CORNISH – Lawrence Joseph Nowlan Jr. of Cornish died Tuesday, July 30. He was 48 years old.
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Nowlan was born to the late Lawrence and Jeanne Nowlan, Jan. 11, 1965, in Philadelphia, Pa., and raised in the city's Overbrook section.
His paternal grandfather sang, Sinatra-like, to the Nowlan babies 'doobie doobie doo' and the nickname stuck with Doobie. From his maternal grandfather, Philip Nowlan, creator of the Buck Rogers character, Doobie inherited an early interest in art that he would transform into a passion that would touch thousands of people around the world.
Our lives are often compared to a lump of clay that we can mold into different realities and this analogy was never more accurate than it was with Doobie who made a career of transforming clay and had a passion for transforming his life. "He was constantly evolving and improving as a human being," recalled a lifelong friend.
Doobie graduated from Archbishop John Carroll High School in 1983. He received a Bachelor or Arts in Fine Art from Millersville University in Millersville, Pa., in 1987 and, in 1996, earned a Master of Arts from the New York Academy of Art Graduate School of Figurative Art.
In 1995, Doobie was invited to serve as artist-in-residence at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish. A prestigious position for a young sculptor, Doobie held the residency for five years, at which time he became immersed in the work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a master of the American Renaissance.
It was at Saint-Gaudens where he met his wife of 10 years, Heather Wiley, who was serving as a Student Conservation Association intern at a National Historic Site. The couple was married in 2003 and have two children, Monet, 7 and Teelin, 4. Doobie is also survived by six siblings: Peter, Jeanne, Susan, Joseph, Nancy and Danielle; many cousins, nieces and nephews; and countless friends from a life well lived.
Doobie embraced New England and sculpted in an archetypal New England church in Windsor, Vt., whose cathedral ceilings allowed him to work on a huge scale. As his talent for sculpting figurative and bas relief likenesses with realistic emotion gained prominence, he received important commissions for private and public installations from patrons all around the world.
In 2000, he created the National Wildland Firefighters Monument in Boise, Idaho, and a heroic statue of Ralph Kramden that welcomes visitors to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City. In 2001, he was commissioned to develop sculpted awards for the VH1 Music Awards and ESPN's Espys. In 2002, he created an impressive 7-foot angel fountain at the Cornish Colony Museum and the Windsor (Vt.) War Memorial, which features a soldier who is modeled after the artist's father.
In 2007, after years of work, he unveiled massive tributes to 1939 Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick for the University of Iowa and was later again commissioned by the university to do monuments for legendary swimmer Jack Sieg and Olympic wrestler Dan Gable. He created an iconic sea life bronze installation for the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., in 2008.
Because of his unique association with Augustus Saint-Gaudens, in 2007 the city of Dublin, Ireland, commissioned Doobie to create a public relief portrait to commemorate the 19th-century sculptor's birthplace. Annually, Doobie would create bronze portraits for the latest inductees into the Culinary Institute of America's Vintners Hall of Fame in St. Helena, Califo., which currently holds more than 40 of his amazing reliefs.
Doobie was a lifelong athlete and sports fan, and athletes were often the subject of his figurative studies. A passionate fan of all of Philadelphia's professional teams, Doobie led a multi-year, unprecedented, fan-funded effort to memorialize Harry Kalas, beloved longtime announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies, that was prominently installed in Citizens Bank Park in 2011.
In 2012, Iowa State University unveiled a life-sized monument of legendary track-and-field coach Bill Bergen and in early 2013, Kimball Union Academy unveiled a powerful wildcat sculpture on their campus in Meriden.
Also this year the city of Philadelphia awarded the artist a commission to sculpt a memorial to Joe Frazier, the legendary heavyweight boxer. To have a public piece of art in the city he loved so much was truly a dream come true for Doobie.
Doobie's impressive portfolio of commissions, all of which were sculpted with amazing accuracy and passionate precision were all delivered with something else for which the artist had become well known. When Doobie sculpted a subject he really got to know them or their family on a very personal level. Clients not only got a beautiful piece of artwork they were also proud to call Nowlan their true friend.
Beyond a successful career as an artist, Doobie was a superb father and a devoted husband and these titles were equally important to the gregarious man who had thousands of friends around the world. Always generous with both his time and resources, he was a person who went out of his way to make someone else's day brighter and better simply because it made him feel fulfilled.
A public memorial will be held on Friday, Aug. 9, starting at 4 p.m. at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish. A memorial tribute in the Philadelphia area will be announced at a later date. The Knight Funeral Home in Windsor is assisting with arrangements. Condolences may be expressed to Doobie's family in an online guestbook at knightfuneralhomes.com.
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made to a children's educational fund: People's United Bank, FBO Heather Nowlan, 50 N. Main St., Windsor, Vt. 05089.
Knight Funeral Home
65 Ascutney St Windsor, VT 05089
Published in The Concord Monitor on Aug. 5, 2013