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