Joan Tulp, ‘Mayor of Amagansett’

Doing all she can for her beloved hamlet
Joan Tulp with a furry friend
Joan Tulp with a furry friend in her Gansett Lane living room. Morgan McGivern

    After moving to Amagansett full time in 1987, Joan Tulp turned out to be busier than expected. She had retired after being a secretary, model, reporter, and real estate agent, among other jobs, and she was the mother of four boys. She and her husband, the late Bob Tulp, became volunteers, he for R.S.V.P., which assists elderly residents, as well as the East Hampton Democratic Committee, and she for the Amagansett Village Improvement Society, among other organizations.
    It was a roundabout route that would set Ms. Tulp down in the hamlet she came to love, and of which she would eventually be called the “Mayor of Amagansett” by Newsday. She had been introduced to Amagansett by her first husband, Bob Thomas, whose aunt lived in the former Amagansett tennis club on Indian Wells Highway, where they and, later, their sons would spend glorious summer days. Those experiences were seductive. “I knew I would have to live here some day,” she said.
    Following the couple’s separation, Ms. Tulp went to live in Brooklyn Heights, where they had lived early in their marriage. Campaigning to become a Democratic district leader there, she met Eleanor Roosevelt and Senator Herbert Lehman, both of whom spoke for her during the campaign, which she lost. (She has a charming photograph of herself with Mrs. Roosevelt.) She also worked as a reporter for The Brooklyn Heights Press for three and a half years.
    Her Democratic friends in Brooklyn introduced her to her second husband. “Wouldn’t you know it, there he was, tall, dark, and handsome, a bachelor no less.” Within two years they were married.
    In addition to her ex-husband’s Amagansett aunt, whom she continued to visit, Mr. Tulp had relatives in Wainscott, and the family continued to come out to visit and spend time at the beach. One day out of the blue Ms. Tulp received a $10,000 windfall from her stepmother. It enabled the couple to buy not only a rundown 17-room brownstone in Boerum Hill but also a newly built house on Gansett Lane, where, in 1964, there were only two other houses.
    “That showed me how one good deed could change our whole life,” she said.
    Ms. Tulp’s “main thing is the A.V.I.S., because I love Amagansett so much.” She said she had always been outgoing and interested in people, a trait that has stood her in good stead as she has gotten older, she said. She works at the front desk at the East Hampton Healthcare Center on Pantigo Road one morning a week, at the Amagansett satellite of the East Hampton Food Pantry, at the Amagansett School answering the phone, at special events for the East Hampton Ladies Village Improvement Society — “I love to meet and greet people” — and with the Amagansett Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary. “Oh,” she said, she also is the treasurer of the East Hampton Village Preservation Society.
    For a time, Ms. Tulp had a show on LTV, “Amagansett Speaks,” in which she interviewed “everyone who made a difference in residents’ lives,” including scouts, Fire Department people, and staff of the Retreat. She hosted 10 episodes.
    “In all those things you meet new, wonderful people of all different ages and walks of life. It makes a life more satisfying for you if you’re involved with people. I love every day,” she added.
    Starting out as Joan Warendorff in Rockville Centre, Ms. Tulp earned an associate’s degree in art from the Scudder School in Manhattan as a young woman. Her mother, however, insisted that she learn to type, and she became a secretary at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. She met her first husband, Bob Thomas, there. Mr. Thomas was transferred to Paris with the firm, and she continued to work for it and to model until she became pregnant with her first son, Luke. They stayed for two and a half years.
    Her second son, Evan, was born just before J. Walter Thompson moved Mr. Thomas to Antwerp, Belgium. Ms. Tulp found a job there with International Telephone and Telegraph.
    Two children were added to the family after her marriage to Mr. Tulp. Her son Matthew was born in 1965 and Jamie in ’68. The second set of boys got along with the first, she said. The couple made Amagansett their second home, while continuing to live in Brooklyn. Her next job was as a receptionist at the Brooklyn Friends School, where she worked her way up to be the director of development. Thanks to having the summer off, Ms. Tulp could spend three months with her children in Amagansett, and “we never missed a weekend.”
    Bob Tulp died in November 2008. Today, the most important people in Ms. Tulp’s life are her children, their partners, and her 10 grandchildren. Her hopes for the hamlet? “What I’ve been working for all these years is to try and keep it somewhat the way it’s always been. It’s not possible to stem the whole tide of change, but it is possible to slow it down.  . . . I want the Life-Saving Station to be the best it can be and for the public,” she said.
    When Ms. Tulp first moved to Amagansett full time, the A.V.I.S. had a parade and, “as I walked down Main Street, I knew that, finally, after all those years of traveling, I was home at last.”