Coast Guard to re-dedicate building to African American hero

Coast Guard Training Center Cape May NewsCAPE MAY, N.J. – Coast Guardsmen and Cape May civic leaders will re-dedicate Coast Guard Training Center Cape May’s galley to U.S. Lifesaving Service Keeper Richard Etheridge in honor of Black History Month Thursday at 11 a.m.

Etheridge Hall, which is the dining facility for all permanent party and recruits, recently underwent more than $65,000 in renovations to the staff dining area. The crew will officially mark the opening of the facility by re-dedicating it to Etheridge, who was the first African American lifesaving station keeper. The crew will be joined during the ceremony by Mrs. Bernadette Matthews, the Executive Director of the Center for Community Arts in Cape May.

The newly renovated galley features photos and memorials of Etheridge’s life and service to the Nation. The 35-year-old facility has also received numerous aesthetic improvements including new walls, ceilings and energy efficient lighting, which is aimed at reducing the training center’s energy consumption. Capt. Bill Kelly, commander of Training Center Cape May, and Matthews will cut a ribbon signifying the official opening of the galley during Thursday’s ceremony.

Etheridge was appointed as the keeper of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station in North Carolina in 1880 with an all African American crew. The Pea Island Lifesaving Station crew is famous for the Oct. 11, 1896, rescue of nine people from the Schooner E.S. Newman, which had been blown 100 miles off course during heavy weather and ran aground near the station. The lifesaving crew was unable to reach the vessel with their surfboat, so Etheridge directed two Pea Island surfmen to tie themselves together and walk through the pounding surf to the E.S. Newman. The crewmembers of the E.S. Newman were rescued one at time, and the crew of Pea Island took turns fighting the surf to reach the survivors. Etheridge and six other African American surfmen from Pea Island who participated in the rescue were posthumously awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal March 5, 1996.

Training Center Cape May has several other activities and displays to celebrate Black History Month around its installation. This year’s theme for Black History Month is “Black Women in American History and Culture.” In keeping with that theme, the training center staff and representatives from the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and the Center for Community Arts have erected a display entitled “Two Women, Two Worlds.” This display honors the history of African American women throughout the history of Cape May.

Each week different African American women who accomplished great things in the Coast Guard are also being recognized on the unit’s internal kiosks. This week Julie Moselsy Pole and D. Winifred Byrd were recognized as the first African American women to join the Coast Guard. Other African American women who will be recognized include Lt. Jeanine McIntosh-Menze, Lt. Cmdr. Rhonda Fleming-Makell and Lt. j.g. La’Shanda Holmes.

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