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‘Mariner’ rode seas of finance

I want to know the history of the fisherman statue at Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach.
— Barbara Platner, Singer Island

Seaman statue at the entrance to Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

The romantic figure of a grizzled skipper, hands at the wheel, seems perfect for seafaring Singer Island. But that wasn’t the “mariner’s” original home.

Its creator was noted muralist and sculptor Earl LaPan. His client was, not surprisingly, Mariner Bank. It stood on Broadway in Lake Park. The bank paid $18,000 for creation of the 14-foot-high, 2,500-pound statue in 1978.

The bank later closed, and in 1983, the mariner was loaded by crane and moved to Phil Foster Park. There it stood, in tribute to Jerry Thomas, who’d founded Mariner Bank in 1962. Thomas’ son Ken said in 1983 his father had been the model.

Jerry Thomas was in the Florida Senate from 1965 to 1972 and was president from 1971 to 1972. The banker-turned-politician wrote or co-sponsored hundreds of laws. He served on the Board of Regents and was an undersecretary in the U.S. Treasury Department under President Gerald Ford.

Thomas died of cancer at 51 in 1980. The bridge from Riviera Beach’s mainland to Singer Island and a Jupiter elementary school are named for him.

Then Senate President Jerry Thomas talking with artist Earl LaPan in 1972 before the unveiling of two murals LaPan created for the state senate. The mural in the background depicts Ponce De Leon landing in Florida. (Photo courtesy of the Political Collection of the Florida Photographic Collection, on the Florida Memory website of the State Library and Archives of Florida)

When Phil Foster Park was renovated in 2006, the mariner was moved about 20 feet east, and it has since been given a “sprucing up,” with fiber patches and some new structural support, Palm Beach County Parks director Eric Call said this month.

The mariner was a tiny piece of Earl LaPan’s résumé.

But perhaps his most famed Palm Beach County work is no longer here.

NEXT WEEK: The horses.

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg May 17, 2012 at 8:55 am.


2 Replies

  1. Mr. Kelinberg I enjoyed reading about the “Old Mariner”, it brought back many fond memories. I was witness to the to start of the Mariner’s move to Phil Foster. I would like to point out a major error on your part, there is no such street/highway called Broadway in the Town of Lake Park, nor has the town ever had a street/highway by that name. Broadway’s northward journey ends at Silver Beach Rd. in Palm Beach county and US 1 in Lake Park is called Federal Hwy.

  2. Palm Beach Post Staff Researchers May 25th 2012

    Thank you Chuck. After you and other readers pointed it out, Eliot corrected the error in this week’s column, online here:

    The bank was First Marine Bank & Trust Company of the Palm Beaches and was at 20th Street and Broadway in Riviera Beach, not in Lake Park.

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