At a charity fundraiser the other night, we heard it said that lighthouse keeper Nadia Wagner has welcomed more guests to Hilton Head Island than anyone else – ever. It stands to reason. For more than a quarter century now, Nadia has been the heart and soul of The Shoppe at the Top of the Harbour Town Lighthouse, and the person most likely to welcome you when you come in the door at the foot of the 114 steps that lead there. A reasonable estimate would be that Nadia has welcomed about four and a half million guests over that threshold, over these years.
Could anyone else have greeted so many? The iconic, landmark nature of the lighthouse itself may account for the sheer numbers. After all, it is the very symbol of Hilton Head Island, and a spot that most everyone feels they must see sooner or later. “It would be like going to Paris and not visiting the Eifel Tower,” is one way of saying it.
More than the Many
Even greater than the sheer number of folks Nadia has welcomed to this iconic structure is the sincerity of Nadia’s welcome. Her eyes say she is really glad you came. People sense right away that there is nothing routine about their visit to the lighthouse. The lilt in Nadia’s voice and the light in her eyes converts a simple greeting into a moment of realization. It is clear that Nadia’s welcome comes from the heart.
This is a place where people experience extraordinary things. The beauty of what we can see from here, the shift in our point of view, the ever-changing tides and sky, the vast horizons all around – these sensations inspire people. For literally millions, Nadia’s welcome has been the beginning of this eye-opening experience.
Some Find it Life-Changing
A first kiss, a proposal, a wedding – so many friends return to the Harbour Town Lighthouse to celebrate the landmark event that occurred here, and to share their stories. Which came first – the sense of inspiration or the sincerity of the welcome they felt from Nadia as they arrived here at the lighthouse.
“It restores your faith in human nature,” one friend told us. “Nadia has never tired of seeing people come through the door. You feel like it sort of made her day.” The tireless generosity of the welcome people sense when they visit the Harbour Town Lighthouse seems almost super-human.
A few years ago, the cast and crew of TV’s The Today Show stopped by. One of the two longest-running programs in television history made the Harbour Town Lighthouse one of the spots they visited during a remote broadcast about Hilton Head Island.
As she welcomed those famous faces, as The Today Show cast stepped through the door, two things were remarkable. First, Nadia’s voice gave the same sense of sincerity as it had to any other guest that day, or that week, or that year. And second, we could see the weary Today Show cast light up and come to life toward the end of their long working day – even as they started up the 114 steps to the top.
There is magic here at the Harbour Town Lighthouse. We see it all the time. It seems to us that one of the natural wonders behind this magic is the generous heart of the faithful lighthouse keeper. Come visit and say hello. We’re sure you’ll be glad you did.