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The Old Gray House
Steven Yahr

Mystical Memories of the Old Gray House

You are about to enter the dream world that Dewey and Mary Parr lived for twenty-five years. It is not a world that just happened, but a world that God created for their retirement years. In our lives, if we look back, we can see evidence of times we have been lead in specific directions. This concept, that there is a force in this world that watches over us and directs us in our decision making, is not foreign to those who believe in the powers of God. Assistance in our decision making is one of the fringe benefits we receive when we become a citizen of the government of God.

Dewey Tells How the Old Gray House Began:

I starting thinking about our retirement years because of a conversation with my fatherís attorney. For some unknow reason I received a telephone call from him after my fatherís death asking me to come up to Manteo and talk with him. I thought this was strange at the time but I accepted the invitation. While there, he not only shared advice about estate planning, but asked me a specific question, ďWhat are your plans for retirement?Ē

Prior to this conversation, I had given little thought to retirement. I was a few years away from it. As we talked thoughts began to roll in my head. I told him at one time I had given though to using my grandmotherís old house, which we had purchased, for a place for Mary to put her crafts. The more we talked the more I began to realize this was a great idea. He then looked at me and said, Dewey, ďThat sounds like a good idea so why donít we get it underway right now even though you have a few years to go before your retirement. He then explained to me that the County was in the process of putting zoning in effect in Buxton and he felt I needed to go ahead and apply for a business permit for the property. The next thing he did was make a phone call to the head of zoning and tell her he was sending me over to her to sign up for a business permit in my grandmotherís old house. I went to meet with her. She went out of her way to discuss all the things required by the County. She listen to my thoughts for the property. She even interjected some of her ideas for the business. One I remember was she thought it would be a wonderful place to sit and enjoy an ice cream cone while chatting about Island history. After and enjoyable discussion, together we came up with the idea of naming the business, The Old Gray House, in honor of my motherís family that had resided in it. On that day, the Old Gray House began in name only. It was five years later before the doors opened.

From that day forward even though I got up every morning and went to work, my mind began to center around dreaming my retirement. It was this dream that carried me through some rough times as I waited for that wonderful day when we would be free from the work-world and could do the things we wanted to do. This experience, that led to our twenty-five years of retirement, has made me aware that everyone needs to ask, what are your plans for retirement? I have no knowledge why the lawyer called me and took time to talk with me about my retirement. Could it be this was one of those fringe benefits that was granted to me because I believe and trust in God.

As you glean through these pages dedicated to the Mystical Memories of the Old Gray House Gifts and Shells it is my hope it will open your heart and eyes to the enjoyment that awaits you in your retirement. Start planning.

You might want to read this article by Irene Nolan that appeared in the Island Free Press that tells about our twenty-five-year dream before you begin your adventure into our Mystical Memory World.

A fond farewell to Buxton's Old Gray House
Friday 30 September 2016 at 5:42 pm.


Irene Nolan
Editor Island Free Press

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.

Rick Smoot

"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.

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.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.

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.

An Essay on Change and Progress

A Postscript on the Essay on Change and Progress

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