By Peter Vankevich
Ocracoke has many passionate friends and longtime visitor Carter Whitman was one of them.
Born July 10, 1951, in Melrose, Massachusetts, an only child of the late David Allen and Elizabeth Carter Whitman, Carter died Feb. 22 in the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Hanover, New Hampshire.
“I got hooked on Ocracoke in 2011,” he once said. “I suppose one might refer to me as a NRPR (Non-Resident Perennial Renter).”
Also known as Nick to his family and friends, he lived near Andover, New Hampshire, at the Ragged Mountain Fish and Game Club, where he was a lifelong member. My home is 804 miles from the Variety Store he once noted, a precision distance thanks to Google maps.
But he considered Ocracoke his second home.
“I called him the ambassador of Ocracoke because he talked it up to everyone he met,” said his longtime friend Hutch Bass of Austin, Texas. “Driving the two days to Ocracoke was like mentally changing clothes from winter to summer he once told me.”
Carter admired not only Ocracoke’s beauty and the major contrast from his often snow-bound home, but also the people who live here.
“One of the things I like about Ocracoke is that it is not easy to get to,” he once wrote to the Ocracoke Observer. “People who are there want to be there, worked hard to get there, and have to work hard to stay.”
Indeed, when he was on the island, he was seemingly ubiquitous, having lunch at Jason’s, dinner at the Flying Melon, visiting the shops, attending concerts at Marcy Brenner and Lou Castro’s Coyote Den and walking around with his Nikon.
He always wanted to know what was going on and often seemed to know more about what is happening here than many islanders.
Not much of a beach bum in his later years, he preferred to spend his time in the village and, especially, talking to people.
On almost all visits since 2014, he would be a guest on WOVV, Ocracoke’s nonprofit community radio station, bringing in a playlist to share with listeners.
Carter had a good heart and reportedly gave generously to island nonprofits and scholarship funds.
“He was a fun loving, generous friend; a really good friend,” Brenner said. “He called you his friend and gave you his whole self.”
A large man who favored preppy-style shorts and compression stockings, he stood out in a crowd. But it was not his attire that got him noticed. Rather, it was his smile and caring conversations he would initiate with folks he didn’t know and a stranger’s status quickly changed.
With each year, he planned longer visits, even talking to realtors about possibly buying a home here. With each visit, he made more friends.
From afar, he followed the impact of Hurricane Dorian and later that of COVID-19 and made several generous donations to help those in need.
Last summer, he fell ill and left the island sooner than he had planned.
Over the last several months, his condition worsened, but he encouraged his Ocracoke friends to call him while in his hospital bed. These chats helped lessen his discomfort.
Carter was the type of person for whom islanders would light up and welcome him back.
For many of us on Ocracoke he will be greatly missed.
Carter was an Air Force veteran, having served from 1970 to 1976 and discharged as a sergeant.
He is survived by a number of cousins who plan a celebration of his life in New Hampshire.
His cousins ask that those who want to remember and honor Carter donate to Ocracoke nonprofits that were dear to him: The Charlotte Castro Scholarship at Ocracoke School, Attn: Main Office, PO BOX 189, Ocracoke, NC 29760; WOVV, Ocracoke Preservation Society or Ocracoke Alive, which produces the Ocrafolk Festival.
The Concord Funeral Home in Concord, Mass., is in charge of arrangements and has posted his obituary.