The Seabrook celebrates 30 years

features@islandpacket.comAugust 27, 2012 

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Thanks to Annette Martin of Hilton Head Island for giving a glimpse into The Seabrook's special place in the community as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.


By Annette Martin

The Seabrook is celebrating 30 years of service to residents, their families and the community.

In 1972, Hilton Head Islander Bob Killingsworth realized that as people aged, they would need a comfortable place to live, which could provide services as needed (a fairly new concept at that time). He arranged for the purchase of land from the family of Sea Pines developer Charles E. Fraser, then worked as a volunteer for 17 years, from concept to completion, to see The Seabrook become a reality.

The Rev. John Calvin Reid of the First Presbyterian Church of Hilton Head in 1971 is credited with being the first to suggest that there was a need for a retirement community on Hilton Head.

Killingsworth and island businessman Thomas Wamsley later submitted an application to the S.C. secretary of state for "a certificate of incorporation for an eleemosynary corporation to be known as The Seabrook of Hilton Head Inc."

The scope of what Killingsworth helped accomplish is staggering considering there were many financial challenges.

He helped create one of the first equity-ownership, continuing care communities in the country.

He later was honored for this work by the national organization for communities for seniors, Leading Age.


From the outset, The Seabrook has been deeply woven into the fabric of the community.

Many of the pioneers who helped Hilton Head Island become what it is today were or are residents of The Seabrook.

Charlotte Heinrichs played a huge part in caring for islanders in need, working for years to get deeper wells dug to provide clean water for children. She turned her attention to collecting food, money and clothing to aid islanders, a dedicated service that formed the foundation for the Deep Well Project. When the Volunteers in Medicine clinic opened, giving medical attention to those who needed it but had no means to pay, she was at the forefront to provide help.

Another dynamo was Caroline "Beanie" Newhall. When her good friend Charles Fraser was developing Sea Pines, she talked him into setting aside a 50-acre tract for "green space" that became the Audubon Newhall Preserve on Palmetto Bay Road. The Audubon Society used donated space at The Seabrook for its meetings for years.

Ben Racusin was involved in serving the area long before he became the Town of Hilton Head Island's first mayor in 1983. He was a leader in 1974 when the old swing-span bridge that linked the island to the mainland was knocked out of commission when hit by a barge. The community organized a fleet of small pleasure boats to ferry workers back and forth to the mainland. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was engaged to build a pontoon bridge, and Racusin became the liaison between the Corps and the islanders. Racusin is still a resident of Seabrook and served on its board for many years.

After the town was incorporated, Ann Cathcart, who later resided at The Seabrook, stepped in as volunteer clerk until it was possible to hire a permanent one.

Martha Baumberger was a resident of The Seabrook when she decided to run for mayor. Election night saw a big celebration party at The Seabrook, where boards had been set up to count returns as the results were reported. When asked how she could take on this responsibility, she commented that this lifestyle gave her the freedom to get involved. The island's only female mayor -- who also had served as chairman of the Beaufort County Council -- might be best known for obtaining the land and easements for construction of bus shelters for workers waiting for transportation to the mainland, with adequate protection from sun and rain.

Baumberger wrote a complete history of The Seabrook.

Mayors Harvey Ewing and Jerry Barkie also used the Fraser Health Center, giving a vote of confidence to The Seabrook's nursing facility.


In the 1970s, The Children's Center day nursery for children of mothers who worked on the island was furnished with only a few chairs and a TV. Seabrook resident Bo Hedeman saw this desperate need and, with great energy, stepped in to help. She donated money, collected funds, refurbished it and got it started on its way to becoming the fine center it is today -- a great boon for the children and their mothers.

Other kinds of needs also were fulfilled by Seabrook residents. Longtime islander "Doc" Kreidler, for example, was one of the early volunteers for the Heritage golf tournament. For 10 years, he assumed the monumental task of organizing and supervising the 1,000 volunteers who worked with the tournament.

Back in the days before the Hilton Head Hospital was even built, Helen Rankin, a nurse, joined the Hospital Auxiliary starting in 1973. She worked constantly until 2011, first as a volunteer nurse, then in different volunteer positions throughout the hospital. On opening day in 1975, she helped open the hospital's front door, while the Parris Island Marine Band played for the celebration.

Helen Racusin, Ben Racusin's wife, was president of the Friends of the Library and later led the board of the Beaufort County Library, a post she held for many years.

Island Packet columnist Katie Callahan was well known as an activist in saving island trees. She worked with Town Council on a tree-protection ordinance, as well as its Natural Resources Task Force, and served on the first Corridor Review Committee, all helping keep the beauty of our island intact.

The island began to be known for the visual arts as well as golf, tennis and the beach, in part because of the arrival of artist Walter Greer, drawn in 1960 by the natural beauty of the island. The island's first art gallery, The Red Piano, became a gathering space for a small, but talented, group of artists. Walter still is active in the Art Center of Coastal Carolina, where the Greer Gallery is named in his honor.

Author Margaret Greer, Walter's wife, has published books on the local architecture, the symphony orchestra and "The Sands of Time," a history of Hilton Head.

These far-sighted people, as well as many others, helped set the tone and create the foundation for life on the island as we know it. In the same way, they have contributed to the strength of this island institution, The Seabrook.

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