Local biologist inspired to replace Mickey McCarthy memorial

By on August 23, 2018

Sean Darsee with the new memorial.

The recent thefts of two beachside memorials on the Outer Banks, one that was eventually returned and another still missing, has inspired a lot of comments about what has become of our sandbar and society.

But the disappearances in April of the memorial for Wesley Belisle in Kitty Hawk, and just this past weekend for Mickey McCarthy in Nags Head, have also inspired others to do something about it.

“When I saw the article, it broke my heart because this is the second time that this happened,” said Sean Darsee, a marine biologist at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries office in Elizabeth City.

A New York native and Kill Devil Hills resident, Darsee says he has already started collecting items for a new memorial to McCarthy, who made surfboards but was probably best known for his surf photography. “2M” died in December 2016.

“Surfing has become a part of my life since I moved down here,” Darsee said, noting that he is on the water for both work and pleasure all the time.

“Every time you go to a different access, there’s a memorial for someone,” Darsee said. “These things are done to give back to the family and friends who lost that person.”

“I felt like there was an opportunity for me to step in and replace it, and make sure who did the project originally gets that same thing back,” Darsee said.

A mockup of a camera near the Nags Head Fishing Pier was placed next to the stairway at Bainbridge Street beach access, where a break just north of the pier has long been favored by many surfers.

Pro surfer Brett Barley of Buxton was the first to post that the memorial had disappeared.

Darsee already has a concept for the memorial and a few of the parts when we talked with him Thursday, and he may be able to erect it by this weekend.

He said he never had the pleasure of meeting McCarthy, but knew of his work both with a camera and a board, and thinks this will be a way to share his story in a new way.

“The idea is to replace the same structure, but make it a bit more interactive,” Darsee said. “I want to make it something that people can touch and feel.”

“Make it so you can look through the lens and give inspiration to others that may want to become photographers,” Darsee said. “The idea is to look through the lens with the same eye that Mickey did.”

Darsee does want to see the original returned so it can be placed next to his creation.

“I want to make sure the community knows its about who Mickey was and his involvement in surfing and photography along the Outer Banks and the East Coast,” Darsee said.

A similar incident happened at a Kitty Hawk beach access in June, when a collection of shells that were part of a memorial for a 4-year-old New Hampshire boy who drowned three months earlier were returned after they went missing for several days.

They were found next to the flagpole at the Lillian Street beach access by Kitty Hawk’s director of public works, Willie Midgett, and returned to the memorial.

The items were part of the little red and orange mailbox for Wesley Belisle, who died after being pulled into the ocean by a shore-breaking wave while walking with his family in April.

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