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CALABASH—All her life, Norma Ebert loved visiting the beach.
When she and her sister, Laura, were growing up in Durham, vacationing at the beach and dining in Calabash were part of their family’s summer routine.
“We all would come every summer back down on the coast, usually this area,” said Laura Urbanik, who now lives in Shallotte. “This was our place to be, and we’d always go to the Seafood Hut.”
Three or four years ago, Ebert learned she had lung cancer. She continued to travel to the beach with her family from their home outside Raleigh.
In fact, she made it her dying wish, mandated in her will, that she wanted to go one last time at Calabash Seafood Hut and have her ashes scattered on the ocean.
Ebert died last Nov. 3, 2007, at the age of 52. For months, her sister, her husband Brent, and their two children remembered her last wishes.
This past Saturday night, Ebert’s wishes were finally honored when 17 family members and friends converged at the Calabash Seafood Hut with Ebert’s urn containing her ashes.
After waiting their turn in line at the busy eatery, the large group was seated at two adjacent tables. Ebert’s family, including her children Andy Ebert and Emily Benane, made a special place for her at the table.
“I thought it was touching,” said restaurant manager Marilyn Howarth, whose parents, Virgil and Joanne Coleman, opened the popular Calabash restaurant about 45 years ago.
“She wanted her family to eat at the Seafood Hut,” Howarth said. “I commended them for honoring their mother and wife that way. We’re honored we were part of her wish.”
“We’ve been there many, many times,” Urbanik said of the family treks to the River Road restaurant, recalling her sister’s favorite menu item there was the flounder.
“It was a wonderful time just feeding our faces and feeding our kids,” she said of the gathering Saturday night. “We just had a big party.”
After dinner, the family gathered to fulfill Ebert’s last wish to scatter her ashes at sea.
“We knew to do this when everybody could go to the beach,” Urbanik said. “Her kids and all of us were there. It was a lot of fun.”
She said the last time her sister visited the restaurant was about a year ago, in June or July of 2007. Ebert’s friend, Karen, had a place at Sunset Beach where the family always visited during vacations.
“She was not feeling real well at all,” Urbanik said. “She took her pain medication and slept in the back of the car. She always wanted to be at the beach. The beach was her place. It was all our family’s place.”
This past Saturday night was special, she said, as Ebert’s family, including her grandchildren, paid tribute to their “Mi-Mi.”
She said they had a wake for Ebert about two weeks after she died.
“This was more of a real celebration, because we invited everybody that we ever knew,” Urbanik said. “This was kind of a conclusion to it.”
Ebert, she added, “would’ve loved to be there.”
Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.