Mike Kaptuch was a brother in every sense of the word. We set an around the world speed record together, a land speed record and he was with me when we discovered the Mendota Lighthouse. Mike died suddenly recently.
In 1998 we took a motorcycle ride from Detroit to the Keweenaw to stay at a fishing camp I had there since 1976. It was an adventure as was most everything we did. One morning we decided to ride up to Copper Harbor and do the circle tour of the Keweenaw Peninsula. We went up the east side and when we got to Lac La Belle we decided to go down the Bette Gris Road as I had never done that before. When we got to the end we looked across the channel at the Mendota Lighthouse in utter amazement. What a location and with a barn and boathouse no less. We both said at the same time that this was something one could only dream of.
We continued our ride up to Copper Harbor and the down to Eagle Harbor. Mike wanted to stop at a gift shop and buy something for his wife Linda. When we walked in the shop I just stopped in my tracks. The woman behind the counter was a teacher and my mother’s best friend when she lived in the same town I grew up. She had moved to the Keweenaw many years before, but I recognized her at once. Her name is Alice Kipfer and she is the owner of The Carriage House gift shop in Eagle Harbor.
During the course of the conversation I mentioned the Mendota Lighthouse and she said “why don’t you buy it as it is for sale to the right person.” She gave me the owner’s name and I called the son of the owner who had passed away. It turned out that I was the right person as I had purchased my fishing camp from this gentleman’s best friend. Thus began some of the greatest times Mike and I had. If I was going to the lighthouse he would come up from Atlanta to go with me. It was just some of the greatest moments one can imagine as we restored the lighthouse and then finally recommissioned it with the Coast Guard as a private aid to navigation.
Mike was one of the smartest people I have ever known and one of the most generous. He will be missed greatly, but I will always have the memories of our adventures and he’ll always be part of Mendota.
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