A passion for lighthouses

PORT TOWNSEND — “How far can the light be seen?”

That’s one of the hundreds of questions Les Stevenson fielded every summer as volunteer keeper of the Point Wilson Lighthouse.

A neat, dapper man with a bristle mustache, he answered each question in a patient manner.

Every Wednesday for the past three summers, Stevenson put on his Coast Guard Auxiliary uniform and drove from his home in Kala Point, south of Port Townsend, to Fort Worden State Park and Point Wilson, a beak-shaped piece of land that points to the entrance of Puget Sound.

Unlocking the door of the lighthouse and ushering a dozen visitors into the small downstairs room, he would show a video explaining how lenses focus a beam of light.

Then he would lead the visitors six at a time up the 58 steps of the winding staircase and metal ladder to the tiny cubicle at the top, where the lustrous glass lamp shone, sending its beacon high over the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Admiralty Inlet.

The Point Wilson light can be seen for 16 miles out at sea, depending on weather conditions, Les would explain.

Larger lights have a greater visibility, he added, but their range is limited by the fact that when the earth curves away from it, the beam of light continues on.

Throughout the summer, there was usually a line of people at the lighthouse door, waiting to get in.

“It’s been a great thing for us,” says Jim Farmer, Fort Worden’s manager, of the tours. “We get a lot of calls from people interested in the lighthouse.”

Stevenson, who initiated the lighthouse tours, led his final one in September.

He died on Christmas Day, his life snuffed out by the cancer he had battled off and on for years.

He was 83.

The rest of this story appears in today’s Peninsula Daily News. Click on “Subscribe” to get the PDN delivered to your home or office.

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