Organizers select Judy Stiles as Fossil Master for 20th Annual Festival

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Judy Stiles

Judy Stiles

By Candace Holliday | Special to the County Compass

AURORA — In 1976, a college geology course introduced Judy Stiles to fossil collecting. Searching the Monterey Bay area for fossil shark’s teeth, brachiopods and crabs sparked a love of paleontology that has become her lifelong hobby.

When her husband decided to relocate his business to North Carolina, Stiles was at first unwilling to move. Then the mother of his business partner, Thelma Bennett, sent Judy six shark’s teeth from North Carolina! Those six teeth convinced Judy that North Carolina had a lot to offer to fossil collectors and she needed no further prompting to relocate.


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In Judy’s words, “Thelma Bennett, a Past Fossil Master and much loved fossil collector, became my friend, my confidant, my mentor and my fossil partner for over 20 years.”

Judy’s fossil collecting adventures have expanded greatly. She has collected in Georgia (trilobites); West Virginia and Colorado (plant fossils); Utah (insects); Virginia (shells); Wyoming (fish); South Dakota (baculites); and, Nebraska (sabre tooth cats, turtles and oreodonts).

In addition, shark teeth in Maryland and South Carolina haven’t had much relief from her sharp eyes.

In Judy’s own words, “I have worked at the Aurora Fossil Museum for the past three years, after having formerly volunteered there. I enjoy meeting the visitors and seeing their appreciation for all the fossils. One of the opportunities I have at the museum is giving talks to children and adults about Aurora’s fossils. I have also taught a fossil class at Camp Don Lee in Minnesott Beach. Although I’ve enjoyed the many fossils I’ve collected over the years, I have found the best part of fossil collecting is the friends one makes. They are the ones who see you covered in mud, soaking wet with “helmet hair” and they still stay your friends. Be kind to the people you meet — they are the ones who will lift you up along the way.”

Judy is a founding member of the North Carolina Fossil Club (past NCFC Board Member and Secretary); Aurora Fossil Club (longtime Secretary); and, the Special Friends of the Aurora Fossil Museum. She is also a faithful Fossil Festival Volunteer and an invaluable guide for fossil hunts at PotashCorp-Aurora.

Thank you, Judy, for so freely sharing your knowledge and love of fossils.