MOREHEAD CITY —

Monroe Gaskill was the “go-to” guy in the Cedar Island community during much of his lifetime, which spanned 75 years between 1910 and 1985.

In his memory, the N.C. Department of Transportation named a new bridge after him in 1995. The Monroe Gaskill Memorial Bridge on N.C. Highway 12 in Down East Carteret County is a high-rise span crossing the Thorofare Channel Bay. Essentially, it paved the way to the “end of the road” in Cedar Island.

Lots of people have sung the praises of Monroe Gaskill, because he was a special man in the development of the Down East region.

“Uncle Monroe was like a one-man chamber of commerce for eastern North Carolina,” said nephew Jerry Gaskill. In other words, he did the things most people thought just happened.

The Gaskill family had its roots on Hog Island, which lies east of Cedar Island, across Cedar Island Bay.

In 2011, historian Connie Mason interviewed Daniel Eugene “Danny” Styron Jr. for an oral history project sponsored by the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center and Cape Lookout National Seashore. Danny Styron also was a nephew of Monroe Gaskill.

“Uncle Monroe got hooked up with a bunch of people in the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., back in the 1950s. R.J. Reynolds had a place on Hog Island. A lot of prominent citizens from upstate came down to hunt and fish at Hog Island.”

Monroe Gaskill was the caretaker of the Hog Island Hunting Club, as it was properly named. He served as the premier hunting and fishing guide, rubbing elbows with business tycoons, sports stars and politicos.

Danny Styron was awestruck by one of the club’s guests from 1964, Dick Groat, the shortstop of the St. Louis Cardinals. The red birds were the World Series champs in 1964, beating the New York Yankees. (Groat had previously won a 1960 World Series championship ring with the Pittsburgh Pirates.)

Groat had been a collegiate star at Duke University, earning All-America honors in basketball and baseball in 1951 and 1952. In his final regular season basketball game, Groat dropped in 48 points to lead the Blue Devils to crush rival North Carolina, 94-64.

Groat still holds the record for the most points ever scored in a game against the Tar Heels. His basketball jersey (#10) was retired in 1952 — the first Blue Devil jersey to be hoisted to the rafters of Duke’s Cameron Stadium.

Danny Styron recalled another prominent visitor who came to Hog Island in the early 1960s — Iley Lamond Dean of Durham, a member of the N.C. Board of Transportation. (N.C. 147 through Durham is named after him, the I.L. “Buck” Dean Freeway.)

Buck Dean’s visit occurred about the time the state decided to relocate the ferry dock from Atlantic to Cedar Island. All it took was for Monroe Gaskill to arrange a card game one evening at Hog Island with Dean and a few Cedar Island “dignitaries.” The ferry deal was struck while the playing cards were being dealt.

“Uncle Monroe had a lot of influence in Raleigh,” said Danny Styron. “I remember one time they weren’t going to open shrimping, and Uncle Monroe went to Raleigh. When he come back that evening, he told everybody to get right to go shrimping at midnight that night.

“That’s how things were done back then. There were people Down East who could touch people — governors and people like that” who got things taken care of. Among the North Carolina governors who were good friends of Monroe Gaskill were Terry Sanford, Dan Moore and Bob Scott, who served consecutively from 1961-73.

It was recently revealed on social media by Randy Hoss Goodwin and Laken Kristine Brown that Monroe Gaskill had named his old skiff Fishunt, because that’s what he did in her … fish and hunt.

They said: “He nailed her name on the stern, but one day it came off in rough weather. He took it ashore and before going inside Hog Island Club, he stuck it up above the screen door outside. One of the other guides … mentioned how good it looked there.”

“Monroe decided to leave it there. That’s how Hog Island Club also became known as the ‘Fishhunt’ Club or simply ‘Fishhunt.’ All we’ve ever called it; it’s there today.”

Mike Wagoner is a retired chamber of commerce executive and a public relations counselor. maw04@twc.com Blog: wagnabbit.blogspot.com

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