Keith Bruno, commercial fisherman from Oriental, NC now guides the NCCHA helm.
The North Carolina Coastal Heritage Association inaugurated its 2018 agenda with a general membership meeting Tuesday, February 6 at The Bridge DownEast on Harkers Island, NC.
Commercial fisherman Keith Bruno of Oriental, NC was elected president. A strong advocate for a common sense approach to this industry, he is often sought by UNC-TV and area media outlets to provide narratives on many aspects of coastal heritage, from family life to the science of sustainable resources.
Returning as a board member for 2018, Keith Smith, publisher of TOWNDOCK.net said, “Keith Bruno is coastal heritage, live and in living color. I look forward to working with him to make good things happen in 2018.”
Bruno explained that coastal heritage had been ingrained in his family for multiple generations. “I am honored to be given the opportunity to help preserve our heritage. Our lifestyles, our stories, our people. We might be a throwback to another era; we are definitely not comfortable in a disposable society, and all of our coastal people are worth learning from and protecting. Going forward together and meeting the challenges that we all face in a modern society, we can all help remember and learn from the past while living in the present.”
Joe Miller of New Bern, NC was re-elected vice-president. Michael B. Fulcher of Stacey, NC was elected secretary/treasurer. Barbara Valentine of Nashville, NC, was elected as a new board member.
Ms. Valentine observed, “I have followed the Association closely during its first year of operation in 2017. I am genuinely amazed at what has been accomplished in just one year. I have known some new organizations that took years to be where this Association is after just one year. My late husband, Congressman Tim Valentine, was an ardent advocate for preserving both our cultural and natural heritage. I’m confident he would have been a strong supporter of this group.”
A grant from the estate of the late Frances Mae Carawan from Lowland in Pamlico County provided the means for the Association to organize and begin work. This grant was followed by contributions from numerous donors, a grant from the Altria Foundation, and donations from a contingent of Eastern North Carolina residents contributed in memory of Congressman Tim Valentine.
In 2017, the NCCHA sponsored the construction of a Core Sound workboat built by Heber Guthrie, a Harkers Island native. The boat will be a traveling classroom on rack-of-the-eye boatbuilding techniques. The Association also lent strong support to a series of heritage boat building and sailing classes to Core Sound youth. A project of Ben and Carolyn Casey, documenting Core Sound voices in a yet to be published book, Sound People, was also supported by the Association.
At the membership meeting on Tuesday, attendees were treated to 2 mesmerizing retrospectives from Harkers Island natives, Will Guthrie and Red Brooks, both 83. Close friends since first grade, they shared highlights of their lives and occupations growing up and living in their coastal environment. The two would meet at the Brooks home after school and take a small skiff out to clam or fish. Heber Guthrie, Will’s younger brother, said, “Sometimes it would be after dark when Will came home, but our mother never worried if she knew Will was with Red.”
Red Brooks and his brother built a charter boat and worked that for a few years. Then the family built a trawler, about 50 feet long, quite large for Core Sound in the mid 1960s, and used it primarily for shrimping. Will Guthrie built boats for commercial fishing all of his adult life; Red Brooks and his family did as many fishermen did. Instead of hiring a boatbuilder, they built their own boat, put their carpentry tools aside, and fished with it until they felt they needed a different boat. The tools would then come out again.
Noting that documenting and preserving coastal heritage is the core of NCCHA mission, Bruno said that in addition to continually supporting Heber Guthrie’s heritage boatbuilding classes and Sound People, the Association would look at the feasibility of recording the voices of seasoned coastal veterans and subsequently creating a library of DVDs available to every school system and museum in the state.
Bruno said, “I could see this effort being similar to the project of recording veterans of World War II which Tom Brokaw labeled The Greatest Generation. Since coastal heritage as we have known it is disappearing, there is a sense of urgency that we begin planning tangible ways to document and preserve the heritage of the generations that lived and worked in small coastal communities.”
Dennis Chadwick, from The Straits, the waterway to Core Sound west of Harkers Island, is a retired captain from the NC Ferry Division’s Cedar Island to Ocracoke run. A graduate of NC State University with a degree in horticulture, he, like so many Core Sound natives, chose to return to coastal waters for a maritime career. He invited Brooks and Guthrie to be the program for this business and general membership meeting of NCCHA.
Bruno’s description of his background is an example of a lifestyle that would be recorded. “I am a family man. I have two sons, ages 18 and 20, and the love of my life, my very understanding wife, Marianne. I keep parrots in my home and raise Anatolian shepherd dogs. Almost as important as being a family man , I am a commercial fisherman. I have very fond and vivid memories of my entire life that revolve almost entirely around the coast. I am fortunate to have fished with my grandfather, my father, and my sons. I married my wife on my commercial fishing boat. I also changed diapers on my boat. For me, family and fishing go hand in hand.”
Looking to NCCHA’s new year, the outgoing charter president, Barbara Pearson of Oriental, said, “I couldn’t be happier to turn the reins over to such a wonderful man. He will indeed be an asset to NCCHA. I can’t wait to see what he does and where he takes this great Association. He probably won’t need my help, but I will be here for him if he does.”
Visit nccoastalheritage.org to learn more, join, or donate to finish and/or expand the service area of projects underway. Questions can be forwarded to