By Beverly Bishop
Beaufort and Lesley Hendricks have made a lasting imprint on one another. For more than 25 years, she has been a generous patron of the Arts, and a champion for the preservation of the unique history that is Beaufort, with its remarkable Lowcountry environment. As she moves on, Lesley leaves a legacy and example of the best of citizenship and community.
Lesley grew up in the Panama Canal Zone, which was an enclave very like any small American community, with traditional holidays, football games and prom. Adulthood and having her own family took her, literally, from coast to coast, from Palo Alto to New York, Chapel Hill and Philadelphia until it was time, as Monty Python said, “for something completely different.”
She would relocate on her own and wanted a small, quiet town of timeless beauty and friendly people. Circumstances, serendipity, and the suggestion of a friend landed Lesley at just the right time and place in June,1995. Discovering Beaufort, surrounded by the Lowcountry’s endless water vistas, tidal creeks, whispering marsh grasses, she was captivated.
Only after she had purchased and settled into an historic 1840s antebellum property, in what had once been an orange grove, did she realize she had admired this very property weeks earlier in a Real Estate magazine. Serendipity, indeed.
This was a serene neighborhood of gardens, massive, ancient oaks and moss filtered light where brief encounters become friendships and stories are shared. One day two elderly ladies, chatting with Lesley, asked if she had yet felt the presence of spirits in her new house. No? They smiled sweetly.
Lesley was the 5th owner and knew this was solid historic soil for legends and ghostly tales. No surprise then that each Halloween, the vague figure of a woman, a wisp of white shroud, treads the upper balcony of the ancient white house. Sometimes, there’s a moaning in the air. Or so I’m told.
Lesley became part of the community, easily embraced for her kindness and generosity; she brought a quiet, forceful attention to what would help identify Beaufort as a center for both the performing and visual arts. Bringing her talents as a multi-skilled crafter, master quilter, dancer and leader, she was soon Director of the Arts Council and was ever after involved in many projects, big and small, which would enrich Beaufort’s identity as an arts and historical destination. Imagine large mermaid sculptures, hand painted by local artists, scattered around town, Lesley’s work among them.
Over the years, Lesley has thoughtfully housed visiting actors, writers, musicians and artists, and donated her home as a venue for many fundraising events.
Perhaps the richest dimension of all was added when Lesley’s 3-year-old granddaughter, Cherylann, came to live with and be raised by her grandmother in the small town Lesley had sought out, loved and called home.
I asked her, in years to come, what she’d remember about Beaufort. She answered:
“I was happy here.”
Beverly Bishop is a SC master naturalist and the former owner of Firehouse Books & Espresso. She lives in Beaufort.