Lili Ouimette

Jill of All Trades

Canadian Lili Ouimette has an unusual answer to the common query, "Where are you from, and how did Hilton Head become home for you?" Lili left her hometown in Quebec, hopped on a train in New England, got off in Savannah, flew to Puerto Rico and then, with a crew of six mariners, cruised into Harbour Town on Firebird, an 84-foot sailboat. How many people can say that?

The voyage took nine days and included stops in the Bahamas, Turks and Cacaos, and West Palm Beach, most likely one of Lili's most enjoyable jobs. It was her skills as a house painter that jumpstarted her long-term employment with the vessel's owner, Ric Peterson, a local restaurateur. She went from applying multiple layers of varnish to maintaining all parts of the grand sailboat including making cushions and canvas enclosures. Firebird became Lili's home in the spring of 1994, and for two years she enjoyed her status as a full-time resident of what she calls the village of Harbour Town.

"Harbour Town reminded me of the small town I came from, which is why I decided to stay," Lili said. "You don't need a car. Everything is right there, including access to the Atlantic Ocean." Together with a few other full-time harbor residents, Lili became a regular at the Quarterdeck as well as other area restaurants. For a master mariner like Lili, a social life and supplies were easily within reach thanks to the Firebird's dinghy.

While living in idyllic Harbour Town, Lili was able to hone her fishing skills. "Some experienced Southern ladies taught me how to fish for spottail bass, trout, and flounder," Lili explained, "As a result, I became involved in their annual Women's Fishing Tournament held each October." After expenses are taken care of and prize money awarded, the proceeds from the tournament go to a select charity such as the Shelter for Battered Women.

Lili is best known for being willing and able to fix anything, which is why Ric hired her to be his project and maintenance manager for his three restaurants after the sailboat project was finished. Lili supervised the year-long renovation of what used to be Frank's Oasis and became Red Fish. What used to be a billiards bar is now a fine dining establishment and upscale wine shop. "It wasn't a complete teardown but we definitely got down to the bare bones of the structure," Lili said.

A portion of Lili's week presently includes supervising the restaurants' vegetable garden. A full-time gardener takes care of the daily grind, but she gets the privilege of handpicking ripe tomatoes and delivering them to the chefs. The 100 by 150-foot garden is three-quarters tomato plants, six hundred plants in all. The rest is lettuce, kale, eggplant, peppers and other fresh greens.

Lili developed her work ethic early in life. She grew up doing various odd jobs for the family business, a small grocery store. She went from working in the bakery to butchering. However, her family recognized she was not one to stand still, so they didn't ask her to work the cash register. For that, she was grateful.

A "Jill-of-all-trades", Lili always shows up prepared. Open the trunk of her car and you'll find a neat and clean set of tools. She hears it all the time, "I wish my husband or boyfriend were handy like you."

It's in Lili's nature to be both helpful and humorous, which is why she tells people, "Life is short. You'd better have a good sense of humor, particularly when you call for a maintenance man and I show up."

Up Close:
Moved Here From: Sutton, Quebec, Canada, five miles from the Vermont border
Hawkeye, because she instinctively sees things that need repair.
Birth Order:
The baby, one of six children
Native Language:
French, recently found out she dreams in French
First Job:
Lifeguard at a pool in a resort
Future Plans:
African safari