It is with great sadness that the family of William Rowland “Will” Thorp of Kitty Hawk announces his passing on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, at the age of 62 years after a brief yet brave battle with thyroid cancer. A visionary restaurateur, master storyteller, caring mentor, and loving husband and father, Will was born July 27, 1961 in Rocky Mount, NC. Will was predeceased by his father, Dr. Lewis Thorp, Jr., his mother Harriet Williamson Thorp, and his stepmother Nancy Yelverton Thorp; he was also predeceased by his cousin William Mahler Thorp. Will graduated from Rocky Mount Senior High in 1979. He briefly attended UNC Wilmington and then earned an associates degree in Culinary Arts from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. He moved to the Outer Banks in 1984 and worked as a chef at Kelly’s Restaurant and Tavern in Nags Head, and subsequently helped launch the restaurant at the Village of Nags Head Golf Links. While he enjoyed these positions and made many lifelong friends, Will was anxious to create his own establishment, and in December 1989 opened Tortugas Lie in Nags Head, an innovative concept for its time. Seeing the need for a casual dining space in Kitty Hawk, Will opened Rundown Café in April 1993, and then returned to his eastern North Carolina roots by inaugurating High Cotton BBQ in Kitty Hawk in April 2002.
While his professional successes were many, Will will be most fondly remembered for his exceptionally generous nature. Always ready with a smile, kind word, funny joke, or amusing story, he was the consummate host and loved making people feel special. He also took great delight in helping others, from mentoring at-risk youth through the Dare County Friends of Youth program, to mentoring a vast number of employees, many of whom recognized great success of their own thanks to his caring guidance. He also had a true love for the outdoors and enjoyed hunting and shooting; he was a member of the Mt. Carmel Hunt Club and the Outer Banks Gun Club, and was an honorary member of the G.J. Mendel Botanical Society. Will maintained a special love for the wide open spaces of South Dakota, where he spent many happy times as an honorary cowboy. His greatest love, however, was his family, and he was always ready to boast of his daughter Helen’s accomplishments; he proved himself to be the Best Horse Dad Ever.
Will will be sorely missed by his wife, Sherry White Thorp and daughter Helen Mae Thorp, both of the Kitty Hawk residence. Will is also survived by a sister, Routh Cooper (Matt) of Mars Hill, NC, and brothers Lewis Thorp III (Cindy) of Advance, NC, David Thorp of Raleigh, NC, and Bob Bennett of Richmond, VA. His cousins were like siblings to him: Helen Thorp of Chapel Hill, NC, John Thorp Jr. (Joe Carol) of Chapel Hill, NC, Dan Thorp of Sheldon, SC, and Hall Thorp (Sharon) of Rocky Mount, NC. He will also be dearly missed by his mother-in-law, Linda White of Southern Shores, NC. Will also leaves behind a host of other relatives and, because he never met a stranger, a countless number of friends, and he will be deeply missed by all who knew him.
The family wishes to thank Adoration Hospice for their kind and loving care of Will in his final weeks. Will also wished to recognize and thank Dr. and Mrs. Donny and Jackie Lynn of Petersburg, VA, whose generous loan enabled Will to open Tortugas Lie in 1989, eventually paving the way for many other successful Outer Banks restaurants.
A celebration to remember and honor Will will be held on Monday, February 19, 2024 from 3-5 pm at the Hilton Garden Inn Ballroom, 5353 N. Virginia Dare Trail, Kitty Hawk. Friends are welcome to share memories of Will at this time if so desired. Ride sharing and carpooling are strongly encouraged due to limited hotel parking. The High Cotton parking lot WILL NOT be available for parking. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to Dare County Friends of Youth, Dare Education Foundation, or any other charitable organization of your choice.
Please share an expression of grace with the family at www.gallopfuneralservices.com. Gallop Funeral Services, Inc. was entrusted with arrangements.