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What’sUpNewp has learned that Tom Cullen, who has owned The Black Pearl on Bannister’s Wharf for the last 43 years, passed away at the age of 75 on Monday, August 15th.

Born on May 15, 1941, Cullen has been an Owner of Black Pearl since 1973 and a resident of Beacon Hill Road in Newport since 1976.

Cullen purchased The Black Pearl from Barclay H. Warburton III in December 1973, Cullen closed it down for extensive renovations and reopened May 1974 with the addition of an outside patio & bar that overlook Newport Harbor.   Besides expanding the kitchen in 1989, The Black Pearl has remained essentially unchanged for 30 years.

Cullen was very active with many non-profits and fundraisers in the area, and supported many others.


Obituary of Thomas Cullen

Thomas David Cullen died suddenly on Monday, August 15 at Rhode Island Hospital. He was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1941 and grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Naturally, he was a loyal Cleveland Browns fan. He graduated from Miami of Ohio University and received his law degree from Suffolk Law School in Boston, Massachusetts.

Tom moved to Newport with his family in 1973 and bought the Black Pearl Restaurant located on Bannister’s Wharf, which he transformed into one of the renowned restaurants of the East Coast.

He was the President of the Board of St. Michael’s Country Day School for several years.

Tom was an avid golfer and was a member of the Newport Country Club, The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, Pine Valley in New Jersey, and The Everglades Club in Palm Beach. One of the highlights of his golfing career was beating the famous Tom Weiskopf in the Columbus City Championship in the late 50’s. He also was an accomplished boxer and won the Cleveland city Championship, also in the late 50’s. He had a great love of music, opera being his favorite, and a major highlight of his young music life was playing the bald headed priest in the opera “Tosca” in Cleveland. He will be remembered most for his “walk” down the wharf on Sundays to meet his boys.

He leaves behind his wife, Kathleen Beckett, his stepson, Ford Beckett, and his former wife Norey Dotterer Cullen, with whom he had four sons: David Dotterer Cullen, Tyler Boozer Cullen, Keith Benner Cullen, and Matthew Charles Cullen. His true and foremost passion was the great love he had for his family. His brother, John Wesley Cullen III, and his sister, Weezie Cullen Steffens, also survive him.

There will be a service on Saturday, August 20 at Trinity Church on Spring Street at 10:00 A.M., no reception.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to The Hope Funds for Cancer Research, 174 Bellevue Avenue, Suite 208, Newport, RI 02840.

Ryan M. Belmore

Ryan M. Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.