CURIOSITIES: A Shining Light in Ephraim

Most visitors to Ephraim recognize the graffiti-covered warehouse on Anderson Dock, but few know there is a historical marker located beyond the warehouse, near the end of the dock. 

There stands a 30-foot-tall obelisk, which at night provides a light to guide sailors in Ephraim Harbor. But it’s much more than a light. 

The obelisk was created as a memorial to First Lieutenant Ellis
“Gene” Eugene Helgeson Jr. of the United States Air Force. He had been in Vietnam for about eight months when the C-123 transport plane he was co-piloting was shot down as it approached Khe Sanh, killing Helgeson, his five crewmates and the 44 Marines they were transporting. 

Helgeson hailed from Cincinnati, but he had spent many childhood summers with relatives at the Edgewater Lodge in Ephraim. 

In late October 1968, the memorial – designed by Amos Rasmussen of Ephraim and given to the village by Helgeson’s parents – was dedicated during a ceremony. “Ephraim was important to Gene,” said his father, Ellis Helgeson. “He was so very happy here.”

The color guard from Billy Weiss Post No. 527 of the American Legion in Sister Bay advanced and retired the colors under the command of Henry Eckert. The Rev. Clarence Meile of St. John’s Catholic Church in Egg Harbor offered a prayer. The Sister Bay Baptist Chapel quartet, David and Dale Seaquist, Leonard Peterson and Roland Anderson provided special music. 

“If, in this war, or any future wars, a boy from Ephraim should give his life for his country, we would be honored to have his plaque added to this memorial,” Ellis Helgeson said in his remarks. During the 65 years since Ellis Eugene Helgeson Jr. lost his life serving his country, it hasn’t been necessary. 

The plaque honoring Eugene Helgeson at the end of Anderson Dock. Photo by Rachel Lukas.

Related Organizations