KATHERINE WALKER’s namesake was keeper of Robbins Reef Light in New York Harbor. Katherine’s husband, John was appointed keeper of the light in 1883. In 1886, John died from pneumonia. Katherine Walker was then appointed as keeper of the light by President Benjamin Harrison on June 6th 1895. The task was not an easy one for the 4’10”, 100 pound woman. She climbed to the top of the light several times each night to tend the kerosene lamp. During periods of fog or heavy snow she would ring the fog signal by hand for hours on end when the mechanical system failed.
During storms, she not only ensured the light was “watching properly”, she also kept a sharp lookout for ships in distress. Her efforts resulted in the rescue of 50 sailors from shipwrecks. Among those rescued were five crewmen and a small dog from a wrecked schooner. Katherine accomplished this rescue using only a small dinghy. Despite all the hardships she managed to raise two children.
Robbins Reef Light was isolated from the mainland, so Katherine
would row her children to and from the shore daily so they could attend
school. She stayed on as keeper until she retired in 1919 and moved to
Tompkinville, New York. She passed away at age 83 on February 5th,
To find out more about Katherine Walker and other famous lighthouse keepers try the book, "The Women Who Kept the Lights." Her legacy of service to the maritime community in and around New York Harbor will live on in the Coast Guard Cutter that bares her name: USCGC KATHERINE WALKER “Keeper of New York Harbor”.
USCGC KATHERINE WALKER was the second 175’ Keeper Class buoy tender built and commissioned for the United States Coast Guard. She was built by Marinette Marine in Wisconsin and accepted by the Coast Guard in 1996. To learn more about the cutter, go to the Ship's Characteristics page.
Designed by the Army Institute of Heraldry, KATHERINE WALKER’s coat of arms is symbolic of both Coast Guard history and new technology.
Blue, red and white are the colors of the US Coast Guard. The wavy bars allude to the coastal waters patrolled by the Coast Guard. The white areas reflect the lights providing safe passage into the harbor. The lightning bolt symbolizes the cutter's innovative Z-drive technology. The traditional ship’s wheel represents guidance, leadership and maritime tradition. The torch represents the Statue of Liberty and the motto "Custos Lucis - Shining Protection." The oars represent the 50 lives saved by Katherine Walker; the crossed swords represent teamwork and the port security mission performed by KATHERINE WALKER.