Digest>Archives> November 2003

Women of the Light

Paula and Lauren Liebrecht: Saving Lighthouses, Having Fun

By Jeremy D'Entremont


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The Liebrecht sisters hard at work on a lens ...
Photo by: Bob Trapani, Jr.

Participants in this year’s Maryland Lighthouse Challenge might have thought they were experiencing déjà vu. After chatting with volunteer Lauren Liebrecht at Drum Point Lighthouse, many were surprised later in the day to see someone who looked just like Lauren volunteering at Cove Point Lighthouse. It turns out the helpful volunteer at Cove Point was Lauren’s identical twin sister, Paula. The ubiquitous Liebrecht sisters are two of the most dedicated lighthouse volunteers on the east coast. “We do what we do because it’s fun,” explains Lauren.

Lauren and Paula were born in Washington, D.C. in 1957 and have lived in Maryland all of their lives. Their mother’s genealogical research has revealed that lighthouses are in their blood. They’re related to Henry Dearborn, builder of the original Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and Abbie Burgess, the renowned Maine lighthouse keeper.

The twins’ love for lighthouses began during a late 1980s trip when they visited Maine’s Portland Head Light. “Since then we have visited lighthouses as far west as Wisconsin and from Maine to Florida,” says Paula. “We also have visited many lighthouses in the Great Lakes area and in Canada.”

The sisters first joined the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society back in 1990. “They are two of the Chesapeake Chapter’s most reliable volunteers, having participated in just about every activity we’ve had,” says chapter president Anne Puppa. Since March 2001 they’ve been the editors of the chapter’s quarterly newsletter “Chesapeake Lights.” “As editors,” says Puppa, “they solicit articles from all over and make sure everyone stays on schedule.” The Liebrechts are quick to point out that getting out the newsletter each quarter is a team effort. “Thanks go to all who have written a story or have provided information that is included in the newsletter,” says Lauren.

The Liebrechts’ work at lighthouses in the Chesapeake region has ranged from cleaning and painting to landscape work. “Their enthusiasm is infectious and they have probably converted a lot of unsuspecting people into lighthouse nuts just because they always seem to be having so much fun,” says Anne Puppa. The sisters have put in a number of volunteer days at Bodie Island Light in North Carolina, working in the base of the lighthouse or in the visitor center, answering questions and providing information on the station’s history.

Their devotion to lighthouses has taken them north to New Hampshire’s Portsmouth Harbor Light where they took part in a cleanup day, and to Delaware’s Harbor of Refuge Light where they’ve spent a couple of days scraping and painting at the offshore tower. Bob Trapani, president of the Delaware River and Bay Lighthouse Foundation, has nothing but praise for them. “Lauren and Paula are true friends to the lighthouse community,” he says. “They combine an exceptional love of lighthouses with a passion for helping to save them. Their tireless dedication is an inspiration to all those who share the same commitment.”

The Liebrecht sisters’ passion is spreading in their family. “Our niece Catherine Creeden turned 13 years old this March,” says Paula. “She has been doing Chesapeake Chapter volunteer work for the last two years. She represents the future generation of lighthouse preservationists.”

This story appeared in the November 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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