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Ned & Gail Goebricher Named Volunteers of the Year in 2023

Ned & Gail Goebricher Named Volunteers of the Year in 2023

An Oswego couple who calls themselves “perpetual volunteers” were recently honored as 2023 Volunteers of the Year by the H. Lee White Maritime Museum.

Ned and Gail Goebricher, of Oswego, were honored recently at the Museum’s Annual Volunteer Reception for their dedication to the restoration of the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse and their involvement with the H Lee White Maritime Museum in particular with Lighthouse Boat Tours.

Gail grew up in Oswego in the 1st Ward by Lake Street and the United State Coast Guard- Station Oswego. Her family has a long history with the waterfront. “My uncle, John Connolly, worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to build the breakwater and the Lighthouse that stands today,” Gail explained. She also had an uncle, Ben Busher, that worked at the old Coast Guard station.

Ned grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio and loved being around Lake Erie as a child. His neighbor was a ship’s captain during WWII, so he would go down to the docks with the captain’s family, leading him to enlist with the US Coast Guard at age 17 during the Korean Conflict.

Ned and Gail met while she worked at Whalen’s Drug store in the late 1950s. “He liked the way I made milkshakes,” Gail said. Then he asked if he could walk her to her Van Buren Street home, which was the start of their 60-plus year relationship.

Ned was stationed in Oswego in 1955 and spent the following year as one of three lighthouse keepers for the Coast Guard. He was then stationed at Galloo Island near Sackets Harbor in Jefferson County. He spent 23 months there, then parted ways with the Coast Guard. When he had difficulty finding work in Ashtabula, Ned returned to Oswego, took a job at SUNY Oswego and he and Gail were married on August 15, 1959.

Gail worked at Northern Steel for 25 years, before opening her own business, Precisely Yours Business Services in downtown Oswego. Meanwhile, Ned worked as a Stationary Engineer at SUNY Oswego in the Heating Plant. Throughout this time, Gail volunteered at Fort Ontario and worked with the Oswego Chamber of Commerce running the Farmers’ Market. She started volunteering at the Maritime Museum, “many, many moons ago,” Gail stated.

When the museum was notified that the lighthouse was up for sale, a group of concerned citizens got together to save the lighthouse. Naturally, two of those citizens were Ned and Gail Goebricher. The group were able to convince the City of Oswego to purchase the lighthouse and lease it to the Maritime Museum to act as its stewards. The group then set to work restoring the lighthouse close to its original state.

“We both love the lighthouse and everything it stands for,” Gail explained. “A wonderful group of people put their hearts and souls into the restoration, and we were happy to be a part of that.”

Ned likes to joke that through all the painting and scraping, he “took off the paint I put on there 50 years ago.”

“Gail and Ned have been excellent museum advocates helping to preserve our history and promoting the Maritime Museum,” Museum Executive Director Mercedes Niess said. Proving the point, Gail interjected that “People should support it by volunteering, donating, and becoming museum members.”

With a great deal of the restoration completed, the museum runs lighthouse tours on Fridays and Saturdays from June through September. Most weekends, you will find Gail sitting at a table on the porch of the city’s Wright’s Landing Welcome Center, checking in passengers as they arrive for their scheduled tours. Then she sends them off on the museum’s Honored Six pontoon boat to meet Ned, who volunteers as a guide at the lighthouse.

Ned is a man of few words, but he shares his stories of his time working as a keeper and answers many questions about his time working for the Coast Guard. He likes to share how technology has changed since his time there, which fascinates kids and adults alike.

Ned and Gail put their hearts and passion into everything they do for the Oswego community. Their commitment to the restoration of the Oswego Lighthouse and running the tours has earned them the gratitude of the museum staff, board of trustees, and their fellow volunteers, earning them the honor of Volunteers of the Year.

Mercedes Niess presents Gail and Ned Goebricher with Volunteer of Year award.

Image Credit: Mark McManus

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