Missed connection leads Wanderer model to museum

May 20, 2024

MATTAPOISETT — George Lowery felt something tragic must have happened.

A master model shipbuilder, Lowery had completed a piece commissioned by Mattapoisett resident Ed Beemer after the two men had first met at an art show in Scottsdale, Arizona.

It took two years to create. Lowery emailed Beemer that the authentic model of the Wanderer, which he knew Beemer badly wanted, was finished. He didn’t hear back.

That model of the last whaleship built in Mattapoisett, and which wrecked on Cuttyhunk Island in 1924, was formally unveiled May 19 at the Mattapoisett Museum.

The ceremony revealed the story, “almost a miracle,” Lowery said, of how he eventually donated the model ship he spent more than 2,000 hours working on to the museum.

He completed the ship in May 2019, according to its certificate of authenticity. It is valued at $90,000.

To create the small-scale replication, Lowery drew upon plans and drawings of the ship from the New Bedford Whaling Museum and photographs from the Mattapoisett Museum.

To express gratitude, Lowery sent photographs of the completed piece to Mattapoisett Museum curator Connor Gaudet, he said. Lowery and Gaudet began communicating back and forth.

Ed Beemer was the reason the model existed at all, the reason Lowery spent thousands of hours across two years to create the small-scale ship accurate to the finest detail. Yet the Mattapoisett resident had seemingly never written back upon the piece’s completion. Lowery assumed the worst. The authentic Wanderer replica sat in his Arizona house.

“I said, ‘It should go home to Mattapoisett,’” Lowery recalled.

He asked to donate the model to the Mattapoisett Museum, where a reception marking the gift was held Sunday with addresses by Gaudet and Lowery, who had traveled from Phoenix to Mattapoisett for the occasion by way of an eight hour drive from Maryland.

Just prior to the donation ceremony, Ed Beemer reintroduced himself to the master model shipbuilder.

He had replied to Lowery’s email, Beemer said. The note Lowery never saw from Beemer conveyed that he had some medical expenses and wouldn’t be able to afford the model, Beemer said.

The unveiling at the Mattapoisett Museum was the first time Beemer had seen Lowery since the art show in Scottsdale years earlier. It was the first time he was seeing the model of the Wanderer he originally commissioned there too.

“It is pretty amazing to see it,” he said. “You never know what a conversation three quarters of the way across the country will end up something like this.”

Gaudet, the curator of the Mattapoisett Museum, said Lowery’s replication is “not just another model of the Wanderer.”

“I learn something new every time I look at it, every time I talk to George,” he said.

The Wanderer, built in Mattapoisett in the late 19th century, is something the town takes pride in, according to Gaudet.

The museum’s pews were filled, while some had to stand, during the unveiling of the model ship — “people wanting to welcome it home,” he said.

The authentic replica first arrived in Mattapoisett from Phoenix in January.  The trip damaged Lowery’s model.

He had previously been in touch with Mattapoisett resident David Considine, also a model shipbuilder. Lowery asked him to repair the Wanderer.

“He did a magnificent job putting it back together,” Lowery said.

Lowery recognized Beemer and Considine during the ceremony.

Beemer said Lowery’s donation of the “work of art” to the museum is “just a wonderful thing.”

“I’m very, very glad that he donated it to the museum,” he said. “It’s the best place for it.”

The model will be the centerpiece to an summer exhibit at the Mattapoisett Museum regarding the Wanderer’s local significance and impact, according to Gaudet.

An April announcement by the museum said the display will explore why the whaleship has been honored and venerated during the 100 years since it shipwrecked. The exhibit will ask questions too, like “‘Why is the Wanderer iconic?’” the material said.

“And ‘Why do we love her so?’”