This memorial honors Louis Henry Shirpser Jr. of Culver City who passed away quietly in his sleep at Brotman Medical Center on January 1, 2013. Louie, renown throughout Southern California beach communities as "the Boat Man," lived a rich life as a free-spirited craftsman of historical model ships.There are people in the world who seem barely noticed through the din and strum of living, and yet somehow manage to cut through the fog and find recognition for their art and creativity. Louie was one of those.
Louie struggled to overcome affliction and hardship by finding value in the cast aside little items of others and reshape them into works of true art.Throughout his years of walking the piers and boardwalks on the Pacific Coast, Louie managed to rescue popsicle sticks, bent straws, scraps of cloth, shards of driftwood and lengths of string from obsolescence.
Through his imagination and craftsmanship he transformed these bits of detritus into the mast and hulls and sails and bowsprits of the Bounding Main. Historical model ships, fine renditions of the Mayflower, the USS Constitution, the Flying Fish and many others, grace offices and fireplace mantles around the country.
Louie often caught the attention of newspaper lifestyle writers who would scribe paeans to his skills and creativity, despite his obstacles. And though it is virtually impossible to take the measure of a man's life without first walking in his shoes, these writers found amazement in the remarkable and penned the beauty of finding solace and purpose in creating artistic bridges over troubled waters.Joe Segura, writing for Beachweek measured the man ably, "If there's anyone who knows the troubled waters of life, its Shirpser, who has survived living on the edge most of his adult years.
Louie has spent much of his years homeless, interspersed with periods of incarceration and short string jobs as a cook and truck driver. Regardless of his situation, however, Shirpser has been able to create his majestic models, with towering masts that – on the real vessels – could propel the high-seas ships between continents, delivering explorers, treasures, pirates, armies and hordes of migrants seeking new worlds and lives."Louie lived ambitiously in certain respects.
Louie imagined and dreamed in large cinema-scope and made efforts to turn his model building into a sustained business venture. Calling the company Shirpser's Ships, he intended to dominate the seaside market for historical ship models. The Company's mission statement reflected his wide-angle view, "Shirpser's Ships will be a major competitive distributor of authentic historical hand-crafted model ships in Southern California."
Although the company never met his expectations, Louie did manage to hand craft over 300 historical ship models throughout his life. Each vessel a unique, highly detailed, tribute to craftsmanship, treasured by those who bought and displayed them. A life's venture that managed to turn the thrown away and tossed aside into majestic, towering works of art.
Louie's sister, Dr. Stella Odom, passed on this past September. He paid tribute to her, as was his way, by placing a small folded-paper boat with her for travels beyond. His cousins Linda Matthies and Joanne Mason, niece Julia Louise Lundgren and nephews James Louis Nicol, Jonathan Christopher Nicol and James Martin Prichard, survive him.