It took a while for Lynne Thompson to warm up to her current husband, Norman Ingalls. As a single woman accustomed to the ways of the world, she wasn’t overly charmed when they first encountered each other online sometime prior to 2007.
“He loves to beachcomb,” Thompson said. “Back then, a lot of men would say ‘walks on the beach, holding hands,’ so when I saw that I said ‘yeah, right.’ The irony is that is one of the things that’s keeps us together.”
When they did eventually meet, connecting among a group of friends who coalesced around the Time Out Pub’s long-running Blue Monday concert series in Rockland, the two bonded over a shared love of the blues and mutual respect.
Meeting in 2007, they moved in together in 2008 and married in 2009. Today, Thompson said her husband’s beachcombing prowess is a major asset to her sea glass business.
As The Seaglass Lass, Thompson designs and handcrafts sea glass jewelry, which she sells online and in various galleries and stores in the Midcoast.
“He’s my quiet partner,” she said. “He loves to go beachcombing. We love going beachcombing together and we know how to beachcomb together. He goes on his route. I go on my route. We’re within view of each other but we are not doing the exact same territory. It’s very meditative, so we are into our own thoughts. We are in the elements. We love the hunt to find sea glass.”
Since 1996, Thompson has made a second career out of creating jewelry from sea glass she recovers combing beaches along the Maine coast and elsewhere. The business bloomed organically, after Thompson first moved to Pemaquid.
“I was working full time as a respiratory therapist,” she said. “I always loved beachcombing since I was a kid. When we would take treks to the Jersey Shore or go to Florida to visit my aunt, I always loved collecting sea shells, and I have my mother’s (shells) that she had, but when it was here it was sea glass.”
As the name implies, sea glass is recovered from the sea. One way or the other, a glass product ends up in pieces in the ocean where, over years, the sharp edges are worn down and the glass surface earns its characteristic frosted appearance enduring constant conflict between shore and sea.
Thompson said it is a point of pride that all of her creations use authentic, found sea glass.
“None of my jewelry gets put in a rock tumbler,” she said. “Some people do that. Mine is all pure.”
The woman who would become The Seaglass Lass was actually born in Pennsylvania in 1948, and she grew up in Allendale, N.J, just over the state line from New York. Living through the social and cultural upheavals of the 1960s, Thompson said her family members were more interested observers than wild-eyed participants.
“My parents were kind of bohemian in a way,” she said. “They followed a lot of the cultural norms, but they had this other art side to them, this arty side. My stepfather did, and my father did too. My mother just kept right on going.”
Thompson’s mother, the late Maude Olsen, went on to become a well-known artist and teacher in her own right.
Thompson’s parents divorced when she was 12. She was the second oldest of four children at the time, and the only daughter. The judge divided the family in two, leaving the two younger children in the care of their mother. Thompson’s father took Lynne and her older brother to Hamilton, Ohio, where he was employed by the Champion International paper company.
Thompson said her father was a good provider, but he was working most of the time. Once she turned 14 and had the option, she chose to return to New Jersey and live with her mother and her then-new stepfather.
Thompson said her two years in Ohio gave her the confidence of self-sufficiency and a perspective to more fully appreciate her mother.
“My mother and I were very good friends, still are spiritually,” Thompson said. “We were all my life. I might not have agreed with her on everything, and I did do some rebellious things, but I didn’t have to work at it quite so hard because I already knew what it was like to live without your mother.”
Maude’s second husband, William “Bill” Olsen, operated a photography business, specializing in school pictures. Bill and Maude Olsen would remain married for the next 53 years until Bill’s passing in 2013. Maude Olsen passed away in 2019.
In the early years of their marriage, Maude Olsen was not yet the fully formed artist and teacher she would become well known for being in future Midcoast art circles, Thompson said.
“She had started,” Thompson said. “She did do art. She didn’t work outside the home, but she was involved with all kinds of things like PTA, and she would do commissions, particularly portraits. She painted a lot of portraits in oils.”
Graduating high school in 1966, Thompson spent two years as a biology major in college at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Penn. Her college years coincided with the “Summer of Love” and growing resistance to the Vietnam War.
“What a time to be around college because you could really see things go from somewhat conservative to really out there,” she said.
After her sophomore year, Thompson returned home. At the time, she figured she would take a year off and then reapply somewhere else. In the meantime, she took a nurse’s aide certification course at a nearby hospital in Westwood, N.J.
“I actually did that job for two and half months,” she said. “For somebody who had been a bit squeamish when they were younger, I did fine in that job.”
Thompson’s career as a nurse’s aide might have gone on longer, except she learned of a new department in a new field that needed help. Intrigued, she signed on and became one of the first women working in the then-new field of respiratory therapy.
“It was this really relatively new type of thing,” she said. “It was called ‘inhalation therapy.’ It was a specialty. It really came about because of all the problems with miners, coal mines, emphysema, and things like that. Ventilators, other than anesthetizer machines used in surgery; ventilators to be used on people in intensive care units were a new thing.”
Thompson did not know it at the time, but she had found a niche in a career field that she would work in for the next 54 years.
“I wanted to do something on the cutting edge and this was it, so I changed over to that department and it was the best decision I made in my entire life,” she said.
“I love machines,” she said. “I love gadgets and I love people and this job combined both those things together, and I was helping people. It was wonderful. It sounds funny now, but I jumped up a whole $10 a week on pay, from $70 to $80. That was a big deal back then.”
When Thompson started, respiratory therapy was so new there were only a couple schools in the country that even offered it as a course of study. In those early years, almost all Thompson’s training happened on the job.
These days, everyone has at least an associate’s degree, Thompson said. The first time she took a national exam in her field, she had already been working full time for two years.
“I did what was the accepted training at the time, which was two years in a hospital program,” she said. “When I got in it was only 8 years old. It only officially became a field in 1960 and there were new things happening all the time. I just grew up in the field. I had a lot of hands on experience and I enjoyed helping people breathe better and feel better.”
Thompson went on to work in her hospitals and laboratories in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Colorado, and Maine.
“I had never had trouble getting a job, so I picked a good career for that,” she said.
Bill and Maude Olsen moved to Maine in the 1970s, settling in South Bristol in 1986. In 1990, while visiting her mother, and a sick relative who was being cared for at Cove’s Edge, Thompson interviewed at what is now LincolnHealth’s Miles Campus in Damariscotta.
She got the job, and is still there today, albeit in a slightly different role. About a year ago she began helping out at Cove’s Edge, first in the dietary department in the facility’s kitchen, then assisting at the door, as the need requires.
“They accepted my offer so in a month I moved,” she said. “I’m still working at Miles Hospital. It was only just basically at the end of last year that I resigned from the respiratory department, so I worked in respiratory therapy for over 32 years there.”
Thompson, although she has resigned from the respiratory department, still maintains her certification, just in case she’s needed. For now, she doesn’t plan to leave her position at Cove’s Edge.
“I kind of hate to cut it,” she said. “If I can’t do the kitchen, I can do door duty. It’s very hard for me to totally quit it. Even though I am not formally in the cardio pulmonary department, if somebody wanted to me to do a special thing I could.”
Later this month, Thompson said she is looking forward getting her troublesome right knee operated on. Following that, she plans to produce more jewelry for her business and open up the Saltwater Artist Gallery for the summer season. Thompson has served as the co-op’s president almost as long as she has been a member.
Thompson and Ingalls discovered the gallery, located across from the Bradley Inn during an open house sometime around 2008. Seeing an eclectic spread of artists including painters, photographers, and at least three other jewelers, Thompson said she felt immediately at home.
“It wasn’t all just painting,” she said. “It was paintings, photographs; there were three different jewelers. I loved it. I remember thinking ‘they have such a wide variety there I think I can fit in.’”
“The first year, I was secretary,” Thompson said. “The second year, I think I was president. Then I had a year when I wasn’t anything and I have been the president of the Saltwater Artist Gallery ever since.”
Thompson said she’s honored by the membership’s apparent longstanding confidence in her leadership, but she is currently recruiting a successor and she looks forward to joining the ranks of the regular members.
For at least one more season, the gallery will host artwork by Maude Olsen. Thompson still has considerable number of items from her mother’s estate to disperse, including a large collection of her mother’s art.
“She left a lot of art behind,” Thompson said. “So, for one more season anyway, we are going to have her stuff at the gallery. I have like 40 paintings.”
For more information about the Saltwater Artist gallery, go to saltwaterartists.com.
For more information about The Seaglass Lass, follow the business’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.
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