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Navy to search for painting by Maine artist

LOVELL, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- An artist from Lovell is hoping the U.S. Navy can track down one of his paintings.

It was done 25 years ago to honor Admiral Arleigh Burke, the namesake of a new class of Navy destroyer, which are still being built at Bath Iron Works.

Burke made a name for himself in World War Two and then as Chief of Naval Operations under President Eisenhower.

The ship that carries his name was numbered DFG-51, and the shipyard and the Navy still use that term when referring to contracts for new models of similar design.

The USS Burke was the first of its class, so artist Roger Williams of Lovell offered to donate a painting of Admiral Burke to the chip to mark the occasion. The painting and donation suggested by Charles Cragin, a former candidate for Governor of Maine who at the time was also a naval officer.

“To be asked to do it was an honor,” said Williams at his studio in Lovell on Tuesday.

Williams presented the painting to the Burke’s captain at the ship’s commissioning in Norfolk, Virginia in 1991. It was hung in the officers’ wardroom of the ship, and there it stayed. Or so thought the artist.

Twenty-five years later, in July of this year, the Navy held a ceremony in Norfolk to mark the 25th anniversary of the commissioning. Williams says he and his wife, and Cragin, attended, so he could check on the painting.

“And we went down to check on the painting and it wasn’t there,” he said. “And the current captain didn’t know much about it.”

Jane Williams said she was unhappy about the missing painting, saying Tuesday is seemed the Navy had not taken proper care of it.

Roger Williams thinks the painting left the ship during one of several overhauls. He told NEWS CENTER he suspects they removed everything from the wardroom of the ship to remodel the space, and that the painting never made it back.

Jane Williams says a search of the ship that day turned up a different painting of Admiral Burke, and a print of Williams’ oil painting. That print was the same as several the artist says adorn the walls of the Pentagon in Washington.

Now Roger and Jane Williams want the original painting found, wherever it is.

“I have a feeling it might be in a box someplace in a warehouse but who knows?”

Their friend Charlie Cragin spoke about the painting with the Chief of Naval Operations. And Senator Susan Collins spokesperson says Collins contact the Navy about the missing artwork, and has been told a formal investigation will be conducted to find it.

Cragin says the painting may be worth $50,000 or more.

Roger Williams says he wants it found, reconditioned if needed, and then returned to the ship.

Jane Williams says the painting belongs in a museum, but not on the USS Burke which, at 25 years old, is still in service in the Navy.

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