By Lanier Laney
Ashley and Katherine met in fourth grade at Beaufort Academy. They started dating in high school, but went to different colleges and graduate schools for eight years. Katherine went to the University of North Carolina and the Medical University of South Carolina to pursue a degree in dentistry, while Ashley went to SCAD for a Masters in Architecture. But through it all, they stayed together, got married in 2003 and moved back to their beloved Beaufort.
They just celebrated their ninth anniversary but really, “too many to count years together,” said Katherine with a laugh. They have two very active boys, Vann, 5, and Ford, 3.
All of their parents are Beaufortonians: Beth and Gene Grace, and Lana and Al Hefner. Says Katherine, aka Kat, “We are very involved with our extended families here since both sets of parents, and my sister, Chilton, and her husband Heath Simmons, live here. Ashley’s parents have taught both boys how to swim on their weekly swim visits, even adopting my sister’s little girl for these swim visits. She thinks Lana and Pop Al are the best too! (They are taking us four to the Bahamas this summer for the boys’ first big trip). Also Lana gets the credit for producing the ‘light bulb’ for Vann to learn to read. My dad takes them to the farm to ride the tractor with him and to crab from his dock. My mom spends every free moment with my boys as well as my sisters’ three children. She is the type of grandmother that stops everything to sit down on the floor and really play with them. My youngest, Ford, thinks she hung the moon. He asks everyday to see his ‘Nanu.’ ”
I asked Kat what it’s like raising two boys with both parents pursuing professions. “With us each having a career, it does take some serious weekly planning on who is taking who where and when, but we are fortunate in that we can schedule our clients and patients in times that allow us to be there for the boys. Occasionally, we do call in a grandparent or two to help out though!”
The family loves being on the water together. Says Ashley, “Our favorite family pastime is boating, and I want the boys to love fishing as much as I do. Since we were fortunate enough to grow up here, we want our boys to love and appreciate the islands and water as much as we do.”
Ashley came from a family with a strong artistic background. His mother, Lana, is a well-known painter who owns Bay Street Gallery. His father Al was a graphic designer. Ashley happened to take an introduction to architecture course in college and liked it so much he transferred to SCAD where he completed the five-year undergraduate and masters degree program in architecture.
He returned to Beaufort to work for the Fredericks for two years, then Bill Chambers before going out on his own, opening Hefner Design on West Street, specializing in residential architectural design. During that time he enjoyed renovating, from the foundation up, a historic arts-and-crafts cottage on North Street that he and Katherine had bought. It turned out so well that it was featured in Cottage Living magazine in 2007.
Since then Ashley has won two Historic Beaufort Foundation Awards. One with Beek Webb for the renovation of the Bluntzer’s house in the Old Point neighborhood, and another for a house he restored at 1104 Greene Street. He just finished a spectacular renovation and addition to his brother and sister-in-law’s new house on Sunset Bluff, and Southern Living magazine is currently considering featuring it.
Heath Simmons said, “We found Ashley great to work with from planning the ‘big picture’ vision of our house, to being on site every day from the time the contractor poured the foundation to completing the project.”
Kat’s sister, Chilton, added, “Ashley really focused on our family’s lifestyle and incorporated that into the design of our home. For example, he knows we love to entertain in a casual setting, and the modern, functional, gorgeous kitchen that he designed capitalizes on that.”
Says Ashley about his work: “I design homes, additions, and do historic renovations. I create the design and do all the plans and construction documents for the builders to then use. My favorite part is the building phase and I like to be heavily involved in that process. There are so many decisions to make in building a house that it really helps the client to have help with each step.”
Kat’s father, Gene Grace, has been in Beaufort for 39 years and is one of Beaufort’s most beloved dentists. Kat started working for him in high school and later in college. She found she really loved the work and liked working with her father, so she joined his practice nine years ago after graduating from dental school.
“Everyone always asks me how it is working with my dad. We are very similar in personality so we have always gotten along great,” said Kat. “He is very progressive and stays on top of the latest trends in dentistry which is a blessing in this field. Also our staff is wonderful and dedicated to the team approach towards making our patients feel at ease in the office.”
The office has been named “Best Dental Practice” from readers of both The Island News and The Beaufort Gazette many times.
Gene and Kat make it a point to have a yearly oyster roast at Gene’s barn on St. Helena Island for the staff. Says Kat, “We have some die-hard oyster eaters working here (not naming any names — Terry, Sherry, Pegi and Becki!).”
The practice is dedicated to general aesthetic dentistry which is operative (fillings), crown and bridge, and minor endodontics (root canal therapy) and oral surgery. Kat treats adults as well as a lot of children.
Says Kat, “My goal is to give my patients the best care that we can do. There are so many new things happening in dentistry these days that the options to restore or replace teeth are endless, or at least feel that way to a patient sometimes. I try to present these options clearly so that we can decide together on the best treatment to last them a long time and give them the function they need. My favorite part of dentistry is helping someone to feel confident in their smile again.”
Kat has also been involved in the community. She said, “I was a founding member of the Junior Service League and have worked with all sorts of charities through them. Hope Haven is one that I stay connected to because their director, Shauw Chin Capps, is so passionate about her work and I admire that.”
Both Ashley and Kat have loved their decision to move back to their hometown after college. The home, where both their hearts were.
Kat said, “Beaufortonians are the most friendly, most welcoming people on earth! When we moved back in 2003, we were worried we weren’t going to have any friends. We only knew our parents’ friends, and none of our high school friends had come back yet. Upon arriving, we were absolutely amazed at the young people that had come in during our eight year absence. I was invited to a party where I met a group of new friends that are still my dear friends all these years later!”
GET IN TOUCH:
970 Ribaut Rd, Beaufort, 29902,
General dentistry, kids over age 4
208 B West Street,
843-271-2567, Specializes in residential architectural design