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CALABASH—He’d be up before the sun, scanning morning newspapers and brewing coffee at a local restaurant.
Then, James “Tincy” Marlowe would mosey down River Road to another Calabash eatery, Captain Nance’s, to make more early-morning coffee and tend to whatever needed to be done at the waterfront establishment.
When the shrimp boats came in, Marlowe was a popular sight with customers who’d line up for pounds of fresh shrimp he could behead and package with a few dexterous flicks of the wrist.
The hard-working Brunswick County native and devoted father of six, who died nearly three years ago at age 69, will be remembered at a town celebration at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 29, as part of Black History Month festivities.
“Everybody in town knew him as ‘Tincy,’” said Sandy Melahn, chairman of the town community services committee that is organizing the event.
“I think it was because he was little with a great big heart,” added Melahn, a newcomer who didn’t get the opportunity to know Marlowe as other locals and visitors did. “He was very influential in Calabash and the surrounding area. He had keys to three restaurants down on the river.”
“James loved history,” added Calabash Mayor Anthony Clemmons, a fellow native and historian who knew Marlowe well. “We spent many times together on the waterfront talking about Calabash.”
One thing Clemmons “greatly admired” about Marlowe occurred during those early Calabash mornings.
“When I would go to work, I would see James at Miss Annie Lee Harper’s, his foster mother, looking after her before he went to work,” Clemmons recalled.
‘Love of my life’
Marlowe’s widow, Earlene, who called her husband James, agreed he had a big heart. He worked hard to provide for their family, she said, and continued to do so up until the day he died, on March 9, 2005.
“He was a workaholic, I call it,” she said. “He’d work two, three jobs at a time. He washed cars and did whatever he could to support his family.”
Marlowe seemed to be everywhere, down at the creek, the tobacco market and captaining Capt. Nance’s shrimp boat, Miss Chandee.
“He even went to New York and Florida to get a job,” Earlene said, fondly remembering “the love of my life,” who died five months before their 50th anniversary.
She said he also was a good cook.
They had six children—five boys and a girl—who excelled in school, college and their careers.
“They did well, I think,” Earlene said of Gerald Thomas, Waymon, Theresa, Tony, Joey and Jeffrey, who are grown and busy now just like their dad.
About 20 years ago, the children chipped in to buy their parents a new house in Calabash.
“Someone asked me how did I get them all to finish high school, especially the boys,” Earlene said. “I said that was expected of them, what Dad and I wanted for them, and they didn’t disappoint.”
Marlowe was also active in their church, Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist, where he served as a deacon, trustee and senior Sunday school teacher.
“He had a heart for people, oh, yes,” said Earlene, who met her husband at a high school prom just across the state line near her hometown of Little River, S.C. “He gave most generously and wherever he could help.”
Earlene said James cared about his own children being educated and encouraged other youth in the church to do the same.
As a result, the James Marlowe Memorial Scholarship for minority students has been established through Centura Bank in Calabash. Last year, its first recipient of a $500 scholarship was a student, Diandra Stanley, who plans to study nursing, according to the Marlowes’ daughter, Theresa, an attorney.
When her father was diagnosed with lung cancer and heart disease in January 2005, it hardly slowed him down.
Earlene said James continued his usual morning routine and mobility, going down to “look at the river” and tending to details before he died.
“He just said, ‘I’m ready to go,’” she recalled. “He had his suit cleaned and his hair cut. He said, ‘I’ve got everything fixed for you all. I’m not afraid of dying.’”
The public is invited to next week’s event honoring Marlowe, which will include a ceremony, plaque presentation and refreshments.
Marlowe, his wife said, “would be so proud.”