Harkers Island, North Carolina, July 5, 2018
It’s not every day that a man turns 100, and not every community has a man like Ira Lewis.
On Saturday, Aug. 18, Harkers Island will honor its oldest resident, Chief Ira Lewis, who turns 100 Thursday, Aug. 2, with a celebration of his 100th birthday as part of a U.S. Coast Guard Appreciation Day, with a parade and recognition ceremony.
“Our goal is for this event to not only honor Ira’s life, but the U.S. Coast Guard that he loves so much and the important place the Coast Guard holds in our community history,” Core Sound Waterfowl Museum Executive Director Karen Amspacher said. “We want everyone who has served, or has a family member that has served, to know this day is for them too.”
The day will start when the museum partners with local community members and officials honor Chief Lewis with a parade at 11 a.m., ending at the museum with lunch and a 2 p.m. ceremony. Admiral Dean Lee will provide the keynote address with local, state and congressional representatives in attendance.
The gathering will also feature displays of Coast Guard history and space for pictures (one per veteran) to be displayed. Those who have pictures or memorabilia they would like to display should contact Pam Morris at 252-728-1500. All men and women who have served in the U.S. Coast Guard are invited to participate in this gathering.
Chief Lewis, still active and often seen at special events in his U.S. Coast Guard uniform, served his entire career on Long Island, including his role as officer-in-charge at Montauk Point Lighthouse from February 17, 1957, until he retired in August 1959.
He returned home to Harkers Island after his 20-plus years of service, and he has remained an active and much-loved member of the community.
He has been a community leader his entire life. In 2003, he initiated the Harkers Island Veterans Memorial, now located at the Harkers Island Elementary School, and he served as advisor to the N.C. Maritime Museum on the construction of a Life Saving Service rowing boat.
When the time came to launch that boat, he organized the crew of retired USCG men and they rowed this traditional craft up and down Taylor’s Creek with Chief Lewis at the helm.
He received a USCG medallion and a letter of recognition of his service on his 95th birthday in 2013, and was recognized as the oldest U.S. Coast Guard retiree at a commemorative ceremony in 2017, honoring local Life Saving surfmen who received the USCG Gold Medal for their rescue of the crew of the Sarah D. J. Rawson off Cape Lookout in 1905.
During the upcoming event, members of the Coast Guard will be invited to walk in the parade. To participate in the parade, each veteran needs to register with the museum. Veterans will meet at Harkers Island Elementary School at 10 a.m. for name tags and parade assignments. The museum will also need to know before the parade who can walk and who will need to ride. They will also need contact information. Participants can also walk or ride in memory of a family member or friend.
Once the entire parade procession has arrived at the museum, there will be a lunch with all USCG veterans receiving a complimentary meal. Tickets for families and visitors are $10 and can be purchased by calling the museum.
Registration forms can be found on the museum’s website, coresound.com. They will also be distributed throughout the island’s churches and post office, as well as at Chadwick Tire Company in Otway. The museum will also be able to fax the forms.
Mail forms to P.O. Box 556, Harkers Island, NC 28531 or register online.
For more information on how to be a part of this historic event, contact the museum at 252-728-1500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Details for the event will be posted at coresound.com.
Candace was the US Lighthouse Society historian from 2016 until she passed away in August 2018. For 30 years, her work involved lighthouse history. She worked with the National Park Service and the Council of American Maritime Museums. She was a noted author and was considered the most knowledgable person on lighthouse information at the National Archives. Books by Candace Clifford include: Women who Kept the Lights: a History of Thirty-eight Female Lighthouse Keepers , Mind the Light Katie, and Maine Lighthouses, Documentation of their Past.