Coast Guard’s ‘Flying Santa’ chief is honored

Posted Dec. 18, 2010, at 12:46 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 7:20 a.m.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — The man who coordinates the Coast Guard’s “Flying Santa” program in New England is getting his due on Saturday.

Started in 1929, the program uses privately donated helicopters to help Santa make stops at 24 lighthouses and Coast Guard stations. Brian Tague of Stoneham, Mass., has participated in every flight — more than 60 of them — over the past 20 years.

Tague coordinates logistics, donations, gifts and wrapping. This season’s final flight on Saturday was scheduled to make six stops from Jonesport, Maine, to Portsmouth, N.H., with the final stop honoring Tague with the Coast Guard certificate of appreciation.

Capt. James McPherson, the Coast Guard’s commander in northern New England, says Tague’s support has made the program the only of its kind in the country.

“He and his staff of volunteers really go to great lengths to add a very special touch for our Coast Guard families in New England during the holiday season,” he said.

This annual tradition was started by William Wincapaw, a float plane pilot based in Rockland, Maine. Back then, he relied on lighthouse beacons to assist navigation, and 81 years ago made his first deliveries of newspapers, magazines, coffee and candy to show his appreciation.

The isolated lighthouse keepers warmly received the aerial delivery of small packages of books, magazines, candy and toys, and the tradition was born.

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