Barry Dove, spark behind preservation of Dungeness Spit lighthouse, dies

SEQUIM — A memorial service is set Sunday for Barry Dove, a South African immigrant who led the effort to preserve and restore the Dungeness Lighthouse.

Dove died Sunday of cancer. He would have been 56 this Saturday.

Until his resignation last November, Dove was the lone paid staff member of the New Dungeness Light Station Association, a post he earned after a decade of volunteering, said his friend, Rick DeWitt of Sequim.

In 1994, when the Coast Guard was preparing to abandon the Dungeness Lighthouse, Dove, his wife, Belinda, and a small group of others stepped forward.

From that point, Dove worked unstintingly at a dizzying mix of tasks, DeWitt said.

He received no salary until 2006, when his fellow volunteers decided that managing the Light Station Association had grown to be too large a job to go unpaid.

Were it not for Dove’s efforts — maintaining the buildings on the lighthouse site, creating a membership database, driving keepers out to the lighthouse week after week, organizing volunteer work parties — the place would not be the landmark it is today, DeWitt believes.

Landmark lighthouse

The Dungeness Lighthouse, first lighted in 1857, attracts some 5,000 visitors per year, and is cared for year-round by volunteers and by people who rent the keepers’ quarters.

The New Dungeness Light Station Association has some 700 member households around the world, DeWitt said; members are eligible to serve as keepers one week out of the year.

And the schedule of caretakers, the thank-you letters to supporters, the lawn mower repairs and the teams of volunteers were all Dove’s doing.

The lighthouse is a rare refuge, said DeWitt, that has kept its beauty and peace thanks in large part to its first general manager.

Dove, who left South Africa for the United States as a young man, kept his boyhood accent, which, combined with his enthusiasm, charmed those who knew him, DeWitt added.

“Any time Barry called you, you started grinning, even though you knew it meant work.”

DeWitt, the association’s interim general manager, recalled the first lighthouse work party he and his wife, Roberta, went to after joining the lighthouse volunteer corps.

This was spring 2006, and as always, the drive out to the light station had to be done at low tide, since the Dungeness Spit’s long beach is the only land access to the lighthouse.

“We went out at 2 a.m., and Barry cooked us breakfast in the barn,” DeWitt said.

“He cooked boiled bacon, and eggs. It’s a South African thing.”

They went on to work all morning and afternoon on, among other things, the “Do not anchor” sign just off the spit. It had been slowly sinking as the wind and water tore it apart.

Organized work parties

Dove organized many more work parties on the lighthouse site over the years.

“Barry had the rare skill to be in charge and to still work harder than anyone around him,” said Rich Olmer of Sequim, a longtime volunteer.

When working together, “Barry and I did not always agree, but he did always listen to my opinion. And, in the end, he was usually right,” Olmer added.

“I’ll miss Barry’s get-it-done spirit. Yet I can almost guarantee that he’ll always be there keeping an eye out for any dangers threatening the New Dungeness Light Station.”

Since Dove stepped down last fall, DeWitt and his volunteer team are discovering how wide-ranging his efforts were.

“We’re replacing Barry with about six people,” he said.

DeWitt is general manager, Rebecca Alexander is the paid administrative manager handling membership and keeper scheduling, and volunteers help with vehicle repairs and care of the lighthouse site.

Before helping to found the New Dungeness Light Station Association, Dove worked for local newspapers, including the Peninsula Daily News and the Sequim Gazette.

In addition to Belinda, his wife of 27 years, Dove is survived by his daughter, Xisa, 16; his mother, Patricia Dove of Sequim and brothers Patrick Dove of Buckley and Roy Dove of Selah.

He was preceded in death by his father, Campbell Dove, in 1993.

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