Retired tugboat skipper Arnold "Andy" Andrews (known to many as "Arnie") likes to say, "If a man can do what he wants to do, he's blessed," and he lived that philosophy during more than four decades working on tugs for Foss Maritime, mostly in Puget Sound from Olympia to Bellingham. Now living inland on a five-acre spread in the foothills of Mount Rainier and a half-hour drive from Tacoma, Arnie has created a reminder of the ocean on his property — a 20-foot wooden lighthouse, complete with working light and foghorn. "I figure I could always find my way home if I put a lighthouse here," he says.
The name of the octagonal Point Veltarn Lighthouse is a combination of Arnie's name and his wife's, Velta. Since Arnie retired in 1994 the couple have logged more than 20,000 miles yearly in their "fifth wheel," a camper towed by pickup. While traveling they often visit lighthouses, and Arnie says that the lighthouse is the fulfillment of a promise to Velta.
Before tackling the lighthouse project, Arnie built a combination garage/workshop, a large barn and a utility building - in fact, "everything except the house." He based the lighthouse on an eight-inch model he picked up in an antique shop. Built in his shop using lumber cut from trees on his property, the lighthouse has a plexiglass-enclosed lantern with a railing. The lantern is built of interlocking parts with no nails or screws. An 80-year-old door on the tower came from Arnie's grandfather's house.
The lighthouse is also a pumphouse over a water supply with the potential to serve 400 homes. Andy built the system of state-licensed pumps and holding tanks. He recently added a rock pile at the base of the tower with a skiff on top of it, along with a sign reading "This station recommended a course change to starboard."
A fourth generation resident of Graham, Washington, Arnie got his love of the sea early from his father, a commercial fisherman — as a youngster he realized that he "just loved the smell of the boats."
His accomplishments before and after retirement are impressive, especially considering that a few years ago Arnie had a major stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body and left him unable to walk for a time. It was then that doctors discovered that he had been born with a hole in his heart. A fabric patch was put over the opening in a 15-minute minimally invasive procedure. It "didn't slow me up a bit," he says. The building of the lighthouse served as therapy and motivated him, Arnie explains.
With three children and seven grandchildren, Arnie and Velta are active in their church and other community matters.
Their favorite song, appropriately, is the old hymn, "If it weren't for the lighthouse, where would this ship be?" Living amidst cow pastures and forest 740 feet above sea level, Arnie misses the seafaring life sometimes. But the Point Veltarn Lighthouse is a cheering sight from the window at night — long may it shine.
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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