A 1962 graduate of Syracuse University, Wayne Wheeler is a retired Coast Guard officer, having spent 23 years in the Coast Guard in the aids to navigation field serving on ships, district offices and headquarters. While at Coast Guard Headquarters he helped write the National Navigation Plan with members of the other Armed Services. At one point in his career he was Chief of Aids to Navigation for Northern California.
"In 1984 Wayne founded the U. S. Lighthouse Society, a national nonprofit society founded on history and education with a stress on preservation. The Society publishes a quarterly magazine (The Keeper's Log) and Bulletin, maintains a comprehensive library, owns and is restoring two lighthouses and has restored a former Coast Guard lightship.
Over the years he has been a member of numerous maritime related organizations and has presented talks from coast to coast from Key West to Block Island, RI to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and numerous west coast organizations. He has appeared on numerous television and radio program including National Public Radio, Good Morning America and CBS. Wayne has been written up in most U.S. newspapers as well as Life, Smithsonian, Americana, People and the Syracuse University Alumni magazine.
In 1986 the Society was winner of the Department of Transportation's Award for Outstanding Contribution to Historic Preservation. The Society also received a resolution from the California Senate, and the 2003 Phoenix Award from the American Travel Writers for Outstanding Accomplishment in Conservation and Preservation. The Foundation for Coast Guard History presented an award to Mr. Wheeler in recognition of promoting the U.S. Coast Guard through preserving the history of the U. S. Lighthouse Service. He was termed a "true pioneer in the preservation of America's lighthouses" by the American Lighthouse Coordinating Committee.
Wayne has taught courses on the History of Lighthouses at the California Academy of Science and the University of North Carolina Asheville Reuter Center and although retired he remains President of the U.S. Lighthouse Society and a member of several nonprofit boards."
As President and Founder of the U.S. Lighthouse Society, the name Wayne Wheeler has become synonymous with lighthouse preservation and education. He is one of the pioneers of the lighthouse preservation movement and one of the foremost experts of lighthouse history in the U.S., and everyone fondly refers to him as the "'Head Keep'".
Wayne is a much sought-after source of lighthouse history and has appeared on many television news programs, at legislative meetings and in lighthouse videos to share his knowledge.
On June 6, 2009, in Yorktown, VA, the Society held the first of five planned 25th Anniversary celebrations. The following letter was read aloud:
"In San Francisco, over a quarter century ago, you started the U.S. Lighthouse Society on your dining room table. At that time, I will bet that neither you nor anyone associated with the early organization could have imagined how far reaching the group would become or how it would change the lighthouse community. As the society grew, the headquarters moved to a high-rise office building in the middle of the financial district on Kearny Street. Here it remained for many years. The society's journal, The Keepers Log which began shortly after the organization's inception, is now twenty-five years old, and the 100th issue will soon be available. This magazine is a scholarly journal with important historical material. But it also serves as a mechanism to keep the members in touch with the organization. Additionally, you created local chapters for the society. This importantly allowed the organization to have an active presence across the Nation and to serve a national constituency.
As you are well aware, lighthouse enthusiasts come from extremely diverse backgrounds. The task of initially getting the lighthouse community united in a single cause was a challenge. Abraham Lincoln termed efforts such as this as "trying to shovel fleas across a barnyard." With your passion for lighthouses and your skills as a leader, you were able to unite people to solve common problems and issues within the historic lighthouse community. This was not easy and it was a constant challenge.
The organization that you created also evolved. It is not just a loose collection of people. Your group has become the keepers of the history and the institutional memory of the US Lighthouse Service and of the men and women who served to keep the lights burning. Your organization has kept this flame alive by trimming the historical wick. Projects such as the preservation of the Thomas Point Lighthouse and the preservation of the Lightship LV 605 RELIEF, have defined the spirit of the organization as well as the prominence and the important influence that it has.
During my more than twenty years with the Coast Guard Historian's Office, we worked together on a number of issues. As president of the organization, the members lovingly called you the "head keep." This was more than a nickname. In reality, you were the "keeper" of the organization and you served as the heart and soul of the group. Your passion for lighthouses and your single-minded efforts to promote lighthouses and the history of the US Lighthouse Service are unmatched and your influence is still immense. After more than twenty years, my affiliation with you and the US Lighthouse Society is among the fondest relationships of my job."
U.S. Coast Guard
Historian's Office (CG-09224)
*** Pictured above is Wayne and his wife Sally at the Thomas Point Shoal Transfer.