The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

August 2, 2013

Secret of 'Lighthouse Island' revealed

(Continued)

"We took advantage of their physical strength and their dedication to us," Kay said.

They built a frame around the lighthouse, loaded it into the pick-up truck and the family took off late one May evening in 2003 because Brees didn't want anyone around to see them in action. The original plan was to float the lighthouse out to the island in a boat — but it sunk the boat.

There was only a foot of water in the pond at the time, but when the men stepped in, they were up to their knees in mud. Then the head of the parks department showed up.

"You are not allowed to swim in there," he shouted.

"Believe me, we are doing anything but swimming," Brees responded.

Skip Stevens, street commissioner at the time and father-in-law of Brees' daughter, Shellie, rode along with his wife to watch the installation and explained to the parks director what they were doing.

"It took the men about an hour to struggle with it up the embankment," Brees said. "It slipped and fell and slid and everything else."

Finally, the lighthouse was on top of the island, but they had to dig around in order for it to sit properly in the direction they wanted.

"We finally got it set and got back, and then they remembered they hadn't put the light in," Brees laughed.

A couple of the sons-in-law waded back in and installed a solar light, though it stopped working sometime in the next year. The city eventually installed an electric wire to light it, but that has since vanished as well.

"Later on when I got on the council — but nobody knew I had done it — I raised cain 'cause there was no light in it," he said. "They finally ran a wire over there."

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