My siblings and I were born in Charlottesville, Virginia, but grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. Our parents, Paul and Mary Ann, loved the Outer Banks, and our family spent weeks camping there when we were growing up.

Colleen and her mom, Mary Ann, on Hatteras in 1966. Photo: Colleen Minard.

My brother David and I were even rescued from a riptide by two National Park Service lifeguards at Ocracoke Island in 1972.

The NPS lifeguards who rescued Colleen and David on Ocracoke Island in 1972. Photo: Colleen Minard.

One of the lifeguards who was on duty saw me and came for me with his flotation device; the other was surfing while off duty and saw the rescue starting and ran to help – he had David cling to his swim trunks. Later, we went to the visitor center in Ocracoke and learned what to do if caught in a riptide.  

Colleen and her brother, David, right after they were saved from the riptide off Ocracoke Island in August 1972. Photo: Colleen Minard.

I wish I could find out who those lifeguards were and thank them now. I claim that must be why I was inspired to become a park ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado in 1984 and many seasons since. At least that day allowed me to be alive to become a park ranger! 

When not in camp, my mom mostly just sat and stared at the waves. The one quote we most associate with her, besides maybe “I love you,” was, “Every wave is different.” In her later years, Mary Ann wasn’t up to traveling to the Seashore, but she loved following updates on the lighthouse relocation. 

Paul Jr., Colleen, David, and Mary Ann on Hatteras Island in 1966. Photo: Colleen Minard.

Sadly, my 88-year-old mom passed away in December 2020.  

In the years since we lost my mom, I have tried to pull together a reunion of us three kids and our kids to honor Mary Ann, since we could not celebrate her together when she died during the height of the pandemic. But, as everybody has different travel priorities, the gathering became just my family: me, my son Zachary and his wife Danielle, who live in Colorado, and my daughter Beverly, who lives in Italy. In late July 2022 we rendezvoused at the Norfolk International Airport and drove down to Buxton and Frisco for several days together.  

It was so special! None of them had ever been to North Carolina before. Beverly now dreams she should buy a house in Hatteras; she – a beach fanatic to make her grandma proud! – declared the Seashore beaches the best she’s seen anywhere (of the 30 countries she’s spent time in!), except perhaps Thailand. She and I had more days on Hatteras than Zachary and Danielle. We even got to visit Bodie Island, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and Ocracoke Island as well. My brother had scanned some of my parents’ old projector slides of our Hatteras trips to send to me, so we had a little memorial slide show one night in Beverly’s and my Airbnb. 

“Those pumps were so cold!” Colleen, Paul Jr., Mary Ann, on Ocracoke Island in 1971. Photo: Colleen Minard.

When deciding how to honor my mom, I chose to list Outer Banks Forever in her obituary as a place where folks could direct memorial donations. Mary Ann loved to walk and became very interested in accessible pedestrian paths along Cape Hatteras National Seashore, as she depended on a rolling walker her last few years. And she sure loved the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. So, I decided to have donations made in her memory directed to the Pathways to Your National Parks project that will create a new multi-use pathway to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  

I also chose to donate to Pathways to Your National Parks from an investment I inherited from my parents. I decided to give it in memory of my dad, too, since he and my mom were certainly partners in taking us kids to the Outer Banks – my parents made other trips to Hatteras before I was born and after we kids moved out – and were such a loving couple for their 64 years of marriage. 

Colleen, Paul Sr., and David on Ocracoke Island in 1971. Photo: Colleen Minard.

To Outer Banks Forever and to all of you: Thanks for listening to my sentimental heart and for caretaking my memorial gift to remember my beloved parents!