A great American has been lost with the passing of Louis Bauchan who was the last known surviving lighthouse keeper of the United States Lighthouse Service.
Bauchan, 91, passed away at his Cheboygan, Michigan home this past Easter Sunday, April 20th, 2003.
Wearing his lighthouse keeper’s uniform, he was a fixture at each year’s Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival and other lighthouse events where he was always more than willing to share his memories and many photographs. Being a lighthouse keeper was more than a job to him. During his days as a lighthouse keeper he kept a detailed photographic account of his days in the U.S. Lighthouse Service and later the U.S. Coast Guard. With the help of his family those photographs and his memories were recorded for future generations and have been shared with thousands of people. I’ll never forget the first time I met him; he was one of those people that you liked instantly.
Bauchan served as a lighthouse keeper at various Great Lakes lighthouses including St. Martin Island, Poverty Island, Chicago Harbor and Point Betsie. He also served on the Coast Guard Icebreaker Mackinaw. He joined the United States Lighthouse Service on April 1, 1935. He started in the Lighthouse Service as a cook on the lighthouse tender Sumac. After he passed the Keeper exam he was assigned as a lighthouse keeper at Chicago Harbor Lighthouse. It was during his tenure as a lighthouse keeper at St. Martin Island in Michigan (1937-1947) that he joined the Coast Guard when the U.S. Lighthouse Service was dissolved in 1939.
In 1953 he was assigned to Coast Guard duty in Hawaii and served on the Destroyer Escorts Newell and Kikui and various other duties including aids to navigation. He also served on board an 83-foot patrol boat in Hawaii before returning to the Great Lakes in 1955. He retired from the Coast Guard in 1957 as Chief Engineman of the Icebreaker Mackinaw.
Bauchan was widely known and respected in the lighthouse community and we have featured him numerous times in Lighthouse Digest. Just a few months ago he was the guest of honor with five admirals and the Coast Guard Academy Band at the launch of the USCG Cutter Hollyhock in Marinette, WI.
Although he had many fond memories of his Coast Guard career, he said he favorite memories were of his days as a keeper in the U.S. Lighthouse Service, especially of the times at St. Martin and Point Betsie Lighthouses.
He left a legacy that will go down in history, there will never be another like him; he will be dearly missed. Not only was he part of the “Greatest Generation,” he was a hero of it.
Our condolences go out to his family.
Donations in his memory can be sent to Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse, P.O. Box 601, Frankfort, MI 49635.
Sympathy cards can be sent to
The Bauchan Family
P.O. Box 730
Houghton Lake, MI 48629-0730.
This story appeared in the
June 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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