For Albert Robinson, giving a beloved handmade model of the USS Constitution to Massachusetts Maritime Academy was a lifelong dream.
Robinson died in 1986 when the college's single building wasn't big enough to accommodate the 9-foot-long, 5-foot-tall model he created.
But this summer, 26 years later, his labor of love has been placed in the new American Bureau of Shipping Information Commons, a reminder of Robinson's dedication to the school and to the school's deep connection to the ship itself.
"There was never any doubt in his mind of where he wanted that ship to go," Darlene Gilmor of Florida said about the project that occupied her father from 1978 until his death.
Robinson, a carpenter and cabinetmaker, began building model ships in the 1950s after a heart attack sidelined him from work, Gilmor said.
He had built two other model ships when he decided to take on the Constitution, which became "his life," she said.
"I mean, it was a regular working day for him," Gilmor said.
The model is based on plans of the Constitution and on Robinson's many visits to the ship's Boston berth from his home in West Newton.
"He would go back and forth to the Constitution and measure different things ... every weekend," she said.
The attention to detail is evident from the ship's hull — made from individual boards — to the hand-knotted ratlines and hand-hewn mahogany pulleys.
The ship's cannons, made from long brass tubes Robinson cut to size, actually work, his daughter said.
Throughout the painstaking project, Gilmor said, her father was insistent the ship's home should be the maritime academy from which her husband, Chuck Gilmor, graduated in 1963.
On the maritime academy's part, having a replica of the Constitution is a reminder to students and staff of the connection between the two.
During the school's first 50 years of operation, from 1892 to 1942, "MMA was a small tall ship tied up next to the Constitution. That's it," college president Adm. Richard Gurnon said.
Cadets did gymnastics and practice exercises on the Constitution's decks and helped create its sails, he said.
Then, in the mid-1990s, Gurnon was on a live television broadcast about the Constitution's renovation.
"I had two weeks to be an expert," he said.
From that experience he gained an expertise and passion, and the campus earned a refinished piece of the mizzen topmast from the original Constitution. It now serves as a flagpole.
During the years before MMA could accept the Constitution model, the Gilmors built four homes specifically around it, Darlene Gilmor said.
When Robinson's ship, valued at $15,000, was welcomed to the campus in June, the family was at first hesitant to give it up.
"But once they saw the building, they knew the decision was right," Darlene Gilmor said. "And my dad would have been thrilled."
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Article written by Heather Wysocki/Cape Cod Times
July 30, 2012