This is a special edition of Light Hearted, featuring an extended interview with a former lighthouse keeper. Ernie DeRaps, a native Mainer, spent several years in the 1950s and ‘60s as a Coast Guard lighthouse keeper at four Maine lighthouses – Monhegan, Fort Point, Heron Neck, and Browns Head. After retirement he took up painting at the age of 80. Ernie is now in his early 90s, and he has completed portraits of all 65 lighthouses on the Maine coast.
A book by Ernie DeRaps and his wife, Pauline, was published by Foghorn Publishing in 2006. Ernie’s half of the book was called Lighthouse Keeping. If you turn the book over and upside down, the other half of the book, by Pauline Fitzgerald DeRaps, was called Light Housekeeping.
Ernie and Pauline were married for 64 years and had six children. Pauline passed away in 2015 and is, of course, greatly missed, but Ernie is staying busy with his painting, as well as his children, nine grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. Ernie celebrates his 92nd birthday this month.
The book Lighthouse Keeping / Light Housekeeping by Ernie and Pauline DeRaps is available from Foghorn Publishing. You can see some of Ernie’s paintings of Maine lighthouses at pigmentartstudio.com. You’ll see his Lighthouses of the Maine Coast series as well as some nature paintings and seascapes.
Note from producer/host Jeremy D’Entremont: I visited Ernie DeRaps at his home in Richmond, Maine, last February. With me was my friend Bob Trapani, Jr., executive director of the American Lighthouse Foundation. Bob took part in the conversation with Ernie. The reason I waited until now to post this interview is that there was a problem with the sound. We recorded the conversation at Ernie’s kitchen table. As we spoke, Ernie kept tapping his fingers on the table. I was aware of it at the time, but I didn’t ask him to stop because I was afraid it might interrupt his thought process. I didn’t think the sound the tapping was making was very significant. It wasn’t until I listened to the recording later that I realized the tapping went right to the microphone stands and was recorded as a loud “boing” every time. For that reason, I shelved the interview for almost a year. But I recently listened to it again and I decided that it would be best to release it in spite of the problem. You can hear everything that’s said clearly, and Ernie’s great to listen to and I hated the thought of not using it because of a few little “boings.”
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org