Constitution Museum remembers Frank Clements

Collaborator: Danielle Saitta
Published: 08/13/2020, 7:00 PM
Edited: 03/11/2021, 10:22 AM
(CHARLESTOWN, Mass.) Less than 300 years ago, early American colonists stood united against Great Britain during the American Revolution. “Our country was really an experiment we didn’t know that we would be a nation that would live that would thrive and survive,” USS Constitution Museum President and CEO Anne Grimes Rand said. Fast forward to the year 2020, America is at war once again with a global pandemic. In response to the virus, public places like the USS Constitution Museum closed their doors. Now months later, they’re starting to welcome back their guests and staff, with the exception of one special volunteer “Frank was warm, outgoing, and just had a joyful spirit,” Rand said. “Always had a twinkle in his eye when he came into work each day.” American history enthusiast Frank Clements was born in Ipswich in 1929. Clements’ family told VNN he had two lifelong loves: his wife Helen and building models. Building his first model at just ten years old, Clements would later go on to lend his talent and vision to help establish the USS Constitution Model Shipwright Guild in 1979. “The USS Constitution Model Shipwright Guild of New England is a group of volunteers who enjoy building ship models,” Rand said. “And they get together monthly and they share techniques on how you make a ship look like it’s been sailing around or how you make the waves look like they’ve just been crested.” For forty years, Clements served as the guild’s model shop coordinator. During that time, he designed and built 45 ship models. “Some people will build models out of kits, some people will build models out of plastic, some members of the guild build models out of paper,” Rand said. “So, it’s the creativity of the models themselves and how they choose to challenge themselves.” But Clements chose to craft his models in a traditional way called plank-on frame, the same sort of construction that is required of an actual ship. “And he spent years building the ship, learning about the ship, knowing the stories of the ship and sharing those stories of the ship with visitors of the museum,” Rand said. The museum told us Clements’ models typically took about two years to build and it was a passion he was very proud of. “Frank was talking with a group of school kids who came through and they asked him, ‘How long does it take to build a model?’ and when he said a couple of years they were floored by that answer,” Rand said. “And I remember Frank saying to them ‘Well, why rush when you’re having fun’?” His attention to detail and historical accuracy for ships won him dozens of awards while he volunteered for the museum. “The fun of working with someone like Frank Clements and watching him build models in this shop is that Frank was able to take a moment in history and in the form of a ship to bring it to life in miniature,” Rand said. On July 27, Clements passed away at age 90, leaving behind his beautiful historic creations and an abundance of fond memories. “We all miss frank deeply,” Rand said. “He’s been a wonderful volunteer who came year after year, time after time. Even when he couldn’t drive anymore, he would get rides in or take the bus to come in and he was an artisan, a storyteller and a wonderful friend.” This has been a VNN sponsored news story. For more information email For more information about the USS Constitution Museum visit


This story has no comments yet