Today, Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is a short drive from any of the beautiful communities surrounding the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but in the mid-19th century, the lighthouse may as well have been on the moon. The keeper had his family, the assistant keeper’s family and a few other homesteaders in the area for company. As it was, the tiny community had to handle for themselves many of the things we often don’t deal with today. Without air conditioning, modern medicines, mosquito abatement programs, the real danger for these residents was the ever-present shadow of death. These small, scattered communities often had either family grave plots or small communal plots set aside for burial. With the dawn of the Space Age, came the need for a large, safe and secure area from which to conduct rocket launches. The families who had been living in the “too close for comfort” zone were relocated, but their personal ties and histories were forever linked to home sites and cemeteries on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Today there are several of these plots that are maintained by the 45th Space Wing Cultural Resources Manager, Thomas E. Penders. To honor their memories, the CCAFS in conjunction with the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation hosts an Annual Descendants Day Recognition event with bus tours of the lighthouse and grave sites.
Descendants Day 2017 will be held on May 6th from 9:00am – 12:00pm. All unbadged participants will meet at the CCAFS Southgate Pass & ID Building where they will board Air Force buses. As in the past, a welcoming reception with finger foods, soda and coffee will be held for the descendants at the Cape Café prior to conducting the tour of the lighthouse, home sites and cemeteries. Our host and organizer is Dr. Sonny Witt, author of Drawn to the Light, and The Discovery of Cape Canaveral. He will have a slide show of old photos running continuously during the reception. At the end of the tour, the buses will return to the Pass & ID Building.