lions lighthouse

The Lions Lighthouse for Sight has stood sentinel for 20 years at Shoreline Park.

It's Long Beach's light upon the hill, and it has become a popular subject for pictures, whether the photographer is a resident or a visitor.

It is the Lions Lighthouse for Sight, and it sits on the hill at the point of Shoreline Park, giving its 65-foot height more of an impact.

The Lions Lighthouse isn't used as an official navigation aid — it's too far inland for ships to see — but it does light the entrance to Rainbow Harbor, between the park and Parkers Lighthouse restaurant (also not an official lighthouse). It also, according to Downtown Lions Club members, is a beacon for the club's ongoing efforts to help people with sight problems.

"The club has been proud and excited to see the Lions Lighthouse for Sight become a Long Beach icon on par with the Queen Mary," current club president Kirk Davis said. "It is a symbol of the Lions Club fight ‘to prevent avoidable blindness and improve quality of life for people who are blind and visually impaired.'"

The Downtown Lions Club's participation with the lighthouse construction is the stuff of legend — at least Long Beach legend.

Long Beach's city government was near completion of its waterfront rebuild, to be known as Rainbow Harbor. The new Aquarium of the Pacific sat at one end of the harbor, but the spit of land designed as a park needed something more. The concept for a lighthouse was floated, but money was tight.

Up stepped Vito Romans, a community mover and shaker sometimes call Mr. Lion or Mr. Downtown. He was a past district governor for the Lions Club and was the first executive director of the Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA).

"I thought, ‘Man, a lighthouse and sight go together,'" Romans told a Press-Telegram reporter at the Dec. 10, 2000, lighthouse dedication.

Romans had struck a deal with the city. If the Lions could raise $200,000 in six months to offset construction costs, the monument would be called the Lions Lighthouse for Sight. 

Romans and the Lions raised $206,000, with Romans raising most of it himself.

Romans died the following year, Oct. 4, 2001, at 88. But his memory remains at the lighthouse, with its beacon and illumination from the base in changing colors.

Another thing that has continued over the years is the Lions Club's emphasis on helping people see better. Back in 2000, the club had a standing pledge to provide glasses and/or eye exams to any Long Beach Unified School District student who needs them.

For the four years from July 1, 2016 thru June 30, 2020, the club has provided glasses and exams for 1,493 children at a cost $150,095, according to longtime club member Gene Johnson. There were 349 adults helped in that period, too.

Seventeen years ago, the club started a Thanksgiving Day meal distribution at Long Beach Boys & Girls Clubs. At first, the club cooked the meals at their homes and served up to 125 people at one Boys & Girls Club. Then Jim Choura at The Grand was enlisted to help, and last year the Lions delivered 1,000 meals to three clubs. The number dropped this year due to the pandemic.

"In addition to our commitment to provide eye exams and glasses to any LBUSD student in need, we are currently partnering with the Puente Latino Association in bi-weekly COVID-19 relief food distributions in North Long Beach at Ricardo's Nursery," Davis said in an email. "The club received a grant from the Long Beach Community Foundation and has held 13 distributions since June serving over 1,750 households and close to 8,000 people."

And for the last 20 years, the Lions Lighthouse for Sight has shined through it all.

 

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Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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