Dennis Tardiff of ALF’s Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse was presented with an ALF Len Hadley Volunteer Award during the American Lighthouse Foundation’s annual Lighthouse Gala, which was held at the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, Maine, on April 29, 2018.
The connection that volunteer Dennis Tardiff has to Pomham Rocks Lighthouse is both unique and special. Today, Dennis is a modern day “keeper of the light;” however, during the early 1970s, he was a lighthouse keeper at the island station.
Pomham Rocks Lighthouse was his first Coast Guard duty station, arriving in April of 1971 and leaving upon its decommissioning in June of 1974. In 1973, Dennis was appointed Officer-in-Charge of Pomham Rocks as a Third Class Petty Officer at the age of 21. He went on to spend 25 years in the Coast Guard, retiring with the rank of MKCM (E-9) in 1995.
His years at Pomham Rocks are particularly important to him because Dennis met his future wife there in Riverside. He and Shirley were married while he was stationed at Pomham Rocks and enjoyed a 43-year marriage until her death in September of 2015. They had three children together and later 6 grandchildren. Dennis has dedicated his time and efforts with the Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse (FPRL) to his late wife, Shirley.
So how did Dennis become reconnected with Pomham Rocks Lighthouse? It started when he contacted FPRL in June of 2016 to let them know that he was interested in their efforts. He subsequently made his first trip back to Pomham Rocks after 42 years away in July of 2016.
Since then, he has faithfully participated in every work party at the site, as well as many special project trips to the island in support of the recently completed interior renovation. To date, Dennis has made 111 trips out to Pomham Rocks Lighthouse. In addition, he has made numerous trips to various vendors in the surrounding area, picking up parts and materials for the ongoing restoration project. He and Chairman Joe Estrella even made a 310-mile round trip to upstate Connecticut last year to buy a 1946 GE refrigerator for the lighthouse since Pomham Rocks is being restored to the mid-1950s era.
The list of accomplishments is quite impressive for Dennis. Once electricity was reestablished at Pomham Rocks in January of 2017, he ran wiring, mounted outlets and tied into the circuit breaker panel for six new 220-volt outlets to run six 4000-watt electric heaters in the lighthouse. He also ran an underground electrical wire to the oil house in support of the new Point-to-Point WiFi equipment, as well as a new outlet near the dock area for security lighting.
Other projects that Dennis has led include converting a first-floor closet in the lighthouse into a bathroom with an electric incinerating toilet, a small sink and bead-board vanity, which he constructed. He also helped install new wire fencing around the perimeter of the island in anticipation of additional visitors to the island once the renovation of the lighthouse is complete.
Dennis also helped establish a temporary “cistern” of sorts, collecting rainwater from the oil house roof. He piped up a pumping system from the temporary cistern to pump rainwater into a new 165 gallon holding tank in the lighthouse basement to provide water for a new water system that he installed in the building.
Dennis has left his imprint on the interior of the lighthouse in a big way. He restored eight vintage schoolhouse ceiling light fixtures, which required stripping old paint and rust, repainting the units, as well as installing new wiring and sockets in the fixtures.
He also brought home all 38 kitchen cabinet doors and 8 kitchen cabinet drawers from the lighthouse to strip them of the old varnished finish on one side and the multiple layers of paint on the backsides. The sanding alone took 14 hours combined with more hours repairing de-lamination, holes, cracks and gouges in the wood in order to properly prep them for more hours of painting that followed. He also removed all the old paint off the 46 vintage cabinet and drawer handles and repainted them.
And if that was not enough, Dennis prepared the light station’s 4,400 gallon cistern for restoration. The cistern has not been used since 1974. This included scrapping off loose coatings and cement, pressure washing the cistern and repairing the cracks and holes with a mortar mix.
When he is not working at hands-on lighthouse tasks, Dennis finds time to maintain the two FPRL boats, which entails changing the oil and filters, lubrication, and painting of the diesel launch, as well as maintenance on the outboard-powered smaller boat. He also serves on the FPRL chapter leadership committee. Given his large and diverse contributions to the light station and chapter, the Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse is very proud to honor Dennis Tardiff with a 2018 Len Hadley Volunteer Award!