On March 12, Halfmoon Bay, indeed all of us, lost a “beacon of love, warmth and happiness.” On that day, Don Richards, the longest serving lighthouse keeper on Merry Island, passed away. Not only did Don tirelessly serve those sailing by Merry Island at all hours of the day and night, for 44 years he was keeper at lighthouses at Pachena Point, Carmanah Point, and Lucy Islands. His obituary reads: “he was proudest at home, on Merry Island, where he kept the lights since 1987.”
Born in Yellowknife, Don had four brothers – and all their names start with “D” – Dale, Derek, Dennis and Dean (and their parent’s names are David and Dorothy!). The family owned a lodge in the Okanagan “where the boys had the time of their lives!” Don played piano and guitar and became a good horseback rider. A woodsman in Robson Valley in Central B.C., living in a rustic cabin over the winter, he became skilled at woodworking, making wooden boats and oars.
His wife of 45 years, Kathy, and his son Adam and wife Krystina (who have twin grandsons Frankie and Michael), joined approximately 50 friends for a celebration of his life at the home of Lynn and John Smith on March 25. Lynn said, “He was a very dear and close friend. I remember he would row out in his dinghy and warmly greet all the sailboats in our sail past events” in a full Santa Claus suit.
I reached out to Don’s close friend, Doug Bertram: “I met Don in 1983 on the Lucy Islands, off Prince Rupert, where he was the Senior Light Station Keeper. The Islands are home to a very large colony of Rhinoceros Auklet, a diving bird and relative of the puffin. We were working with the Canadian Wildlife Service and Simon Fraser University and a small crew of researchers who returned every summer from 1983 to1987. Living in a field camp on one of the smaller islands, Don and [his wife] Kathy and their son Adam dubbed us the ‘Wild Guys’ and helped us with water, freezer space and cookies. We visited them on Merry Island in 1988, and many times thereafter. Later in our lives, we were great travel companions, visiting Paris and Ireland and other parts of Europe. Before becoming light keepers on the West Coast of Vancouver Island on the Pacific Rim, they were Caretakers on Coal Island and made fish lures for Pallister’s in Sooke. They also served on stations on Lennard Island off Tofino, and Chrome and Addenbroke.
“Don was generous and warm-hearted. Don put the ‘keeper’ in light keeper. He was devoted to the station; they revitalized every station they visited. Don was very social with a wide network of friends on Mintie Road, and in the greater Halfmoon Bay area.”
Donations can be made to the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station 12, with which Don had a very strong connection.
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