Family and friends recently gathered on a rainy March 4th at the Crowne Hill Cemetery in Seattle, Washington for the United States Lighthouse Service (USLHS) memorial marker placement ceremony to honor assistant lighthouse keeper Edwin G. Clements, whose tragic story was featured in the March/April Lighthouse Digest article on that state’s Smith Island Lighthouse.
Participants in the program included Georgene Finch, who is Edwin Clements’ grandniece, and her husband Dave, who both helped in providing many of the photos and biographical information used in the article. Debra Baldwin of Lighthouse Digest also participated.
In addition to the bronze USLHS shield marker, the family provided other special memorabilia for the occasion. While the packaged marker comes with a wooden dowel and small display flag, it was felt it would be appropriate to substitute it with Edwin’s own original memorial flag that had been draped over his casket at his funeral back in January of 1940, which the family had lovingly preserved.
Additionally, the Finch’s brought a framed picture of Edwin in his lighthouse keeper uniform taken when he was stationed at Patos Island Lighthouse near Eastsound, Washington, and a display case containing some of the many medals that he been awarded.
The ceremony began with The Legend of the Lighthouse, with lyrics by Judi Kearney, which is set to the tune of America the Beautiful. Debra Baldwin then read a biographical remembrance of Edwin Clements taken from his findagrave.com page, which gave a full life sketch. It included an account of the fateful events leading up to the stormy night when he lost his life while offering to service the Minor Island Beacon Light in George Welsh’s stead on the evening of December 29, 1939 at Smith Island Lighthouse.
Because the Welsh family descendants lived many miles away in different states, making it impossible to attend the event, they still wanted to participate, and George’s daughter, Dianne Welsh Cadwallader, wrote a moving tribute letter for the ceremony, which was read by Dave Finch. Their letter was recently posted on the Facebook page of Lighthouse Digest.
This was followed by a reading of The Lightkeeper’s Prayer. To close the ceremony, Debra Baldwin read and sang, in part, Edwin’s Song, which she had created some months in advance as a tribute to all lightkeepers who had sacrificed their lives in the course of fulfilling their duties. A few last words were spoken to thank Edwin for his service and sacrifice which brought the ceremony to an end.
While there could be many things said and written about Edwin Clements, the best came from a newspaper article, written by the Canadian Legion in memoriam of his death. His comrades wrote, “No words can set forth his generous love of his fellow men, and his death was, we know, as he would have wished it, “ON DUTY” his constant desire to aid others.” May he be remembered with honor.
This story appeared in the
May/Jun 2016 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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