Peaks Island – Louise G. O’Sullivan died at home on August 25 in the same place she started 98 years ago. Louise was the daughter of Justin and Doris (Hanson) O’Sullivan of Brackett Street, Portland. Early on, Louise developed a life long love of animals. Her father was a breeder of German Shepherds and Greyhounds. Louise showed these animals throughout New England. She also became an accomplished horsewoman, having trained at Rines Stables in Gorham, and riding in Central Park in later years.
Right out of high school this small town girl teamed up with her teenage dance teacher and choreographer, Ken Spaulding of Portland. They created an act consisting of ballroom and ballet combinations with flashy “adagio” high lifts and spins. The Western Promenade cemetery was their “practice studio.” Louise had a later start than most dancers, but she started as a pro. Louise and Ken’s first big break came when they were cast in the U.S. version of the Folies Bergere. They performed in hotels, theaters and nightclubs throughout the United States and Central America, touring with the likes of Rosemary Clooney and Mel Torme.
When Louise’s identical twin, Alice, joined the act they became known as the Spaulding Trio and the world opened up to them. Ken designed, and Louise fabricated, matching costumes for herself and her sister. They performed all over Europe and North Africa with the Philip Morris Broadway Revue and the Camel Caravan. The trio appeared on the Ed Sullivan, Jack Carter and Paul Winchell television shows. They toured with the Cristiani Brothers Circus, a family of bareback riders. A number of tours with the USO took them to the South Pacific Islands, Korea, the Marshall Islands and Japan. Although they traveled to many beautiful places they also saw pain and destruction. They worked under all kinds of conditions, often with the sounds of bombs overhead. Louise often said: “Your sense of values changes because of what you see. Why some men would want war is beyond me.”
After decades on the road, Louise was recruited by an executive from Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), the renowned performing rights organization based in New York City. She happily found herself in the midst of artists, composers, singers and musicians. Louise became invaluable for her meticulous attention to detail and dedication to her work. As contract administrator of Performing Rights, Louise was responsible for processing complicated legal documents for BMI’s writer and publisher affiliates. According to Frances W. Preston, President of BMI, Louise was one of the most highly regarded employees. She retired at the age of 89, after a 48-year tenure.
Growing up, Louise summered at the family cottage on Peaks Island. In her adult years she looked forward to her annual vacation there as well, and returned permanently in 2007. She spent her remaining years in the place of her youth, content to settle into the natural rhythms of the island. Louise loved feeding the birds, tending her gardens, playing with her cat and gratefully embracing the simple pleasures of life, among them watching “Dancing With the Stars.” Modest and unassuming, she accepted this new role in life and made little mention of her storied past.
Louise was predeceased by her sister, Alice, and Ken Spaulding, her lifelong friend. She is survived by Alice’s stepson David Stolte and wife, Trudy, and her devoted caregivers and loving neighbors.
Many heartfelt thanks to Kitty Gilbert, FNP, Peaks Island Health Center, for her care and support.