Lighthouse keeper's legacy preserved in museum

Mike Bauchan brimmed with pride as he looked at a miniature replica of the Point Betsie Lighthouse in Michigan, where he lived with his family as a child.

"That top left corner room on the second story was my bedroom," he pointed out. "It was a beautiful view." Right underneath the replica, a plaque reads his father's name - "Louis Bauchan."

Louis is finally being recognized for his years of service as the last known light keeper in the United States Lighthouse Service. "It's just a sense of pride that somebody like my father, who is not promoting himself in any way, shape, or form, was recognized in some small way," said Mike.

And it's all part of a display at the new National Lighthouse Museum in Staten Island, New York, which officially opened earlier this month on the 225th anniversary of President George Washington signing the Lighthouse Act of 1789.

The U.S. Lighthouse Service was consolidated into the United States Coast Guard in 1939 and Louis continued with his work until he retired in 1957. He worked day and night, rain or shine, summer or winter - often enduring sub-freezing temperatures and thick ice.

"There is no way of knowing how many lives have been saved by lighthouse keepers," Mike said. "Yet, they just go about their tasks, in all kinds of weather, all kinds of seasons."

His father was a man of many talents - he knew how to repair fog signals without disrupting them. He knew how to polish light lenses to perfection, and he even knew how to build cars. In fact, he built one of the family's first cars and often took Mike, his brother, and his mother for rides.

Mike and Louis loved the family-oriented lifestyle that came with living in lighthouses, despite the constant shuffling from station to station. "When we were at the lighthouse, we had more togetherness as a family," Louis remembered in a voice recording he made to preserve his memories. "It was a good time to teach them the better things in life."

The better things in life, according to Mike, included his dad walking him to school, fishing by the lighthouse, and he and his brother playing in the yard tethered to trees to keep them from running into the water.

All of this was documented heavily throughout the years. Louis said he took photographs so he could "use these pictures to get people interested in lighthouses."

Now, nine years after Louis Bauchan passed away, there is an entire museum dedicated to just that.