by Sharon Cohen
My first encounter with the magic of Mystic Seaport Museum was as a young girl on a family vacation. We spent a wonderful summer day exploring the grounds and historic vessels and participating in the many programs offered to visitors. A request from my father to explore below decks on the Joseph Conrad resulted in us learning about the Conrad summer sailing program. My father, who had developed an interest in sailing as an undergrad at UCLA, had recently been teaching us to sail on a lake near our New Jersey home. We both knew at that moment, I would return the following summer to attend the Conrad sailing program, which enabled me to spend an entire week at the Museum and to live aboard the ship with other teenagers from around the country. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the course of my life was changed forever. In subsequent years, I returned to the Conrad program several times, followed by multiple trips aboard Schooner Brilliant and then back again as a Conrad program counselor during my first two college summers.
Each of these experiences was truly an adventure and instilled in me a deep interest in the maritime heritage of our nation as well as an abiding passion for the magic of Mystic Seaport Museum and the valuable experiences it offers to young people of all ages. After college and graduate school, I pursued a career in financial services, but never forgot the sense of wonder and joy I had felt at Mystic Seaport Museum. I often drove north from my then-home in Wilmington, Delaware, to visit and sail with the friends I’d made during my Museum summers. Years later, after moving to Boston, I was fortunate enough to purchase a historic home in Noank on the Mystic River at the strong urging of those longtime friends, so that I could once again be a part of the local sailing community and re-engage with Mystic Seaport Museum. Over the years, my interest in and connection to the Museum deepened and I became an active adult member and supporter of the Museum’s mission, even as it evolved from the place that I knew as a young girl.
Almost 15 years ago, I met my husband Stephen, a fellow sailing enthusiast, through the Noank sailing community. This year, 2019, will be the 10th anniversary of our wedding. When we got married, we asked that, in lieu of wedding gifts, our friends and family contribute to the restoration of the Charles W. Morgan. Not long thereafter, I was thrilled to be invited to join the Board of Trustees of Mystic Seaport Museum. Over the past decade, Stephen and I have been honored to be included in such inspiring initiatives as the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan in 2014 and the construction of the Thompson Exhibition Building in 2015-2016.
The Museum, its multi-faceted programs and its community have become an integral part of our lives. As we recently updated our estate plan, I knew that I wanted to help preserve the Museum and all that it offers for future generations. To that end, I have included Mystic Seaport Museum as a remainder beneficiary of my estate. This decision was an easy one, as it acknowledges the incredible role that the Museum has had in my life and that it can have in the lives of others. Knowledge and understanding of our maritime past, the joy found in the self-reliance learned on the water and respect for the marine environment are all crucially important to the well-being of individuals, communities and the future of our nation.
Please join us in this important philanthropic act to strengthen the Museum so that future generations may experience the same sense of wonderment, adventure, and magic that we have.