Serving Split Rock with prideAs National Volunteer Week winds down, two of those volunteers are getting ready to gear up for the new season. Paul and Lois Borg of Beaver Bay have been volunteering at the Split Rock Lighthouse history site since they moved to the area in 1992. For six years, Paul was actually an employee, but he eventually grew tired of the lack of spontaneity in his schedule.
By: Monica Isley, Lake County News Chronicle
As National Volunteer Week winds down, two of those volunteers are getting ready to gear up for the new season.
Paul and Lois Borg of Beaver Bay have been volunteering at the Split Rock Lighthouse history site since they moved to the area in 1992. For six years, Paul was actually an employee, but he eventually grew tired of the lack of spontaneity in his schedule.
And, he admits, his new knee and the 32 steps up the light tower had something to do with it, too. He smiles good naturedly as he says it--a smile that has greeted visitors and answered questions no matter whether he was getting paid or doing it for the love the site.
"When I went to my 50th class reunion in Virginia, the group planned an extra event for a Monday," he said. "I was the only one who had to go to work the next day."
The couple spend one day a week at the site--but not on Wednesday. That's when the "wrinkle riders" hit the trails with their ATVs. Another smile from both of them.
Lois mans the information cart at the front door of the interpretive center, passing out booklets about the area and the lighthouse, and providing information about where to eat, where to hike, and what kinds of flowers grow there. The talking isn't all one-sided, though.
"You find out more about strangers than you can imagine," Lois said.
Paul wanders throughout the buildings, chatting with visitors and answering questions.
"He gathers a crowd," quiet Lois said about her garrulous husband.
They volunteer the same day, and they also both volunteer for the Nov. 10 ceremony remembering the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, with the lighting of the signal light. The first time they saw the ceremony, it was as visitors, after just moving to Beaver Bay. Lois said they were amazed at how many people attended the event.
"They come here just for that, " she said. "It doesn't matter what the weather is like, they come."
"One lady flew in from Ohio because she wanted to see it lit," Paul said.
Split Rock's light was decommissioned in 1969, and is lit only for special occasions. At other times, Paul said, the lighting isn't announced ahead of time.
"The Coast Guard requested that," he said. "When people know it's coming, the lake is full of boats trying to get a view of it from the water."
One special lighting ceremony occurred when the Borgs led a cavalcade of motor homes from Hinckley, stopping at several cities in the state, but Split Rock in particular.
"There were 25 couples, and we were the only ones from Minnesota," Paul said. "Lee (Radzak, site director) lit the light just for our group." That was one of those unannounced lightings.
Some people who come to Split Rock are visiting a lighthouse for the first time. Others have devoted their lives to visiting lighthouses wherever in the world they may be found. But for both Paul and Lois, Split Rock is the special one. Lois noted that gift shops around the world carry small statues of this very light. Church bulletins everywhere use its image as a symbol of strength and dependability.
Lois can't help but smile proudly when people ask if she lives in the area, and then tell her how lucky she is. Paul said many visitors want to know where the Fitzgerald went down, not realizing that although it's Lake Superior in front of them, it's also 300 miles as the crow flies to that spot.
"People from Kansas--where the state tree is the telephone pole--are impressed with it all--the water, the trees, the flowers--everything," Paul said.
A visitor from Moscow said he'd seen a picture of Split Rock on the back of travel brochure in his country. His awe at the place engenders pride in Paul and Lois, who live only four miles away and get to see it every week.
But if the site is beautiful, Lois believes the visitors are, too. Paul agrees.
"We've never volunteered at a different site--but we think Split Rock gets the best visitors in the world," he said.
Paul, who has been retired for 21 years, got up from a comfy chair in their home to get a photo of the two of them at the lighthouse.
"We once told our kids, if we ever start dressing alike, it's time to commit us." The photo showed the two of them in identical Split Rock shirts, with matching beige pants and canvas hats.
The only commitment that suggests, however, is the Borgs' dedication to Split Rock. It's the break in their week they both look forward to, and likely will as long as they possibly can.