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Longest-serving keeper at Split Rock Lighthouse retires

TWO HARBORS, MN — After nearly forty years caring for one of the most iconic lighthouses on Lake Superior’s shores, the light is turning off for a Minnesota man’s career.

Lee Radzak has served 36 years as a lighthouse keeper at Split Rock Lighthouse, and 42 years with the Minnesota Historical Society, but will retire from that role in April.

Radzak first started his role at Split Rock Lighthouse in 1982, after working for six years as an archaeologist at the Minnesota Historical Society.

As the lighthouse site manager, Radzak has dealt with power outages and raging storms, as well as overseeing restoration on the site’s historic buildings.

He says since the highway to the lighthouse opened in the 1920’s, roughly 160,000 people come to the lighhouse every year, and has seen about 4.75 million people since he started the role.

Radzak says he and his wife, Jane, are happy to have been given the unique privilege to live an extraordinary life at Split Rock.

After lobbying for a lighthouse in the early 1900’s when a single storm damaged 29 ships on the lake, construction was finished in 1910, and Orren “Pete” Young became the first keeper.

Throughout the past 40 years, Radzak has seen the site named a National Historic Landmark in 2011, and also oversaw construction of the visitor center in 1986, and helped celebrate the site’s 100th birthday in 2010.

Split Rock was decommissioned by the Coast Guard in 1969.

The Minnesota Historical Society began managing the site in 1976.

 

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Kaitlyn Moffett

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