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Meet a retired marine who’s retirement lasted four weeks

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Pictured above: LowCountry Habitat Executive Director discusses his career path.

By Molly Ingram

Sometimes you run across someone and something that just seem meant-to-be together. Meet Chet Houston, the Executive Director of LowCountry Habitat for Humanity.

Chet, and his lovely wife of 24 years, Marcy, were high school sweethearts back in Kansas where they are from. Chet headed to college on a track scholarship but soon learned college just wasn’t the place for him. But the Marines might be.

So began a career that spanned 26 years and only ended last April when Chet retired. “I couldn’t stay a Marine forever. The time had come for the next phase, the next chapter, the next adventure,” he chuckled. His Marine tenure was filled with duty postings on both coasts of the US, a few in the middle, as well as in multiple areas of Asia. His jobs included being a drill instructor, teaching motorcycle safety, and three combat deployments.

Mixed into the various jobs, Chet got his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and holds a Master’s in Business Administration from Norwich University. But how do you go from the military to LowCountry Habitat? It started with a simple phone call.

“I had only been retired for less than a month when I received a call about the LowCountry Habitat job. I wasn’t ready to start to look for a job just yet. I had a whole, long list of projects to do around the house that I wanted to complete plus, summer was coming. I hadn’t had a summer to enjoy in a really LONG time.” But Chet was convinced to send in his resume. Within days, he got a call from the head of LowCountry’s search committee that they wanted to interview him. They understood that he wasn’t ready to take a new position just yet but he could use that time to start to hone his interview skills for when he was ready.

The bottom line was that the search committee loved him and he fell in love with LowCountry Habitat. So ended his summer vacation.

Chet has found that making the transition from the Marines to working in a non-profit has not been as difficult as he was led to believe it would be. “I am completely impressed with the level of dedication I have witnessed from the staff of LowCountry Habitat. I credit the professionalism of the staff and board of directors for making the transition from military to civilian employee so easy for me.”

The first big challenge for the new Executive Director was to celebrate LowCountry Habitats 25th Anniversary and raise the necessary $60,000 to build an additional house this year. “Typically, we build one house a year. This year we will be building 3+ houses. For us, this is very exciting as the need is far greater than our capacity to build. Two families will have a new home for Thanksgiving.” Pretty cool.

LowCountry Habitat had its anniversary celebration last week at a low key event at the Shed in Port Royal. Supported by fine food and wine establishments, patrons enjoyed a myriad of excellent heavy hors d’oeuvres and drink surrounded by great silent auction items and live bidding on “honey do” service providers. It seems there are quite a lot of households that have an extensive “honey do” list and this was a way to cross some of those chores off the list while supporting a favorite non-profit.

“I don’t have the final numbers yet, but preliminary reports indicate that we are close to raising the goal of $60,000. I don’t think we made it completely, but I think we are going to be close. And we’ll do whatever we have to do to get the balance of the money we need for our anniversary house. Of that, I’m sure.”

LowCountry Habitat had the hiring gods on their side when they convinced Chet to interview. His easy, team building style fits with the mission of this non-profit. His “rock solid” work ethic and his belief that “If it’s a job worth doing, it’s worth doing well” is going to serve both LowCountry Habitat and Beaufort well on all fronts.

Welcome to a great new job, a place where you can use all you have learned from the military to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, where you can raise your three daughters in a caring and giving community and where motorcycle riding is considered almost mandatory. However, you might be on your own rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs. Just sayin’…

Local minister gives back in more ways than one

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Photo above: Crystal Clean, LLC owner shares her past and future dreams.

By Molly Ingram

It isn’t often that you get to meet someone who embodies all those qualities that you wish all your friends had – courage, compassion, empathy, honesty, total dedication and a drive to succeed that outstrips most people. Meet Crystal Dewar, owner of Crystal Clean, LLC.

Crystal was raised in Charleston where she was the co-captain of the cheerleading team and Homecoming Queen. Because she found herself unexpectedly pregnant, she took her senior year off to get her first son, Matthew, off to the right start. She returned to Garrett High School the following year to complete her studies and graduate.

From high school, Crystal began a long career working for Fidelity Investments in Raleigh, NC where she was a member of the Human Resources team. Here she worked with new hires to get them acclimated and comfortably situated in their new company. She took full advantage of all the training that Fidelity offered their employees to add skills to her resume. Classes in call center work and successful business writing have all served her well in the intervening years.

But what I think sets Crystal apart from her contemporaries who have also been successful is that she takes her faith very seriously. “Being a minister gives me the world as my pulpit.” Crystal travels extensively to give inspirational speeches designed to empower women. “I enjoy speaking at Women’s Conferences on issues that face many of us today – especially domestic violence and surviving hardship. Women are incredibly resilient if they can only believe in themselves, but that is a very big “only”.

After a second child, Hezekiah who is, at 21, a new Navy recruit stationed in Michigan, Crystal moved to Lady’s Island to be near her parents. Her mother is a minister as well and her father spent his career in various areas of construction. “As the youngest of three, and the only girl, my mother was the center of my life. She certainly inspired me to live my beliefs but to also share my gifts. And that has come in the form of ministering.”

Crystal is unusual in that she loves to clean. It provides her with a sense of satisfaction that many of us don’t find in our daily jobs. “I approach every cleaning job, whether it is residential or commercial, as if it were my own house. It has to come out to my very high standards each and every time. I discovered that in life, your gift makes room for you. Everyone has something that he or she does that they are exceptional and passionate about. Cleaning happens to be my gift.”

At 40, Crystal had her third boy, Micah who is now three and an adorable terror on wheels. “You know there was a lot of water under the bridge between when I raised Hezekiah who is now 21 and Micah who is three. I thought the Muppets were still the “in” characters. But my three year old quickly disabused me of that notion. Now I am conversant on Frozen and actually looking forward to the next Star Wars chapter.”

Somehow between running her growing business, Crystal still finds time to work-out at LifeFit, part of Beaufort Memorial. “I am always running so to speak. I have to stay fit so I can keep up with Micah and stay on top of my expanding business. This is no easy feat.” But she manages to do it and do it with a smile on her face. As she adds to her client base of her 15 private clients, eight apartment complexes and local office buildings that her company cleans for, it looks like the churning business of summer rental management companies is about to be added to her client list. “The company is ready to take on a huge client or two. We have a solid infrastructure in place already at the offices in Bluffton. What sets us apart from other cleaning companies is that we provide affordable cleaning along with high quality standards, not something you find very often.” And growing her business is paramount for Crystal. She has a one year, five year and ten year plan. “Crystal Clean will become a household name. How can it not when it provides a needed service, high quality assurance and smiles all around?”

“I am not going to put my heart and soul into something and not have it be the best. I learned early in life that ministering was a calling, but it wasn’t my destiny. There was more I could give and share with the world and I am so grateful that I get to do that every day.”

Jamaican native Graham shines as a Beaufort firefighter

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Photo above: Firefighter Arvel Graham is always on call.

By Molly Ingram

“We’re just here to help people.”

That pretty much sums it up. It clearly identifies what it means to Arvel Graham to be a member of the Beaufort Fire Department. And honestly, it probably defines many of our local firefighters. They hold a job that isn’t for everyone. It carries huge responsibilities and stresses that each member learns how to handle for themselves. It requires intelligence, determination, courage, humor, patience and skills – lots of skills most of us have no idea of their complexity.

All of those traits show through in Arvel, a new member to the force as of last April. Arvel’s journey started in his home country of Jamaica and finally deposited him here in Beaufort where he stayed with his Aunt in Yamanssee. When he first arrived in Beaufort, he worked at Sherwin Williams Paints and helped coach a Beaufort County P.A.L.S. soccer team for his niece. It was here that a father of one of the young girls, who happened to be a firefighter, suggested Arvel look into fire-fighting as a career. And he could volunteer for the department in the meantime to see if he really liked it.

Although it took a while for the fire department to add on volunteers, Arvel hung in there and signed up. When you volunteer for the fire department, you must take all the same training as the regular firefighters, get most of their certifications, and do the same routine as a regular firefighter. Arvel learned CPR, got a certificate as an Emergency Medical Responder, and multiple other skills, all as a volunteer.

During this time, Arvel did maintenance on military housing to provide some income. One day while on base with his co-worker, they saw a dog running lose so they decided to try and catch him. In the process, Arvel noticed a woman, who had a baby with her, talking on her phone. Little did he think that when he looked up minutes later from what he was doing, that same woman would be on the ground in tears yelling that her baby wasn’t breathing. Arvel convinced the woman to let him administer CPR on the baby and he did in fact get the child to start breathing again. Without his training, the best he could have done was call 911.

This experience sealed the deal for Arvel and when a full time job became available late last winter, he applied and was accepted. “I’m a people person,” he said. “I feel strongly that you need to give back to your community and this is one of the ways I can do that, by being a first-rate fireman.”

Life is different now that he is a member of Shift III at the Ribaut Road headquarters station. He rides “rear jump” which is the seat behind the firefighter riding shot-gun next to the driver. He can be assigned onsite to any job the Captain wants him to do. It might be “fire attack” or laying out hoses, or cutting through a roof. “Times have changed,” he said. “Now there are many more rules, mostly for safety, so it isn’t as scary as in years past. But the adrenalin rush is still huge when the alarm goes off.”

His shift consists of 24 hours on and 48 hours off. Each day on duty, he is required to spend an hour in the gym working out so he stays in top shape in order to handle the very demanding challenges he will face on a daily basis in Beaufort. And if the shift members aren’t out on a job, they are studying or getting trained in something new. Or if it is a weekend, they are cleaning the equipment and the bay where the trucks are stored until needed. And yes, there is cooking involved. Arvel plans to treat the station to some home-style Jamaican food in the near future. “I love to cook and since I am the first Jamaican on the force, I would like to show my gratitude for the men accepting me by providing a nice dinner for them.”

Since he is neither a fisherman nor a hunter, common pastimes here in Beaufort, he is trying to figure out a hobby to keep him busy when not at the station. His former love of sports photography is starting to nudge again, so maybe we will see Arvel on the sidelines at some of our local games until his beeper starts going, and this off-duty firefighter suddenly finds himself back on-duty.

Avrel is a 26 year old gentleman who lives in Port Royal with his fiancé, Crystal, also from Jamaica, who is in the process of getting her R.N. degree. Together they will make a great couple of professionals both keeping the rest of us safe and healthy. Beaufort is lucky to have men like Arvel in our fire department. He personifies a fine individual who is living his dream, learning every day, and has a smile on his face for anybody he meets.

Philanthropist Peter Post is positively perfect for Beaufort

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Photo above: After a career with the YMCA, Peter Post continues volunteering. 

Peter Post has received a YMCA paycheck ever since he started working at the local summer camp at age 18. Dedicating his life to working with – and for – people, Peter’s career has taken him across the country as he transitioned from national nonprofit executive to active, engaged philanthropist.

A native New Englander, Peter first became involved with the YMCA the summer before his freshman year of college. He applied to work as a counselor at the local YMCA summer camp, even though the newspaper ad said the camp was only looking for current college students. Peter ultimately got the counselor position. “I loved working with kids,” he recalled, explaining the success of his first foray into the YMCA world. “That’s how it got started, and then they kept asking me to come back every summer.”

Peter took his first job at the Bridgeport YMCA after graduating from Springfield College. At summer camp, “They kept telling me I’d make a good YMCA Director – and then I did that!” he shared. In Bridgeport, Peter realized his aptitude for one skill every nonprofit executive must have: fundraising. One of his first assignments was to call on various prospective donors. He had one day to run with this assignment, despite the fact that all of the prospects had a predicted gift of $0.

Peter surprised everyone when he came back that day with $164. This 23-year-old YMCA rookie was on his way up.

After Bridgeport, Peter headed to Boston, where he spent 28 years on staff, ending his tenure there as President of the Boston YMCA after having overseen a merger with the Woburn YMCA. However, that wasn’t even Peter’s peak: his last position was serving as COO for YMCA of the USA, the national office based in Chicago.

“I loved the opportunity to work with people,” Peter said of his career with the YMCA. “I thought some of the nicest people I’d ever met worked at the YMCA, and I wanted to emulate them – they were just terrific people, and had an interest in serving kids in the community.”

However, in 1997, it was finally time for a well-deserved retirement. Peter and his wife had visited Dataw Island years before, but after searching across the South for the perfect home, they decided Beaufort was the place to be. Peter in particular was attracted by the level of community involvement he saw in his future neighbors. And of course, there was a local YMCA Peter saw he could get involved in.

Nearing 18 years in Beaufort, Peter has become a fixture of the local philanthropic community. He served on the board of the YMCA for 12 years, eventually acting as their Chairman. Peter also worked with Penn Center’s board and helped them to launch the 1862 Circle, which honors leaders who advocate for the history and culture of the Sea Islands – past winners include Mary Mack and Jonathan Green. Currently, Peter is most involved with United Way of the Lowcountry, which serves Beaufort and Jasper Counties. There he focuses on bringing back fundraising after the financial crisis of 2008. “To be a part of turning that around has been a high point,” Peter explained.

At the end of the day, every day since he was 18, Peter Post has made a different in the lives of others through his work. Here in Beaufort, he continues that through meaningful volunteer service with a variety of different nonprofits. For Peter, “[volunteering] was an outlet for me to help support not-for-profits and keep my mind active while raising money for good causes.” We thank Peter for his service – Beaufort is a better place because of it.

Beaufort shop owner shares memories of the past

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Carolina native, Andy Brown, talks sewing and stock cars.

Photo above: Carolina native, Andy Brown, talks sewing and stock cars.

By Molly Ingram

Very seldom do you get to meet someone who is really honestly interesting and who has lived a life worth both remembering and sharing. I had that great pleasure last week when I stopped in to chat with Andy Brown, owner for 40 years of Carolina Auto Trim.

Andy has no formal education past some high school yet he has managed to embrace his two passions in life – stock car racing and sewing. No, they aren’t normally linked but for Andy, one was a means to the other.

Andy with his one of his English Black Labs.
Andy with his one of his English Black Labs.

Andy started out in Columbia, SC where he was born and then in 1972 he moved to Lands’ End on St. Helena where he lives today. In the early days he lived in a small apartment near Fort Fremont he called the Frogmore Hilton. In those days he worked at a local garage and raced late model stock cars on dirt tracks on nights and weekends. Fixing cars turned out to be too “greasy” for him so he switched to an auto body shop (“hated sanding”) and finally to Smitty’s Auto Trim shop. Here Andy found his professional calling – to make top notch upholstered cushions for boats, cars, or whatever you want to sit on or lean against as long as it moves.

After a bad motorcycle accident, Andy opened his own shop called Carolina Auto Trim in Beaufort which is celebrating its 40th year in business. But he was still involved in auto racing. He may not have been racing himself like in the old days but he had morphed to the “owner” slot. “My driver, Hal McGraw in 1983, ran the first Grand National Race at Daytona Speedway. Oglethorpe Speedway furnished the car to run because Hal had won their Championship. We were in the garage next to Dale Earnhardt Sr. Our crew chief was Gary Hargett who was at one time a partner with Earnhardt Sr. and who was also his crew chief. Dale Sr. later picked Hargett to become Dale Jr’s mentor.” And so a lifelong friendship started between the two Earnhardt’s, Hargett and Andy.

Andy met his wife, Pam, who was working at the Oglethorpe Speedway Park, a dirt track down in Pooler, GA when we was competing there. When asked what he is most proud of, Andy responded, “Being smart enough to marry Pam and see all she has contributed to the Beaufort County Sherriff’s office where she has worked for the last whole-bunch-of years.” Along with Pam, Andy loves his two English Black Labs, Fremont and Ruby, a brother and sister team who come to the office with him every day. Never one to mince words, Andy said, “What’s not to love about English labs?” I have to agree with that.

As we chatted about all things car related, Andy shared a story that is so typical of the friend-helping-friend attitude you find in Beaufort. “We used to have an old wrecker; you know a truck with a big crane on it? Anyway, a local Veterinarian, Dr. Murphy, called one day and begged us to bring the wrecker down to his practice which we did. What we found when we got there was a HUGE bull who had collapsed and couldn’t get up. Well, we hooked him up to the wrecker and got him standing again but I tell you, I laughed for days.”

Andy has a 1931 Model A with a late model engine in it so it will cruise on the highway with no problem. You can’t miss it with the yellow flames all over the sides if it. It is the perfect car to represent Andy — a vintage hot rod with a big time engine would be exactly how I would describe him — a very sweet vintage hot rod at that.

Battery Creek High Valedictorian awarded scholarship to Cornell

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She considered Brown, Clemson and Columbia, but in the end Kierra Grayson chose Cornell because she felt it would put her in the best position academically for medical school.

“Once I visited the campus I knew I made the right decision,” the Battery Creek High School Valedictorian says.

DSC_9420The 18-year old received a distinguished diploma for completing more than 100 hours of community service and other academic criteria during her high school years. She juggled advance placement courses, health science classes and a variety of clubs while never getting anything less than an A on her report cards. The payoff for her hard work includes the full scholarship from Cornell as well as local scholarships from the Nu Delta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Zeta Phi Beta, Ladies of the Lowcountry, and The Robert Smalls Association. Additionally, she received the South Carolina Student Readiness Award from the ACT College and Career Readiness Campaign.

Kierra credits her mother, Michelle, for being the guiding force in her life. “She has always allowed me to be exactly as I am,” she says. “She was never the type of parent that forced me into a mold. She gave me the tools to lead a successful life.”

The self-described risk-taker says she loves to try new things and doesn’t always take the conventional path to accomplish her goals. In fact, it’s the advice she offers to students heading to their first year of high school.

“Try new things. Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to let go of things and people that aren’t progressing along with you on your journey. It is never too early to start investing in your future.”

Her advice for high school seniors reflects the wisdom of someone who understands the changes ahead of her.

“Everything is temporary so enjoy your last year of carefree living while you can. Don’t place too much emphasis on minor details. Do things just because and don’t procrastinate anything.”

Kierra plans to attend medical school after graduating from Cornell, with an eye toward specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. She also wants to start a non-profit organization for young people to constructively cultivate interests, learn new skills, seek advice or just hang out.

“Today’s youth are growing up too fast,” she says. “They need to know it is okay to be a kid. I want to create an organization that supports the need for children to find their innocence again.”

With the drive, focus and determination that created this valedictorian, there’s little doubt that Kierra will accomplish each of these goals and more.

Meet the Commodore for the 61st Water Festival

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Photo by SK & Assoc.

It takes dozens of volunteers with a variety of titles to put together the Beaufort Water Festival every year. Chris Canaday spent time as assistant treasurer, treasurer, sponsors coordinator, sales and admissions coordinator, parks coordinator and sports coordinator before taking on the role of program coordinator in this, his 11th year of volunteering.

“My wife, Stacey, actually volunteered for two years as the chairperson for Children’s Day before I became involved,” Chris explains. “I attended a Water Festival crew picnic with her and when Jack Little, who was the event treasurer at the time, said he was looking for an assistant, I said I would do it. I’ve been a Beaufort Water Festival volunteer ever since that day.”

As program coordinator, Chris oversees the other nine coordinators on staff. His experience in many of the positions comes in handy as he offers assistance and guidance as they each work toward meeting the individual requirement of their respective positions.

Born and raised in Beaufort, Chris says he can’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s possible, though, that Port Royal comes in a close second to Beaufort. Chris spends his days as the finance manager for the town of Port Royal. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Financial Management from Clemson University, a Master of Science degree in Sports Administration from Florida State University and he’s a Certified Government Finance Officer through the Government Finance Officers Association of South Carolina.

In addition to his wife Stacey’s involvement with Water Festival (this year she’s serving as the productions coordinator), Chris’s dad was a Water Festival volunteer when Chris was young. But it was under Chris’s watch as sports coordinator last year that the family’s most interesting Water Festival story occurred.

As Chris tells is, “The last Friday of Festival is the day of the Bed Race where one person sits on a hospital bed/gurney and four runners push the bed down Bay Street for about a quarter mile hoping for the fastest time. Last year a big storm rolled in just as the Bed Race was finishing. In the downpour/water spout that ensued, someone actually made off with two of the beds! Don’t know how or why, but they did.”

Chris and Stacey are parents to Hayden, age 11, and Rowan, age 7. Both boys attend Riverview Charter School. The family enjoys boating and spending time at the beach.

With his heart in Water Festival, Chris encourages others to get involved with the Beaufort community. “Have fun. Volunteer for the right reasons. Remember that what we do is about the community and not us as individuals. If you aren’t having fun and you are just looking to pad your resume, get out. Water Festival volunteers are like one big family. We are there for each other through thick and thin. We have the best volunteer crew ever! And I cannot wait for next year!”

Transplanted Buckeye rounds out his year as the Beaufort Water Festival Commodore

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He’s a graduate of The Ohio State University who has been Beaufort High School’s head wrestling coach for 26 years. Now Bill Damude teaches history during the school year, but he stays mighty busy over the summers as well by volunteering for the Beaufort Water Festival. This year Bill served as Commodore of the Festival.

“The Water Festival has a great group of volunteers that not only put on the best Festival each year, but who also contribute to many other festivals and events around Beaufort,” Bill says. “Our volunteers can be found in many other volunteer groups and helping with numerous events. I think our motto should be ‘we’ll help’ because we always seem to and that’s another thing that makes it so much fun.”

Over the last year, Bill learned that staying flexible and having a good time is the best way to enjoy the year as Commodore.

DSC_9380_cmykBill’s career choice combined three loves: teaching, history and the sport of wrestling. He still helps with the wrestling team, which means he is truly doing what he loves. With “a year or two of teaching left” to add to his current 32 years as a teacher, Bill considers education something of a family business.

“I come from a family of teachers,” he says. “My mom, two sisters, brothers-in-law and nephews all teach.”

He says the great thing about teaching is that every day brings new experiences. His goal is to inspire kids to be productive and lead happy, successful lives as well as to enjoy learning and know that school doesn’t equate to misery.

“I’m fortunate to have worked with some great teachers over the years,” Bill says, “and have students who make teaching enjoyable.”

Bill and his wife, Marcia, are parents to son Taylor, age 23, and daughter Jylian, age 21. He also volunteers with Waters Edge United Methodist Church. One of Bill’s claims to fame is that he’s the world record holder for the John Boy and Billy Big Show’s Wordy Word game.

When asked about his post-teaching plans, Bill says he doesn’t know what will come next. He plans to take things as they come and enjoy the beautiful small town atmosphere that makes Beaufort so special. We want to thank Bill for all his hard work this year and for making the 60th Water Festival extra special. The Buckeyes might want you back but you are a Beaufortonian now!

Local artist never stopped dreaming of Bay Street gallery

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PROFILE - MARY THIBAUT

Mary Thibault knows how to turn a vision into reality. As a self-taught artist, Mary starts with a passion for the work and, literally, a prayer, and, as she says, “Then the paintings flow.”

And even before Thibault Gallery, the Bay Street space where Mary shows her own and other artist’s work, was a reality, she was committed to the idea of it.

“I named my business Thibault Gallery long before I actually had a physical gallery,” Mary says. “I had our website so customers could order art through there. I always kept the idea of owning our gallery alive through journaling, too.”

The Beaufort native spent 15 years in the classroom as a special education and art teacher. She also painted props and scenery for her daughters’ dance performances and murals for Beaufort High School. But art was an after hours endeavor for many years.

“I painted at night after my full-time classroom job,” Mary says. “My husband Eric and I did art shows on the weekends.” Time spent showing her artwork at Green Fish Gallery and in a studio space at Atelier on the Bay only reinforced Mary’s desire to own her own gallery on Bay Street. When the Bay Street Outfitters building became available in January 2014, Thibault Gallery found its home.

According to Mary, “I’m blessed to be able to follow my passion and paint full time. Being a gallery owner means I’m in charge of production and customer service. Eric is CFO, the head custodian and shipping clerk. We’re the only employees of the gallery, so it’s a good thing we each get along with our co-worker!”

In addition to Mary’s own work, Thibault Gallery features what she calls the cream-of-the-crop of the Beaufort art community. The welcoming space is filled with her own work as well as the work of 14 other artists who share Mary’s positive spirit. Since opening, the gallery has received a total of three Best Art Gallery awards from Best of Beaufort and Beaufort Gazette Readers Choice.

PROFILE - MARY FISHMary and Eric’s blended family includes seven children (including two Megans!) aged 14 to 30. Family holds great importance for Mary, so even though there isn’t a time when she wouldn’t rather have a brush in hand, she recently agreed to go fishing with Eric and daughter Erin and son-in-law Bryon. Mary had the biggest catch of the day and the achievement was memorialized with a photo.

In addition to growing Thibault Gallery, Mary and Eric want to help develop First Friday After Five, where downtown Beaufort galleries and businesses extend their hours to 8 p.m. on the first Friday of each month. The event features musicians who play near the Bay Street clock and Thibault Gallery serves wine and hors d’oeuvres and customers can meet the artists. Eventually, Mary would like to see Bay Street closed for this “Night on the town” event.

“It never hurts to dream,” she says.

Connecting to Beaufort in a big way

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PROFILE Frank Mueller (6 of 7)

Get to know a loyal volunteer with the Beaufort Water Festival 

Frank Mueller lived in Beaufort for 10 years before first volunteering with the Beaufort Water Festival, but he hasn’t missed a year since then. And his volunteering doesn’t stop with The Water Festival. You can find Frank working as a volunteer or in a professional capacity as an employee of the city of Beaufort at just about every festival held in Beaufort.

“I love this town,” he says, “and I will do what I can to help make our local events successful.”

Frank’s route to the Lowcountry started in Germany, where he was born. He was raised in Dayton, Ohio, but actually moved across the country from Orange County, California, to Beaufort in 1990. That was also the year he started working for the city’s Public Works Department.

Introduced to The Water Festival in 1988 as a tourist, Frank’s next exposure was as a volunteer with the Beaufort Sail & Power Squadron. He built a booth for them that was used during the festival to promote boating safety. Now he provides electrical expertise at the Waterfront Park, making sure things like lighting and entertainment and vendor electrical needs are handled.

A Technical College of the Lowcountry alum, Frank completed certificates in heating & air and electrical in the mid 1990s. He also speaks fluent German.

But if you want to see Frank light up, ask him about volunteering at The Water Festival.

“The Water Festival family, volunteers and sponsors make the festival a success,” he says. “They are a special group and I am proud to call them friends. I enjoy giving back to the community and all the hard work is worth it to see everyone enjoying themselves and enjoying our city.”

Quick to admit he and his wife, Robin, were naïve tourists, Frank has come a long way since his first visit to Beaufort and The Water Festival.

“I never thought I would be part of putting on the festival years later. At the time, we didn’t know how to peel the shrimp at a Lowcountry supper and we thought The Whistlers were corny. Now I know The Whistlers personally.”

Frank and Robin have a dog named Shadow who, says Frank, thinks she’s their baby, and Frank enjoys darts, cornhole, billiards and the occasional game of golf. As for his plans for the immediate future, it’s all about The Water Festival.

“I expect to put in a lot of hard work this month and eventually collapse when it’s over,” he laughs.

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