The headlines read “Light Keeper Drowned,” but the short paragraph that followed in the newspaper wasn’t much of a tribute to the life of Ole Anton Rasmussen, 2nd assistant keeper of Cape Flattery Lighthouse.
Ole A. Rasmussen was born in Alesand, Norway on October 30, 1882. He was a fisherman and mariner in his own country before immigrating to America in 1910 where he continued his seafaring life. At age 36 he married Borghild Grotle and then joined the United States Naval Reserve in World War I where he served overseas on warships. Ole Anderson was promoted to a Lieutenant Junior Grade by the time the conflict ended. He also had an unlimited master mariner’s license.
Immediately following the war, he joined the United States Lighthouse Service and saw duty aboard various lightships. After at least a decade, while serving on the Pacific Coast onboard the Columbia Light Vessel 88, he had some kind of serious accident that required him to stay land-bound after he recovered. Ole then accepted an assignment to Ediz Hook Lighthouse in Port Angeles, Washington as assistant lighthouse keeper sometime around 1930. He also served brief stints at Washington’s New Dungeness Lighthouse and Oregon’s Heceta Head Lighthouse during 1931/1932.
In June 1933, he transferred to Washington State’s Cape Flattery Lighthouse as 2nd assistant keeper. It was in the early morning of September 18, 1934 that Ole Rasmussen took two Navy Yard repairmen who had just finished work at the Tatoosh Island radio station to meet the Neah Bay Mail Boat. There were heavy swells as Ole started to row back and his small station boat was capsized by a wave, hitting him in the head as it overturned and rendering him unable to rescue himself.
The accident was witnessed by a third Navy Yard worker, Jack Miller, who dove into the surf and tried to swim the short distance to reach Ole, but he was unable to get there because of the roughness of the waves. Within 15 minutes, head keeper Arthur J. Woods along with the operator of the mailboat, Simon Phillips were finally able to recover Ole Rasmussen’s floating body. The Coast Guard at Neah Bay was then summoned and they brought Dr. Verhalen of the Indian Service who attempted to resuscitate Ole, but all efforts were unsuccessful.
Ole Anton Rasmussen left behind his wife and two sons, ages 15 and 12. His obituary stated that Ole had about 16 years of service with the United States Government, chiefly in the Lighthouse Service. He was 51 years old at the time. It is unknown where he and his wife Borghild are buried.
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2018 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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