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Merrimack Valley

August 29, 2013

Free Tilly

Iconic whale will be repaired, brought back to Salisbury

Tilly the Whale was moved from her longtime home yesterday, to the delight of onlookers and the men who worked to rescue her.

It doesn’t really matter if you know it as Pinkie, due to its original hot pink stucco skin; Blinkie, because of its big eyes that lit up; Jesse, after Salisbury lifeguards painted their boss Jesse Parino’s name on it one night; or Tilly, for a reason no one can remember. Many Salisbury Beach residents have fond memories of the sculpture that’s been ensconced in the salt marsh for more than 50 years at what was once the home of Nat’s Fun Spot at 191 Beach Road.

The move yesterday saved the distressed sculpture from the wrecking ball just before the site turns into a 210-unit apartment complex.

“I always wanted to do this,” said Steven Contarino, vice president of Haverhill’s Adamson Industries. “Once it’s dug up, we’ll take it back to Haverhill. And like Humpty Dumpty, we’ll put it back together again.”

Contarino didn’t take on the physical challenge of the rescue alone. Dana Simard of Salisbury’s Simard’s Construction and Frank Coady of Lawrence’s Coady Towing were all on hand. All brought men and equipment at no charge to accomplish the salvage job, which could have cost as much as $10,000 if volunteers hadn’t been so generous.

“I remember the whale since ’62, when I was about 14 working for Simmie’s (Towing),” Coady said. “We have a lot of other things to do today, and we’ll do them, but we’ll do this, too.”

Simard smiled and nodded, as a small excavator arrived about 7:30 yesterday morning to attack the job of moving the degraded hulk. The excavator, its driver and others worked with shovels in hand, digging into the marsh muck and braving the swarms of midges that plagued everyone at the site early on.

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