The Record Eagle published an article on the meeting. Click here to read it.
To read our own comment please click here.
Hans Joerg Rothenberger
March 21, 2005
Some people think restoring the South Fox Island Lighthouse is a daunting project because there is no safe docking facility. However, for almost a century there was one, so it's possible to make a new one. And we don't don't even need a real dock to start with. Just a sufficiently safe place to unload material and equipment will do.
Other lighthouses on islands without any docking facility at all were successfully restored, so we have nothing to complain about. Terry Pepper of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association sent us the photos below. They restored the wonderful light station on St. Helena Island in the western Straits of Mackinac without any docking facility.
Terry wrote: "The water around
the island is extremely shallow, and open to the elements.
(After all - that is why the lighthouse is there!).
For the past 20 years, we at GLLKA have traveled to our lighthouse on St. Helena Island via our 45-foot WWII J-Boat, Cake and Ice Cream. We secure this vessel to permanent mooring weights approximately 500 feet offshore, and then transfer EVERYTHING to the island by way of an 8-foot Zodiac-type inflatable with a small outboard for power.
When I say EVERYTHING ... I mean EVERYTHING.... Up to 25 people per trip, bricks, generators, scaffolding, doors, windows, 20' long lumber, table saws, picnic benches, shingles, bags of cement, plywood, cement mixer, beds, kitchen stove - even a PUMP ORGAN.
It isn't high-tech, and it isn't elegant, but it works great - just have to exercise caution and patience!"
Well, our Webmaster does own a pump organ, so, just for fun, we asked Terry how they got theirs into their dinghy. Here's his reply:
"You carry a pump organ on an inflatable
the same way you get a cement mixer, generator or wheelbarrow
on an inflatable. You lay three two-by-fours across
the gunwales and then place two sheets of plywood
on the two-by's, leaving just enough open space in front
of the transom for the 'captain' to man the outboard
You then have six people lower the pump organ down on top of the plywood deck, and have six people on shore to lift it off when you get to shore.
You just have to be willing to accept the possibility that if the pump organ falls in the water during the trip, that you will end up with something to show visitors when you pass over it on future trips!"
Unfortunately there is no photo of the
pump organ in the dinghy, but Terry sent us some other
very interesting pictures of their low-tech approach
to dock-less landing on St. Helena Island:
As Terry put it: Where there is a will,
there is a way!
Many thanks to Terry Pepper and the GLLKA for the great photos and encouraging comments!
Hans Joerg Rothenberger
March 21, 2005
As representatives of our group, John McKinney and Sandy Bradshaw attended the public presentation at the Maritime Academy in Traverse City, organized by Stephanie Staley of the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum (see announcement below).
It was great listening to S. Fox Island recollections of Doug McCormick, Kathleen Craker Firestone and her brother Sterling Nickerson. Questions were posed to them by the fourth and fifth graders. The teachers for the project were Sally Frye from the Fife Lake School, 4th grade and Sue Boss, from the Northport School, with kids from 4th/5th grade. All kids have log books which they have been working on this winter. In them they write the memories of those who lived on S. Fox Island.
Doug was raised with five brothers and six sisters which he laughingly says, "A half dozen of one and six of the other." He was eight when the family moved to the island in 1916. His father was lightkeeper on S. Fox between 1916-1921. Doug's sister Ann related how often they would boat over to the island, spend the night in a tent, and how keen Douglas was to the weather for safe journey back to the mainland.
Of great interest to the kids was Doug talking about the two grave's behind the lighthouse. One is of a Civil War Vet and the other of a dog named "Leader."
Kathleen's family logged S. Fox Island and owned 2/3rds of the island during the 'sixties. Having an entire island as one's childhood's playground seemed to be most memorable for the three speakers.
Sandy read Zane Bourisseau's memories of which we include his latest: "It is such a delightful project to think about but it is going to take a very imaginative person with the vision to see what a beautiful place for respite it can be. It was almost park like and environmentally protected as it should continue to be. There was an element of pride among the keepers that their first intent always was to protect the light and its attendant facilities. Imagine being there at the time there was no phone service,no electric lights,of course no television...only the beauty of that lighthouse ground with its birds and chipmunks and seagulls and crows. Was truly the sound of music what with the waves cascading ashore with absolute regularity. The crows were so numerous at times it seemed they owned the sky and wanted all of us to know it....it was pure crow harmony."
A trip is being planned this May with a ferry from Leland taking the students out to the island. They are not planning on being able to go ashore due to the lack of safe dockage facilities. A tour of the new Great Lakes Water Studies Institute, a part of Northwestern Michigan College, was given to all at the meeting.
The new facility is beautiful and fills a major role in the country in training students both in culinary and seamanship. Their motto is "Inspiring lifelong stewardship of freshwater and partnership." In February 2004 the Traverse City Rotaries and Rotary Charities of Traverse City granted one million to the institute to create an "Alliance of Great Lakes Stewardship." It was inspiring to all the students.
March 17, 2005
The Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum has just set the date for a meeting on a special project director Stephanie Staley has kindly designed to benefit S.Fox Island's lighthouse complex. She mentioned the museum's plans at our January 13th meeting - two fourth grade classes are doing oral history interviews of persons who lived on the island. These two classes are from Forest Area and Northport Public Schools. Oral histories will be presented by author Kathy Firestone and 90-year old Doug McCormick. McCormick's father was lightkeeper on South Fox between 1916 and 1921 and his memories are keen and sharp. Firestone lived on the island in the 'fifties when her father, Sterling Nickerson, owned the island and logged it.
The children will also be able to peruse an original logbook of the last lightkeepers who lived on the island; it is on loan by Northport resident Hugh Bilyea. The museum is spending approximately $10,000 on this educational event with plans to take the children out to the island later this year. We have been asked by Stef Staley to speak a few words to the students about our project. Author, local writer and acting board member of the SFILA, Sandy Bradshaw, will also read some of Zane Bourisseau's memories of his life on the island to the children.
Date for the meeting is set for March 10th at the Maritime Academy in Traverse City from 9:30 a.m thru 2:00 p.m. This will be both fascinating and educational for all involved.
On April 20th at 7 p.m. there will be a lecture called The History of South Fox Island and South Fox Island Light Station as part of the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum (GTLM) Winter Lectures Series and will be presented at Northport school. Speakers will be Stephanie Staley, director of the GTLM and president of the Michigan Lighthouse Alliance, and Kathleen Firestone, author and maritime historian who lived on S. Fox as a young girl. This program is a part of an educational series and used as a fundraiser for GTLM. Reservations are requested. Cost is $10.00 per person. Please phone GTLM at (231) 386-7195.
Feb. 21, 2005
A meeting was held on January 13, 2005 at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse near Northport. The group decided to move forward with application for non-profit 501C-3 status and schedule two visits to the island in the spring and summer of 2005. These visits would allow the group to photograph and assess the South Fox Lighthouse and six related historic buildings at the site for temporary repairs. The group is also interested in a more comprehensive assessment of how restoration efforts could be implemented and will be seeking help from the National Park Service and others with historic preservation experience in Leelanau County.
Anyone who can provide passage to the island this summer should contact Sandy Bradshaw as soon as possible. Her e-mail address and phone number are on our Home page. The group will need help from many interested indivduals to make the restoration efforts successful.
Feb. 3, 2005
Below are a few photos of our second
meeting, this time with intercontinental attendance
(hey, looks like this project is getting pretty big
;-). We'd like to thank Stephanie Staley of the Grand
Traverse Lighthouse Museum for her huge efforts.
Hans Joerg Rothenberger
Jan. 22, 2005
At last, we are able to publish a first series of pretty up-to-date photos. The Webmaster had to fly across the Atlantic to get things going. Yup, our group may still be small, but it has members in the Old World too...
Jan. 3, 2005
"Fine progress is being made in our pursuit of the S. Fox Island Light Project. We are in the process of getting our 501c3 non-profit status. Support in the form of e-mails, telephone calls and letters from people of various walks of life and from ages 17-82 have kindly come forward from as close as Leelanau County and as far away as Germany. Ideas for fund-raising have been creative and viable. We thank you, one and all! Support is obviously growing and this lonely light surely needs it."
Sandy Bradshaw, Hans
Joerg Rothenberger and John C. McKinney
December 2, 2004
"I find myself, so many times, reflecting on our life on South Fox. It was lonely at times for me after my brothers were no longer coming to the island and were working in Northport. But I recall so much of the good, of watching the sunset with my dad up at the fog horn building, of walking the beaches and skipping stones along the way, of picnics at the west side beach and swimming every afternoon at the end of the day. I recall with much interest my father cooking for the crew that installed the tower from Georgia. Yes,there are many memories lingering with me. That you are interested in that wonderful island is gratifying and much appreciated. Please stay in touch."
Many thanks to Zane Bourisseau, son
of Frank Bourisseau (S.Fox lighthouse keeper 1928 -
1937) and grandson of Louis Bourisseau (1st assistant
keeper 1885 - 1891, keeper 1891 - 1915), who sent us
this touching note. The "tower from Georgia"
is the cast iron skeletal tower from Sapelo Island,
Georgia, reassembled on South Fox Island in 1934 to
replace the old brick tower that is the object of our
Dec. 3, 2004
Currently, i.e. Nov. 2004, we are building
a network of connections to make it possible for our
group to reach the restoration site safely for assessment
of the situation as well as for the restoration proper.
Pretty promising contacts have already been made. More
will be posted here as soon as possible.
Nov. 15, 2004
On Oct. 25, 2004, James Burnham, the
Webmaster of The
Leland Report, put a link to our Web site in the
"What's Happening" section of the Leland Report
forum. That's very kind and sure enhances public awareness.
The Leland Report, run by Keith Burnham (Jim's father),
is a wonderful window to this lovely area, with Keith's
outstanding photography and comments as well as the
daily forum. A must-see for all those who love Lower
Oct. 25, 2004
A public meeting was held on Monday, October 18th, 2004 at 7:00pm in Suttons Bay. Key speakers were Jerry Bukoski of the DNR (Department of Natural Resources), Stephanie Staley of the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum, and Steve Belko of the Michigan Lighthouse Project.
We are very excited to learn we can obtain a one year Department of Natural Resources (DNR) usage permit to thrust forward in our efforts to save the South Fox Island Light and accompanying buildings. Our biggest obstacle? We face harborage problems - there is currently no safe harbor to land on South Fox Island's state land.
John Nelson, the Baykeeper for the Grand Traverse Region,
suggests we get the boating and fishing community together
to gather funding - Federal, State and private
organizations to build a break wall, a Harbor of Refuge. This
was the original plan when the State of Michigan bought
the island's southern half in 1971. This we believe
is a necessity, both for the light preservation and
to allow safer boating for the many who travel these
sometimes treacherous waters.
Oct. 19, 2004
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Archived Febr. 12, 2007