Museum gains new artwork at annual meeting

The Spirit of ’76 Museum added another original Archibald Willard painting to its collection on Oct. 11 at the Southern Lorain County Historical Society’s annual meeting, thanks to a generous donation made by three siblings.

Cheryl Iacofano and Gayle Eble were in attendance at the meeting to reveal a large portrait of their then 4-year-old great-uncle George Berry Watterson. Their brother, Robert Gockel, was unable to attend. The portrait, commissioned by George’s parents, Sherman and Ellen Watterson, was painted by Willard in 1897 and has passed down through the family.

IMG_3191George went on to have a full life, graduating from University School in Cleveland in 1912, and then Yale University in 1915. He worked as a superintendent for the Picker X-ray Corporation, and a cost accountant for Thompson Aircraft Company, but his hobby revolved around making inlaid furniture. Much of George’s home was filled with furniture he personally built for he and his wife, Helen Price, whom he married in 1920.

After George’s death in 1947, the portrait remained in the care of Helen, and was passed to Robert and Shirley Gockel, the donors’ parents until their recent passing.

The siblings donated the portrait to The Spirit of ’76 Museum in honor of their parents as well as their great-aunt. The painting is now on display at the museum during regular visiting hours.

Also included in the meeting was the election of new officers to the board of trustees. Tim Rolfe was reelected to the roll of President in a contested race, and Becky Norton was elected to the roll of Vice President. Norton was uncontested.

After a short business meeting, and an acknowledgement of the museum’s 50th anniversary, author Randy Koch delivered a short presentation titled, “Slavery, Sandusky, and the Underground Railroad.” The presentation lasted around 30 minutes and was followed by several questions from the audience.

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