Hobby lights up friendship

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Peter SweeneyGeraldton Guardian
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Ben Shaylor and Stan Gratte have become mates through letter writing.
Camera IconBen Shaylor and Stan Gratte have become mates through letter writing. Credit: Peter Sweeney

It started with a letter from a little boy to an elderly man.

Neither knew the other when the letter was written and read.

Now, they are “besties”.

Two years ago, then-seven-year-old Ben Shaylor of Gosnells, an eastern suburb of Perth, was visiting Geraldton over Christmas with his family.

Ben loves lighthouses, and, impressed by what he saw locally, he wrote to “The Lighthouse Man” at the Lighthouse Cottage in Bluff Point.

The letter found its way to long-time Geraldton resident and historian Stan Gratte.

The young fella told the old fella how he loved lighthouses and asked questions.

It brought back many childhood memories for Mr Gratte.

When he was a little tacker in Northam, Mr Gratte was fascinated by the knowledge of teacher and naturalist George Jessup.

“I always made a beeline for Mr Jessup and his bughouse,” Mr Gratte said.

“I think an old man can have a positive impact on a young boy.”

With that in mind, Mr Gratte wrote back to Ben.

One Christmas they met, and last week Ben and his family were back holidaying in Geraldton.

And just as popular as the lighthouse was Mr Gratte’s 1928 Chevrolet, which took Ben’s family and friends on rides. After that, it was off to tour the Lighthouse Cottage.

“Ben learnt so much from Stan last year that he led the tour through the cottage and made us all sign the visitors book,” mum Wendy Shaylor said.

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