I Am of Cape Cod

A new book celebrates 139 natives and washashores—from artists to educators—across our narrow peninsula.

Excerpts and photos from the book by John Whelan | Photographs by Kim Roderiques

Tom Turco

Volleyball coach at Barnstable High School, where he led teams to win 18 state championships. He was inducted into the Massachusetts Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2004 and named National Volleyball Coach of the Year in 2012.

John Wooden said, “Passion is temporary; love is enduring.” That’s how I feel about coaching. I’ve coached for nearly a third of a century, and I have come to appreciate just what a great journey this has been. The molding of individuals into a team, the moment of truth during competition and the satisfaction of seeing a team reach their true potential make coaching much more than a job.

The book “The Winner Within” is a staple in our program, and our young athletes readily agree that it teaches them more about life than it does about volleyball. Aside from the winning and the championships, I have seen these young women fight through adversity on and off the court, and unite into a strong team that believes they can achieve–a team that, as Pat Riley writes, “understands and seizes the moment by giving an effort so intensive and so intuitive that it could only be called one from the heart.”

As the years move on, I’m left with the reflection that I am blessed to have coached the sport I love in the place I love.

John Murphy

Artist; Owner of Land Ho! In Orleans and Harwich

For the last 47 years, I have been operating the Land Ho! restaurant in Orleans, and the support of my family has enabled me to pursue my childhood dream of painting. Of course, there is nothing like hooking a big striped bass in season, either. Cape Cod offers me the chance to do it all. With fresh seafood, cold beer, great customers and painting in the best north light of any place in the world, I pinch myself every day and say there is no place on the planet that gets any better than this.

For the record, my wife is a Cape Codder. Her family are descendants of the passengers on the Mayflower’s maiden voyage, and that also includes my three sons, born here as true Cape Codders.

Cherie Mittenthal

Executive director at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill

I am Cape Cod.
I am grateful for the light.
I am grateful for doing what I love.
I look out my window every day and see the change of shifting sands.
The color of the water goes from dark to light, from gray to blue, from pink to black.
The horizon line is everywhere.
In my art, in my view, inside of me.
Always sky above.
Below may vary.
Dogs, sand, water, dunes, cars, trees, seagrass, shacks, rocks, birds, love.
I am grateful. I am of Cape Cod.

Mike O’Connor

Owner of Bird Watcher’s General Store in Orleans

In the spring of 1983, I was out of work, but I had an idea. I wanted to open a specialty shop for bird watchers. Why would I want to do that, you ask? From personal experience, I knew that birders often had difficulty finding what they needed. They had to drive to bookstores to buy field guides and to camera shops for their binoculars. They could obtain birdfeeders at hardware stores, but the best birdseed was found at grain dealers. Why not put everything under one roof and have it run by someone who was familiar with these products (i.e., me)?

The Outer Cape was the perfect place to try something new and different. After all, here we have specialty shops dedicated to surfing, hammocks, kites, clambakes and even Swedish horses, so why not a bird watching store? At first, my main goal was to last long enough to silence the critics who told me that my idea wouldn’t fly (pun intended). And now, nearly four decades later, that goal seems to have been achieved.

Lysetta Hurge-Putnam

Executive Director of Independence House in Hyannis, which has been in operation for 37 years, provides specialized services to adults, teenagers and children who are victims of domestic or sexual violence.

Taking time to enjoy the beautiful landscape, especially two of my favorite haunts– Lighthouse Beach in Chatham and Red River Beach in Harwich–is a big part of my Cape Cod lifestyle. I walk along these beaches often because the rhythm of the ocean brings me clarity of thought, new ideas and solutions to challenges, and every time I renew my appreciation for the privilege of living on this beautiful peninsula. I love these beaches in the summer for the challenge of finding a parking spot and the fun of watching the variety of families as much as watching the ocean, wild or calm. I enjoy the harbor gray seals at Lighthouse beach, and of course, the occasional shark sighting. In the winter, I love the dearth of people, the desolation, the mighty roar of the open ocean, and the biting cold, which reminds me that I am alive and taking a walk along a Cape Cod beach.

Finally, one of the abiding anchors in my life since age 20 has been a lived commitment to actively participate in ending gender-based intimate partner violence. I am privileged to lead the Cape Cod-founded, outstanding, pioneering, most recognized and leading nonprofit organization whose mission is to do just that. I believe that this is one way I am fulfilling my life’s purpose and contributing to this place I call home.

Anne Packard

Provincetown artist

It is winter now, and the sea is darkened green as it crashes against the bulkhead of my home. It gives me energy and determination to once again go to my studio to paint it.

Max Bohm, my grandfather, came to Provincetown in 1916. The town reminded him of a Brittany fishing village. He bought a home here. Now, some hundred years later, many of his descendants live here. All my children, their children and a great-granddaughter are here. It fascinates me that his one decision determined the fate of his family.

As a child, I always summered here. As an adult, I only wanted to live here year-round. I finally managed it, and 40 years later, I have not lost an ounce of love for the Outer Cape.

Aqela Yousuf

Owner of Perfect Fit Alterations in Orleans

Cape Cod is my adopted home. I’m a washashore. I came to the Cape as a refugee from Afghanistan in 1986—from the mountains to the dunes. Coming from a landlocked country, the sea was a new concept. I came here for safety and to give my three daughters a chance for a better future. It was hard those first couple of years to be so far from everything that was familiar to me—my family, my friends, my language. I knew that the success of my children depended on how I reacted to this new challenge. I was their lighthouse. They were watching me like three ships on a dark choppy sea. This notion gave me strength to go on—to make sure they reached the shore. I soon learned that there were many lighthouses all over the Cape—people who went out of their way to help our family navigate this new land and get up on our feet. I am so thankful for their kindness and generosity. This year marks 30 years since we first arrived on Cape Cod. I am grateful for everyone in this community who made us feel at home. The Cape is our home—our refuge.

Ali Hawk

Ten-year-old Ali Hawk lives with her parents and grandparents in what amounts to a family compound on Crystal Lake in Orleans, where she attends Orleans Elementary School.

I live (basically) on Crystal Lake. I enjoy swimming in the lake and cannonballing off the dock. I feel as if Crystal Lake has taken up half of my heart. I also can’t forget about Nauset Outer Beach. When I am at Nauset Beach, I feel like I can stop time. I can feel the gentle breeze pricking my skin and my salty hair slapping my back. I feel like Nauset Beach and Crystal Lake are my second homes.

I feel so blessed to live in such an amazing place that I can share with generations ahead. I am here today because my mom, aunt and grandparents summered here. They loved the place so much that my grandparents built a house here. Then, my mom built a house right next to my grandparents. But I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else than Orleans, Cape Cod.

Eliza Fitts

Owner of the Wicked Oyster in Wellfleet

The child of two “washashores,” I was born and raised in Provincetown. I grew up in its forests, dunes, waters and bogs.

As a child, I would pick wild blueberries that were sweet as could be with an aftertaste of sand, rosehips with their furry seeds and beach plums tart with potential. We frolicked with friends in the waves of a warm stormy bay, seaweed sneaking in the sides of our suits. We combed the bogs for cranberries to stock the freezer and tediously gathered bayberries to make candles for Christmas gifts. We rolled down the dunes in summer and skied (or sledded) on them in the winter … the same dunes on which the ashes of my mother and sister are scattered.

The wild, diverse landscape, and its equally wild and diverse cast of characters, nurture my soul and captivate me. And with the ebb and flow of each tide, each season, I am reminded of who I am.

Paul Niles

Executive director of the Lighthouse Charter Middle School in East Harwich

It is no cosmic error that I am a teacher in my 22nd year at the Lighthouse Charter School. My father fought in World War II and labored in construction, teaching six children the virtues of loyalty and hard work. My mother managed a frenetic household, worked with recovering drug addicts and bore her children’s transition into a “liberated” world with calm, composure, and grace. She taught us the principles of leadership—how to navigate the fraying strands of a creative, diverse community and work collaboratively to hold it all together, sometimes only by the force of sheer will. My wife, Annie, and children, Jackson and Maddy, taught me to recognize the beauty in life and the power of love and perseverance in overcoming obstacles.

Cape Cod is a hub of educational innovation in our nation’s most educated state. At Lighthouse, we have built a beacon designed to awaken the intellectual, civic, and social potential of middle school kids. Our students charge into high school as dynamic learners, understanding the values of grit and civic responsibility as they construct the kinds of lives that make Cape Cod a better place. We launch kids who would have made my parents proud.

Pamela Talin-Bryant and James Talin

Owners of Talin Bookbindery in Yarmouthport

We are brother and sister bookbinders, and we have been binding and restoring books at the Talin Bookbindery since the late 1970s. Although we have customers throughout the country, we have a special interest in preserving the historic collections, records and documents of the Cape and Islands.

Our interest in bookbinding was a natural one, as we grew up in an environment that encouraged reading. After graduating from college, Pam volunteered to compile an inventory of the ancient cemeteries of Brewster. During this project, Pam met a local bookbinder and started taking lessons in Providence, Rhode Island. Soon after, Jim became interested, and they both took binding lessons in Providence and Boston.

Our bindery has worked on many projects related to Cape Cod and important to the history of the region, including town records, church records, ship logs, personal histories, and other books. These belong to institutions, libraries, organizations, municipalities and individuals.

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