In a generous and creative show of support, a benefactor has offered a $1,000 donation in a pledge to match the initial annual $25 membership dues of new members who join the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee this year or until the grant total is reached.
The Colette Casey Memorial Membership Challenge was announced at the recent SGLCC annual membership meeting by President Virginia Zientek. The gift is in memory of the late Colette Casey, a beloved trustee and friend to many, who died January 6 at her home at age 62. A trustee since 2005, she was corresponding secretary and was also in charge of membership and ticket sales for the summer party.
“Colette was a dedicated trustee and a tireless worker. Her cheerful enthusiasm was infectious and her buoyant humor a joy. She will be missed,” said Mrs. Zientek in her State of the Lighthouse Report to the membership.
The benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, proposed the membership challenge as a way to highlight and celebrate Colette’s many contributions and to inspire people everywhere by her example to become members and get involved as volunteers. “This is a most fitting way to remember our friend and continue her efforts to bring in new members. We thank our benefactor for this creative expression of support,” said Mrs. Zientek.
Those who accept the challenge to become new members are asked to send their dues by check to the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, P.O. Box 83, Sea Girt, NJ 08750. SGLCC is a non-profit, tax-exempt foundation under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, registered with the State of New Jersey. Membership dues are tax deductible. The matching grant does not apply to those renewing their annual memberships or to perpetual memberships.
Ms. Zientek asked those attending the annual meeting to extend the challenge to friends and family and encourage them to join. She noted: “Our mission to maintain this landmark and preserve its rich history is a collaborative effort, made possible by our many members, volunteers and benefactors. I thank you all.”
Alive with Activity
Also noted in her State of the Lighthouse update, Mrs. Zientek reported the lighthouse, which has survived countless hurricanes and Nor’easters, fortunately came through Hurricane Sandy in overall good condition, sustaining only limited damage. Repairs are scheduled to the corbel under the northeast corner of the roof, some fascia on the west side and a stretch of gutter. Additionally, two leaky windows in the tower between the second and third floors are being replaced. None of these repairs is expected to interrupt regular activity at the lighthouse.
The building is in use some 200 days a year with meetings by community groups, the occasional private party hosted by Sea Girt residents, special events like October’s Lighthouse Challenge, group tours year-round and Sunday tours April through mid-November.
The annual meeting included the nomination and election of new trustees who join the 18-member board. Longtime trustees who have recently retired from the board are: Kathryn Matthews, Marie Muhler and Conrad Yauch. Mrs. Zientek thanked them for their many years of dedicated service.
Nominated to fill their positions and two other vacancies were: Laura D’Avella and Dr. Peter Halas, who served as trustees in the 1990s, as well as Kenneth Norcross, Pamela Smith and Joseph Tocket. They were elected by acclamation of the members and sworn in by Mayor Ken Farrell. Trustees serve three-year terms.
After the business meeting, Commander Timothy R. Dring, USNR, Ret., was introduced and gave an informative and well-received talk and slide presentation titled The U.S. Life-Saving Service: New Jersey Origins of the Coast Guard's Predecessor. He is an author and a leading authority and historian on the Life-Saving Service, the Coast Guard as well as the Navy.
The 135-mile New Jersey coast, in the era of sail, was considered by seamen to be an especially challenging route because of the many sandbars, shoals and narrow channels. When ships wrecked in New Jersey waters as elsewhere in centuries past, prospects of rescue varied. In remote areas, there were few people ashore to offer assistance. Sailors typically had to fend for themselves. In more populated areas and seafaring towns, courageous but ill-equipped volunteers often did row out to a foundering ship in hopes of saving lives.
In the more than 50 dramatic photos drawn from his own collection coupled with his riveting commentary, Mr. Dring took his audience back to the days of sail, showing ships that foundered in New Jersey waters, and the heroic volunteers – known as surfmen – who risked their own lives to help passengers and crew reach shore.
Featuring prominently in this narrative was volunteer William Augustus Newell, who was also a physician who lived and practiced in Manahawkin. In 1839, Newell watched helplessly in horror as the Austrian sailing ship Terasto wrecked off Long Beach Island, claiming all 13 lives on board. Newell began thinking about how those people and others who died in shipwrecks could have been saved.
He envisioned somehow shooting lifelines attached to projectiles to ships in trouble and then pulling people to shore. More than a decade later, Dr. Newell was elected to Congress, where he sponsored legislation that formally organized and funded a coastal rescue service that would become known as the U.S. Life-Saving Service.
The Newell Act of 1848 authorized $10,000 to build life-saving stations – boathouses – south of New York Harbor from Sandy Hook down to Little Egg Harbor, equipped them with “surf boats, rockets, carronades and other necessary apparatus for the better preservation of life and property from ship-wrecks on the coasts of New Jersey. …” Eight stations were built and equipped.
A separate appropriation that year was made to the Massachusetts Humane Society to build stations in the Bay State. Congress subsequently appropriated additional funds to build and equip many more life-saving stations along the East Coast and eventually the West Coast. Many of the stations initially were unmanned and operated like volunteer fire departments, with personnel arriving only in response to a distress call. There was no command structure until 1854 when Congress allocated funds to recruit paid life-saving station keepers, who trained and directed the volunteers, many of whom were municipal employees or fishermen in the local communities.
There were life-saving stations built a few miles north and south of Sea Girt Lighthouse. A life-saving station, erected in Spring Lake in 1879, operated for a few decades. It was then deactivated and the building moved, replaced by a second station built in 1896 at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and Worthington Avenue. The second station is now a private home. In Manasquan, a life-saving station was built in 1902 on Second Avenue by Ocean Avenue, bringing the total in the state to 41. The Manasquan station is still there and being restored as a museum by the Squan Beach Life Saving Station Preservation Committee.
Among the innovative tools used by the Life-Saving Service was the breeches buoy system – the realization of Dr. Newell’s brainstorm. As captured in Mr. Dring’s photos, the surfmen used a lyle gun or cannon to shoot a grappling hook attached to a lifeline out to a foundering ship. The crew secured the grappling hook to a mast, while the surfmen secured the other end to a tripod on the beach. Then one person at a time glided to shore in a harness – the breeches buoy – that was hung from the lifeline.
Dr. Newell, a Republican, went on to be elected the 18th governor of New Jersey, serving one term, 1857-1860. A man of many accomplishments, he took the greatest pride in the Newell Act and the creation of the U.S. Life-Saving Service.
By 1915, there were some 270 life-saving stations along America’s coasts. That same year, the U.S. Life-Saving Service was merged with the federal tariff-collection and anti-smuggling agency known as the Revenue Cutter Service to create the U.S. Coast Guard.
In appreciation for his outstanding presentation, the lighthouse trustees thanked Mr. Dring by presenting him with a porcelain scale-model of Sea Girt Lighthouse. President Zientek adjourned the meeting and invited all to stay for refreshments at the reception that followed, where the conversation was lively as members caught up with one another and several chatted with Mr. Dring.