A Well-Crafted Career Alteration
Marion Welsh used her math degree from Rutgers University to start her career in Information Technology, but she eventually changed her occupation from computer geek to full-time seamstress. She followed her passion and ended up working in bridal shops doing alterations. Her specialty was making gowns bigger. However, in 1984, something altered the direction of Marion’s sewing projects.
Making Magic Happen
When Michelle McElroy relocated to Hilton Head Island seven years ago for a Social Studies teaching position at Hilton Head Christian Academy, little did she realize this was the perfect place for incubating her dream job. Michelle began her journey into the theater world as a hobby while she was in high school and college. First she began working with crews. She had a few minor parts in plays. Her first major role in high school was in Arsenic and Old Lace, and she vividly recalls her stage fright. During that time she and her dad performed in several community theater productions together. After graduation, wherever she taught, Michelle eagerly volunteered to assist with the school’s drama clubs. In her wildest dreams, she never imagined she would someday be directing huge shows. When she arrived at HHCA, Michelle first helped with middle school productions. She was soon put in charge of the middle school theater program and eventually assumed the role of director of the theater department, which has grown immensely under her guidance.
From Passion to Profession
When Brittany Hiller was 14 years old she fell in love with the TV show Dharma & Greg. Already that fun-loving, free-spirited “hippie” girl in 10th grade, all Brittany needed was to marry a straight-laced guy and become a yoga instructor. Back when yoga was just for hippies, and before yoga pants were a thing, her dance instructor used yoga as a warm up and cool down technique. After the first class, Brittany knew two things for sure: 1. She was hooked for life. 2. She wanted to teach.
Building a Badass
I’ve always thought Pink should run a monthly “Badass Woman” feature. I mean I know we’re all pretty badass, but I love it when I meet a woman headed down to Biker Week on her Harley or a woman who’s running a five-minute mile or serving in the Marines, a woman who reminds me that I can be and do anything. That’s why I jumped at the chance to cover a story on Christel Valentino, a local body builder and all-around amazingly cool woman.
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The Rock & Roll Trainer
When life throws you a curve ball it’s time to put on your catcher’s mitt and wake up to new possibilities. That’s exactly what Melanie Ludwig did a few months ago when she made the decision to shed her comfortable and secure New Hampshire life and venture to Hilton Head Island. Leaving behind a lucrative career and a network of friends, she trusted that life had something even more to offer her. Nudged by a recent divorce and long, cold winters, Melanie was drawn to the South for its milder year- round temperatures and to be closer to her daughter, Elizabeth, a student at Savannah College of Art and Design. She was lured to make Hilton Head Island her new home because it is shaped like a foot, and her dad was a podiatrist. Melanie learned from him at an early age the importance of the foot for every aspect of alignment and movement, which served her well in her younger years as a gymnast.
Twin Teachers Who Can Really Lift!
Twin sisters Richia Wedzik Jeter and Richelle Wedzik Youmans look so much alike, but they are fraternal twins, not identical, they informed me. Both young women came dressed to meet me at the Waterfront Park Coffee House in snazzy workout outfits; showcasing toned, muscular, yet still curvy physiques, with their long brown hair pulled up top of their heads in neat topknots.
Margaret McManus greeted me at her front door with a lively little dachshund dancing excitedly. “The trainer says we should just try to ignore her, and go on with our conversation normally,” she explains. I try, but it’s hard because this little dog, Clara is really sweet and obviously wants to be in my lap and petted. I restrain myself, and eventually she bounces off happily to her chair.
Never Stop Learning
It’s easy to see the radiant aura surrounding Dr. Sharon Webster as soon as you meet her. Despite a debilitating illness, which has left her wheelchair-bound for the past six years, her indomitable spirit and enthusiasm for life shines through. She is aglow as she expresses her enormous sense of gratitude for the tremendous opportunities that have come her way all of her life. Education is her passion. She was taught by her grandparents to read when she was three years old. This ability instilled deep within her an insatiable appetite for knowledge. “The more you know, the better it is, and the easier it is,” she said.
Leading Students Across Cultural Barriers
Teaching has become a challenging profession. It is not for everyone. Success is marked by immeasurable passion, a deep love of all children, impeccable integrity, flexibility and creativity. We all can look back to that one teacher that made a difference in our lives. His/her impact can remain with us for all time. If anyone fits the bill it’s Colleen Wynn, a 33-year veteran in the Hilton Head Island elementary program.
Master of Her Fate; Captain of Her Life
Angela Mullis is a rarity in the world of Master Captains; very few are women. As a licensed Master Captain, she is authorized to carry up to 12 charter passengers on her spic-and-span, well maintained fishing vessel. A native islander, whose mother just missed an opportunity to be medevaced by helicopter to Savannah when her due date coincided with the breakdown of the swing bridge to the mainland, it’s no wonder Angela has an affinity for the salty nature that abounds in the Lowcountry. Luckily, the bridge was repaired quickly and her mom’s journey to the delivery room was accomplished in the traditional way. The middle sister in a family of three girls, Angela grew up loving the outdoors and absorbing the beauty and symmetry of island life. Shrimping and crabbing in the tidal creeks since a wee tot, she learned early the importance of conserving the abundant marine resources for future generations.
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What is something that excites you right now? I’m so blessed to have both a career and a volunteer role that excite me. At LowCountry Habitat for Humanity, I am thrilled at the progress we are making on our latest home build—the Brays Home in Seabrook and can’t wait to see the Tucker family in their new home! Working with and getting to know the families who benefit from our program is an amazing experience.
Freedom—You Can’t Finance It
A decade ago Elizabeth "Liz" Waldorf and her husband, Casey, purchased 10 acres of land out on Lady’s Island. “He asked me, ‘Do you want a boat or a house?’ ‘Boat,’” I said. Their housing is modest, juxtaposed against the alluring landscape of the Lowcountry, a choice, a picture of freedom. “We have bonfires and oyster roasts. The kids run around and play flashlight tag. We just have fun.”
A Crucial Link in the Heritage Classic Foundation
Every year since 1969, The Heritage Classic PGA tour event has brightened Hilton Head Island with luminous personalities, flashy outfits and inspirational moments. Arnold Palmer introduced Hilton Head Island to the world by winning the inaugural event. Crowds could feel the “Love” as Davis took home the trophy five times. Leukemia patient, Jamie Hutton, inspired and motivated Greg Norman as he came from three shots down to win the 1988 championship. Payne Stewart oozed class and spirit, proving that real champions could win in knickers. Jim Furyk cut swaths across acres of grass, yet was crowned champion because in sudden death, a golf club grazed a single blade in 2010.
Team P-Lo: Raising Awareness about Heart Disease
When Mandy Lohrenz and her husband Patric got up and went to work on the morning of October 31, 2015, little did they suspect it would be their last day together…forever. They had moved to Houston, Texas in the fall of 2014 for a job promotion and were pretty much settled in and enjoying their lives. They were excited about planning a trip to Maui and moving forward with plans to adopt a child when they returned.
How Flying Solo Lead to a Life of Adventure
Regina Mae Banis stared at the computer screen. Four days in Paris. Two days in Rome. Includes airfare, hotel, and hop on/ hop off bus passes. The chance of a lifetime. Within two hours she had booked the non-refundable, non-transferable trip for herself and a friend. Days before the trip, her friend had to cancel. She called the travel company, and they weren’t kidding about the “non-refundable, non-transferable” clause, leaving her with two choices. Go it alone or stay at home. “I don’t think I would’ve been brave enough to book a trip like that alone, but traveling to a foreign country by myself turned out to be one of the most empowering experiences of my life.”
The roles of oldest child, wife and mother had always put Regina in the position of making sure everyone else was taken care of. “For the first time, the only person I had to make happy was me.”
A Standout in South America
Beaufort girl Samantha Pettigrew, “Sammy” to her friends, is living the dream down in beautiful Santiago, Chile. She is only 24, but has recently accepted a job with Stanford University as the Student and Academic Services Coordinator for the study abroad students living in Chile. Her job will include providing guidance and planning activities for 15-20 undergraduates each quarter who will be living with local families and studying with local professors. She will be the university liaison to introduce them to the local foods, activities and plan field trips for the weekends. What a fantastic job, right?
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“The only true gift is a portion of thyself.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
When Carmen Phillips greeted me, she looked to be a teenager, rather than the mother of four with a wealth of mission work accomplished. Over afternoon tea and brownies, Carmen bubbled about their work and family adventures. It could take days to discover all she, her husband Dale and their four children have achieved in mission fields around the world.
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Mission of Love
The first word that comes to mind upon meeting Laura Ludwick is “Alive!” A bundle of enthusiastic joy greeting every moment with unbridled optimism. Whether it’s her current assignment as a houseparent for exchange students at Hilton Head Prep or snuggling abandoned babies in orphanages all over the world. Laura’s brand of missionary work is about love and spreading the work of kindness everywhere she goes, and when Laura says everywhere, she’s not kidding! The list of countries she’s visited blankets the globe – 26 countries on four continents, so far.
A Tiny Moment - A Powerful Friendship
Friendship is truly one of the great gifts bestowed upon us as human beings. Take a minute to think about your dearest, closest friends. Close your eyes and travel back to that special moment when you first met. Did you sit next to each other in algebra class? Did you get caught in a painfully slow line in the grocery store? Were you mixed up in a delicate discussion at a town meeting? Was the connection instantaneous or did it take a little time to warm up to each other? Isn’t it amazing how these meetings have led to the most wondrous, powerful friendships that have energized our lives?
A Do-over Based on Love and Respect
Statistics were against them. But who cares about numbers when love is in the equation? Tom and Charlie Clark first met when they were 8 years old. “Close friendships between relatives led to summer visits between Texas, where Charlie’s family lived, and Wyoming, where I resided. Otherwise, we may never have met,” Tom said. What the young children did not know was, even then, God had a plan for them.
Beyond the Veil: Connecting to the Other Side
Highly skilled mediums are a rare find. Until the popularity of the television show Medium, most people were unaware of them. A medium is a person who can access messages from departed loved ones in the spirit world. We are extremely fortunate to have one of the best in the United States reside part-time in the Lowcountry. A trance medium since childhood, Dwanna Paul has been channeling messages of hope and healing from those who have departed to their families and loved ones.
Hear Us Roar
How and when did your relationship begin? KATIE: We first met in kindergarten but neither of us remembers that far back. We found out when we came across a picture of us together with our teacher, Mrs. Edmonds and a get-well note Ryan’s mom saved that I had written when he was sick. After kindergarten, Ryan transferred to St. Francis Catholic School and I stayed at the public school. We didn’t meet again until the summer going into seventh grade. We both went with mutual friends to a church youth group weekend and I remember Ryan showed up in his baseball uniform and I thought he was so cute! I always tried to sit next to him, and of course, my best friends knew I had a huge crush on him so they helped set us up!
Surrogacy: The Ultimate Gift of Love
When Ashley Schaeffer was 23, she became pregnant with her first child, Micah. While she was experiencing all the wonders of pregnancy, the excitement, the sound of his heartbeat, the flutter of his movements, and the anticipation of his arrival, she was also mourning alongside close friends and family members who weren’t as fortunate, women who’d miscarried or were struggling with fertility issues. “They had to go on watching me carry a baby. It just broke my heart, like a physical ache inside of me, and I knew after the birth of my first child, I was supposed to be a surrogate. My heart breaks so much for people who can’t experience this. God gave me the gift to be able to do this, so if I could help someone carry a child, then I wanted to try.”
Mom and Daughter: All Heart
I arrive in the rain only to be greeted by a face wreathed in sunshine. Darlene Pitre of Ridgeland leads me to a conference room where a petite lady of indeterminate age sits waiting. Her bright smile belies the trials she has endured. Donnie Futch as it turns out is Darlene’s Mom, not her sister as many have assumed.
On the Move
A year ago Hayley Dawson was crunching numbers for a major insurance claims company, and it wasn’t much fun. She drove a boring, long commute five days a week, and while she drove, she dreamed. She shared her dream of owning a fitness studio over sushi with a friend, and her friend replied, “Why don’t you?”
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A Beautiful Blend of Motown, Jazz and Blues