Digest>Archives> May 2003

To Show the Way Home - A Soldier’s Memorial

By Bill Edwards

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The first Clayton Memorial Lighthouse, built in ...

Back in 1942, the residents of Clayton, New York wanted to build a monument to the soldiers of the local area who had gone off to war. What they came up with was an eight-sided, about three-story high, wooden lighthouse. It was white, with black lettering listing the names of hundreds of their folks that went off to fight in World War II. “I guess they picked a lighthouse to ‘show the way home’ for their friends and loved ones,” says Cortland Reff. Reff (call him “Corty”) was a Mechanic/Chief Engineer in Okinawa near the end of the war.

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The current lighthouse in February 2002.
Photo by: Bill Edwards

That original monument is long since gone, but Corty remembers being on the board of the American Legion Post #821 that was charged with replacing the wooden monument with the one that stands to this day. In 1961, the Village of Clayton replaced the old lighthouse with a new one and dedicated it as a standing memorial for local veterans of all wars. It measures about 15 feet tall and is conical, made with granite quarried locally. And it has a working light. Mr. Reff estimates the cost (then) at about three thousand dollars. “The stainless steel lantern cost 950 dollars alone,” he says. The lighthouse is located at John Street and Riverside Drive in the heart of downtown, right at the foot of the docks on the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The Village of Clayton itself is located in the “1000 Islands” area, 20 miles northwest of Watertown, New York, and is about seven miles from a U.S.-Canada border crossing.

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Behind this memorial plaque is a time capsule.
Photo by: Bill Edwards

Reff says the light, maintained by the Village, is on from dusk till dawn with a continuous white light. He says it is used as a point of reference for folks coming to their docks from Grindstone Island, located about a mile and a half away on the American side of the river. The tower portion contains a time capsule located behind the dedication plaque. The 78-year-old veteran is proud to add that scores of people from the United States and Canada attend the yearly memorial services held at the monument/lighthouse.

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A Goodwill Day memorial service is held each year ...

This story appeared in the May 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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