When the Kebleshes went to the Raders' hangar to check out the device, it turned out that the airport beacon was not only in working order but that it came equipped with the desired lighthouse-quality Fresnel lens.
The lighthouse tower with its beacon, which can be seen from 30 miles away, "is a true navigation aid, but for aircraft instead of ships," said Steve Keblesh. "It's registered with the FAA as an official navigation aid."
Foundation experts Doug and Roger Gerwig helped design and build an octagonal concrete foundation, in which an array of 20 threaded steel pins is embedded to secure the lighthouse in place.
"There's 9 feet of tower underground, anchored to solid bedrock. It's not going anywhere," Doug Gerwig said as he admired the view from the top of the lighthouse Thursday.
"When I first heard about the lighthouse idea, I didn't know what to think of it," said Billy Bush of Poe, one of the Nicholas County students who worked on the project, and now is an employee of Summersville Lake Retreat. "But it turned out to be pretty cool, and a lot bigger than I imagined."
Bush, who spent two years, including summers, on the project, said he learned a lot about welding and design. "And the next time someone wants to build a lighthouse around here, I'll be ready," he joked.
Thursday's public debut of the lighthouse included food, music, crafts, Civil War re-enactors and more.
Among those making the 122-step trek to the top was Mary Elkins of Gilboa, who has been monitoring the progress of work on the lighthouse for the past two years.
"I couldn't wait for this to open," she said. "It's been a fantastic project. People should come and see it now that it's done. The view is gorgeous, and I'm so proud that we have the only lighthouse in the state."
"This is absolutely gorgeous," Nicholas County Commissioner Ken Altizer said upon reaching the observation deck and admiring a sweeping view of Summersville Lake.
While Altizer said he initially thought the idea of the lighthouse "was a little strange, the more I talked to Steve and Donna, the better the idea seemed to get," he said. "If you want to get things done in this state, you need folks like Steve and Donna to make them happen."
Guided tours of the lighthouse will be offered daily, three times an hour, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., weather permitting. Cost is $7 for adults and children 12 and older, and $5 for those 3 to 11 years old, or 65 and older.
The addition of the lighthouse tour program has allowed Summersville Lake Retreat to more than double its workforce, from 9 to 20. "We're making a little difference in the local economy," Keblesh said, "and that makes me feel good."
For more information on the lighthouse and Summersville Lake Retreat, visit www.summersvillelakeretreat.com.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.