BY MARCY SHORTUSE - It has been two years since a dear island soul, Joe “Wild Man Joe” Sturgess passed away. Tears are still shed, prayers are still uttered and glasses are still raised in his honor. We thought this would be a good time to relay a neat bit of trivia, not only about Joe but about the closeness of our island community.
Wendy Herda was taking her nieces snorkeling in Mutton Minnow Hole on a day during the 2012 spring break when the Gulf waters were rough. One of them found something odd, covered with barnacles. It looked like an artifact of some sort.
“I took it home and soaked it in vinegar water for a few weeks, then realized it has the initials ‘SS’ on it,” Wendy said. “I have seen some of Sue Shaffer’s art at shows and knew that was her mark. So I called
Sue and described the vase to her. She laughed, then told me, ‘I know someone who would really like to have that back.’”
That person was Melissa Joiner-Steyer, who considered Wild Man Joe a part of her own family. When his ashes were released to the family they took a small portion of them, put them in the urn and scattered them in Mutton Minnow Hole.
“Roy, one of Joe’s brothers, was scattering the ashes and he got so mad that he threw the whole thing in the water,” Melissa said. “We dove in after it and searched all around, but never found it.”
Months later, Wendy and her nieces found the vase. When she took the vase back to Whidden’s, wrapped in a blanket, Melissa and the whole family were thrilled to have it back.
“She told me she had something for me, then came back with a replica of that vase,” Wendy said. “Sue had made it for her when they lost the original. Then I got the biggest bear hug you could get.”
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