Idawalley Zorada Lewis
On the night of 24 October 1911, the sound of a ship’s bell drifted across the water to Newport, Rhode Island. Before long, every vessel in the harbor had joined in, tolling their bells in a mournful cadence that could be heard for many miles. There was no fog, no emergency, no official reason for the tolling. It was in spontaneous response to sad news, a tribute to a hero. Idawalley Zorada Lewis had passed away.
When her father was felled by a stroke in 1857, 15-year-old Ida assumed his duties as lighthouse keeper at Lime Rock, near Newport, filling the giant lamp with oil at sundown and midnight, trimming the wick, and polishing the reflectors.
Rowing her four siblings to school every day, she became an accomplished seaman and, at the age of 16, performed her first rescue, saving four boys after their boat had capsized. Many rescues followed, some in the dead of winter, others amidst violent storms. Two soldiers, one sailor, three sheepherders, and one sheep were among her many rescues in the 39 years she kept the lamp burning. Her last rescue was at the age of 63.