Notable Characters

Notable Characters of the 1970′ s – 90’s

These were people who stuck out in there own special way and were known of by the general populous of Newburyport for a specific extraordinary reason.

Duncan Chase Old Hill Burying Ground
Duncan Chase Old Hill Burying Ground - Photo by: John Frost

Duncan Chase

– 19 Oct 1919 – Sep 1980. Town Drunk. In the 70’d this was a perfectly acceptable title. It may seem harsh in todays society to some, although Duncan seemed like he was the life of the party, even when there was no party to be had anywhere. You would always hear him say, “I’m a cool cool cat.” Then after that he would belt out a loud meow as he breathed in. He is buried at the Old Hill Burial Ground. His gravestone actually tells you he’s a cool cat!  Ironically he looked like actor Foster Brooks.

Larry Howard– The Town Weeper. A frequent addition to any wake and funeral in town. You would think Larry showed up at funerals of people he didn’t know. Larry was seen all over town, so he probably knew everyone anyway.

Christopher Michael aka Michael Lee Stevens– Born 1924, Artist/Poet and flamboyantly dressed figure. He was seen walking his small corgi dog around town.

Tex– the guy with the cowboy hat, farmer overalls, riding a bike with a small dog in a handlebar basket all around town. I’m sure Tex was not his real name, but that is what us young kids called him as I recall. Do you know his name?

Frank Dalton, aka Fran- Photographer of Newburyport Scenery. I own one of his prints of the Bartlet Mall.

Dennis Brown– On any given day you could have seen Dennis’s black limo cruise through town. Convicted on illegal non pharmaceuticals, he was also known by some to have given back to the community. Years ago in the early 90’s I saw him at a family function, with his lovely blond wife and 2 beautiful young daughters. He was sporting a well tailored tan suite and some sparkling rings on his fingers. He unfortunately decided to involve himself in a transaction a week later that sent him to the pokey. Word was, he usually didn’t participate in such transactions anymore – personally that is. Although, not endorsed in the slightest by any town authority, he once showed up at Park Circle in his Limo with a trunk full of shoes for all the less fortunate children. Love him or hate him, but like a successful businessman he possessed a kind of charisma that radiated across a room. It was just the goods that were the problem…

Richard Miller– 7 Nov 1946 – Jul 1987. Resident of the YMCA on State St who perished in a fire that destroyed the building in July of 1987. He was a large quiet figure who you would often see hanging in the downtown area.

Leroy Lewis – Cop around town. He seemed to be liked by many and seemed to always be smiling while on the beat.

Buzzy Lawler – Son of former Mayor George Lawler. He enjoyed talking to others over the CB radio during the late 70’s and early 80’s when it was cool too. His call name was Spider Man. You would see him around town a bit on his bike. -Kind and friendly character.

Melvin – Info needed.

Andrew aka “Bossy” Gillis – 1896-1965 He was a 7 time Mayor of Newburyport.  He was like a rooster in a hen house…you had to like him whether you wanted to or not.  More Info

95 Responses to Notable Characters

  1. wasn’t Franks/Frans girl friends name Marian? I think she was the sister of Ray Lyons owner of R&L packy on Storey Ave? She ran the info booth at the Bartlett Mall for years. She was very well dressed and loved bright orange nail polish, much like Fran. She was alot older then he was.

    joppa girl February 1, 2010 at 2:29 pm Reply
  2. The hermit was Jack Helphant or Halphant.

    p. j. nichypor February 4, 2010 at 7:18 pm Reply
  3. I knew Frank/Fran and Chris Michael quite well as well as Fred Souther. Are you referring to the Fred Souther who bought a new burgandy Harly Sportster? You speak of them in the past tense…have they passed? I’ve been in the midwest for many years. And how about Tuck Cullen? I know he died but does anyone remember him?

    Dick Brown April 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm Reply
  4. I am intrigued by the conversation here, sporadic as it may be, but am curious that no one has really brought up the artists that have called the port home (other than some brief comments about Frank Dalton), What about Jim Mickelson, or Jon Kodwyck? These chaps were well known and critically acclaimed in NBPT, and beyond. Hasn’t anyone ever seen Jim’s portrait of Duncan Chase in the Grog? Perhaps a better question would be, who hasn’t seen it?

    R Summers May 4, 2010 at 9:10 pm Reply
  5. I have seen Duncan’s portrait hanging in the foyer of the Grog entrance about 10 years ago. I never knew who painted it though. If anyone can photograph it I think it would look really nice on this site!

    Shawn G - Moderator May 17, 2010 at 11:47 pm Reply
  6. Wow…
    Richard Miller.
    I would walk to R.A.Nock from my house on Pike Street, and I would go up State street everyday and chat with Richard. On my way home I would see him sitting in the curved brick stairwell/porch of the YMCA, we would talk at length about nothing that I can remember now.
    I remember specifically going home the day before it burned down and I honestly had a bad feeling. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, it was hot, so the windows were open and there were loud sirens and the air reeked. Somehow I knew it was very bad.
    The next day I saw the destroyed building, and I found out that Richard died…he was the only person that died. I recall it was from smoke inhalation, at least that’s what was in the Daily News I think.
    I was pissed and devastated, I had some friends at school, but he was a grown-up! I was depressed for weeks, crying at night, not understanding why; I remember my mom helping get over it by talking bout him, and treating him as though he really was my friend (which he was).
    I was always attracted to the “invisible” side of nbpt: the undeveloped far east end of the boardwalk; sneaking out back behind Starboard Galley, and hanging out on the docks back there; skulking around Old Burial Hill, and the Pierce Crypt (where the bodies had been bothered ( I remember the story of a corpse stuffed into a phone booth by Richdale’s, true? not true?), and the lady that choked to death on a pea; sneaking into the Cupola at NHS.
    So naturally I came up with the awesome idea of sneaking into the now burnt-out YMCA. I can’t remember what I did inside, but I did get in and walked around. Not the brightest idea ever, but it did help me deal with loss of Richard.
    I remember when they destroyed the brick shell to make way for a small park.
    After he was gone, and the building was gone, I still remembered them both, I’m so glad some of you do too.

    Chris Becker May 24, 2010 at 10:57 pm Reply
  7. [img] Chase.jpg[/img]

    Duncan Chase

    portrait painted by Jim Mickelson

    currently owned by Grog owner Richard Simkins, and hanging in main room of the bar, above the fireplace

    R Summers September 11, 2010 at 9:21 pm Reply
  8. Here’s another portrait of a notable character also done by Jim Mickelson…..not as famous as Duncan Chase….anybody know who this is?

    north_ender January 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm Reply
  9. [img][/img]

    north_ender January 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm Reply
  10. Could that last painting be Lee Stevens???

    dmeaton2 January 12, 2011 at 10:03 am Reply
  11. Melvin’s last name was Russell, and all I can say is he use to scare young ladies on the sidewalk by saying stuff like, “Hi pretty girls, can I have a kiss?” and he would make smooching sounds and we would run off laughing. It’s funny, because now working w/ behaviors for 9 years and understanding more about special needs, he wouldn’t bother me at all….I just had to mature I guess…

    Jennsart January 12, 2011 at 11:41 am Reply
  12. The portrait of the man in woman’s clothing may be Frank Dalton.

    Jennsart January 12, 2011 at 12:08 pm Reply
  13. Tex lived with my uncle Sheldon Lane in the south end for a while. After he died rumor has it that Tex stole some guns ! Sheldon had hundreds lol !

    judy lane January 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm Reply
  14. Does any one remember Sammie Howard? He was always in the parades and was an advocate for the March of Dimes?

    Laura Walton-Logan January 12, 2011 at 9:16 pm Reply
  15. Does anyone remember the 3sisters that use to walk around together and pick up cig.butts off the sts.they lived at the n.end melvin is still living he is a cousin of marsha russell who is married to my ex larry russell is tommy russells brother.the police off.of nbpt.

    elsie gilkey January 12, 2011 at 9:31 pm Reply
  16. Saw Melvin walking around town a few yrs ago…remember my 1st job at Bergeson’s in the 70’s if you drew duty at the take out you also got the counter which meant your customers would be Melvin, Duncan, etc. I usually lost money on those shifts covering for them haha – Nbpt needs another Bergesons downtown.

    D Cox January 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm Reply
  17. Leroy Lewis use to live in one of my parents apartments on Merrimac St. He lived there with his wife Pat at the time. I recall he lived underneath our apartment, and one day informed my mom about all the pot plants my brother Jeff had planted in her flower garden. She was weeding around them thinking they were flowers of some sort. She pulled them all out after he told her that there was a $250. fine for each one!
    Leroy later married Jeff Teagues mom.
    Weepa AKA Larry Howard still lives on Merrimac St. he got his nicname by going to every funeral in town and crying like he just lost his best friend, even if he never knew them. He still continues to call 911 I hear weekly for minor problems, costing the Newburyport tax payer $$ for the service….gotta love Larry! 🙂

    Jennsart January 13, 2011 at 4:53 pm Reply
  18. Melvin Russell is still a “ladies man” however he has calmed down on the pick up lines. I knew him when I was younger from State St. and now I know him better, I too have been working in the mental health field and had the opporitunity to hear his many stories about his past some funny some really sad. He still tries to pick up the ladies but certainly not in the manner he had in the past. Everyone used to think it was funny (some still do) when he would talk that way to girls which made him want to do that, he just wants people approval and friendship, he likes to make people happy.

    tm1985 January 16, 2011 at 10:55 pm Reply
  19. D. Brown was mentioned above, I knew him well, my family knew him well… I was named after one of his childrens mothers. I know a lot about his past, most of my life my father and mother were involved with him. My father of course wasn’t around much due to his involvement with D. Brown. D. Brown was around from the day I was born till he was put away and some time after his release years ago during his fight with cancer. There are so many stories I have in writting thanks to my grandmother about my childhood involving D. Brown and many other Newburyport, Amesbury, Salisbury and Rowley “characters”.

    tm1985 January 16, 2011 at 11:06 pm Reply
  20. I have the article “The Rise and Fall of Dennis Brown” from September 1990 and I was trying to find a way I could get another copy of it if that I possible because the one I have isnt in very good condition and its part of my past. If anyone knows of where I may be able to find one please let know.

    tm1985 January 16, 2011 at 11:14 pm Reply
  21. I’m sorry all I misunderstood Melvin he said “junior russell” not Tuna LOL

    tm1985 January 18, 2011 at 8:07 pm Reply
  22. everyone forgot jungle jim, there was always a good fight when jungle was loaded ! he hung out at a club on the corner of harris and green street,

    dave driscoll jr March 20, 2011 at 10:00 pm Reply
  23. What about Madeline Lunt? She had a taxi cab and drove all around nbpt.
    She wore the same long dark green coat that looked like it was stuck to her skin. She looked like a man. She was so gross!!!

    mrsmobile1 April 23, 2012 at 11:52 am Reply
  24. Ray Clark – Ray certainly had problems but was a good guy and probably the most brilliant math genius I have ever known. He would wait until the one minute warning in math class and quickly write the answers down so Tod couldn’t copy. Had a perfect score on the ITT state math contest dispite arriving one hour late.
    Still rivers run deep. What he lacked in social skills he made up in math. He could do it all in his head. Today he would be described as suffering from Asbergers.

    Joe McLaughlin May 2, 2012 at 11:12 am Reply
  25. I remember as a child in the 60s going to the public library with my mother there would usually be a group of “hippies” hanging out on the steps. I remember one of them had a nickname of “Brillo” as he had red hair in the shape of an affro….I never knew his real name or the name of the other guys. I remember my mother being a little afraid of them, but I was never afraid…they never bothered anyone and they were just having some laughs….I thought they were funny….lol. I often wonder if “Brillo” is still around and what his real name was?

    Maria Hayes Gilfus February 19, 2013 at 11:37 am Reply
  26. Also….does anyone remember a woman who used to eat raw hamburg in public (probably in the late 60s)? I was young at the time and I can remember seeing her in the downtown area….mostly around City Hall. I remember seeing her sitting on the steps of City Hall eating her raw hamburg. I never knew who she was. There was also another lady I used to call the “cat lady” as she owned many cats…..they finally made her get rid of them. She used to have a female friend as well…I remember seeing them at the shopping plaza and they were always verbally fighting….again, I do not know their names. The last I knew the “cat lady” lived was on the upper part of Kent St. I haven’t seen them in quite a few years, so I don’t know if either of them are still around.

    Maria Hayes Gilfus February 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm Reply
  27. Now, this is going back..anyone old enough to remember Meho? How about Dummy Merritt? Dummy lived at the “poor farm” on North Atkinson St., couldn’t speak but was harmless.

    krm May 23, 2013 at 10:47 pm Reply
  28. Maria – Brillo’s name was Billy Drouin. I can’t think of the other guys names at the moment. The hung around outside of Taffy’s late 60’s early 70’s. Someone was throwing out a lot of nicknames but didn’t include Lumpy. Lumpy was know by a lot of people in the area and grew up at the top of Carter St. Someone also named members of the Souther family and forgot Jimmy. Jenn – I remember when Leroy lived in the apartment at your house. I never heard about the pot plants that Jeff planted in your yard but my mother put what we had told her were African violets in her garden that ran along the side of our driveway. Leroy pulled in in the cruiser one day and was talking to her right next to that plant. I don’t think he ever noticed it but we got it out of there damn quick. Leroy was one of the “good” cops.

    lmbeaulieu June 13, 2013 at 9:56 pm Reply
  29. the cat lady was Madelin Lunt..had that old beat up 36′ chevy she ran as a taxi service…can’t imagine getting in her cab…probably smelled like cat piss…and there was no phone number painted on the side…never looked in phone book to see if she had a yellow pages ad…………she live on federal I think

    rick myers June 26, 2013 at 7:15 pm Reply
  30. I just happened onto this site today and have been reading it and enjoying it. Some of the names I knew but others no. I moved to NH in 60 so my ties were in other places, except when I went home to my parents home.
    Some one mentioned Earl Merritt, aka Dummy. He was the first one of the notables that I ever knew. He lived at the Horton Home, called the poor farm. My grandparents lived diagonally across from there on Low St. I don’t remember what her official title was but a friend of my grandmother, Maude Currier seemed to run it. I would visit her and there were only certain doors that I could use to go in.
    Lee Stevens was one that I remembered. We also had a lady that lived on Payson St that would be dressed in young girls clothes and would talk to herself as she walked. I can’t remember her name, but she had a kid a few years younger than I was. He was kind of odd also.
    Thanks all for the memories. It has been a fun couple of hours.

    Suzi B October 19, 2013 at 3:09 pm Reply
  31. Also, “junior”

    Hanksy December 11, 2013 at 3:54 am Reply
  32. Just got on this site and Loving all the names being put out here w many memories flowing with every name it is nice, to be back HOME!!

    Dora Fallon December 13, 2013 at 12:07 pm Reply
  33. When I lived on Temple St Artie Markos and my self were digging for worms behind a garage across from his house on prospect st and dug up a bunch of cans of Money. It belong to Madeline Lunt our parents made us return it to her (not before I put some in my pockets) there was quite a bit of money not sure exact amount but a lot I guess she didn’t trust banks. I had a lot of friends the next day. I came to school with a big bag of candy

    Danmsouther March 5, 2014 at 2:16 am Reply
  34. Yes Larry Howard was running for mayor . A bunch of us would put out posters saying don’t be cheap vote for weep,and don’t be a coward vote for Larry Howard and he would rip them down we were just trying to help LOL.

    Danmsouther March 5, 2014 at 2:51 am Reply
  35. Just found this site and it took me down memory lane.
    I was born in Newburyport and lived there many years in the north end. I know almost all these names and what a great place to have grown up in. Lots of great memories was made there with a lot of great kids. I went to Brown, Jackman, and High school school there. The worst memory was when Terrance Connors drowned does anyone remember this. I think it was 1969 or 1970. Richard Miller was a neighbor of mine as well as lee Stevens. Lee Stevens mother Betty and my grandmother knew each other. Thanks to all the post this has been very enjoyable.

    dalexander April 4, 2014 at 11:53 am Reply
  36. Ooops

    I forgot to mention that when I was a young girl I would make mud pies for Leroy Lewis as he walked his beat up Kent Street . He was a great cop! I actually lived on both ends of Newburyport growing up.

    dalexander April 4, 2014 at 12:11 pm Reply
  37. I went to school with Ray Clark from 6th – 12th grades. No social skills, but you could tell he wanted to be liked. I agree that he probably had (has?) Aspergers. I remember Meho on the downtown streets, but very little about him. He was probably nice, but I was a little scared of him. I wonder if his nickname was from the Spanish for “my son” (Mi hijo). A lot of people here in Texas where I live call their boys what sounds like Meho phonetically.

    GerryRandallJackson April 8, 2014 at 12:55 pm Reply
  38. Read many comments re Madeline Lunt and her taxi business. When I was young, she lived on Woodland St. with her parents. (Her father owned a jewelry store at one time). She became ill and afterwards was unable to continue her chosen career. During the depression, she established her taxi business and was always dependable. She met every train, regardless of the weather. No, her clothes were not haute coutoure, but she was neat and clean. I do not recall her having many cats either and doubt if she had a lot of money. Madeline minded her own business and was not a person for a lot of “small talk”. I grew up in Nbpt. and my comments are from my own personal observation.

    Doris June 18, 2014 at 8:30 am Reply
  39. Hi,

    Looking for Frank Dalton’s photographs.

    In particular a photo he took of me about 35 years ago.
    It was a young teenage boy without a shirt in a tom sawyer like hat.
    It was sold by Another Atmosphere’s in Newburyport.

    Chris Steeves August 27, 2014 at 12:58 am Reply
  40. I do remember Miho. I think he lived on Broad St and I lived on Oakland St. I remember Larry Howard too, but I always felt so sorry for him so whenever I would see him I would tell him hi.

    Elly Lare October 6, 2014 at 9:04 pm Reply
  41. More on Earle Merritt: Earle was my great-grandfather’s cousin, so I’ve researched his family as part of my family tree. Earle Mowatt Merritt was the youngest of 9 children born to Manasseh and Rebecca (Swain) Merritt, in 1895, at which point Rebecca was 40. By 1911, Earle’s older siblings appear to have all died (I’m only missing the date of death for 1 brother, but if he survived, it was somewhere else), and as all of the other male Merritts related to them had either died or moved away, Manasseh and Earle were the last Merritt males left in Newburyport, out of two related Merritt families that had arrived in Newburyport from Nova Scotia in the late 1840s and early 1850s. When a World War I draft card needed to be filled out for Earle in 1917, it listed him as deaf and dumb, and he signed with an X, indicating he was likely illiterate, too. After Manasseh died in 1926 and Rebecca in 1929, Earle was then the only Merritt living in the city as recorded by the 1930 census, and was already living at the Horton home run by the Curriers, and was also there in the 1940 census, and when a WWII Draft Card needed to be filled out for him it was signed by Maude Currier on his behalf. Earle died in Danvers in 1969, and is buried there. I expect he was transferred to the mental hospital there, but have no proof of that.

    Rich Bixby January 24, 2015 at 4:35 am Reply
  42. I walked into an antique store in Stratham, NH today. On a wall hung a painted portrait of none other than ‘Duncan Chase’. An exact duplicate of the one hanging in the Grog! Must have been done by the same artist, (Jim Michelson?). Talk about a rare find… It was presented as a painting of a Sea Captain. The closest Duncan came to being a Sea Captain was when he hunkered down for the evening in the tall weeds in back of the fire house next to the Merrimack
    River. Where his pal Jacky Flynn met his maker after falling or being ‘pushed’ into those dark, swirling waters. Wondering if the artist is still amongst us?

    pj nichypor December 14, 2016 at 4:39 pm Reply
  43. This is in response to #29 by Rick Meyers. Thank you for your response! I am familiar with Madeline Lunt and I know she had cats as well. There was another lady in town who had a lot of cats as well….and a friend, and they always seem to be verbally fighting wherever they went. I found out a little while ago that her name may have been Laura??? I wonder if anyone knew her full name and maybe that of her friend?

    Maria Hayes-Gilfus April 23, 2018 at 8:32 pm Reply
  44. In Article 17, the first reference to “Jeff” was for the late Jeff Cole. The second for Jeff Teague’s mom is correct.

    Charles Teague Jr.. August 30, 2020 at 1:58 pm Reply
  45. I remember many of the local characters listed here, most were colorful, interesting people, funny or kind people, but one of them, "L.H.", was repeatedly caught looking into house windows at night while masturbating. A girlfriend and I were sitting on the grass at the Mall one day and saw him doing this while looking at us, partially hidden by a tree. His brother was a local cop and that seemed to keep him out of jail or an institution.

    Madeline Lunt, the cat lady who drove a beat up taxi, actually came from a good Newburyport family. After her death, items from the family home that she lived in like a hermit were sold off, and old photos from there attest to this.

    Christopher Michael was gay, a kind and gentle soul, who was sometimes accosted by local thugs. I remember him telling me once that he went to the police after being knocked down and they never even made a report about it.

    I knew Duncan from the Grog. One cold day in January I found him crying in the parking because he was cold. I gave him the new coat off my back. We reminisce about these people but you really have to wonder, how did they get like they were? We treated them like local oddities, sometimes joked about them, gave them space, let them be who they "were" – but there had to be pain involved in them being that. Wish I'd done more to try to help some of them, instead of just smiling and saying hello.

    Nick Ingraham November 21, 2020 at 3:43 pm Reply

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