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Artist named NL Maritime Society’s ‘New Volunteer of the Year’

After more than 20 years, Christina Corcoran quit her job in manufacturing to become a history teacher and started volunteering at the Custom House Maritime Museum as a docent. Last month, she was honored by the New London Maritime Society and named New Volunteer of the Year.

“I’m having so much fun at the Custom House,” she said. “The volunteers at the museum have taught me so much about New London and maritime history.”

Corcoran, who grew up in Waterford and now lives in Uncasville, said she started working for Thomas G. Faria Corp., now Faria Beede Instruments Inc., when she was 25, and she loved the challenge and her coworkers. She worked as a production supervisor, and it was difficult for her to leave, but she had always wanted to be a teacher.

“The years went by very quickly as I raised my children, and before I knew it, they were in college and I was not much closer to getting my degree, other than attending Lyme Academy of Fine Art part time for several years,” she said.

While still working full time, Corcoran went back to school in 2008 at night to get her associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees and left Faria Beede to start the student teaching portion of her program. She said it was tough being the oldest person in her classes — she gave her age as “at least 45” — but she was inspired by her sister’s decision to go back to school as an adult to become a nurse.

“I was nervous about leaving after such a long time and attempting a career change after so many years,” she said. “I also wanted to set a good example for my children and make them proud of me. I wanted to show them that it is never too late to follow a dream.”

Corcoran came to the Custom House in April as a teaching opportunity outside the classroom. There, she could use her history expertise as well as her painting skills, which are currently featured on a mural on the back wall of the museum.

“Once you start muraling, you cannot stop,” she said. “It’s so fun.”

Susan Tamulevich, executive director of the Custom House, said the lively mural depicts various maritime themes including a lighthouse, a whaling ship and the whales themselves.

“You can see it from down on the waterfront,” she said. “It’s just great.”

In addition to painting the back mural, Corcoran volunteers as a docent for the museum. This summer, she served as a crew member on the “Amistad,” and she worked with New London third-graders on the boat as part of the museum’s local history program. She also gives lighthouse tours and works with several Waterford High School students who volunteer on various projects at the Custom House, including the mural.

“Christina adds to that welcoming face that people see when they come to the museum, and she has a lot of enthusiasm,” Tamulevich said. “She’s one of the best docents we’ve ever had.”

Corcoran was honored at the New London Maritime Society’s annual meeting Nov. 13. Also at the meeting, outgoing vice president Rob Pittaway received the Volunteer of the Year Award for his work on museum maintenance and restoration projects.

When she’s not at the museum, Corcoran works as a substitute teacher while she waits for a social studies teacher position to open. She said she’s excited to start a painting for the Amistad room at the Custom House in honor of the 175th anniversary of the slaves’ return to Africa.

“The Maritime Museum is a place where I feel I can make a meaningful contribution to the community and meet wonderful and interesting people,” she said.


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