March 13, 2014

Honoring Wayne Teeter, a true Ocracoke icon


Island old-timers believe that when an Ocracoker was going to die, the island’s roosters would crow repeatedly in mournful tones. On Sunday morning, March 9, the roosters along O’Neal Drive crowed non-stop, even as the news arrived that Wayne Teeter, a man who was “as Ocracoke as you could get,”  had just passed.

Wayne Teeter was, according to his friend Jerry Midgett, “a true Ocracoker, who didn’t put on airs. What you saw was what you got.” 

Wayne was involved in all aspects of Ocracoke life, including commercial fishing, taking out hunting parties, running the Pony Island Restaurant, the Tradewinds Bait and Tackle Shop, and the Ocracoke Crab Company, to serving as Hyde County commissioner. For those who didn’t know him in any other capacity, he might be recognized as the owner of Blackbeard’s Ice Chest, which sits on the edge of his yard and dispenses ice for fishermen and beachgoers.

Born the son of Frank and Iona Teeter in 1945, he grew up with his brother, Carl “Toad” Teeter, in a house near Ocracoke’s British Cemetery. Phillip Howard, owner of the Village Craftsman, recalls playing with Wayne when they were young; “running around, exploring Springer’s Point, swimming in the Creek and gigging for flounder in Pamlico Sound.”

Wayne had a Banker pony named Beauty and during the ‘50s, he was a member of the Ocracoke Mounted Boy Scout Troop. He attended Ocracoke School but did not finish his formal education. He often told people that “One of the biggest regrets of my life was that I dropped out of school in ninth grade.  I should,” he would add, “have quit in the seventh.”

Wayne served in the Coast Guard for 10 years, after which he received an honorable discharge. He greatly valued his service there and recommended it for all of Ocracoke’s young men. Fishing and the Coast Guard were, according to his widow, his great loves, and he hoped to be buried with a military funeral service.

While in the Coast Guard, Wayne married Belinda Styron, an Ocracoke girl with a beautiful voice, and they lived in Morehead City until his discharge. They were together until her death in 2002.

Upon returning to Ocracoke, Wayne ran several businesses as well as resuming the fishing career he loved. Rudy Austin recalls that they began pound netting and rock-fishing together in the late ‘70s. Wayne also did beach fishing, using dories to net speckled trout, drum, and rockfish, as well as clamming and crabbing. While running the Tradewinds, he took duck and goose hunting parties to Portsmouth Island in his boat. He was the first one, remembers Jerry Midgett, to plant clams up behind the island and maintain clam beds.

Rudy Austin looks back with pleasure on a trip he and Wayne took, along with Peter Stone and Sambo Drake, in the late ‘70s.  They delivered Peter’s 20-foot Sea Ox from here to Florida, where Wayne had been stationed, following the Intracoastal Waterway. “That was a good time!” he recalls.

Ben O’Neal, who will be one of the pallbearers at Wayne’s funeral, drove the fish truck at Wayne’s Ocracoke Crab Company from 1989 until 1999. He remembers that “Wayne always liked to give. He wanted to make money at the fish house, but he’d rather have one of the fishermen make money than himself.”

Danny Wynne, who sold his fish at Wayne’s fish house, said that Wayne always had time for everybody, even the small fishermen who had only 50 or so pounds of fish. ”He helped out a lot of fishermen,” according to Danny.

Wayne’s wife Belinda died at home in 2002. Wayne eventually began spending time with Ada Fulcher, an island girl whom he had known all his life, and they were married nearly 10 years ago.

“One day we took a walk,” she recalls, “and we never stopped walking.”

Along with their home on Ocracoke, Wayne and Ada built a small house, “Teeter’s Camp,” on a piece of land Ada owned down Sound at the “Straits,” in Carteret County. They also bought a pickup truck camper and began traveling, something that, according to Ada, Wayne had always wanted to do. They went to Alaska, Texas, Arizona, and Florida, among other places.

Their yard always sported an impressive raised garden, with collards, onions, potatoes and other vegetables, as well as a few fruit trees.  Wayne loved their garden, Ada says, even though he never worked in it. She did the gardening, but she did it mostly for him.   He also loved to cook, says Jerry Midgett -- “fish, ducks, geese, you name it,” and, added his wife, he loved to eat.

Wayne always loved children, and always took time with them, according to his friends. He had two step-daughters and two step-grandchildren, along with a niece and nephew and great nephews and nieces, all of whom he adored.  He and Ada attended the Assembly of God Church on Ocracoke, where Wayne occasionally chimed in by calling out “Glory!” his favorite phrase. He also liked to greet people by calling out “Good Morning!” regardless of the time of day.

Always trying new activities, Wayne has in the last few years had a crab shedding business in his garage, selling soft-shell crabs. Ada says he had just been out to his pound nets, floundering, before his death, and he was getting ready to start shedding crabs again.

“He was one of a kind, “reminisces his friend Earl Gaskins. “He always looked at the bright side of things.”

Wayne will be honored at a service at the Pentecostal Holiness Church in Smyrna, N.C., on Thursday, March 13, at 11 a.m. There will be a service the following day, Friday, in Ocracoke, at the Assembly of God Church, also at 11 a.m. Wayne will be buried at the Ocracoke Community Cemetery after the church service, with a military tribute at the graveside service. Those who wish to bring food should drop it off between 9:30 and 11 a.m.


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