— by Margie Doyle —
Quietly, steadily, while many of us research and question civic matters such as master plans, crimes and changes in leadership, Edrie Vinson of Orcas Island, President of the non-profit organization “Keepers of the Patos Light,” has worked over the last 10 years to restore the Patos Island Lighthouse on the northernmost island of the San Juans archipelago and to honor its history.
On Sunday, August 3, two boatloads sailed from Brandt’s Landing to the island to celebrate the 10th year of the Keepers of the Patos Light “rebirth” of the lighthouse, and the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Light station to warn mariners in the fogs, mists and storms of the Salish Sea.
The group, complete with the infant great-great granddaughter of Helene Glidden, author of the ever-popular memoir/novel, A Light on the Island, traveled by the short path or the long rustic trail from the boat landing to the Lighthouse. There Edrie and her granddaughter and fellow historian Terri Vinson served a cake donated by the Island Market to some 52 guests.
Pure, calming flute music played by Ginny Keith emanated from within the lighthouse where a photographic exhibit, coordinated with Victoria Atkins, Edrie and Terri, and designed by Jill Berger of Friday Harbor, shows the history of the beacon of light in NW seas.
The current lighthouse was fully automated in 1974 and was in a state of disrepair in 2008 when Linda Hudson of Lopez Island established Keepers of the Patos Light. Also beginning in 2008, the lighthouse has been restored by the Keepers of the Patos Light in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Edrie Vinson now serves as the Keepers’ President.
Patos Island is part of the San Juan National Historic Site, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Marcia deChadenèdes Manager of the San Juan Islands National Monument, told the visitors “The BLM is you” when she pointed out some of the accomplishments the KOPL have accomplished, and invited Edrie to list more:
- a $10,000 county grant for operations that allow the Keepers to develop the nonporift organization and to bring visitors to the island
- inclusion of the KOPL.org website on the Washington Rural Heritage site with funds from the Washington State Library. Those funds also enabled Terri Vinson to collect photographs from the National Library of Congress in Washington DC that show the the Patos Light Station and Light House from 1893 to 1933, part of the current exhibit at the Lighthouse
- completion of a Memo of Understanding (MOU) with the Orcas Island Historical Museum to partner for photos and collections
- completion of aMOU with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to operate as docents at the light house and to organize work parties, as they’ve been doing for the last 10 years.
The island, its lighthouse, and one of its better-known keepers, Edward Durgan, were immortalized in a 1951 book,The Light on the Island, written by Durgan’s daughter, Helene Durgan Glidden (b. 1900).The book was republished in 2018 with the original artwork on the dust jacket. It includes the chapter that was removed by the original publisher as too risque. The book and other materials are for sale at the lighthouse with proceeds benefiting KOPL (cash or check only please).
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A big thank you to Margie Doyle of Orcas News and Views for this article