BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — Praised for performing dangerous work at a time when women couldn't even vote, a lighthouse keeper credited with saving 21 people during her 61 years of service received a grave marker Thursday more than a century after she was buried.
The Coast Guard, local officials and others participated in a dedication ceremony for Kathleen "Kate" Moore at the Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport. The Coast Guard is scheduled to commission Coast Guard Cutter Kathleen Moore, a 154-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter, on Saturday in Key West, Florida.
"For Kate Moore to do this it was very dangerous," said Charles Bowen, vice president of government relations at Bollinger Shipyards, which built the cutter and created the gravestone. He noted the waters were often cold and equipment was primitive.
Bowen, who retired from the Coast Guard in 2010 as master chief and was involved in the decision to name the cutter after Moore, said officials were impressed with how Moore stood up to adversity alone from an early age.
Capt. Ed Cubanski, commander of Long Island Sound for the Coast Guard, said Moore was only 12 when she began her duties. "She was a life saver in the 1800s yet she wasn't allowed to vote," Cubanski said, predicting that one day the cutter named for her will protect the harbor off Bridgeport as she once did.
Moore was a lighthouse keeper of the Black Rock Harbor Lighthouse on Fayerweather Island, a small seaside community near Bridgeport. She retired in 1878 at the age of 84 and died in 1899 but never had a headstone.
Moore first stood the watch at the age of 12, when her father began tending the light after a shipboard injury prevented him from going to sea. As Moore grew older, and her father's health worsened, she took on most of the duties herself, although she was not officially appointed as head keeper until 1871, according to the Coast Guard.
She continually braved the harsh storms of Long Island Sound to save those in peril, according to the Coast Guard. More than 200 vessels sailed the sound nightly. On one night, Moore heard cries of distress coming from the harbor. She went out in her rowboat with her brother and cousin searching for the sailor, and after an hour's search they found two men clinging to a capsized boat, the Coast Guard says in an account of her life on its blog.
Moore is officially credited with saving 21 lives, according to the Coast Guard. When she retired from service and was asked about her saves, Moore said, "I wish it had been double that number," according to the Coast Guard account.