Frank P. Schubert, the last of the Coast Guard’s civilian lighthouse keepers in the United States, died on Dec. 11 of natural causes. He was 88.
Schubert always had an affinity for the water. He worked as a lifeguard after graduating high school, and took a job as a seaman aboard the Tulip, a tender ship that maintained buoys. In 1939, the Coast Guard gave him his first lighthouse assignment — caring for the beacon off Staten Island.
During World War II, Schubert served in the Army, then returned to New York City to man the lighthouse on Governor’s Island. He took over the lighthouse on Coney Island’s western tip in 1960, a job that also provided him a home for his wife and three children.
For 43 years, Schubert stood watch over New York’s gateway to the Atlantic, insuring that the ocean traffic found safe passage around the end of Brooklyn. Over the course of his career, he maintained the grounds and the 1,000-watt bulb of the fog signal, and was credited with saving the lives of 15 sailors.
Even after the lighthouse became automated in the late 1980s, Schubert remained, serving as a reminder of maritime history. Although he rarely left his post, and never took a vacation, Schubert was visited by thousands of lighthouse buffs.
“The Coast Guard mourns the loss of its most courageous sentry of the sea. His devotion to duty and courage are unequaled,” said Capt. Craig T. Bone, commander of Coast Guard Activities New York.
NPR Interview With Schubert