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OCEAN ISLE BEACH—Hayden O’Neil, a longtime contributor to the Museum of Coastal Carolina, was honored by the museum foundation Saturday as they renamed the museum’s lecture hall in his honor.
The Hayden O’Neil Learning Center was unveiled in at a recognition ceremony this past weekend.
“I think it’s great,” O’Neil said. “I am honored and very pleased.”
O’Neil worked with the museum and planetarium’s creator, Stuart Ingram, from the early planning and designing stages of both local facilities.
“He simply said this was a project he wanted to get involved in, and the more he spoke, the more the enthusiasm rubbed off and me and others,” O’Neil said. “I’m proud to say I was a gopher for Stuart. He had the creative juices, and I was handy.”
The museum began from simple questions—people wanting to know what kind of fish they caught and what kinds of shells were on the beach.
From there, Ingram, O’Neil and community members volunteered countless hours, dollars and effort to build the museum, which displays and exhibits only things found in the Coastal Carolina area.
“A lot of people volunteered their services,” Louise Ingram, Stuart Ingram’s wife, said.
O’Neil said the museum also helped a once-divided Ocean Isle Beach community come together. A divide between full and part-time residents as well as those who live on opposite ends of the island began to form.
“That was beginning to maybe be disruptive,” O’Neil said. “All of that was dispelled over a period of five or six months, and I think the museum was a focal point of bringing people together that was for the good of the community. The Property Owners Association, the museum and other things served to glue these different groups together.”
Through the years, O’Neil and his wife, Pat, have continued to contribute time and money to the museum foundation and help Ingram’s vision continue to grow.
“The two ingredients are essential. I don’t think contributing money has any more value than somebody contributing time,” O’Neil said.
“I truly think that I didn’t understand fully how much you get when you give. At any time you’re involved in contributing something, it is absolutely amazing what comes back to you.”
Scott Kucera, executive director of the Ocean Isle Museum Foundation, said O’Neil and his wife have been instrumental in the development of both the museum and planetarium, and continue to be vital to the foundation.
“Hayden was there with Louise and Stuart and helped them obtain and get to that goal, that vision,” he said. “It continues this day. He never let up his support, his contribution, his ideas, his inspiration.”
Kucera said renaming the lecture hall The Hayden O’Neil Learning Center was a perfect way to show the foundation’s appreciation.
“It’s actually been too long to mark this day of recognition for Hayden,” he said. “That’s what the naming is, the purpose of having a section of the museum that is a multi-purpose learning center for all ages. They can use that space for learning about Coastal Carolina.”
Louise Ingram said her husband Stuart would have liked to see O’Neil recognized for his efforts as well.
“He would be very proud,” she said.
At the dedication ceremony, O’Neil said he was “not exceptional, not unusual,” simply blessed.
“The opportunity to serve the museum and the planetarium has been a blessing to me,” he said. “I want people to understand that as I give, I receive.”
KATHRYN JACEWICZ is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com.