Boat Lover’s Dream

Photo by Bethany Turner

Photo by Bethany Turner

When tourists think of Oak Island, the tan, sandy beach along the Atlantic Ocean is likely the first thing that comes to their minds. On the flip side, locals are well aware of the backwoods beauty along Davis Canal and Montgomery Slough. Green foliage surrounds earthy banks as kayaks and canoes are manned with the current. Here, majestic herons can be spotted keeping guard of the fishes, while Hooded Mergansers float along the water, and deer and foxes peek out between branches. For Barry Adkins, the late owner of Blackbarry Marine, the home at 107 SE 24th Street beckoned as its yard, a blank canvas, was the perfect site for a few rocking chairs and boat lifts.

“We’ve always lived on the water,” Barry’s wife, Donna, explains. “We lived on Lake Norman [near Charlotte, NC] before we came here 23 years ago, and he always wanted to get back on the water.”

Barry, who was part owner of a towing company in Statesville, NC, had been in the wrecker industry for 40-some years. Familiar with Oak Island because the Adkins had a summer home here, Donna decided to take their livelihood into her own hands.

Kitchen, Photo by Bethany Turner

Kitchen, Photo by Bethany Turner

“The stress in Statesville was so bad, and I could see it on him, because he was a 24-hour per day worker. He just didn’t quit,” she says of her husband. “I told him, ‘I’m moving to the beach—you wanna go?’ So we decided to sell the partnership and move here.”

Barry was always one for toys, specifically antique cars and boats. “When we moved here, I needed a place to put everything,” Donna muses. “We had five places in town rented, storing all of his stuff.”

While perusing Long Beach Rd., Donna stumbled on a contractor’s warehouse. She snatched it right away. “We bought it, and then it snowballed,” she describes. Though Barry had continued to work for his ex-partner in towing, when the economy was soaring, he gave it up solely to sell boats. “When the economy was good, everything was good,” Donna continues. “That’s how Blackbarry Marine came about.”

Living room, Photo by Bethany Turner

Living room, Photo by Bethany Turner

Today the business, located at 4701 Long Beach Rd. SE, deals in boats, marine outboards and engines, repair, and even fishing tackle. It’s a boater’s haven established by Barry’s can-do, never-give-up attitude.

Eventually, the small fixer-upper the Adkins lived in behind Blackbarry Marine wasn’t offering the privacy they were searching for—too many folks from the business knocking on the door. A friend suggested a house on a bit of a hill in a nook along Davis Canal.

“We came down, walked in it, and talked,” Donna recalls. “Then we just that quick bought it. But you couldn’t see the water [from the house]—it was just real rough [with trees and shrubs]. Barry started fixing things up. He put the docks in and the landscaping. We reworked it just the way we wanted it.”

Dining room, Photo by Bethany Turner

Dining room, Photo by Bethany Turner

Cathy Riddle, realtor with Intracoastal Realty and 20-year friend of the Adkins adds, “Barry put in a 5,000-lb. and 10,000-lb. lift; one just wasn’t enough. There’s even a place to clean fish [on the dock]—but it’s granite.”

“He was a boat man,” Donna concedes. “His dad built boats when he was growing up, so Barry’s always been around them. That was one of the first purchases we made after we were married: We bought an old boat. All we ever did was go out on the water.”

Together the Adkins upgraded the kitchen and bathrooms with granite and new tile, as well as new appliances and heating and air. The expansive garage, which spans the whole perimeter of the home, is insulated and finished with air conditioning. Barry primarily used it as his workshop. A bonus room in the home offers a slew of exercise equipment and a tucked-away sewing space for Donna.

The couple, married for 45 years, enjoyed the luxuries of life on the canal. “To move here was her dream,” Cathy says. “But the house was his dream.”

Master bedroom, Photo by Bethany Turner

Master bedroom, Photo by Bethany Turner

In 2006, Barry was diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. “He went through nine months of chemotherapy, which really beat him down pretty bad—but he was in remission until September of ‘10,” Donna tells. “He was a fighter. He did not lay at home and feel sorry for himself at all—he was at work.”

Yet in the fall of 2010, Barry was feeling a lack of energy. “They couldn’t give me any answers here so I took him back to Chapel Hill, and that’s when he was diagnosed with leukemia, which was a result of the chemotherapy they’d given him four years before,” Donna remembers. “They hit him hard because the lymphoma was so severe. If they hadn’t used quite as much on him, he might not have developed this quite as soon—but he developed MDS.”

Master bathroom, Photo by Bethany Turner

Master bathroom, Photo by Bethany Turner

Vidaza injections from Dr. Arb in Wilmington helped raise his cell count to a healthier level. In January 2011, the Adkins received a call from Chapel Hill: A blood-marrow stem-cell donor had been found for Barry. The transplant took place on January 18th. The Adkins remained in Chapel Hill for close care, but tests in February came back reporting the transplant wasn’t working.

“They said, ‘You have two options: You can go home, or we’ll try another round of chemo.’ So we went back in the hospital, but we never actually came back out.”

Though Barry’s bone marrow revived with 99 percent donor cells, putting him in remission, the treatment was too hard on his body. “Barry was beat down so bad, he just couldn’t recover,” Donna expresses. “The treatment was just too severe. They got it, and he beat it again—but if I had it to do over, we would’ve come home. But he wasn’t gonna quit.”

The canal pier and two boat lifts available with the home. Photo by Bethany Turner

The canal pier and two boat lifts available with the home. Photo by Bethany Turner

Barry passed away in June 2011. For months Donna made no decisions about what to do with the house, now too big for her to take care of alone. “I’m evidently stronger than I thought I was,” she says. “It’s hard to believe it’s been two years now. I’ll be doing great for a while, and then it just kind of takes over. But I think I’ve done really well. I’ve had a lot of support from a lot of people.”

The home was a haven for Barry the entire time he lived in it. “It was such a peaceful place for him,” Donna says. “He loved sitting out on the porch in the rocking chair. It was a great place for him to heal.”

Likewise, Donna’s refuge is her share of the pair of rockers overlooking the canal. “That’s where I spend most all of my time,” she describes, “and when my family comes down, they [constantly are] on the porch.”

Donna says if folks were to sit on the porch not knowing they were by the ocean, they might imagine being in the mountains. “When you look down at the water, that could be a stream, it could be anywhere,” she muses. “But then you can hear the ocean in the background because we’re not that far. It’s the best of both worlds; that’s why Barry liked it so well, it was kind of isolated here. If you don’t know the house is here, you can’t find it. It’s been a really nice place.”

The open-air porches offers an outdoor retreat. Photo by Bethany Turner

The open-air porches offers an outdoor retreat. Photo by Bethany Turner

Donna has put 107 SE 24th St. on the market with her good friend Cathy of Intracoastal Realty, who can be reached at (910) 201-2200. The three-bedroom, two-bath home includes a fireplace in the living room, a screened gazebo, and a covered front porch as well. It totals 1,901 square feet on a 19,166-square-foot lot. The listing price, which includes the boat lifts and a boat, is $485,000. Contact Cathy Riddle for more information or to take a tour of the home.

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