I first met Tim Harrison as Lighthouse Digest was entering its second year of publishing. That was 1993, and I had no idea at the time that it would result in a 30-year friendship.
The small weekly newspaper I worked for had just purchased a printing operation in Lewiston, Maine, and the entire operation was moved down to Biddeford, Maine.
Coincidentally, at that time Lighthouse Digest was in desperate need of a new printer; and Tim Harrison and Kathy Finnegan came in to get a quote on printing, a bid they couldn’t refuse. After a couple issues were printed, I was in the main front office when they came in to complain about some issues with the printing.
They had a long discussion with the print manager that was going nowhere, and I was called in to help settle the matter. I quickly realized that Tim and Kathy were perfectly correct, and I agreed with them that the print quality was not good enough. This surprised Tim, as I’m sure he was expecting me to side with my boss.
But I wanted not just to keep the customer happy, but keep them as customers with a quality magazine. The result was they went away happy enough to keep us as their printer. After that, I saw them regularly – once or twice a month at least, when they came in with the next issue to be printed. Not to complain. Well not often anyway.
Not too long after that, I quit to start my own newspaper, the Southern Maine Coastal Beacon, and within a very short period of time, Tim and Kathy’s World’s Largest Lighthouse Gift Store in Wells, Maine, was our largest advertiser. I would see them weekly then, and I would stop into the store to get ad copy and occasionally go to lunch. My newspaper, on at least a couple of occasions, did a story about their store and their magazine Lighthouse Digest.
We soon became friends. Tim was always fun to be with, quick to smile and laugh, great at making people feel at home, full of ideas for improving the store or for the next edition of the magazine. I seldom remember seeing him that he wasn’t lighting up the room with his presence, laughing loudly at some joke, or cracking a joke of his own.
Another year passed, and something called the “World Wide Web” arrived. I was interested in learning more about it and read that the New York Times had a website.
So, I created a website for the Coastal Beacon which was the 7th paper in the United States to go online. Clearly this was going to catch on!
I became more in demand to build websites. And Tim wanted a website, of course, and after a lot of work, and in joint effort with our internet service provider, we built one of the earliest commercial websites in the country for their new catalog, Lighthouse Depot. Within hours of going live, they took four orders online!
Building the website meant I spent a lot of time at the store with Tim and Kathy, picking the products they wanted to put online, photographing them, working on descriptions, and pricing, etc.
After another year, I was working full time for a Fortune 500 company in Massachusetts as their webmaster, and working with Tim and Kathy as my largest client.
Tim came to me and said they wanted me to put in a bid for a new website for them, that would put all their products online, as well as offer a lot of features that would help support a lighthouse community – including the Lighthouse Digest magazine online archives, as well as creating an online database of lighthouses. I told Tim it was a full-time job and they would have to hire me away from my existing Massachusetts job.
So, they did.
And it’s quite a great thing to take a job where your bosses are also your friends, because Tim and Kathy had long since become close friends. We’d put in late hours at the office every day, dealing with computer issues, or store problems, or printing issues. There were a small group of people who were always willing to do whatever it took to keep the “lighthouse” business running, and I was happy, for quite a long time, to be a part of that group.
The Lighthouse Depot product catalog eventually grew to being distributed to 5 million households across the country annually and the Lighthouse Digest reaching just under 30,000 subscribers. Eventually, my job changed – I was initially their IT manager, tech purchaser, webmaster, and half a dozen other titles, but after Tim and Kathy sold their interests in the catalog to devote their time exclusively to Lighthouse Digest, I ended up remaining their webmaster, and later becoming the Art Director for Lighthouse Digest magazine.
A job that was once a 40-hour-a-week office job became a complete remote position, where I worked on their online and print magazine design, and helped develop their online catalog after the Lighthouse Depot shuttered in 2010.
Over 30 years, I have been in regular communication with Tim and Kathy, and had the pleasure to visit them up in Cutler, Maine on occasion as well.
That last visit was two years ago. Tim was definitely slowing down, but determined as ever to get each issue out. And he still had that great, room-filling laugh that I remember so well.
It was a great visit, and Tim was there with a smile to wave goodbye as I drove away.
Tim Harrison was a good man, a great friend, and a person I’ll never forget.
This story appeared in the
Nov/Dec 2023 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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