Joe Mix loved nothing more than surf fishing off the barrier islands, but when he picked Beaufort over Georgetown as a place to retire, it was Beaufort that caught the big one.
For almost four decades, he quietly improved Beaufort, right up to his death Nov. 7 in the historic yellow home next to the old courthouse on Bay Street, where he and his wife, Lin, liked to cook together.
He died of complications from lung cancer, said his son, Steve. A memorial service for Joseph “Joe” Anthony Mix, 87, will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at the Parish Church of St. Helena.
Mix was “Mister Boys & Girls Club,” not for writing checks or serving on local and national boards, but by raising money for a Teen Center and becoming a fixture at its thrift shop, which was his idea.
He boosted Beaufort’s claim to fame by restoring historic buildings. Most visible is the grand old bank building on Bay Street that had been The Breeze Theater and is today Panini’s on the Waterfront restaurant.
He restored Fripp Plantation, or Seaside, on St. Helena Island, and sold large bags of pecans from the yard to benefit the Boys & Girls Club.
Mix and retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Ray Gregg opened the Island Outfitters Sporting Goods Shop on Lady’s Island. Gregg was the gun man and Mix was the fish guy, and customers flocked in to buy supplies for the great outdoors and chew the fat in a place Steve Mix said had the unforgettable smell of cigars, crickets and shrimp.
We owe the pier at Hunting Island to Joe Mix.
But many of his contributions were in the background, where friends say Mix liked to stay. They say he used his gift as a subtle salesman, and his deep study of the art and act of giving, to multiply his gifts in the community.
Chris Plyler, former dean of the University of South Carolina Beaufort, wrote on Facebook: “Pritchard’s Island may not have been gifted to the University by Philip Rhodes without Joe’s involvement. A good man for the ages.”
Mix was going to pay for a 16-foot Fiberglass sculpture of a humpback whale tail to be placed in the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, but public opinion sank the idea. Today, that watery tail is part of the Port Royal Sound Foundation Maritime Center on the Chechessee River.
In the process, Mix and Beaufort sculptor and woodworking artisan William D. “Buzzy” Bosworth became lasting friends.
“We need more Joe Mixes,” Bosworth said.
Boys & Girls Club
Mix was reared in Chicago and held an advanced degree from MIT, but people here called him a “Southern gentleman.”
His career was in textiles sales with the Kendall Company. His last assignment was in international sales, but for many years, he and Lin and the three children lived in the Carolinas. They vacationed at Cherry Grove Beach, north of Myrtle.
A lot of their travel centered on son Steve’s passion for collecting butterflies and moths, which morphed into the Butterfly Shop on Bay Street, which Steve ran for 17 years. Steve was even able to name a moth for his mom.
“He liked people to be happy,” Steve said.
That included the children of the Boys & Girls Club.
A Beaufort Gazette editorial urging support for his drive to open a Teen Center said, “If you know Joe Mix, then you know that he has dedicated much of his life in Beaufort making the Boys & Girls Club a success.”
He also was dedicated to tough students his son-in-law, Biff Poggi, coaches in the Baltimore area. Mix took a great interest in helping those children, Steve said.
Beaufort business leader and philanthropist Dick Stewart wrote on Facebook: “Joe was a great role model for how to maintain a sense of humor, how to enjoy life and especially how to love your family.”
Retired Beaufort County clerk of court Henry Jackson’s tribute on Facebook is about Mix’s passion for fishing.
“Joe was a great surf fisherman,” Jackson wrote. “He took me under his wing to teach me how to know when and where to fish. He kept a journal on when, where, and what tides he caught the most fish. We would stop at Club Bridge for bait and off we would go. Capers north or south end, Pritchard’s usually south end where we had a camp. Location all depended on the historical journal. Precious memories how they linger. Goodbye old friend. I know you and Bob McDowell are on the front beach in heaven.”
Giants of Beaufort
It was hard to tell Joe Mix “no.”
He was not an arm-twister. He was not gabby.
“He wouldn’t guilt you into it totally, but he could certainly make you think you should do it, if you could,” Steve Mix said.
Buzzy Bosworth said Mix’s involvement was “woven into him. It wasn’t a one-shot deal for him. He was in it for the long haul, and that’s why I admired him.”
Bosworth said he was a genius at “putting people together who could get things done.”
Steve Mix said that when he was young, he saw his father, a thin man who stood 6-foot-2, as part of a group of Beaufort men that were bigger than life.
“They were all larger than life, physically, and they just wanted to do good,” he said.
Steve said his father did a great deal of research on giving and “how people want to live beyond their lifetime through endowments or charities.”
Joe Mix wrote a 30-page paper, tracing this urge back to natural selection and through Maslow’s heirarchy of needs.
“It’s a horrible read,” Steve Mix said. “It could have filled 200 pages. Every sentence is packed with concepts. I had to read it twice just to pick up the gist of it.”
It’s about “this yearning within people who are successful and happy and just want to give back to make the world better.”
Not long ago, father and son were talking about it as Joe Mix did battle with chemotherapy.
“I told him that maybe things that do the most to make the world better are things you can’t see so much, like your influence on your children, friends and acquaintances.
“I said it’s hard to quantify that, but in the end, maybe that’s the best giving.”
What did Joe Mix say, I asked.
“He liked that.”