A fond farewell to Buxton's Old Gray House - Shooting The Breeze


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A big 'thank you' to … | Home | Musing about Matthew

A fond farewell to Buxton's Old Gray House

Friday 30 September 2016 at 5:42 pm.

This week, I want to give a shout-out to my old friends, Dewey and Mary Parr, who today closed their "retirement dream," a shop called the old Gray House in Buxton.

It's a sad time for Dewey and Mary and for all the many friends they have made in the past 25 years, but they knew, at age 85, it was time to move on to a new retirement plan.

Dewey grew up mostly on Hatteras Island in the old Gray House, which then belonged to his uncle, Kendrick Gray. During World War II, Dewey's father was sent to Huntington, W.Va., as a Navy recruiter. After the war was over, Dewey's parents returned to Hatteras Island -- his mother was an island girl. Dewey stayed in Huntington, where he met and married the love of his life, Mary, and pursued his career in education. Dewey served as teacher, principal, and central office administrator. Mary was an accountant at Marshall University.

Mary also loved crafting, and, as a retirement gift, Dewey gave her the Old Gray House, so she could pursue her passion with the artwork and crafts that she sold in the shop. Meanwhile, Dewey took over the outside part of the property, turning it into an entity all its own, with plantings and pathways and little buildings, many of which housed the shells that were Dewey's passion and that he sold to visitors.

"The whole idea was not to make money," Dewey said this week.

The idea was to meet people -- folks who loved Hatteras. Mary shared her love of crafting and Dewey shared his love of shells. Dewey also has a passion for Hatteras Island and its culture and history, and he loved sharing that with visitors most of all.

And the visitors just kept coming.

"We had a great time," Dewey says. "We didn't care if they bought anything or not."

Visitors -- and locals -- just loved the place and couldn't get enough of visiting with Mary in the store and sitting with Dewey on the swing under the old oak tree.

My grandchildren especially loved visiting "Mr. Dewey" and "Ms. Mary" at The Old Gray House. The granddaughters liked making their way through all of the rooms of the old house and examining all the cool crafts that were for sale.

But what all of my grandkids -- and many other youngsters -- loved most was touring the grounds with Mr. Dewey and hearing the stories of life on the island in the old days. Then he would show them many of his prized shells, and, like the educator he was, he would tell them stories of the shells -- where they came from and how they caught their prey. He'd share a few legends along the way to really impress the little ones.

"The kids have been the wonderful part for me," Dewey says.

I first met Dewey in 1996 when I was the editor of another island publication. He sent me an essay that he wrote on change and progress. I really liked it and published it.

Then I stopped by the Old Gray House to meet Dewey and Mary and urged him to write more about his childhood on Hatteras, which he did. It was the start of a wonderful relationship that only ended when I left the publication and Dewey was really too busy to keep on writing so much.

Dewey says the Old Gray House and the property are for sale -- but not the business.

And how could it be replicated?

He says that he and Mary will still be spending part of their time on the island. He says they intend to just "enjoy themselves." Mary, he says, will never stop crafting and Dewey will still be keeping up with what's happening on the island.

Today, I am republishing that original essay that Dewey wrote on the Community News and Commentary Page. In addition, I invited Dewey to write a "postscript" to the original essay about the change he's seen in just the past 20 years.

I hope you enjoy Dewey's views on life on Hatteras -- past and present -- as much as I have.

Here are the articles:

An Essay on Change and Progress

A Postscript on the Essay on Change and Progress

Also, Dewey and Mary still have a Facebook Page for now, where you can learn more and keep in touch with them. The link is https://www.facebook.com/Old-Gray-House-Gifts-and-Shells-330934495469/?fref=ts.

eight comments

Salvo Jimmy

Fair winds and following seas always to Dewey and Mary.

Salvo Jimmy - 30-09-’16 19:39

Dewey & Mary – I sincerely hope you enjoy your retirement as you move on. The Old Gray House was always a special place to visit on our trips to the Outer Banks. You probably wouldn’t remember me, but I certainly remember both of you. Mary’s friendly chats in the store usually, though I met Dewey a time or so as well. I especially remember one visit finding a beautiful locally-found moon snail shell and asking him how much it cost. His response was that it was free, but to remember the island whenever I looked at it…and I still do. I visited when I was younger and living at home, and my wife and I visited with our own kids last summer. It was a very special place, one which I will very much miss being able to visit…it will most certainly not be forgotten! Thanks for the education and memories!

Wesley - 30-09-’16 20:15
Nancy and Charlie Almer

Dewey and Mary – as annual visitors since 1973, (and sometimes more frequently), we treasured our visits to the Old Gray House. My wife and I, our three children, and now our grandchildren all have fond memories of the Old Gray House and Dewey and Mary. Dewey and Mary were courteous, gracious hosts who made us feel welcome. Dewey told us many stories of life on Hatteras. Unfortunately, our age and health have prevented any further trips to Hatteras; however, our grandson and his girlfriend visited the Old Gray House this summer. Two Pelicans obtained at the Old Gray House stand guard on the mantle of our fireplace. We thank you for treating us, not as tourists, but as friends. We wish you the best of all good things. Postscript: living in a formerly rural farming sedction of NJ, we too, have experienced “progress” as Dewey described in his postscript commentary.

Nancy and Charlie Almer - 01-10-’16 13:34
Connie Steele

When I look at my Old Gray House treasures I will think of you. Happy retirement!

Connie Steele - 01-10-’16 18:50

Congrats and long health ! Is there anyway that Hatteras can deem that property historic and maintain it as such as a testament to these two fine people ?

diver531 - 02-10-’16 10:46
bob Ruhle

Awesome article. Great people.

bob Ruhle - 03-10-’16 01:02
Jill Breton

The Old Gray House holds beautiful memories for four generations of our family who have visited Cape Hatteras for many years. Dewey and Mary Parr brought the history of the island to life through their storytelling. and for generations to come as I will pass on the stories they shared with us so more generations will know the history of Hatteras Island. We will miss the Old Gray House and the Parrs. We carry our “sea bean” with us and wish them good health and luck in their next chapter.

Jill Breton - 10-10-’16 14:01
Bill from PA

Mary and Dewey…..have a long and wonderful retirement. You both brought beatiful memories to countless visitors to Hatteras Island. You were so kind and friendly to my wife and me during our many visits to the Gray House. Thank you !

Bill from PA - 16-06-’18 22:06

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