Meet a Local: Meet Arlene Heape Hull, and her new book

By Tess Malijenovsky  |   Sitting down at Emily’s Restaurant, her favorite local spot, Arlene Hull tells me about a Lowcountry man.
A Lowcountry man, she says, is born and raised here.  “It has to be in your blood,” she says.  “It’s living to take care and provide for your family and to be a simple man living off the land but giving back to it too.”
Arlene is one to know.  After all, her family has lived in the Lowcountry since they emigrated from Wales in the 1670s.

Arlene is the Executive Director of the local non-profit ageny Alzheimer’s Family Services of Greater Beaufort, and author of  a new book titled ‘Artie M Heape: A Low Country Man and His Life’.
Her novel is a biographical investigation of her grandfather’s life.  Artie, you see, was a rather important man.  Grappling with the stories that Artie always told his grandchildren, the entries of his military diary, and historical news archives, Arlene tells his story with old pictures and narrative anecdotes that weave through a century of American history.  Her focus, however, is on the everyday people like her grandfather—the Lowcountry men and women—who built the strong, small town community that is Beaufort today.

Artie Heape would describe himself as ‘just a good ol’ country boy.’  He was born in 1895 in Early Branch, just past Yemassee.  When he was 12 years old his family moved to Retreat Plantation, now known as Pinckney Retreat, a gated community along the banks of Battery Creek.  To supplement family income, Artie’s father contracted with the school system to provide transportation for area children to attend school.  So, Artie came to town bringing the other school kids with him on a mule-drawn cart for elementary school at what is now the USCB building with the tall columns that stands off Carteret Street.

Artie only attended school for about two years at Beaufort Elementary.  In 1912 his mother died of typhoid fever and his father and those children still living at home returned to Early Branch.  In 1915, he volunteered for the Beaufort Volunteer Naval Militia and started a military career that would span more than 40 years.   After meeting Nila Lee Hill at at taffy pull at his sisters home in Seabrook, Artie had one goal in life, to make enough money to make Nila his wife.  With that goal in mind, he joined the Army and served in World War I and the Siberian Expedition.  He even crossed the picket lines in the great coal miners strike in 1920 , in Alabama.
And, on Christmas Day 1920 he married Nila.
Artie was in and out of the military his entire life.  Her novel follows a Lowcountry man’s life in WWI, in Siberia during the Russian Revolution, in WWII after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and in Seoul, South Korea.

“He was a very honest, hard-working man,” Arlene recalls. “He never would expect someone to work harder than he would work.” “He was kindhearted,” she says, telling me how he would buy property at tax sales just to turn around and give the property back to the people that lost it.

After WWII, Artie returned to Beaufort to be the Chief of Police of the City of Beaufort; and needless to say, there was no escaping family roots for his children and grandchildren. “It gives you a true appreciation for who you really are when you constantly have to come face-to-face with other people who know who you are, and who your family is,” says Arlene.

“My grandfather was one of the mortars that this community was built on.  So many of my family members before me helped build this community and made it what it is today.  The community is a part of me, and I’m a part of it.”

Arlene’s dedication to Alzheimer’s Family Services is in many ways a reflection of her family tradition—giving to the community simply because ‘it’s the right thing to do.’  Even though she wanted to settle into ‘being home’ and spending time with her father and grandchildren when she and her husband George, a dentist in the Navy, returned to Beaufort after his retirement from the Navy in 2007, Arlene knew she wanted to be involved with the community.  She welcomed a friend’s invitation to join the board of the non-profit agency without realizing the impact it would have on her life.

Since then, her role in the non-profit organization has become a consuming passion.  Alzheimer’s Family Services is locally funded and provides care for local caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s. “It’s a terrible thing to live your life and lose your memory of the wonderful things that you’ve shared with people, but even more so for the family members that sit there and watch their loved one not remember them, not know who they are.  That’s unbearable.”

Alzheimer’s Family Services has support groups for caregivers, but also social day programs and in-home programs where trained aides take care of a family member with Alzheimer’s providing caregivers with much needed respite.  The social day program incorporate music therapy, light physical activity and social stimulation, and allows caregivers some free time to do the things they need to do to continue living a regular life in the community.  Alzheimer’s Family Services provides their services scattered around town, but it is their hope to one day have a building they call home.

Beaufort was always a place Arlene Hull called home.  Arlene raised her three children in Beaufort.  Like so many others, she thought when she returned in 1984 that she’d only stay in Beaufort for a year and then find a better place to move, a better place to raise her children. Then she understood.  “This was the better place,” Arlene says smiling looking over me at her friends and husband who stand at the bar in Emily’s.

And yet while Arlene will tell me that “being lowcountry runs in your blood,” she also tells me how Beaufort welcomes newcomers:  “I’ve lived in may different places in the world and I’ve gone to many communities as a total stranger, and I don’t think any place in the world welcomes people and accepts them and lets them be a part of the community the way Beaufort does.”

Yes….Beaufort does indeed.  Thanks Arlene!

There will be a ‘by invitation only’ book release and book signing reception on Friday evening April 6th at 6pm, at Finishing Touches in the Old Bay Marketplace in downtown Beaufort.   A public book signing for her recently released book ‘Artie M. Heape, A Low Country Man and His Life’ will be held on Saturday, April 7 from 12:00 to 4:00 at Finishing Touches.