Presented at the

2022 Michigan Lighthouse Alliance Conference
Holland, MI, May 2022

  by Jeri Baron Feltner


Seaman Don Ashley, Jr. Memorial

Seaman Don Ashley, Jr. US Coast Guard

Honored for His Sacrifice While Serving on DeTour Reef Light

Seaman Don Ashley Jr

On a rainy Thursday, August 17, 2017, citizens of DeTour Village and Drummond Island joined with the crews of the Coast Guard Cutter Buckthorn and Aids to Navigation Team of the US Coast Guard, Sector Sault Sainte Marie to honor Don Ashley, Jr. who died while serving on the DeTour Reef Light on March 30, 1971. Also attending were his brother, Michael Ashley, his sister, Linda Ashley VandenHeuvel and their spouses from Green Bay, Wisconsin.

In the morning the CGC BUCKTHORN provided tours of the Cutter at the DeTour Village Ferry Dock before the memorial. A helicopter fly over by the airmen of the Sector Sault Sainte Marie Air Station was planned, but the weather did not cooperate.

DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society (DRLPS) Joe Henne opened the ceremony by sharing the story of Seaman Ashley’s death. He is the only member of the U.S. Coast Guard to lose their life while stationed at the DeTour Reef Light.

Lt. Commander Joseph Roach, Chaplain at Sector Sainte Marie offered the Invocation and Benediction.

Capt. Marko Broz, Commander, Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie said, “The Coast Guard men and women assembled today continue to stand the watch that Don so bravely stood nearly 50 years ago.” Broz said, “Michael and Susan, your brother died in the service of our Nation and while doing his best to protect those mariners who ply these beautiful, but unforgiving waters. We are proud to follow in his footsteps and strive to uphold the standards he set for us.”

The DeTour-Drummond Community Choir also attended and sang the National Anthem and a powerful rendition of the Coast Guard anthem, “Semper Paratus”.

Barbara Kurciewicz, the widow of Marvin Kurciewicz who was on the Light when the tragedy occurred, spoke with pride of her husband’s twenty-year military service.

Michael Ashley described his brother’s death:
“The winter of 1970-71 was extremely cold, producing significant ice which led to a late opening of the shipping season. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) commander was anxious to get the system ‘up and running’ as the weather had caused the opening to be ‘delayed twice already’.

“Three coastguardsmen departed DeTour Village Harbor in a 16-foot tender with limited supplies. The ice was breaking up, but they reached their destination safely, scaled the ladder 20+ feet to the platform, and chipped the winter accumulation of ice off the entry door to the tower. They entered the structure and started the power generator to initiate another season of manning and running the DeTour Reef Light.

“Don Ashley volunteered to go back to DeTour Harbor by himself for more supplies and to pick up another crewmember. On his way to shore, the tender was caught between ice flows and capsized. Don was thrown into the water. His two fellow USCG mates heard his distress call but had no rescue equipment available. They watched him make progress towards the lighthouse while swimming for about 20 minutes. After a large wave wash over him Don never resurfaced.

“The Drummond Island Ferry answered the emergency call to no avail. A USCG helicopter was dispatched with divers, but it was judged too dangerous to search for his body at that time due to ‘conditions’. Because of an ongoing stretch of harsh weather and significant ice conditions, there was no river traffic for the next 14 days.

Don’s remains were never recovered. The date was March 30, 1971. His tour of duty with USCG began in 1969. He was 22 years old.”

After the ceremony, Mike Ashley shared, “It’s amazing. There are some really nice people here. Forty-six years later they’re doing this for him, there was not much done back in 1971. It’s very touching and very emotional. Since his body wasn’t recovered the lighthouse out there is like a memorial to me, like one you see in the cemetery.”

Now thanks to the efforts of the DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society and Sector Sault Sainte Marie, USCG a plaque in his memory is now at the DeTour Reef Light, as a way for his family to remember him.

Jeri Baron Feltner Receives 2016 Beacon Award from Michigan Lighthouse Alliance

Jeri Baron Feltner in 1999 at the beginning of the DeTour Reef Light Restoration

Jeri Baron Feltner in 1999 at the beginning of the DeTour Reef Light Restoration

At the Michigan Lighthouse Alliance Conference held May 15-17, 2016, in Traverse City, Michigan, Jeri Baron Feltner, Founding Director Emerita of the DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society established in 1998, was presented the Beacon Award by the Michigan Lighthouse Alliance. The Michigan Lighthouse Alliance, founded in 2003 and comprised of over 50 nonprofit organizations of lighthouse preservation groups from around the state of Michigan, shares technical expertise in several areas such as organizational development, community development, tourism, restoration and funding in addition to advocating for Michigan’s lighthouses. There are 129 lighthouses in Michigan, the most of any state in the U.S.

The Beacon Award is presented to an individual for their “Exceptional Leadership to the Michigan Stewardship Community.”

In presenting the Beacon Award to Jeri, Terry Pepper, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association and Vice-President of the Michigan Lighthouse Alliance, shared, “I am blessed to have been able to visit many, many lights in the U.S., have met and gotten to know many of the movers and shakers involved in the restoration of these icons. They are many different types of people – some focus on the engineering and technology, others on the lives of the keepers, and others serve as the heart and soul – keeping the light of the organization shining brightly. It is my honor to know the recipient of the Beacon Award very well for many years. Jeri Baron Feltner, you are truly the heart and soul of your organization, the DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society (DRLPS), and I can think of no one more deserving of this award than you.”

Jeri’s key responsibilities as a Founding Director of DRLPS were the establishment of the DRLPS as a nonprofit organization and assisting in the development of the grant, membership, newsletter, marketing, fundraising, historical and administrative programs. Her vision, dedication, and administrative prowess, along with her passion for excellence, have provided the underpinnings of the achievements of DRLPS to restore and preserve the DeTour Reef Light Station located in northern Lake Huron in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Restored in 2004, the lighthouse offers tours and overnight keeper programs Jeri has also presented educational papers at five of the Michigan Lighthouse Preservation Conferences beginning at the first one sponsored by the State of Michigan in Lansing in 1998 on the subject of forming and sustaining a lighthouse preservation organization.

Jeri was very humbled by the Award, and in thanking the Michigan Lighthouse Alliance (MLA) said “I’m in shock over being presented this prestigious award and extremely honored and oh so forever grateful! Thanks with all my heart to Terry and all the members of the MLA. I deeply appreciate this most significant recognition. Keep up your wonderful work for the preservation of Michigan’s maritime monuments and the organizations that are preserving them. I am so proud and inspired by you all.

Prior recipients of the biennial MLA Beacon Award have been Senator Carl Levin (2012) and Richard L. “Dick” Moehl (2014).

The Michigan Lighthouse Alliance holds their biennial conferences to educate and inform the stewards of lighthouses, not only in Michigan, but across the country. This year’s theme was “Lighthouse Organization Excellence through Resilience and Change.” The next conference is planned for May 2018.

Clifton E. Haley Designated Director Emeritus


At the DeTour Reef Light Preservation (DRLPS) Board of Directors meeting in July 2016, it was with great honor that the Directors designated Clif Haley as Director Emeritus of the Society. From 2000 to 2015, Clif exhibited superb leadership, commitment, enthusiasm, energy, dedication and expertise and made substantial contributions to the success of restoring and preserving the DeTour Reef Light and the DRLPS and promoting the DRLPS reputation of excellence in the national lighthouse community.

Following is the Resolution adopted at the meeting to designate Clif Haley as Director Emeritus:

WHEREAS, in special recognition of distinguished service to the DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society (DRLPS), the Board of Directors wishes to acknowledge the substantial contributions of Clif Haley by designating him Director Emeritus; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Haley served as DRLPS Director from 2000 to 2015; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Haley has substantially contributed to the success of DRLPS in the following areas:

  • Major contributor with the Federal and State Restoration Grant Applications of $1.2 million.
  • Major contributor with the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act application for transfer of the DeTour Reef Light Station ownership from the Federal Government to DRLPS.
  • Led the major effort for the resolution of the State of Michigan Bottomlands Use Agreement and how offshore lighthouse nonprofit organizations retain the right to use these bottomlands leading to establishing the official Bottomlands Use Agreement for the State of Michigan.
  • Prepared the Crane #2 Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program grant application.
  • Provided Legal Counsel to the DRLPS.
  • DRLPS major fundraiser Evening Under the Stars Master of Ceremonies for 16 years.
  • Allowed DRLPS to use (free of charge) the Drummond Island Hangar Conference Room for meetings and storage areas for DRLPS material.
  • Continues to provide valued service to DRLPS.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Directors of DRLPS that it approves designation of Clif Haley as Director Emeritus.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Board herein extends its deepest appreciation to Clif Haley for his dedication and service to the DRLPS, and to the lighthouse community of this state and nation.

DeTour Reef Light Repaired – More Beautiful Than Ever

Seventh Grant from the “Save our Lights” License Plate Program

by Ann Method Green

The DRLPS has completed the long and thorough process of meeting the requirements of the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program (MLAP) Grant administered by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

The long winter of 2013-2014 delayed the pre-bid site trip for over a month with 40 plus inches of ice in the harbor on the date originally scheduled for the inspection. Once the bidders were able to get to the Light and scope out the work to be done, the process moved smoothly forward. The heavy rains during the summer helped to ensure that the roof was well repaired.

Left to right: Ken Czapski of Sanders and Czapski Architects; Bobby Olivarez of Mimh Enterprises; Bryan Lijewski from SHPO; Dave Bardsley from DRLPS; Jeff Velderman, Owner Quality Drywall of Holland, MI; and Frank Mihm of Mimh Enterprises

Left to right: Ken Czapski of Sanders and Czapski Architects; Bobby Olivarez of Mimh Enterprises; Bryan Lijewski from SHPO; Dave Bardsley from DRLPS; Jeff Velderman,Owner Quality Drywall of Holland, MI; and Frank Mihm from Mimh Enterprises

Based on recommendation by both Bryan Lijewski of the State Historic Preservation Office and Ken Czapski of Sanders and Czapski Architects of Marquette, Michigan, venting was installed in the second floor living area to help with circulation within the structure. The approval by SHPO to put a membrane material over the original copper roofing resulted in a significant cost savings and all wall and ceiling areas of the Light were repaired.

The $90,000 grant is the seventh MLAP grant received by the DRLPS since 2001. The DeTour Reef Light Station Water Ingress and Remediation Project was completed at the cost of $89,782. MLAP will reimburse DRLPS $59,855 and the DRLPS will pay the remaining $29,927.

The Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program is funded by proceeds from the sale of the “Save our Lights” license plate.

DRLPS matching monies come from the annual fund raisers and private donations from the following supporters: Bill and Lois Bryant, John and Sunny Covell, Linda Gyorkey, Dorothy Inhelder, Bryan Lijewski, John W. MacFarland, Robb and Mary Marshall, Bob and Mary Rogers, Richard and Jean Shoquist, Gordon Snyder , Debra Sumpter, Ann Thorne, and Douglas Webb.

Thank you to everyone involved in making the Lady once again a shining jewel in the DeTour Passage on the St. Marys River.

David Bardsley Selected for 2013 Citizen Award

Presented by the Michigan Historic Preservation Network


MHPN 2013 Citizen Award Recipient, David Bardsley

MHPN 2013 Citizen Award Recipient, David Bardsley

David J. Bardsley has been selected to receive the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN) 2013 Citizen Award for his “… Contribution and Dedication to Preserving and Restoring the DeTour Reef Light”. The award is presented at the MHPN’s Annual Conference to an outstanding individual, who “through personal effort and/or involvement in historic preservation projects has made a significant contribution to the preservation of Michigan’s heritage.” This is the first time the Lighthouse community has been recognized by the MHPN.

After receiving notification of the award, Dave shared, “I am humbled by MHPN Citizen Award and by everyone in DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society (DRLPS) that also deserve this award … It will take a while for me to come out of shock and figure out how to share this honor with all who have worked so hard to restore the DeTour Reef Light and to keep our programs running for the benefit of those who treasure our maritime heritage and want to experience life on an off shore light station.”

DRLPS President, Ann Method Green noted, “We are proud that Dave has received this honor. He has played a significant part in our success and his constant, dedicated, and untiring efforts towards restoring the DeTour Reef Light, building the Society, and helping ensure that the Light will be available for future generations to enjoy and appreciate uniquely qualifies him for the award. Beyond his work with the DeTour Reef Light, he is also an active volunteer and contributing member of many community organizations.”

These additional contributions include the Drummond Island Lions, Keryx Prison Ministry-Chippewa Area Council, the Drummond Island Writing Team for the Comprehensive Resource Management Plan for Drummond Island. He is a volunteer for the Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), an elder of the Drummond Island Lutheran Church and he was a member of the Drummond Island Inter-service Council until it disbanded. He is also a member of the Senior Lunch clean-up crew and “emcee” at the lunches, has raised a puppy for Leader Dogs For the Blind, and offers a dog training class to dog owners in the community.

The Michigan Historic Preservation Network

The MHPN awards have been presented annually since 1994 in multiple preservation categories including Commercial/Building, Citizen, Community, Government/Institution, Cultural Landscape, Tax Credit Project, Memorial, Leadership, and Distinguished Service.

The 33rd Annual Statewide Preservation Conference will be held on the campus of Northern Michigan University in Marquette from May 8-11, 2013. The theme of this year’s conference is “Ingredients of Place”.

The Awards Ceremony will be held on Friday, May 10th at the C. Fred Rydholm Gathering Hall in the Marquette County Historical Society.

The DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society

Built in 1931, and standing a mile offshore in northern Lake Huron at the far eastern end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the DeTour Reef Light rises 83 feet above the water. The structure, sitting on a unique 60-foot square, 20-foot high concrete crib, is a steel-framed square tower of three distinct levels. It marks a dangerous reef to help guide ship traffic from and to Lake Huron and Lake Superior via the strategic St. Mary’s River. The Light was automated in 1974. In 1997, the lighthouse was declared surplus property by the U. S. Coast Guard due to sophisticated navigational systems aboard ships and because the Coast Guard did not have the funding to care for the structure in accordance with historic preservation guidelines.

In 1998, local citizens formed the DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society (DRLPS) as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization to restore and preserve the lighthouse which sits between the two communities of DeTour Village and Drummond Island. DRLPS dedicated volunteers have worked determinedly to build the membership-based society and acquire donations and grant funding for their educational and restoration programs to preserve the historic DeTour Reef Light and enhance the importance of the rich maritime heritage of the region.

Every year since 2005, the DRLPS has sponsored a Lighthouse Tour program and a Resident Lighthouse Keeper program from June through August. The DeTour Reef Light is the only off shore light, sitting on an underwater reef, offering overnight stays. The original 1931 F2T fog horn was re-built, and sounding the fog horn is a highlight of the visit on the Light. The programs are popular with lighthouse lovers and boat watchers and are an experience of a lifetime.

The DRLPS was designated a Preserve America Steward by Michelle Obama in August 2010, received the 2005 Governor’s Award for excellence in historic preservation, and the Superior Award in 2006 from the Historical Society of Michigan. The DeTour Reef Light is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

To learn more about the organization, the lighthouse, and the public tours and light keeper programs, please visit, email, call 906-493-6609 or write to DRLPS, PO Box 307, Drummond Island, MI 49726.


DeTour Reef Light Station Historic Marker

A public dedication ceremony for the DeTour Reef Light Station state historical marker commemorating the historic offshore lighthouse was held on Saturday, September 28, 2013, at the marker site located at the MDOT scenic parking area, known as Hot Dog Stands Beach, on M-134 five miles west of DeTour Village and five miles east of the M-48, where the lighthouse is first sited from the highway. After the 30-minute ceremony, supporters gathered at the Mainsail Restaurant in DeTour Village to celebrate the event. Continue Reading

Shedding Some Light on the Lenses of the DeTour Reef Light

By David Bardsley

The history of the illumination and lenses of DeTour Reef Light begins with a meticulously crafted 1908 French Fresnel lens to the current beacon that looks like something from Star Wars.

When DeTour Reef Light Station was constructed in 1930-31, the 1861 lighthouse tower from DeTour Point with its 1908 3Ω-order Fresnel lens was relocated to the reef light station. This lens was configured as a flashing white light with a characteristic of a one-second flash and a nine-second eclipse. The lens was manufactured by Barbier, Benard & Turenne Co. of Paris, France at a cost of $2,940.50 ($73,512 in 2012 dollars). The original shipping weight of the lens and components was 4,480 lbs. In 1936, the color changed from straight white to white with a red sector to the North West to warn of the dangerous reef. This was accomplished using a color plastic inside the lantern (the glass-enclosed room containing the beacon) which is unchanged to this date. In 1978, the Fresnel lens was removed and replaced by a modern beacon. The 1908 lens and its timing mechanism are now on display at the DeTour Passage Historical Museum. From 1996 until May 15, 2012, a Vega VRB-25 served as the beacon for DeTour Reef Light.
Continue Reading

DeTour Reef Light Original Foghorn Made Operational

By Chuck Feltner

In 1956, the U. S. Coast Guard placed an F2T Diaphone foghorn on the DeTour Reef Light replacing an earlier type G Diaphone horn. The F2T horn operated until 1974 when the Light was automated. Jeanne Yorty, a resident of Drummond Island in the 1950s and 1960s, noted that, “We often welcomed foggy days for the great, sonorous BEEOOOOH sound of the DeTour Reef Light foghorn.”

The 1974 automation of the DeTour Reef Light required a foghorn that could be operated electrically instead of being driven by air as was the case for the F2T Diaphone. Consequently, the F2T was removed and replaced by an electric fog signal (an Automatic Power, Inc. Model FA 232) which is still in use today. At this point, the F2T was placed in storage at the Great Lakes Historical Society – Inland Seas Museum in Vermilion, Ohio where it resided in obscurity until 1997.

In May 1997, Jeff Laser volunteered to help William O’Brien, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Historical Society, inventory some artifacts that were in storage. Jeff, a foghorn expert, had heard by the grapevine that the DeTour Reef Light foghorn was in storage at the Museum. The rumor was true and Jeff found the foghorn all covered in a layer of dried mud and severely rusted in a condition that looked beyond the possibility of being restored. Nevertheless, in February 1998, Jeff made an offer to try and restore the foghorn to operating condition. By chance, in April of 1998, he received a membership application brochure from the DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society (DRLPS) and decided to join the Society. Along with his membership fee, he informed us of the existence of our 1956 foghorn and sent us some historical and technical information on the foghorn. Continue Reading

Second DeTour Reef Light Deck Crane Project Funded With Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program Grant

Deck Crane

The DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society (DRLPS) has received a grant from the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program (MLAP) to replicate the second deck crane at the DeTour Reef Light. The $30,000 grant award for fiscal year 2007 requires matching funds of $15,000 from the DRLPS.DRL Deck Crane

The first crane restoration which began in 1999 was funded by a similar grant thru MLAP and was the first restoration project undertaken by the DRLPS. The grant application to restore the deck crane on the lighthouse was submitted by Jeri Baron Feltner and was completed in August, 2001 by L&B Builders of Drummond Island. Chuck Feltner was project director.

Large pieces of the original crane and the builder’s plate were discovered underwater near the lighthouse by divers Mike Spears, Chris Pemberton, Garey Eilertson, and Dock Borth and were used in the construction of the first crane. DeTour High School students, along with their teachers Brian Nettleton and Russ Norris, assisted in computer design drawings of the crane.

Continue Reading

Building the Scale Model of the DeTour Reef Light Crib

By John Covell

Sometime during the late 1920s, the Lighthouse Service determined that the lighthouse at DeTour Point would need to be replaced with an off-shore facility. The St. Mary’s River is the only shipping link between northern Lake Huron and Lake Superior, and the DeTour Reef lurks only 21 feet below the surface, a hazard for all St. Mary’s traffic. At the time, accurate navigation around the reef was not possible, and so the new lighthouse would be located on the reef itself, almost a mile from the nearest land. Here it would serve to guide ships in upper Lake Huron to the mouth of the St. Mary’s and the DeTour Passage. Continue Reading


Community Voice DLRPS Article 01/08/1998 by Jim MacLaren

Beacon Fall 1998 DRL by Michelle Wilson

Lighthouse Digest Sep 2000 Woodward assists DRLPS

Lighthouse Digest June 2002 J.Feltner Women of the Light

Lighthouse Digest Jan 1999 C. Johnson DRL Article

Great Laker Magazine Summer 2003 DRL restoration article by Dave Wobser

Beacon Spring 2004 DRL update by Jeri Baron Feltner

Lighthouse Digest Oct 2005 Hersberger DRL Article

White House Letter from First Lady Obama

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation Press Release

Preserve America Steward Certificate