Living at the End

“Awaken to the sights and sounds of Atlantic Ocean waves. Spectacular sunrises and soothing sunsets from every floor of this Easternmost residence on Long Island. 360 degree unobstructed views from every floor of an eleven story building by renowned builder and architect John McComb Jr. Classic National Landmark home completed in 1796. Permanently protected on all sides from future building.”
If this tempting real estate listing sounds too good to be true, it is actually a lifelong dream come true for Joe Gaviola, the current Keeper of Montauk Lighthouse. As a member of the Montauk Historical Society’s Lighthouse Committee, in 2018 Joe was presented the opportunity to take over when 31-year veteran Lighthouse Keeper Marge Winski decided to retire to Maine. He would become the next in a list of proud residents, which began with Jacob and Jared Hand in 1796.
When Joe sold his Gaviola’s Montauk Market at the docks on West Lake Drive in 2012 after 24 years, he never imagined that his future residence would be less than 4 miles away as the crow flies, at the first lighthouse built in New York State, but it was always his hope. His education at Virginia Tech, the University of Rhode Island and The Wharton School naturally led him to his next career in the world of finance, eventually becoming Chairman of the Board of Suffolk County National Bank, and Financial Advisor at Merrill Lynch.

Thanks to the Internet and a high speed connection at the Lighthouse, Joe has been able to effectively combine his two parallel careers. Periodically throughout the day, he is online conducting financial business, including in his pro bono role as Director of Finance for the Montauk Lighthouse Committee. The rest of the time he performs his duties as Lighthouse Keeper with a lifelong passion that won’t quit. Joe describes himself as the steward and watchman of his beloved residence and grounds, a 24 hour job. His daily routine includes a full walk around the property to check conditions and structures, making sure that there are no unauthorized people there. Safety checks, including fire alarms, in the Museum and the Museum Shop are also essential, making sure that windows and doors are secure against unwanted visitors and the brutal weather that is so common there. The monitoring and operation of the Lighthouse light and fog signal are actually operated remotely by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, at the time of this writing, the Lighthouse and grounds are currently closed to visitors. Joe is anxiously awaiting Governor Cuomo’s order allowing them in again. The Gift Shop has reopened under Phase 2 of New York State’s Reopening Plan.
“It’s an honor and a blessing to be caretaker of one of America’s most beloved landmarks”, says Joe. “I have one of the most amazing views in all of New York. It is utopian and priceless.”

Photos courtesy of Richard Lewin