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 Robert H. “Lighthouse Bob” Hanford

Robert H. “Lighthouse Bob” Hanford

Death 4 Jun 2010 (aged 84)
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 53505215 · View Source
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Bob Hanford of Port Huron died June 4 at Port Huron Hospital. He was 84.

Known affectionately as "Lighthouse Bob," he was the keeper and biggest supporter of Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron where he led thousands of people through tours of the oldest lighthouse station in the state of Michigan for 20 years.

Born July 7, 1925, Bob came to Detroit by lake passenger steamship in 1934.

According to a biography published in a Port Huron Museum newsletter, Bob enlisted in the US Coast Guard in 1943 and entered training for amphibious warfare. He was subsequently assigned to the USS Bayfield (APA-33), an attack transport in the US Navy. Bob took part in the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, Southern France in August 1944, and then the amphibious landings at Iwo Jima Feb. 15, 1945 and Okinawa, April 1, 1945, in the waning but bloodiest days of the Pacific War.

In 1946, he was transferred to then-new USCGC Bramble in the Pacific. He left the ship in Hawaii as she was preparing for a deployment to the Western Pacific, which would have complicated his journey home as he was about to be discharged.

He returned to Michigan and joined the Detroit Police Department in 1947, where for several years he was a motorcycle patrolman. He later rose to the rank of detective. His work included the investigation and prosecution of narcotics cases and local organized crime figures. He retired from the DPD in 1972, but continued in the private security business for a number of years. He moved to the Port Huron area in 1975. Among his other jobs and interests, he also raised horses and worked as a property manager and animal control officer.

A member of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, Bob assumed the duties of lighthouse keeper in 1988, leading tours of the Fort Gratiot Light Station for delighted school children and other visitors. He also performed light maintenance at the tower, sweeping the tower down, washing windows and removing spider webs.

Bob had a great sense of humor, and was a very talented and knowledgeable speaker. He looked the part of a Lightkeeper and it was very obvious he loved the Light Station and what he was doing. Dressed in a period-correct US Lighthouse Service uniform, Bob would proudly share the history of the station's construction and service life as a major aid to navigation, as well as stories and artifacts from the site and the keepers who preceded him. His dedication was admirable, considering the oppressive Michigan summer heat and humidity in which he often worked in that full uniform.

He was rightfully proud of his visitor logs, which contained thousands of names and hometowns of the guests who had come to visit him and his beloved lighthouse from all over the United States and the world.

Only one other man served as lightkeeper of the station longer than Bob. Frank Kimball kept the light from 1894 to 1924, a span of 30 years.

Though his health slowed him in recent years, Bob still continued to lead tours with the assistance of volunteers. Bob also gave many presentations and slide shows at area schools and at the Port Huron Museum.

The Lighthouse was closed to public tours in 2008 due to the potential danger of visitors being struck by pieces of brick that are being shed by the 86-foot tall light tower.

Negotiations are currently underway for the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse facility and the retired US Coast Guard Station on the Lighthouse property to be transferred from the federal government to St. Clair County.

Bob was right in the middle of things, the project's biggest supporter, as he understood the significance of that historic site. He had great hopes that the site would be preserved respectfully for posterity.

Bob fell April 15 as he was leaving a medical clinic. He broke a hip and some fingers and had surgery the following week. As is often the case with someone in advanced age, it is often difficult to rebound from such injuries, and Bob passed away on Saturday morning.

Bob was a fine man who served his country and his community in many different ways: WWII veteran of the US Coast Guard, longtime police officer, CG Auxiliary member, and Lighthouse Keeper at Fort Gratiot.

It is amazing to think of the lives he touched, both through his service in law enforcement, keeping people safe, and the thousands of children and visitors who were enthralled by his lighthouse stories as he told them the tales and history of Fort Gratiot Light

He is survived by three children, Lynne Capadagli and Scott and Kim Hanford.

Memorial services will be held sometime in July for family.

Memorial To Shine Light On Keeper
Service Will Honor Life Of 'Lighthouse Bob'

Port Huron Times Herald
• June 10, 2010

A man many consider a hero will be honored later this month during a memorial service on the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse grounds.
Officials will honor Bob Hanford, who died June 5 at age 84.

Known in the community as "Lighthouse Bob," Hanford served as keeper of the lighthouse for 20 years.

He also served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II.

Frank Frisk of Marysville has been busy organizing a memorial service for his longtime friend since he found out about Hanford's death.
Frisk didn't think the idea would come together so quickly, but the date has been set for 11 a.m. June 26.

"He (Hanford) was well known all over the Great Lakes. He didn't take a back seat to anybody," Frisk said. "He was a hero in the war and a hero for us."

Jesse Guarneri, executive petty officer of the Coast Guard Station in Port Huron, said approval was received Wednesday through the Coast Guard district office in Cleveland for the service to be on the lighthouse grounds.
Guarneri said the approval was necessary because of the lighthouse's deteriorating condition and the transition of the property from the federal government to St. Clair County.
"Bob is one of us. He wore the same uniform we wear," Guarneri said. "We want to make sure we honor him the way he honored us by fighting in World War II and representing the Coast Guard. We want to do whatever we can to make it as memorable as it can be."

Frisk said he received only positive support from the Coast Guard and the Port Huron Museum.
"The response has been immense and fantastic," Frisk said. "Everyone has been very helpful."

Hanford served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1943 to 1946 and participated in four major invasions, including those at Normandy and Iwo Jima.

He also served 25 years as a Detroit police officer before retiring in 1972.

Hanford moved to Port Huron in 1975 and became the keeper of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in 1988.
Hanford volunteered his time for guided tours and gave the lighthouse a thorough cleaning about once a month before the structure was closed to visitors in 2008 because of its condition.
"This was his baby, and he deserves this," Frisk said.



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  • Created by: Kim Koper♥Davis♛
  • Added: 10 Jun 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 53505215
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Robert H. “Lighthouse Bob” Hanford (7 Jul 1925–4 Jun 2010), Find A Grave Memorial no. 53505215, ; Maintained by Kim Koper♥Davis♛ (contributor 46811243) Unknown.