Late Lucille Showalter to be feted at Founders Day luncheon

Portrait of Lucille Showalter, founder of the Custom House Maritime Museum in New London, painted by New London artist Michael J. Peery.
Portrait of Lucille Showalter, founder of the Custom House Maritime Museum in New London, painted by New London artist Michael J. Peery.

New London - When it came time to honor the founder of the New London Maritime Society, officials at the Custom House Museum agreed on an oil painting of the late Lucille M. Showalter.

One of her sons, Craig Showalter, was asked if he would prefer a bronze plaque or or portrait. "He felt she was such a colorful person, she deserved a colorful portrait,'' said Susan Tamulevich, executive director of the museum.

The 18-by-24-inch portrait of Mrs. Showalter will be unveiled Sunday during the society's 29th annual Founders Day luncheon at the Officer's Club at the Coast Guard Academy.

"She was one of those people who had energy. She was tireless," Vinnie Belbruno said of her longtime friend. "She would stay up all night and do things that had to be done. I don't know when she slept."

Showalter, a local history buff who taught students at Mitchell College and New London Adult Education, was the founder and longtime head of the Robert Mills Custom House Maritime Museum. She died in 2000 at age 79.

Belbruno, who met Showalter more than 50 years ago, said it was her friend's dogged perseverance in the early 1980s that prevented the Custom House from being turned into a French restaurant or condominiums.

"I believe it was because of Lucille ... that the Custom House Museum became a reality,'' she said.

Belbruno, Bill LaRoue and Russ DeMarco will talk about Showalter at the luncheon.

In the 1980s, the Custom House, which was designed by Robert Mills and had been operating since 1883, was in danger of being closed. Showalter organized other history buffs in the area and raised more than $500,000 to save the building.

The Custom House commissioned artist Michael Peery, who has a studio on Bank Street across from the museum, to paint the portrait. It will hang on the second floor of the museum outside the meeting room that is also named for Showalter.

The Founders Day celebration, which will take place 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., will also honor the Coast Guard's International Ice Patrol,which was created after the Titanic sank 100 years ago in the north Atlantic Ocean. Since 1913, the Coast Guard has managed and operated the ice patrol unit at Fort Trumbull.

The mission of the unit is to monitor iceberg danger near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and provide iceberg data to the maritime community. Since the patrol was established, no ship heeding their warnings has struck an iceberg.

Guest speaker will be Donald L. Murphy, a native New Londoner who for the past 28 years has been the chief scientist at the ice patrol. His talk is called "International Ice Patrol: For the purpose of safeguarding life and property at sea."

Tickets to the event are $35 for society members and $40 for non-members. To reserve a ticket call (860) 447-2501.



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