The story of how Kingsport residents Reynolds and Maureen Carty came to be memorialized at Rissers Beach starts with a case of happenstance.
They first happened upon the popular South Shore destination during one of their annual camping trips with relatives.
Dusk had turned to dark by the time they rolled into the campground at Rissers – or, at least, what they thought was the campground.
“They didn’t know the campground, so they ended up putting the tent up in the beach parking lot, thinking that was the campground and my uncle made the comment that, ‘this can’t be a very good campground because there’s nobody here,’” recalls Mariann Ward, one of three children the Cartys raised in their 61 years of marriage.
“It wasn’t until the next morning when they got up and started exploring that they realized where they were, and that they weren’t in the campground at all.”
Perspectives shifted as sunlight revealed footpaths leading to the white sand beach, and further exploration helped them pinpoint the whereabouts of wooded campsites nearby.
“I can remember Mom coming home and talking about it,” says Ward.
That was 39 years ago.
It marked the beginning of a family tradition that outlived both Reynolds and Maureen.
Ward’s father passed away in 2013. He was 92.
Her mother died in 2016, at 86.
“They were amazing parents – they just were. We, as kids, grew up in a fairy-tale world. We didn’t know anything could go wrong in the world until we got out on our own,” says Ward.
Her parents are still a part of yearly family trips to Rissers, where a boardwalk bench placed in their honour now help others enjoy the view of a sun setting over an inland marsh on a quiet summer evening.
The bench features a special, gold-plated inscription “in memory of Reynolds and Maureen Carty,” which glimmers in the sunlight.
“You can never repay the people who help you in your trip through life, but you can pass on the payment,” it reads.
“Of all the lovely days, many were spent here.”
The Carty children discovered this quote scrawled in a black book their father wrote in.
It made sense that Reynolds would consider the saying noteworthy.
“He said to me one time, there’s no other reason for living other than helping people. He was always helping a neighbor do whatever. If they needed help, he was there. If they needed a roof shingled, he was there,” says Ward.
“It fit him. It fit exactly what he lived by.”
Her father was commonly known as the Canning barber after 54 years in the business.
“Five dollars a haircut, and he had customers come from all over just to get that five-dollar haircut,” she says with a laugh.
“He was a quiet man. He didn’t say a lot – he did a lot of listening. And I’m sure the conversations at the barbershop could get quite interesting at times.”
He took the same approach in his 61-year marriage, Ward jokes.
“Mom talked, and Dad listened.”
That’s not to say Reynolds didn’t have stories to tell.
He served as a cook in the Navy during the Second World War before settling in Kingsport.
“He didn’t do a lot of talking about the war at all. He sort of lived through it and that was enough for him,” says Ward, who adds that her father “knew everybody and their dog.”
Her mother enjoyed knitting, quilting, camping, dancing and spending time with her loved ones.
“Mom was always busy with the community and the church,” says Ward.
The bench placed along the Rissers Beach boardwalk in her parents’ memory was a surprise orchestrated by her son and niece. They let their relatives stumble upon it by chance, much like how Reynolds and Maureen discovered the family’s favourite campground years ago.
They even kept them guessing as to who put it there until last Christmas.
It’s now a place where the couple’s children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren can gather and reflect.
“Every time the kids go by that bench, they touch it,” says Ward.
For Ward, it’s a place that evokes cherished memories of lovely days spent at Rissers with her parents by her side.
She still regularly hears tell of tales involving her parents back home in Kings County, and she’s thankful their presence can be felt at their home away from home as well.
“I say, ‘Mom and Dad will never die. They’re just like Elvis – they never die’,” she says. “Something’s already coming up for both of them every year.”