White River Lighthouse, courtesy Michigan archives
Frances Wuori Johnson was keeper at the White River Lighthouse on Lake Michigan at the entrance of the channel to White Lake. She first lived at the lighthouse when she married Leo Wuori, the keeper in 1944. Frances loved the lighthouse and quickly adapted to helping her husband with his lightkeeping chores. The weights that rotated the light had to be wound each day. In addition, the brass and silver of the lantern had to be polished daily and the outside windows had to be cleaned.
Frances also had to keep the lighthouse dwelling spotless for inspection, cleaning and polishing the wood floors, as well as, normal household chores of cooking, laundry, etc. In her free time, Frances swam daily, a habit developed her strength. During the summer months when tourists flocked to Lake Michigan, Frances’ swimming muscles were tested. Once when rescuing a heavy woman, Frances almost had to knock her unconscious to get her back to safety.
Afterwards, the woman complained about Frances’ roughness with her to which Frances replied, “Well, it was either that or let you die.”