Category Archives: LIFESTYLE

Official decree: It’s now ‘Bond Beach!’

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ORIENTAL – Fay Bond, with her sons, George (left) and Jack, and daughter-in-law Roxanne, were on hand Tuesday night as the town board officially christened a popular waterfront park as “John W. Bond Beach” – a memorial to Fay’s deceased husband. John Bond is a legend in this small community. He was a World War II veteran, real estate developer, former mayor of the town, and all-around beloved figure. The park is a stone’s throw from the front yard of the Bond clan, who have hosted an annual August watermelon cutting for almost 50 years.

Reuben Peed, 87, honored by Hooker clan

Ceremony marks Peed’s retirement from CMF & special relationship with four generations

Reuben Peed, 87, accepts a gold watch from Joe Hooker, president of CMF, while John Hooker Sr., CEO of CMF looks on.

Reuben Peed, 87, accepts a gold watch from Joe Hooker, president of CMF, while John Hooker Sr., CEO of CMF looks on.

Reuben Peed and John Hooker Sr., 80, have been friends since childhood. Peed first worked with Nathaniel Hooker, John’s father.

Reuben Peed and John Hooker Sr., 80, have been friends since childhood. Peed first worked with Nathaniel Hooker, John’s father.

AURORA — There are two well-known and respected families in Aurora whose lives have been intertwined for at least four generations dating back to the 1930s: The Hooker Family and the Peed Family.
Though most people count the days until they are able to retire, Reuben Peed is the absolute opposite. Born in 1928, he is 87 years young, always has a smile on his face, and will absolutely miss going to work because he thrives on the daily interaction with others.

The Hookers, who own CMF on Highway 33 in Aurora, had a surprise retirement barbeque on July 9 for Reuben and all CMF employees. Reuben’s daughter, JoAnn, was able to attend, where her father received a gold watch, engraved with the following words:

To: Mr. Reuben Peed
From: The Hookers, 2015

Joe Hooker, President of CMF, said an appropriate phrase that would not fit on the watch would be: For 75 years of devoted friendship and hard work.

At the BBQ, every man who stopped to say hello to Reuben also mentioned how much he would be missed. For a split second, it appeared that Reuben might be reconsidering his decision to retire!

Reuben Peed is seen here with eight of his nine daughters, from left: Johnnie, Lucy, Mollie, Linda, Charlotte, Carolyn, JoAnn, and Clarine (Glory was not present).

Reuben Peed is seen here with eight of his nine daughters, from left: Johnnie, Lucy, Mollie, Linda, Charlotte, Carolyn, JoAnn, and Clarine (Glory was not present).

The relationship between the families began with Nathaniel Hooker (grandfather of Joe Hooker, current CMF president) and Charlie Peed, father of Reuben.

They began farming and raising families as neighbors and friends in the days when Aurora was known as the Potato Capital of North Carolina. In the 1930s and 1940s, cooperation among farms was paramount. Every farmer knew that getting their products to market was essential; and the Hookers and Peeds — along with others – worked together to achieve that goal.

Reuben and John Hooker, Sr., age 80 (current CEO of CMF) grew up together. Reuben has been employed by the Hooker family on and off for 75 years. In that time, he has worked with four generations of the family:

1) Nathaniel
2) John Sr.,
3) John Jr. — Senior Vice President and General Manager,
Bill — Vice-President, Transportation and Certified Crane Operator,
Joe — President
4) And two of Joe’s sons: Robbie and Matthew.

Peed, about 1946, with his wife, Mollie B. at the Aurora carnival.

Peed, about 1946, with his wife, Mollie B. at the Aurora carnival.

John Sr. and Reuben have a mutual respect for each other and a camaraderie that has developed over time. When asked to describe Mr. Peed, Mr. Hooker, Sr. said “He is honest and hard-working; one of the best Americans I have ever known or met.”

There is something unspoken that passes between the two gentlemen that allows a glimpse into the special bond that decades of friendship and trust have built. They share a sense of humor and stories; the need to “fill in the blanks” is not there — it is understood.

Two words that have deep meaning for Reuben and ones that he takes very seriously when asked to describe a person are: Honorable and Trustworthy. These are the words he used to characterize John, Sr.

The depth of friendship that these two men share goes far beyond the number of years they have known each other. It is evident after spending just a few hours with them.

Reuben and his wife, Mollie B, were married for 52 years. She died several years ago from complications due to diabetes. They had 10 children – a son who is deceased, and nine daughters including a set of twins! Reuben’s daughters are: Glory, Mollie, Linda, Clarine, JoAnn, Johannie, Carolyn, Charlotte, and Lucy. Reuben also has 21 grandchildren, 18 great grandchildren, and 8 great, great grandchildren.

Reuben never asked for help. He always took care of his wife during her illness, and looked after all of his children, and at no time took a day off.

Reuben worked for the Hooker family until he decided at one point to farm his own land. He grew tobacco, corn, and grain, but after about 12 years, he gave this up because farming 50-60 acres became too much. Other jobs that Mr. Peed held over the years (when he was not working for the Hooker family) were as a carpenter, a truck driver, and he also worked in a crab processing plant.

Peed is an ordained Baptist minister.

Peed is an ordained Baptist minister.

When John Sr. purchased a combine in 1954, he asked Reuben to return. And, in 1956 Reuben came back to run the new machine for him. By this time, the Hooker family began to expand into other areas of industry in addition to farming. John Sr. said that the companies at different times were in the business of selling and delivering oil, disposal of waste oil, were industrial suppliers, had a service station, and even built a diner (now the Wayside) for daughter, Nancy to run.

(Nancy is now a Safety Specialist at PCS Phosphate.)

Over the years, Reuben was a valuable asset for CMF. Mr. Hooker explained that his work ethic, positive attitude, and dependability served as an inspiration to all of the other employees. Reuben did not have a specific job title; he did whatever was necessary. One job that was entrusted to Reuben was sorting “scrap metal.”

John Sr. said, “When I have someone like Reuben, I don’t need to be everywhere.”

The sorting job was imperative to the company — it made the difference between profit or losing money on scrap metal.

Joe Hooker, a former Mayor of Aurora, added that their corporation has also had subsidiaries that included building fiberglass skiffs and fish farming. The company now works with its primary customer, PotashCorp–Aurora, building structural steel industrial catwalks, stairways, and pipe work.

Peed was accompanied at the ceremony by his daughter JoAnn.

Peed was accompanied at the ceremony by his daughter JoAnn.

Love of family is something else that the Hookers and Peeds have in common. John Sr. has been married to his wife, Lillian, for 62 years. They have four children, eight grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren.

Reuben became an ordained Free Will Baptist Minister in 2000, and is now a Missionary Baptist Minister. He officiated at the wedding of John Sr.’s grandson, James Tyndall to his wife Yuki, four years ago.

A description of Reuben Peed that recurred over and over during interviews was, “any extra he has he gives to others,” and “he is faithful to God, his family, and his community.” His daughter, JoAnn, said that having his family around is what makes him happiest, and they all try to come home for Christmas.

When asked what he was going to do now that he has retired at age 87, Reuben said that he would take care of his garden. Most people would assume this means a few vegetable plants – but not a Reuben Peed garden!

Peed shares a laugh with Johnny Hooker Jr. of CMF

Peed shares a laugh with Johnny Hooker Jr. of CMF


His consists of collards, potatoes, sweet potatoes, okra, tomatoes, squash, string beans, butter beans, cucumbers, and cabbage. It also means at least a half-acre!

The only concession to age Reuben said he may have to make is to take a few breaks during the day while tending the garden. Reuben: This is your retirement! Take breaks, enjoy gardening for pleasure, and take advantage of visiting with family and friends. You have earned it!

Classmates honor ‘Bouncer’

Darryl ‘Bouncer’ Jenkins accepts a plaque of appreciation Saturday night, from high school classmates Maddie Nelson, Delsia Moore, and Bertha Smith.

Darryl ‘Bouncer’ Jenkins accepts a plaque of appreciation Saturday night, from high school classmates Maddie Nelson, Delsia Moore, and Bertha Smith.

ALLIANCE – A close-knit group of students, who graduated from Pamlico County High School in 1975, have remained largely in tact over the past four decades thanks in great part to the personality and persistence of Darryl “Bouncer” Jenkins.

A Christmas Party, held Saturday night in a for-rent portion of the Alliance Town Hall, attracted about 35 people where – unbeknownst to Jenkins – a plaque presentation and heart-felt tribute had been planned.

“Darryl is our ‘newsman’ who always lets us know how our classmates are doing, and who reminds us of their birthdays, special occasions, and even when they need to whisper a prayer,” wrote classmate Bertha Smith.

His classmates, who surround Jenkins for a group photograph, all credit him for keeping them in touch with each other for almost 40 years.

His classmates, who surround Jenkins for a group photograph, all credit him for keeping them in touch with each other for almost 40 years.

Others involved in preparations for the celebration echoed those sentiments.

Usually the first to know, Bouncer was surprised by the plaque, in a ceremony Saturday night.

Usually the first to know, Bouncer was surprised by the plaque, in a ceremony Saturday night.

“You are a wonderful person, Darryl. He’s always putting others first,” said Maddie Nelson, who served as the evening’s impromptu hostess. “Anything you want to know about any of us, you’ve just got to call him right then for you to learn what’s going on. You just don’t know who much you mean to us.”

Gloria Boomer, whose health often prevents her from attending class functions, almost always sends a cake or dessert.

Gloria Boomer, whose health often prevents her from attending class functions, almost always sends a cake or dessert.

For his part, Jenkins – always congenial, jovial, and quick witted – seemed to be at a loss for words. For once, the tribute appeared to catch ‘Bouncer’ off guard – perhaps the only class event that escaped his scrutiny over the past 40 years.

The group meets periodically three to four times a year. Saturday night offered a rollicking good time with lots of love, food, laughter, and reminiscing. Although plans remain sketchy, the 40th Class Reunion has tentatively been scheduled for October of next year. For more information, call Bertha at 514-1058 or Margaret at 638-1749.

One thing is for sure – Jenkins will be working his phone and text messages to make sure his classmates show up!

Prison dog training marks 10th year

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By Jeff Aydelette | Staff Writer

BAYBORO – The state prison here, which houses 570 inmates, oddly exuded fun and flair Wednesday afternoon as dogs and inmate trainers from six state correctional facilities competed in the prison gym before a panel of three judges.

Pamlico Correctional Institution, which incorporated the Prison Dog Training Program two years ago, hosted a Tenth Anniversary Celebration for the program, first adopted by the state prison system in 2004.

Meant to focus on the excellent rehabilitative aspects of dog training programs at 17 state prisons, the competition also demonstrated the loving, caring relationships that come when inmate and man’s best friend form a bond, albeit behind the stark, cold bars of a no-nonsense, medium security penitentiary.

“Hundreds of dogs have been taken off death row,” said Fay Lassiter, Assistant Chief of Program Services at the prison, who added that the New Leash on Life program as adopted by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety is “the first apprenticeship prison program in the nation where 300 of our inmates have received their certifications as either Dog Trainers or Animal Care Providers.”

Over the past 10 years, said Lassiter, exactly 2,285 dogs have been trained by North Carolina inmates and “we have an adoption rate of 91 percent throughout the system.”

In other remarks, Pamela Walker, Director of Communications for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, seemed to capture the essence of the event when she asked “Just who has rescued whom when it comes to this program?”

After the half hour competition in which inmate and dog executed a four-minute routine, the judges – all experienced dog trainers from eastern North Carolina – announced their selections, although LaKeisha Jones, Director of the New Leash on Life Program at the prison, made it clear “that everyone here today is a true winner.”

  • First Place: Pamlico, inmate trainer Jeff Tucker and his dog, Zoey.
  • Second Place: Craven, inmate trainer Ruben Vargas and his dog, Susie
  • Third Place: New Hanover, inmate trainer Elijah Ball, and his dog Jordan

Locally, Alecia Williams of Dove Landing Kennels in Whortonsville, is the ‘Community Partner’ for Pamlico Correctional Facility, providing her expertise to essentially ‘train the trainers’ where willing, qualified inmates enroll as participants in the New Leash on Life experience.

Thomas Funn resigns as Vandemere commissioner

Thomas Funn, center, accepts a plaque of appreciation from Vandemere Mayor Judy Thaanum and his fellow commissioners during a brief ceremony earlier this month.

Thomas Funn, center, accepts a plaque of appreciation from Vandemere Mayor Judy Thaanum and his fellow commissioners during a brief ceremony earlier this month.

Special to the County Compass

VANDEMERE – When Thomas Funn and Corine Fisher got hitched way back in 1959, little did they know that 40 years later they would move from New Jersey to Vandemere, where Corine – daughter of Wealthy Fisher – had grown up!

Funn soon became involved in town affairs, agreeing in 1999 to fill a vacancy on the Vandemere town board. Unfortunately, Corine passed away in 2001, and the time has now come for Funn to resign his elected post and move on.

“This southern hospitality has been great,” said Funn in announcing his decision, “but the northern lights are calling me home.”

Mayor Judy Thaanum issued a statement praising Funn for his service, adding “he will be greatly missed by all in Vandemere.”

Off to battle in tails & gowns

By John & Penny DeFino | Special to the County Compass

NEWS1-Dance-picBATON ROUGE, LA — You wouldn’t think so much of us as athletes. We are, after all, dressed in gowns and tail suits. But this is DanceSport, recognized by the Unites States Olympic Committee. We are at a National Qualifying Ballroom dance competition — lined up, ready to take the floor. This is the ‘On-Deck’ area. After many months of practice and working with our coaches, we are here, waiting to perform for the judges and audience.

We were up early and on the practice floor to make sure we were warmed up. We have already danced in quarter final and semi-final elimination rounds. This is the final round where we really need to impress. We have a rule, between ourselves, that we apply at this moment. We know that all the work, all the trials in footwork and movement, all the technique and styling experiments are over. We can’t fix anything right now. We agree that we just go out, have a good time and dance. Let the audience and judges see how much we honestly enjoy this.

The ballroom is buzzing with activity. The dais is just to our left. In the center, at a podium is the Emcee. It is their job to keep the competition running on time and announce the various events and awards. Also on the dais is the Chairman of Judges who overlooks all of the judges and settles any questions in procedure. There is also the Invigilator who makes sure dancers are dancing within their level. There is the Scrutineer who tallies the results, the Registrar who keeps track of the dancers and events, and the Music Director who selects, at random, the music for each event. With us in the on deck area is the Deck Captain — responsible for getting the dancers lined up and out on the floor in time. And, finally, in various places around the dance floor, are the Judges, who are certified adjudicators for the competition.

Standing in line with us are six couples, who have also made it to the final round. We chat, a bit nervously, and give each other encouragement. This is a ladies’ and gentlemen’s sport. But we know that once we are on the dance floor, we are all competitors. We are lined up in numerical order. As we watch the current dance heat already in progress, we look to see where we might begin our dance once we are asked to take the floor. We stay loose and do some last minute stretches in place.

I have my partner’s left hand in my right. We notice the music wind down for the current heat as we hear the announcer call our event. The Deck Captain asks us all to take the floor. Out we go, hand in hand, searching for our starting point. Our smiling faces are met with grateful applause from the audience as we take our space. I place my partner in position. The Emcee calls for “Music Please.” We have no idea what the song will be. The music begins! It is a beautiful Waltz. I raise my left hand to invite my partner in to dance. She accepts, we get into frame, the adrenaline rush is already coursing through our bodies. We are off and moving. For the next several minutes the rest of the world disappears as we engage the audience and join in the spectacle of this ballroom competition performance.

Editor’s note: John and Penny DeFino of Oriental are National Ballroom competitors and just returned from the Gumbo Dancesport Championships in Baton Rouge, LA. They took First Place in seven of their 10 events, bringing home 14 gold medals and they are now qualified for the 2015 National Ballroom Championships.  John and Penny also teach dance in the area. See more information at www.DeFinoBallroom.com

Stroll down Memory Lane

By Rhonda Breed | Special to the County Compass
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Rhonda Gail Breed in April 1967

ORIENTAL — Several days ago, I met an old friend for a very enjoyable lunch at M&M’s Café.

Later, I felt the need to drive around and look at “my” Oriental, the one that everyone else has mostly forgotten. I rode by the harbor, remembering Wit’s End and its old outdoor toilet (a smell you never forget). I was only a little thing when my mom stopped in to visit or play cards with Annis Gwaltney from time to time. Now, I think it is The Bean coffee shop. I jumped ahead a few years and visualized the corn on the cob booth set up by the Oriental Women’s Club for the Regatta Weekend celebration (now the “Croaker Festival,” I suppose). My mom was cooking corn, along with others and selling it, kind of like cotton candy on a stick.

I continued on, around the waterfront, looking at what was missing—that big old tree by the cement benches I sat on so many times while growing up in Oriental. On summer days, it was often a resting place after bike riding or swimming off the dock that no longer exists near the beach. Of course, not only was the swimming great but so was the fishing. Sometimes I’d fish from shore, but many times, I’d go out with Grandma Maggie and Aunt Helen on their little rowboat, tied off at a dock at the little turn taking you to the left side of the bridge. Aunt Helen and Uncle Walter lived directly across the street. It was cane poles, a jug of water, crackers and Vienna Sausage for snacking, and a few shrimp for bait…and a cut of Pin Fish if the shrimp ran out.

Grandma Maggie would ride her bike over and then back home to the old two-story house on the street behind the old school, Neuse Street I believe. She didn’t drive but it wasn’t far to go and we’d all ride together. I took a chance Thursday and stopped by that old house. It used to be white but is now red. I knocked on the door and told the young man that I used to live there as a child, in the mid 1960s. I asked to go in and he allowed me to do so. Everything was different, and it seemed smaller, but it wasn’t — I was just bigger! I thanked him and another young man who emerged from upstairs and went on my way.

I have to backtrack here! Before going to the house, I stopped by that little white, cement block church I went to from birth well into my teens — the Oriental PHC. It started as a tent, then a small little wood church, and then the new church was built, with classrooms added on years later. My grandparents, Maggie and Coy Bland, were charter members, along with their two youngest children, and a few neighbors. I walked up onto the small porch, as I had done so many times. I put my hand on the door and said a prayer for what is now a Hispanic church, which I fully intend to visit one Sunday morning.

After the church, and old house, I went toward Midyette Street, a place where my grandparents eventually lived, and we lived next door, a stone’s throw away from Billy and Lucille Truitt. It was fun living there. One Christmas, we all got skates—my sister, Pat, Donna Sue Broughton, Letha Asby, and myself. We skated up and down the street from in front of the Truitt’s onto Midyette Street. There were softball games in the summer, and quite a time playing on an old pecan tree that came down during a tropical storm. Life was good, even if I did break my leg sliding into third base.

Behind us, on Broad Street where all the boats now set, was another old, two-story house that belonged to Uncle Chick and Aunt Myrtle. They had a house full of kids so there was no lack of fun—Dark Shadows and Lost in Space after school was the norm. They eventually moved but we still had Red Lee’s. Where else could a quarter get you a burger, and a dime get you a nice cold Mt Dew or Pepsi. I guess you could get the drink (never called it soda) from Ralph Lee’s Station but not the burger!

Well, as is always true, all good things must end. I took a trip to the cemetery, where I found family members I remembered, some I never knew, and great friends. It was sad, yet uplifting. I miss them all but the memories are priceless. I was thinking, as I walked around, taking photos of stones and markers, wouldn’t this be a great place to be when Jesus comes back! I smiled and wiped a tear from my cheek as I thought about my grandparents, Mrs. Simmons, Papa Joe, Mrs. Fulcher, Mrs. Roberts, Mrs. Mills, the Truitts, and my old friend Donna Sue.

In one last pass, I drove back into town, stopped by Town ‘N Country Grocery and grabbed a few things…and a Diet Pepsi that certainly was not a quarter! Anyway, that was my day, and that was My Oriental.

Antique cars require plenty of work & money

Great Race in 2014 plans stop June 25 in New Bern

Special to the County Compass

NEW BERN – Antique cars, including a classic 1951 Ford Coupe owned by Jordan Foss, are likely to emerge en masse next June to greet participants in the annual ‘Great Race,’ sponsored by Hemming Motor News.

In 2014, the route passes through New Bern for an overnight stop. The contest features vintage automobiles and tests a team’s ability to follow precise course instructions and their antique car’s ability to endure on a cross-country trip.

Foss, at right, is seen above with Doug Jones, a master at restoring old cars. The owner of Liberty Carpets in New Bern, Foss figures he has at least $10,000 invested in restoration of the recently acquired ‘51 Ford Coupe. He enjoys an occasional visit with Jones to monitor progress and to talk shop. Many of the parts for the old Ford are coming from a source in Oklahoma.

“I’m getting ready to spend $1,250 to buy a set of front and back bumpers,” chuckled Foss. “My wife, Johnnie, sure isn’t going to like that.”

 

What is the Great Race?

A: The Great Race is an antique, vintage, and collector car competitive controlled-speed endurance road rally on public highways. It is not a test of top speed. It is a test of a driver/navigator team’s ability to follow precise course instructions and the car’s (and team’s) ability to endure on a cross-country trip. The course instructions require the competing teams to drive at or below the posted speed limits at all times.

County icon dies

Special to the County Compass

ORIENTAL – Ned Everett Delamar Jr, 93, found peace on November 18, 2013 at his Sterling House residence in New Bern.   Born July 10, 1920 in Oriental, he is preceded in death by his father, Ned E. Delamar Sr, mother, Pearl Johnson Delamar, wife, Libby Woodard Delamar, son, Ned E. Delamar III,  and brother, Paul J. Delamar Sr.  
 
Ned is survived by his son, Dennis Woodard Delamar of Charlotte; daughter, Mary Delamar Flythe and husband, Michael, of New Bern; daughter-in-law, Joan Delamar Gracie and husband, Larry Gracie of Oriental; grand daughters, Emily Caroline Flythe of Hanoi,Vietnam and Elizabeth Crockett Henderson and husband, Carl of  Swansboro; grand sons, Bill Flythe of  Wilmington and John Hales Delamar of Oriental; great grandchildren, Caroline, John Crockett, and Annabelle Henderson of  Swansboro; nephew, Paul J. Delamar Jr and wife, Cynthia, and  many beloved  nieces, nephews and their descendants.
 
Growing up in Oriental, he never faltered from his deep love for this small town on the coast where he spent most of his life.  His home on Main Street was his castle, the view from his front porch he said was his most perfect place in the world.  After graduating from Oriental High School in 1937, he studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music and University of Richmond before entering the US Army. He served from 1940 – active duty and active reserve 28 years. Fought in five major campaigns during WWII; Infantry Platoon Sergeant and First Sergeant in Combat.  Received direct commission and retired US Army Active Reserve as Lieutenant Colonel.   A member of the 82nd Airborne Division, he was decorated with many medals of heroism and service including two Purple Hearts. 
 
He and Libby were married in 1946 and built their home in Oriental where they raised their three children.   A member of the Oriental Methodist Church his whole life, he was a Sunday School teacher, choir member, and a delegate to the NC Methodist Conference for many years.   His brother Paul and Ned owned and operated  Delamar Brothers General Merchandise at the foot of the Oriental Bridge while Ned simultaneously served as Pamlico County’s Representative in the state legislature from 1955 to 1965.   A great advocate of education, he co-sponsored and introduced the Community College Act of 1963 that began the NC Community College System fifty years ago. 
 
From 1965 to 1980 he became a liaison with the Dept of Community Colleges and the state legislature, also serving as the director of Specialty Education Programs for the system until he retired and moved back to Oriental in 1980.   From 1980 to 1988  he served as the Executive Director of NC Fisheries Association and  consultant  in Southeast state legislatures and the US Congress.
 
In 1998 he was honored with the distinguished I.E. Ready for his service to the state’s community college system.   A new building, The Ned Everett Delamar Center was dedicated at Pamlico Community College in 2008 to honor his legacy, also the Ned E Delamar Scholarship awarded each year to a deserving student.
 
He will be remembered fondly as a man who never met a stranger.  An entertainer and politician at heart, he charmed young and old with his vast collection of funny stories and recitations, beautiful singing voice, great sense of fun, ventriloquism, magic tricks, and his gifted ability to command the room. He was characterized by his commitment to his church, family, community, and country; his lifetime of service to others; and a genuine love of people.
 
 The family extends special thanks and appreciation to the caring staff of Sterling House of New Bern and the doctors and nurses of Eastern Nephrology of New Bern, Pamlico Medical Center of Bayboro, and Community Health Care and Hospice of New Bern. 
 
A celebration of Ned’s life will be Friday November 22, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. at Oriental Methodist Church on 404 Freemason Street with Reverends Charles Moseley and Stan Brown officiating.   Visitation with the family will begin there at  9:15 a.m. prior to the service.  A graveside service will follow at Oriental Cemetery with Masonic Rites and US military honors.  Other visitation this week will take place at the home of Mary and Michael Flythe, 1998 Jack Rabbit Lane, New Bern NC 28562.  
 
In lieu of flowers contributions in Ned’s memory may be made to Oriental United Methodist Church, PO Box 70, Oriental NC 28571 or Ned E Delamar Scholarship, Pamlico Community College Foundation, PO Box 185, Grantsboro, NC 28529.
 
Online condolences to the family may be made at bryantfuneralhomeandcrematory.com
 
Arrangements by Bryant Funeral Home & Crematory, Alliance.

 

Blind hiker completes trek

Park Superintendent Debo Cox greets blind hiker Trevor Thomas. (Photo credit Simon Lock)

Park Superintendent Debo Cox greets blind hiker Trevor Thomas. (Photo credit Simon Lock)

By Penny Zibula | Staff Writer

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a two-part report.

JOCKEY’S RIDGE STATE PARK – On the afternoon of June 22, we — along with Trevor Thomas’ family, friends, and Park Superintendent Debo Cox — stood atop a dune, which marked the end of the Mountains to Sea Trail.

We were awaiting the arrival of the blind hiker and his guide dog, Tennille, as the pair completed their most recent accomplishment.

Shortly after his arrival to much applause and cheering, Thomas told The County Compass that he felt exhilarated. 

“The fact that so many people came out is really touching,” he said. When asked what he missed most while he was on the trail, he said, without hesitation, “Starbuck’s.”

The hiker’s trail began in April amongst the mountains of North Carolina at Clingman’s Dome.

He and Tennille slogged through snow and rain, conquered challenging terrain, and encountered a variety of creatures, including several large snakes. They also encountered Trail Angels — friends and strangers who generously offer help and support to backcountry hikers.

Several Trail Angels came out to the dune to greet Thomas and Tennille. Some had heard of their pending arrivals along the trail, had offered food and permission to camp in their yards. Others were friends, like Laine Walter, who typed trail directions into emails from her home in Charlotte, and sent them to Trevor’s iPhone.

In this way, he had the information he needed. This, plus his uncanny ability to gather clues from his surroundings, enabled him to keep track of his progress without using GPS.

Thomas received Tennille from Guide Dogs for the Blind in 2012, the same training facility that gave me my guide, Otto, the previous year. Although we enjoyed chatting about our individual positive experiences at Guide Dogs for the Blind, the conversation soon turned to the specialized training he and Tennille received in order to prepare them for the continuation of his career as a professional hiker.

Tennille was trained to think in two modes. When wearing a harness, she knows that she is expected to perform street work, which consists of — among other things — stopping at every curb and change in terrain.

When they are on the trail, however, Thomas doesn’t put Tennille in harness, because, “She would be stopping for everything.” This would make progress painfully slow, so when Thomas puts Tennille’s small backpack on, “It tells her that it’s time to hit the trail.” She knows that she needs to make decisions that allow them to move at a rapid pace, without compromising Thomas’s safety.

Park Superintendent Debo Coxpresents a gubernatorial citation honoring Thomas and his guide dog. (Photo credit Simon Lock)

Park Superintendent Debo Coxpresents a gubernatorial citation honoring Thomas and his guide dog. (Photo credit Simon Lock)

Debo Cox, the park superintendent, presented Thomas with a citation from North Carolina Gov. Pat McRory.

I briefly interviewed Jef Judin, a documentarian assigned to film all aspects of the hike for Thorlos, a sock manufacturer and one of Thomas’ many sponsors. While performing his duties, Judin also made certain that Thomas had more than dehydrated meals to keep him going. At our first encounter the previous week, Judin was grilling steaks, corn and potatoes for Thomas, who burns a significant number of calories daily.

“I now have a completely different perspective of people who are sight impaired,” said Judin. “Because we don’t know, we tend to feel sorry for somebody who’s lost their sight, and feel like it’s a disability that’s very difficult to overcome. And in meeting Trevor, I’ve changed that completely”.

Over the last three months, the two have become close friends, and Judin is grateful for the insights he has gleaned.

“In a lot of ways,” mused Judin, “I feel that Trevor has an advantage over sighted people, because he‘s able to feel things that sighted people don’t even know are there. I have a feeling – a gut instinct – that Trevor is going to play a very large role in shifting consciousness about sight impairment.”

Despite all that he has learned through his work with Thomas, Judin has consistently been ahead of the curve professionally.

“I have always felt that what you hear is as important as what you see,” he emphasized.

He strives to give his films the ability to stand alone as audio without video, and video without audio. He wants his audiences to be able to look solely at the screen or hear only the audio, and, “Get the story,” he said.

While chowing down on a burger and fries – his first meal after coming off the trail – Thomas was already talking about his next hike, the Camino De Santiago in Spain in 2014.

Upon his return to Charlotte, he will be fulfilling obligations to sponsors, and continuing his work as a motivational speaker.

I reluctantly raised the question of whether or not Thomas would want to have his sight restored, if given the chance — a question that I am often asked.

“Definitely not,” he said emphatically.” “I’ve been blind long enough that it’s part of me. It’s part of who I am, like having blond hair or blue eyes. Would it make my life drastically easier? Yes, of course it would. But then I think of the things that I’ve done, and the energy and effort that I’ve had to put in. Would it make my life more rewarding? I don’t think so. If I wasn’t blind, I wouldn’t have this job. I’m the only long-distance hiker in the world that is paid to do what I do. Being blind is actually an asset for what I do. That’s the big positive. It’s given me one interesting job.”