By JOY CRIST
Saturday afternoon, the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum partnered with
the Hatteras Village Civic Association, local churches, and crafts
people to create “Holidays on Hatteras.” The event was an
all-encompassing collection of food, vendors, holiday music, special
exhibits, and all things merry that included the “‘Holiday at the
Museum” open house, which is held at the museum annually.
Celebrating its seventh year, Holiday at the
Museum was started to boost spirits after Hurricane Irene and has grown
into a favorite local tradition.
But this year’s event was brightened even more with a special honor given to one of the museum’s own, Clara Scarborough.
An administrator at the museum for ten years,
Clara announced her December 22 retirement earlier in 2017, which
prompted her colleagues to find an appropriate way to honor her years
of contributions and hard work.
“When she announced her retirement, [we knew] we
had to do something to recognize her,” said museum Director Joseph
Schwarzer. “She has always been giving to the community.”
The museum team, along with county and state
officials including Commissioner Danny Couch, Senator Cook, and Rep
Boswell, worked with the state of North Carolina to present Clara with
the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
Since 1963, North Carolina’s governors have
reserved their highest honor, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award,
for persons who have made significant contributions to the state and
their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional
Persons named to The Order become North Carolina
“Ambassadors” with their names and award dates recorded on a Roster
maintained by The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society. The award had
been granted in the past to a number of notable North Carolinians,
including Andy Griffith and Michael Jordan.
“It’s the state’s highest civilian honor, and
there are very few people on Hatteras Island who have ever received
it,” said Administrator Melanie Schwarzer. “And Clara deserves this
honor - She is remarkable, and she can run anything with her eyes
“There’s a full-time staff of four [at the
museum], and they are absolutely phenomenal. They are always doing more
with less,” said Commissioner Danny Couch. “Outside of the Cape
Hatteras Lighthouse, the second most popular destination is the
Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, and it has eclipsed 80,000 [visitors]
“And Clara is our boots on the ground,” he added.
“’No’ was never part of the answer to a question – she always looked
for a solution.”
The award is signed by Governor Roy Cooper, who provided a statement for the presentation.
“Clara’s passion, dedication, resourcefulness,
and overall commitment to excellence exemplifies the very best in
public service in North Carolina. Well done, Clara!” the governor’s
While several officials were unable to attend the
presentation due to conflicting events, county commissioners Danny
Couch, Steve House and Jim Tobin were all present to honor Clara.
And somehow, despite spreading the word among
museum colleagues as well as Clara’s friends and family, the secretive
presentation was able to remain a secret until the 3 p.m. announcement.
“I was completely surprised,” said Clara
Scarborough, noting that she was amazed that the museum team was able
to connect with her friends and family members, who were in attendance
for the honor.
Clara clearly didn’t expect the recognition, saying that her work with the museum was simply a labor of love.
“It’s a wonderful job. You get to meet people
from all over the world, and talk about Hatteras Island history, which
is something I’m passionate about,” she said.
Meanwhile, her colleagues at the museum were all
emphatic of how much she deserved the recognition, and how much she
will be greatly missed in the years to come.
“She is an amazing woman, and I don’t know what we will do without her,” said Melanie Schwarzer.
“She’s been my right arm,” said Director Joseph Schwarzer, “and she deserves this honor.”