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Sally Snowman, America’s last lighthouse keeper, ends watch at Boston Light after 20 years

by Staff


She’s done bringing home the beacon.

The last Coast Guard lighthouse keeper in the United States ended her watch at the historic Boston Light after two decades at the helm.

Sally Snowman, 72, became the keeper of the lighthouse back in 2003, which she said was a lifelong dream come true after first seeing it when she was just 10 years old.

“There was a connection, instant connection. I had no idea as a 10-year-old what that connection was, it just went right to my heart. And to this day, it’s there. It’s still there,” she told the Daily Mail ahead of her final day as keeper on Saturday.

She is the 70th person to be the lighthouse keeper at Boston Light — and the first woman to hold the position — in its more than 300-year history.

The lighthouse — which originally opened in 1716 and was blown up by the British in 1776 and rebuilt in 1783 — has safely guided sailors through the dangerous waters of Boston Harbor from the small rocky island of Little Brewster.

Snowman’s first impression of Boston Light during a childhood visit to the island would inspire her for the rest of her life.

“In my heart of hearts, Boston Light is my home,” Snowman told CBS News earlier this month. “I took to it like a fish to water.”

Sally Snowman, 72, has been the keeper of Boston Light since 2003. She retired on Saturday. CBS NEWS BOSTON

“I stepped off to the beach and looked up at the light and said, ‘Daddy, when I grow up I want to get married out here’ — and I did in 1994!” she added.

She and her husband even wrote a book about the lighthouse, which helped her land the job as Boston Light’s first civilian keeper since 1941, after the Coast Guard civilianized lighthouses to free up its members following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

For the past 20 years, Snowman’s lived on the remote island for six months — alone during the weeks but with her husband on the weekends, she told CBS.

The current Boston Light structure was built in 1783. CBS NEWS BOSTON

Her jobs at the automated lighthouse included keeping it clean, checking mechanical equipment and indulging in the natural beauty around her.

“There’s a view out every window. even in the bathroom when you’re in the shower, you can see Graves Light,” said Snowman, referring to another lighthouse to the northeast.

The first Boston Light structure was a 60-foot tower built in 1716 and was lit by candles, according to the National Parks Service. It suffered multiple fires at the hands of American troops when it was held by the British during the Revolutionary War — before it was blown up by British troops as they fled Boston in 1776.

Snowman married her husband on Little Brewster in 1994, after promising her father she would when she was 10. CBS NEWS BOSTON

The current 75-foot-high structure was completed in 1783 and was illuminated by four fish oil lamps. It was raised to 89 feet in 1859 and electrified in 1948, casting her light 27 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Boston Light became a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

As the Coast Guard was preparing to automate the light and remove its personnel from Little Brewster in 1989, the US Senate passed a law requiring Boston Light be permanently manned — making it the only staffed lighthouse remaining in the country, according to NPS.

Snowman is the first female keeper of Boston Light in its 300-plus year history. CBS NEWS BOSTON

The law additionally required Little Brewster to be accessible to the public, which it became in 1999.

It became the last lighthouse in the country to become automated in 1989 and remains always on, “ending the keeper’s having to climb the stairs twice a day,” according to NPS.

In 2018, when the lighthouse failed a safety inspection, Snowman was restricted to daytime maintenance trips only, CBS reported. She spends a lot of her time now at the Lifesaving Museum in Hull, where she dresses in 19th-century garb and keeps a close watch on her beloved lighthouse.

Ownership of the lighthouse will be transferred through the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 to an organization or charity that will maintain the landmark.

Snowman said it will be tough to say goodbye — though she does hope to volunteer as a Little Brewster tour guide and remain its historian.

“… We thought that it was going to be short term, it has turned into 20 years. And so letting go, how do you let go of all that? It is analogous to having a child grow up, going off to college, and letting them begin a new chapter, so this is a new chapter for Boston Light,” she told the Daily Mail.

“I can’t even think about what Jan. 1st is going to be like. But the other part of it is that I don’t get a sense that it’s really over.”




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