Winter puts an end to Tilly the whale

Staff file photoMary Beth St. Cyr is photographed in 2013 in front of Tilly before it was lifted to be refurbished in Haverhill. St. Cyr’s late father, Charlie, is believed to be the one who built the model whale in the late 1950s. Unfortunately, Tilly did not survive the rough winter and the sculpture is unable to be fixed.

SALISBURY — Despite a valiant effort by Salisbury Beach enthusiasts and her many fans, this winter brought an end to a piece of the beach: Tilly, the 50-year-old, large, pink stucco whale.

Whether known as Pinkie, due to her original hot pink stucco skin; Blinkie, because of her big eyes that lit up; Jesse, after former Salisbury lifeguard supervisor Jesse Parino; or Tilly, for no explicable reason, the whale is a treasured piece of Salisbury Beach memorabilia that many worked to save before the former amusement park where she stood, Nat’s Fun Spot, was torn up to become an apartment complex.

In 2013, volunteers and supporters banded together to launch a movement to save the hollow sculpture. The plan was to bring Tilly to Adamson Industries in Haverhill so, “like Humpty Dumpty,” everyone would put Tilly back together again and return her to another Salisbury site, where she would welcome future generations to the beach, company vice president Steven Contarino said. 

Unfortunately, those plans never progressed and Contarino expressed remorse that volunteers never came forward to fix Tilly. The sculpture stayed packed away at the Haverhill property.

And this winter and its more than 100 inches of snow was just too much for Tilly to handle.

“Unfortunately, Tilly is not going to be restored,” Contarino wrote to The Daily News last week. “The heavy snow was not kind to her, and it will now only be a memory in the minds of children who are now adults.”

Thousands of dollars in labor and equipment went into the removal effort. The statue needed a lot of work, not the least of which was to its interior metal framework that once supported the huge stucco body’s weight. Languishing in pieces — large and small — during a second and very harsh winter, Tilly just didn’t survive, Contarino said.

“Pictures (of Tilly) should be treasured by those who have them,” he added.

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