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  • Writer's pictureLinda Borromeo

Hermenia by the Sea: Meet an Intrepid Lighthouse Keeper's Wife

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

A lone figure walked along the beach after a fierce storm. With her long skirt twisting in the steady wind, she put up a hand to keep her elegant hat in place. Her gaze turned downward as she searched the beach for treasure brought in by the "northwester."

She bent to pick up an object, and it glistened in the sunshine. Hermenia held up a beautiful glass float to add to her collection.

In the late 1800s, Hermenia Zauner often combed the beach on an isolated island off the Washington coast. She could find all sorts of interesting storm-plunder, including the handblown glass balls separated from Japanese fishing nets. In the background, the Destruction Island Lighthouse stood watch.

Despite the alarming name of her home, Hermenia filled her surroundings with graciousness, love, and comfort. In a charming collection of stories, her granddaughter remembered that she always dressed fashionably with a hat "jauntily affixed," even while walking on the beach.

One of my own treasures is Mary Jane Armstrong Smith's small, spiral bound memoir of her grandparents, Christian and Hermenia Zauner.

Head Lighthouse Keeper Christian Zauner (I took this photograph at the Westport Maritime Museum. The light beam streaming across his picture seems very appropriate.)