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Ocracoke School graduates ten seniors


Ocracoke School graduates ten seniors

By Peter Vankevich

senior group 2

Ocracoke School graduates are, from left, Alin Villaneuva, Alma Flores, Wyatt Norris, Logan Jenkins, Kade Nagakane, Adam Carter, Zoe Huppert, Andrew Tillett, Amanda Gaskins and Carlos DeLao. Photo courtesy of Ocracoke School.


One could only speculate on the memories flashing through the ten seniors as they entered the packed gym to the haunting melody of Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance No.1.”  For those in the audience, it was one more time to celebrate the graduates’ many achievements and not just for the many exciting basketball and volleyball games they provided.

“They have certainly set a high bar of accomplishments for future classes,” noted Principal Walter Padgett. “High academics, excelling in sports and being active in the community are the attributes with which this class will be remembered.” Eight of the graduates are immediately going on to higher education.

Zoe Huppert gave the Salutatory Address praising the character and positive personality of her classmates.

For the Valedictory address, Andrew Tillett gave a thought-provoking speech on what he and his classmates should expect in the near future. Citing the Allegory of the Cave from Plato’s “Republic,” he described prisoners confined since childhood to a cave who can only see silhouettes of people who pass by.

Eventually, they become free to join the world of light which initially is blinding, but eventually they become accustomed to the brightness and come to realize the limits of the cave.

“After today,” he noted, “not only will we be finished with high school, but we will be finished with our time in the cave.”

Near his conclusion, he added, “Our own steps into the light are guided by those who are already there–our parents and our teachers.

“I would like to thank all of you, for everything you have done.  It was pivotal in helping us all during our time here at Ocracoke.”

Jason Wells, co-owner of Jason’s Restaurant, coach of the middle school basketball team and a Boy Scout troop leader, was selected by the seniors to deliver the commencement address.

He encouraged them to make the right decisions, but when they don’t to keep on trying, and especially to love themselves.

Amanda Gaskins continued the school tradition of the transfer of colors to incoming freshman Darvin Contreras.

Stella O’Neal, who has been involved in many civic, church and school activities over the years, was honored with the Community Service Award, which has been part of the graduation ceremony since 1976.

As testimony to the academic strengths of this class, when it came time to announce the scholarships, the graduates received a total of $82,588, the highest being the $30,000 George and Frances London Scholarship awarded to Tillett.

The graduates and schools they will attend are as follows:

Samuel Adam Carter, Cape Fear Community College, Wilmington

Carlos Enrique DeLao, work force

Alma Esmeralda Flores, East Carolina University, Greenville

Amanda Lynn Gaskins, East Carolina University, Greenville

Zoe Lucille Huppert, North Carolina State, Raleigh

Logan Haynes Jenkins, work force

Eric Kade Nagakane, A-B Tech Community College, Asheville

Wyatt James Norris, A-B Tech Community College, Asheville

Andrew McWilliams Tillett, UNC, Chapel Hill

Alin Yarley Villanueva, North Carolina State, Raleigh



Ambassador Leonard Meeker on the Cuban Missile Crisis


This lecture took place on Oct. 23, 2012 at the Ocracoke library.


Leonard Meeker photo UN
Ambassador Leonard C. Meeker

The Cuban Missile Crisis was  a 13-day confrontation in October 1962 between the United States and the Soviet Union over Soviet ballistic missiles deployed in Cuba.  Leonard C. Meeker, in his capacity as deputy legal adviser to the State Department, drafted a top secret memo (now declassified) titled “On Legal Aspects of Declaring a Blockade of Cuba.” He presented his views in what he characterized as a “tense meeting” on Oct. 19, 1962, attended by the Kennedy administration’s top officials — including Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, Robert Kennedy, McGeorge Bundy, C. Douglas Dillon, Paul Nitze, Theodore Sorensen and Dean Acheson.
This lecture is his recollections of that time.

To listen:  

No July 4 fireworks on Ocracoke this year, maybe next


By Connie Leinbach

There will be no professional fireworks on Ocracoke July 4, but maybe next.

Ocracoke has not forgotten the horrific explosion the morning of July 4, 2009, when, while unpacking the truck for the evening show, the fireworks suddenly exploded.

Four of the five fireworks crew were killed and a few locals barely missed the same fate when, just before the explosion, they walked around to the other side of one of the OVFD trucks already parked at the scene.

The pain of that event has not quite gone away.

The community remains almost equally divided on the issue of professional fireworks, with some advocating for them (what’s Fourth of July without fireworks?) and others still wary even with the recent discovery of a way to do low-level fireworks in Silver Lake Harbor.

Ocracoke Civic and Business Association sponsors and organizes the day-long schedule of events every July 4. (See page 22 for the schedule.)

Any kind of fireworks—from sparklers to bottle rockets—have been banned since 2003 on Ocracoke after some fireworks brought by visitors accidentally caught the marsh on fire near Jackson Dunes.

Dick Jacoby, president of the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department, has said that had the volunteers not contained it, the entire village could have caught fire.

Fireworks danger is because of the ever-constant island wind that in the summer blows predominantly southwest, or from the ocean inward.

Wind blew embers from those personal fireworks into the marsh grasses.

In 2007, fireworks debris from a professional display held on the beach blew onto the grass near the airport also causing a fire.

In April, Clayton Gaskill, vice president of the OCBA, went to a Durham Bulls game in Durham.

At the end of the game, a vehicle came onto the diamond and shot off fireworks that went up about 200 feet.  Perhaps Ocracoke could do the same on a barge out in Silver Lake?

The logistics would involve a barge big enough to house the fireworks and enough clearance around it, also approvals from the Coast Guard and others.

And while a low-level display might work in Silver Lake, what if it’s windy and embers blow onto boats moored at the docks?

Rudy Austin, OCBA president, said at a recent meeting that islander Darren Burrus has a raft barge that would be big enough for the fireworks and small enough for the harbor.

However, Austin said that he as president of the OCBA will never sign off on fireworks again.

The OCBA and Austin personally were named in a lawsuit following the 2009 explosion, and both recently were taken off that lawsuit.

“We hired an upstanding, professional group to do those fireworks,” Austin said, and still, the OCBA got sued.

Sundae Horn, the OCBA travel and tourism director, contacted the company that does the low-level fireworks who have indicated they could do it.

While the OCBA does not want to be the entity that contracts with this company, someone else in the community could do so. No one has contacted the county about this, said Bill Rich, Hyde County manager.

The Occupancy Tax Board has said they would entertain funding professional fireworks (at a cost of $15,000 to $20,000), but they are not an organization and could not coordinate it.

2011 was the last year the OCBA investigated having fireworks on the island.

Fred Westervelt looked into having fireworks on a barge in the Pamlico Sound.  While Burrus has several barges none are large enough.

“A barge (out in the sound) would need 2,400 square feet of surface area plus a bomb shelter for the workers to dive into while setting the fireworks off,” Westervelt said.

While there are some barges in Morehead City large enough for this, it would take a day or two of towing to get here at $10,000 a day.

He looked into having them launched on Big Foot Island out in the Sound, but that belongs to the Department of the Interior and would also need Audubon Society approval, both of whom declined.

Westervelt looked into the area where Community Park is being built, but Fire Chief Albert O’Neal nixed that because of the marsh grasses.

He looked at several other sites,

but none were feasible.

For the schedule of July 4th events from morning into the evening, see page 22.


Women’s Arm Wrestling Has Most Participants Ever


August 2011

By Connie Leinbach

Ocracoke islander Karmen “the Arm” Laton, won the 2013 Women’s Arm Wrestling in June, a benefit for Ocracoke’s radio station WOVV 90.1 FM and the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department.  Local Jenny Klein as “Miss Merica” won second place.  The event grew this year to the largest group of contestants yet with 32 participants.

“We also had more participation from visitors this year,” said Jenny Scarborough, one of the event organizers.

Although all the numbers have not been tallied, the radio station will receive about $3,500, and the fire department received $1,000.

Sponsors included Angie’s Gym with prizes for the winners and Outer Banks Brewing Station, which donated the beer.  About 24 volunteers also helped.

“We sold about 360 in admission tickets,” said Clayton Gaskill, WOVV station manager. “That’s a pretty good crowd for anything on Ocracoke. I talked to people who had been here the week before and came back just for this event.”

Contestants don costumes and announcers David Allewalt and Bill Cole, with their enthusiastic and colorful play-by-play, create a major-event atmosphere.  Among the contestants were such characters as “Paula Mean,” “The Librawnian,” “Princess Slaya,” “Mind Game,” “Catron,” “Marie Ann Toilet” and “The Ringmaster.”

Islander Heather Johnson won best costume as “La Cooch Adora.”

“I had a lot of fun,” said winner Laton after the event.  “I love the creativity of the costumes and it’s for a good cause.”

Laton, the reigning champion of this event, sat out last year, but this year returned to the ring to reclaim her title, besting all of her opponents in seconds flat. Klein also won second place last year.  Professional arm wrestler Giles Russell and his brother were the referees.

Gaskill said video footage of past events and this year’s events are on www.Youtube.com if you search for Ocracoke Women’s Arm Wrestling.


Planning Advisory Board loses a member


To The Editor:

I was sorry to hear that B.J. Olschlegel was removed from the Ocracoke Planning Advi­sory Board last month. She was a longtime member, who had worked diligently at being well informed and constructive. With her removal, Ocracoke has lost a champion in its corner.

Unlike the County Commis­sioners and other boards that, at best, look one or two years ahead, the planning board is uniquely charged with the responsibility to look far into the future. Their job is to guide the Ocracoke Develop­ment Ordinance and the com­missioners toward the Ocracoke that we will be proud to leave for future generations.

It’s not an easy task at all, and it requires, not agreement, but disagreement; it requires argument and dispute but it also requires that those who disagree treat each other with respect. In removing BJ and creating a board more in agreement with itself, Commissioner Fletcher has done damage to the purpose of the planning board and to the future of Ocracoke.

Tom Pahl, Ocracoke

Pourquoi visiter Ocracoke ?

Photo: P. Vankevich
Si vous cherchez un lieu de vacances d’été pour profiter du soleil et d’une brise agréable, lire un livre, chercher des coquillages, observer la faune et photographier la nature, nager, pêcher, ou apprendre à surfer, Ocracoke est l’endroit idéal.
Ocracoke est connue pour ses 25 kilomètres de plages immaculées. En 2007, l’île d’Ocracoke a été nommée la plus belle plage des Etats Unis.
Une des principales raisons du charme de l’île est que l’accès se fait soit seulement par un ferry public, par bateau ou avion privé. Il y a également une histoire maritime riche en événements historiques. C’est ici que le célèbre pirate Blackbeard a rencontré la mort au combat a Noviembre 22, 1718.
Le village compte environ 1000 résidents à l’année longue. Il y a de très bons restaurants et l’hébergement, comprends des gîtes, des chambres d’hôtel et des villas aussi charmantes que bien aménagées à louer pour une durée de votre choix. Il y a aussi beaucoup de boutiques intéressantes à visiter. 
Desiree Ricker PS
Desiree Christa Ricker

En été, il y a de beaux concerts au Théâtre Deepwater et de la musique “live” dans plusieurs restaurants. Vous pouvez faire le tour du village en louant un “cart” de golf ou une bicyclette et obtenir un aperçu de l’histoire en visitant le phare construit en 1823 et le musée local: Ocracoke Preservation Society.

Des ordinateurs avec accès Wi-Fi sont disponibles dans l’après-midi à la bibliothèque publique où vous pouvez aussi obtenir des renseignements en français.
Venez voir pourquoi tant de gens pensent que l’île d’Ocracoke est un endroit spécial et inoubliable. 
Black Skimmers. Photo by P. Vankevich
Black Skimmers. Photo by P. Vankevich

Anmargaret Warner Awarded Fulbright to Teach in India


It doesn’t hurt one’s career by graduating summa cum laude from a prestigious University such as Wake Forest by following up immediately with a “Fulbright” and heading off to a foreign country. Anmargaret Warner is doing just that having been accepted into the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program. She will teach English at the Balvantra

Anmargaret Warner Awarded Fulbright to Teach in India
Anmargaret Warner 

y Mehta Vidya Bhawan Anguridevi Shersingh Memorial Academy in New Delhi, India. This assignment will be her third visit to India. She previously participated in work-study programs in high school and college. Her teaching assignment beginning in late July will be at the Balvantray Mehta Vidya Bhawan Anguridevi Shersingh Memorial Academy in New Delhi, India.

With more than 1.2 billion citizens, India is second only to the People’s Republic of China in population. Several hundred languages are spoken there and Hindi is the most widespread native language. Due to its colonial history, English is widely used throughout the continent.

“I’m attracted to India by its many contradictions – the country’s timelessness, but also relevance as a political and economic player in the world today,” she said. “I’m looking forward to soaking in as much as I can about Indian culture in New Delhi, from learning Hindi to Northern Indian cooking. I think that how many people around the world view the U.S. is shaped by what they see in movies and on TV, so I’m excited to share a wider range of American experiences with my students, colleagues, and neighbors.”

Anmargaret attended Ocracoke School till the eighth grade and graduated from Mercersburg Academy (PA).She made the Dean’s List at Wake Forrest and her degree is in English Literature and with minors in journalism and communications. She is the daughter of Howard’s Pub owner Ann Warner and the late George “Buffy” Warner and sister of Blackburn, currently an East Carolina University student and Ocracoke volunteer firefighter. How is this for a contrast from her early years as a student on Ocracoke? The size of the classes she will be teaching will be between 40 to 90 students. Ocracoke’s graduating class this year was ten students, and six graduates are projected for the class of 2015.


In 1945, Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright introduced a bill in the United States Congress that called for the use of surplus war property to fund the ‘promotion of international goodwill through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture, and science.’ The following year, President Truman signed the bill into law and the Fulbright Program has since become U.S. Government’s flagship international educational exchange program.

You can follow Anmargaret by logging into her blog at: http://anmargaretwarner.wordpress.com/.




Ask the Observer: Which jellyfish or jelly?


From Greg Klein

This photo was taken at Springer’s Point. I think it is a jellyfish, but I am not sure. There were a few of them on the shore, but smaller or broken, and this was the only one I saw with the inside (body?) intact. Do you know what this is?

Photo by Greg Klein


Answer:  Looking down at this  jelly does not provided  the overall  shape, but it looks like a Cannonball Jellyfish (Stomolophus meleagris). 

As for how to describe these, Wikipedia offers this eplanation:
As jellyfish are not true fish (or even vertebrates), the word jellyfish is considered by some to be a misnomer. Public aquariums may use the terms jellies or sea jellies instead. The term “jellies” may have become more popular than “jellyfish.” In scientific literature, “jelly” and “jellyfish” are often used interchangeably. Some sources may use the term “jelly” to refer to organisms in this taxon, as “jellyfish” may be considered inappropriate.

For more information about this interesting species, we are reprinting a Spotted on Ocracoke Observer column which includes another photo of one also taken at Springer’s Point.

May 2008
Spotted on Ocracoke: The Cannonball Jellyfish
Photo and text by Peter Vankevich

cannonball_IMG_PS crop 2545_1
Cannonball Jellyfish. Photo by P. Vankevich


The Cannonball Jellyfish (Stomolophus meleagris) may occasionally be seen in the waters around Ocracoke during the summer and fall months of the year when currents carry them to the shore.  The overall shape is that of a bell or cannonball from whence it gets its name. It grows up to the size of a small cantaloupe. Its color varies from overall clear to a yellowish wash and has a rufous/brown ring at the base.  Underneath, it has sticky oral arms which form into a rigid, short mound just below the bell.  Cannonballs also go by the names of Cabbagehead and Jellyball.

Jellyfish are marine invertebrates that lack basic sensory organs or a brain and consist of about 95% water. They do possess highly specialized nervous systems that allow them to perceive stimuli, such as light and odor. They may be found in all of the oceans from the arctic to the tropics. Since jellyfish are not fish, many people now refer to them as “jellies” or “sea jellies.”

Unlike other jellyfish (or jellies) that rely exclusively on currents and wind for movement, Cannonballs are strong swimmers and move by pumping water through their oral arms and catching their food which consists primarily of zooplankton including the larvae stages of veliger mollusks and red drum. They also have a much higher amount of protein than most other jellies which makes them a good food source and have also been used for medicinal purportedly for combating maladies such as arthritis in Asia. They are harvested in the waters off of Georgia and South Carolina and after a dehydration process are exported to China and Japan. Cannonballs are also an important food source for leatherback sea turtles and Atlantic spadefish.

In eastern North America, the primary range includes the Mid-Atlantic south and especially the Gulf of Mexico. With unusual currents, they may occasionally stray into the waters off of New England and as far south as Brazil.Cannonballs like other jellies may form large swarms called “blooms” consisting of hundreds or even thousands of individuals. There is concern that these blooms are increasing and may indicate an imbalance in the ecosystem; for example taking the place of  fish that have declined in numbers, or the increased presence of nutrients  in the water due to run-off from land. Although not considered to be stingers, one should refrain from touching them as there is a substance in the mucous that can cause a burning sensation if it gets in the eyes.

To play off the Wizard of Oz, for an animal with no brain, heart or bones, they, nevertheless, have an interesting story.  This photo was taken last October at Springer’s Point.



Editorial: Exercise your right to vote


On page 7 you will find statements from the candidates for the sheriff’s Office of Hyde County and the candidates for the board of the Ocracoke Sanitary District. Although, there is not a candidate on the ballot for the school board, incumbent Dave Tolson has indicated to us that he will run as a write-in candidate. We know of no one else who will be a write-in candidate for this important position. We at the Observer strongly support the precept that all eligible citizens should exercise their right to vote. We also strongly believe that an informed citizenry will make the best decisions. So take the time to read the actual candidates statements which may help with your decision making. And, yes, be sure to vote on Tuesday, May 6 at the Community Center 7:00 am – 7:00 pm.

Ask the Observer: All things Ocracoke


 If you  have a questions about Ocracoke, such  as, what  was that plant, bird or  turtle you saw, or a question about  Ocracoke’s fascinating  history, send  us a  note including a photo if you have one. We’ll try to answer it and post it on our  website and possibly in the print copy monthly.
Provide the who, what, when and where details, plus your contact info. We may have  some questions.

Send inquiries to info@ocracokeobserver.com and use as the subject, Ask the Observer. 



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