By JOY CRIST
On 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 accomplishments.
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 closed.”
“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] this year.”
“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 statement read.
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.”