Published On: Wed, Dec 26th, 2018

A Light From Above

By: Jay Van Vechten

The lighthouses of the world hold a romantic allure spanning more than 2,000 years. Lighthouses give hope to those lost at sea. They keep ships and sailors safe on the oceans and lakes that span the globe. They are the subject of films, books, poems, myths and more than their fair share of songs. How about “I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper” from the 1972 film, Clockwork Orange?

In the world of AirB&B’s you can even rent your own lighthouse for the night. Check it out: https://www.airbnb.com.

Did you know the first lighthouse was built in Egypt’s port city of Alexandria by the Egyptians in the third century BC? The USA has more lighthouse than any country on earth, with Michigan having the most, at 115; the oldest standing lighthouse was built in the first century AD at the entrance to Spain’s Coruna Harbor – it is still operational today.

Ralph Krugler

Perhaps no one in our area is more captivated by lighthouses than Ralph Krugler of Boca Raton. Ralph, who lives in Boca Square, is an avid lighthouse volunteer. He describes himself as a lighthouse nerd. He says he always admired the fact that “people work in insanely desolate locations to help keep others safe.”  

But Ralph’s real attraction to lighthouse clicked into place when he began volunteering with the Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society, a registered 501c3 not for profit. The HLPS was formed in 1997 when the Coast Guard was trying to decide what to do with a broken rotational beacon that had operated flawlessly for years and years. Should they replace it with a new electronic version? A sharp, “No,” was the resounding cry from local lighthouse purists. “We’ll fix it instead,” they said.

And so they did.

Ralph, who has also spent many years volunteering with the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, was so taken by the Hillsboro Lighthouse that he joined the Preservation Society and recently completed a 600 page history of this famed beacon in the night. Along the way, he became a board member of the Florida Keys Reef Lights Foundation, he joined the Florida Lighthouse Association and signed on as a lifetime member of the United States Lighthouse Association. Ralph takes his volunteerism seriously.

He says that once he started writing a history of the Hillsboro Lighthouse he couldn’t stop. He hopes his research and the many historical photos and stories he’s unearthed will generate interest in the tower from other would-be volunteers. He says the Society is always looking for support from the public with all sorts of opportunities available just for the asking. “It’s not hard work,” he says, “unless you want to help with some of the more labor-intensive projects – such as painting the lighthouse from top to bottom.”  He adds, “Those who volunteer get to meet all sorts of fun, friendly and interesting people. We offer one of the most unusual and interesting volunteer opportunities in South Florida.” We couldn’t agree more.

Ralph says people who have lived in the area for years don’t realize the lighthouse is open to visitors. “Most folks don’t even realize that Lighthouse Point is named after the Hillsboro Lighthouse.”

Ralph’s commitment to the tower led him to combining his love of dogs and lighthouses into one, by naming his recently opened dog training business, Lighthouse K9. Other aspects of this interesting man’s life include his love of sports. He was the Head Athletic Trainer for the Syracuse Crunch Hockey Club. He is a Black Belt instructor and served as an athletic trainer for the Palm Beach Institute of Sports Medicine. Aside from being a Certified Athletic Trainer, Ralph has 10 years working in the orthopedic-bracing industry (which is often what you need after years of physically punishing sports abuse).

If you’ve got an interesting volunteer story, please drop us a line and we might feature you and your favorite charity in this column. 

If you are interested in specific volunteer opportunities in Boca, check out the listings at bocaguide.com/volunteer.html. You can also contact the Spirit of Giving Network at 561-299-1205.  The Network’s staff will train you in how to be a volunteer and help match you to a local nonprofit organization. Visit www.spiritofgivingnetwork.com.

About the Author

- Jay Van Vechten is a retired New York City PR man. He operated his own award winning agency for 25 years until a fall changed his life. A full time resident of Boca Raton, Van Vechten chairs the American Disabilities Foundation, Inc., and serves as the Executive Director of the annual Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities. He was recently named Direct Service Provider of the Year by the Special Needs Advisory Coalition of Palm Beach County. He is also the past Chair of the City of Boca Raton Advisory Board for People with Disabilities. And currently sits on the city’s Community Advisory Panel.

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