John Nelson Retires

Long-term Board Member John Nelson has retired after a two-decade involvement with the group.

John’s personal association with the island was even longer; his great-uncle Nels Nelson had been an assistant keeper in the 1920’s.

He was part of the original island assessment in May 2006 and many of the early work trips. He made presentations, flipped pancakes, helped with events and championed the station throughout his tenure.

Thank you for your service!

Annual Meeting Presentation Highlights

The FILA 2023 Annual Meeting was held at The Union in Northport December 6 with a mix of new and returning members and volunteers.

Highlights from the presentation follow:

The season started in May with clearing stone that had accumulated during the prior high water.

The next team re-shingled the east portico; performed seasonal screen door installations; installed the National Register sign and did extensive grounds work.

Team 3 included a mason and a paint crew. The 1867 tower interior painting was completed as was the parlor. The workshop exterior was scraped and painted; its chimney tuckpointed. Masonry work also addressed deterioration on the Fog Signal steps as well as repairs to the steps and retaining wall behind the Assistant Keepers Quarters.

Several teams contributed to the solar installation. The panels and much of the equipment were donated by St. Helena Island Lighthouse. The recharging station charges several solar generators that were provided under a DNR grant.

Another great project was finding and restoring the lighthouse’s original front screen door!

Completion of the tower masonry project finally allowed the front door inside to be properly trimmed out (the photo in the presentation is the “before” image with carpenter Ben contemplating the work to be done.)

Initial work began on the 1867 lantern room, removing the deteriorated sheet metal and the vent bases, trying to save as much of the original hardware as possible. Last year, volunteers had cut out and inserted Lexan in most of the plywood panels. This improved views for visitors and needed light to begin this work. Next year’s goal is to restore the window frames. Restoring the glass and vents are future phases.

In addition to the 1867 lantern room work, this team also reinserted an errant panel in the 1905 skeletal tower lantern room and removed door hardware to try to recreate worn and missing parts over the winter.

Other projects include installation of a screen door on the rear of the workshop, building a small deck for more secure propane handling and oil changes on the mower and generators.

August brought installation of restored windows both in the Assistant Keepers Quarters and the 1867 Lighthouse basement. It also saw some furniture deliveries: a restored Baker’s cabinet for the kitchen and a period appropriate cedar chest (shown in the newly painted parlor.)

The “Keeper’s Log” provides additional images from the season as does the Restoration page

The presentation wrapped up with plans for 2024.

It’s Giving Tuesday!

FILA continues to work hard restoring the Station, collecting & preserving its history and educating people on the role of Lighthouses in maritime history.

Please come along for the ride.

You can donate online at or send a contribution to:

Fox Island Lighthouse Association
P.O. Box 851
Traverse City, MI 49685




Need a special gift for someone?

Need a gift for someone special? Our friends at the Shoal Shoppe carry a variety of South Fox gear with proceeds going to support preservation efforts.

Items available include:

– Mugs (new in 2023)

– “I am a Keeper” Hats & T-Shirts

– Kathy Firestone’s book, “The Fox Islands” (still the best resource for understanding the history of the island and light station)

And more!

Give a gift that gives twice! Help support the project and give joy to a friend or family member!


Annual Meeting: Wednesday Dec 6, 2023

Join us at The Union, 107 E. Nagonaba St., Northport, MI 49670 on Wednesday, December 6 at 6 p.m. for season stories, music, food and good folks.

Off Island Projects

While onsite island activities have wrapped up for the season, project work continues. Jim & Ben from South Bend, IN removed one of the 1867 tower clockwork doors as a model for a missing storage cupboard door. Cathy Allchin coordinated recreating the needed door with long time volunteer Doug Noren of Spring Lake, MI.  He handed things off last week to John & Karen of Norton Shores. They’ll strip and restore the original door plus sand, paint & prime the new one.


Newly Discovered Images

Thanks to member/researcher Ryan Krusell for finding images in the National Archives – Washington D.C. and providing thumbnails of some of the more pertinent images.

The images include previously unknown drawings of the 1910 Assistant Keeper’s, new details on the Fog Signal and a copy of the finding aids for additional drawings.



The Assistant Keeper’s drawings are particularly timely as we evaluate the feasibility of restoring the porches.

Thanks again, Ryan!


Kudos Kathy!

Kudos to South Fox Island board member Kathy Sanders, winner of the Traverse City 2023 Sara Hardy Humanitarian of the Year Award for her work with Before, During & After Incarceration (BDAI), a non-profit that supports inmates and their families. Active in many other human rights organizations, she finds time to wield a paintbrush and cook fantastic meals as a Fox Island volunteer—we are all proud of her, and grateful that she includes our “little island” among her many interests.

Mid-Season Report

President Linda Posler reports: “South Fox has already seen some major improvements this summer:

– Eric Schawbitz (on the island with Cathy A and Linda) did a yeoman’s job of moving the rocks from in front of the  boathouse, cleared the pathways, groomed the boat landing, and prepared a pad for the solar installation
– The carpenter team (led by Jim) has installed a new roof over the AK doorway and constructed and installed solar equipment box, national heritage sign, new lattice, and cleared grounds around the oil house for better views of the station
– The painting team (led by Kathy S) has painted the exterior of the Summer Kitchen and the parlor in the 1867 lighthouse, while Mark Lee finished the interior tower wall restoration and repaired masonry walls and stairs around the property
– The keeper team (led by Pete) repaired and painted the flagpole and clothesline posts and improved grounds
– The solar team (led by Marty) has installed the solar system and we have an energy source! A light in the summer kitchen! (and thanks to team member, Dan, a restored backdoor!), and found, repaired, and installed the front screen door on the lighthouse.
Many thanks to VP Cathy A., who has coordinated all boat trips and purchased necessary equipment to enable these projects to function safely and efficiently, buying everything from propane to a climbing harness to ensure the safety of workers on the skeletal tower. We now also have a functioning water pump and filtration system for cleaning the scum from the first draw of water from the lake up to the summer kitchen–useful for cleaning but still requiring filtration for drinking. “
Photo credit: Barb Falkenhagen

Photo image collection donated

Carolyn Gale Johnson recently donated a collection of scanned images of the station covering the period of 1977 through 1987. Her family were among the partners who owned much of the island from the mid-70’s through 1989.

We have relative few images from this period so this is a valuable addition to our archives. We’re grateful to Carolyn for taking the time to add to our collection.