• Beaufort Lifestyle Magazine

Story By: Mary Ellen Thompson

Photos By: John Wollwerth

John Potter appears to be a very down to earth guy – affable, businessman, family man, dedicated, excellent skill sets, Chief Executive Officer, Board of Directors, all those concrete things; and he is. Yet, his cerulean blue eyes give him away at first glance – his primary element is water. John has won more awards and trophies for sailing than Neptune could tuck under the seas, and he does it with the help of his wife, Cheryl, and daughters Megan and Emily who are both instructors, love sailing, and have inherited his passion for racing.

John had a total of eight National and North American championship wins in the past year or so, and these are just a sampling:

J 105:

Overall Winner of BYSC Santa Elena Regatta – April 2016 – Beaufort SC


North American Champion – 2016 VX ONE North Americans – September 2016 – Holland, MI

VX ONE Winter Series – February 2017  – Sarasota FL

Charleston Race Week – May 2017  – Charleston SC

Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club (BYSC): The A. Mills Kinghorn Sailing Award for sailing excellence in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001,2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016.

The first sailboat John remembers was his parents’ Holiday 24, but his first boat was given to him when he was eight by his dad, who was going to Viet-Nam. That was an eight foot Optimus Pram and he would take it out of Palm Harbor, FL and into the Gulf of Mexico “to go sailing and fishing every day.”

After graduating from high school in Fairfax County, VA, John experienced a few years of a close to an idyllic balance of work/play. “I put boats together in Newport, RI in the summer, Annapolis, MD in the spring and fall, and Ft. Lauderdale, FL in the winter. We would wait for the boats to come in on ships, and when they arrived we would assemble them; in between we would windsurf.”

The longest distance he has ever sailed was when he was 22, and at the suggestion of his father, went to Singapore to help bring a Formosa 51 back to the US. John took a correspondence course in celestial navigation and as part of the crew, accompanied the two owners and one of their wives on the journey. It turned out to be quite an adventure. Before they could leave Singapore, John was sent to Jakarta to get the necessary permit which needed three signatures for sailing in those waters, but he could only obtain two. Unbeknownst to John ahead of time, as it turned out the boat owners were being deported and there was a deadline on when they had to leave port, so off they went hoping the paperwork wouldn’t be necessary. The first leg of the journey took them to Cocos Keeling Island, which is a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. But on the way there, on the third or fourth night out, they passed by Krakatoa, an active volcano in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, which was erupting as they passed by. John remembers how beautiful the two week layover on Cocos Keeling was. From there, the next leg of the journey took them to Reunion Island, a French island, between Madagascar and Maritius for another two week stop over. Between Durban and Cape Town, South Africa they hit what John says was the worst storm he’s ever experienced with three and a half days of wind sustained at 80 knots. In Capetown, John got off the boat having had enough of the owners and the provisions which, he makes a face as he remembers, “were cans of minestrone soup and communist Chinese chicken curry with feathers and bones.” He got on another boat and went as far as Barbados before flying home.

After that trip, “I ended up on the west coast of Florida. I lived in New Port Richey, went to school part time at St. Petersburg Jr. College, and dealt in Windsurfer brand sailboards in addition to whatever work I could find on bigger boats for some of the dealers in the Clearwater area. I spent a fair number of long weekends in Ft. Lauderdale where my parents still maintained an office selling Tayana brand yachts out of Taiwan.” In between times, he taught windsurfing which is a sport he still loves. “I just got another wind surfer and I’m going to teach my daughters.”

Opportunity took John to Annapolis where he started his own company, Ocean Outfitters.  Unfortunately, John explains, “Ocean Outfitters got caught up in the ‘Luxury Tax’ debacle in the late 80’s. This was where the Federal Government imposed a 10% tax on yachts and associated equipment costing more than $100,000. This new tax decimated businesses like mine.”

After a foray into the building business in Virginia, John and Cheryl considered moving to Charleston to get into the building business there.

That, however, didn’t happen; the Potters came to Beaufort instead where they have been for 25 years. “Larry Naylor talked me into coming here to help run a propane and ice business. Larry spent most of his working career in the ice business. Triangle Ice used to be a collection of manufacturing plants throughout the Carolinas. Jake Hickman was the common thread through all of these plants and had partners in most of them. Larry became one of these partners sometime in the mid 80’s and was involved with a plant in Spartanburg as well as the one here in Beaufort. They purchased the plant in Savannah a year or two before I got here. All of the Triangle Plants, except for ours, were purchased by Reddy Ice around 2005. My brother in-law, Rob Neall, and I bought out Larry in 2007. We purchased the ice plants in Hampton and Walterboro from Cummings Oil Company three years ago. We have since gutted and automated both plants. One of our vendor’s helped with the design and sold us the equipment and we did the entire installation in house.” How are his mechanical skills with all that machinery? “I can build or fix anything after being involved in the boat building business.”

When asked what fascinates him about the ice business, John replied, “The ice business represents my only foray into actually manufacturing a product. I hate wasted motion and this is the only thing I have ever done (other than sailboat racing) where I have absolute control over the process.” One might find it interesting that for a man who spent much of his life on the water, he came to be in the business of water.

Even with his love of racing, it took the Potters five years to join the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club. “I quit racing dinghys in 1976. I still did a lot of sailing that was associated with my profession as well as a fair amount of windsurfing. I got my Captain’s license in the early 80’s and did a lot of deliveries up and down the east coast as well as the islands.  But Al Hefner got me out on a Force 5 and I won two races in the Water Festival Regatta. On my second day of racing, Guy McSweeney sailed by me and asked, ‘Who the hell are you anyway?’ We joined the club where I have been Commodore three times and am currently Chairman of the Board.

“I do a lot of racing, I want to do a lot of it as long as I can. When I stop winning, I’ll quit.”

What is the one thing he loves most about sailing? “Tough question. Let me start by saying that I really don’t care much for relaxing and, by extension, really don’t care much for sailing. I am more than just a little competitive. I love racing sailboats. It is one of the most challenging sports on the planet to become good at. It is what I do best. I am not able to focus fully on anything except racing.

“The VX One has become my primary boat. I will sail just about anything.” The list also includes a Laser, MC, JY15, Melges 20, Sonar, and J105. “I have too many boats – I had eleven but I’m down to six now. However, seven of us are buying a 12’ Waszp, which is an offshoot of a foiling moth, and will travel at 30 knots. The hull is lifted above the surface by the foils so there is very little drag.  You’re going faster than the wind so you actually create wind. I haven’t sailed a foiling boat yet.”

The greatest lesson he’s ever learned sailing, John says is, “Whatever environment you are in, don’t fight it. Learn to make it work for you.”

Clearly a man who makes the most of his time and energy, John is also interested in promoting sailing by supporting programs that teach people to sail, how to get around a race course, for both juniors and adults. He says the best advice he has for up and coming sailors is: “Win the start and build your lead. Don’t make enemies on the race course. Don’t talk trash and fly below the radar. There are more but those pretty well cover it.” Considering his expertise, it is advice to take to heart. And keep your eyes on the river for John sailing that Waszp that will look like it’s flying.


Catholic HEART (Helping Everyone Attain Repairs Today) Workcamp is about SERVICE, CONNECTION and LOVING OTHERS. It all started in 1993 in Orlando, FL with 100 participants and has grown to over 13,000 serving in 2016. CHWC provides parish youth groups, teens and adult leaders service opportunities to restore homes and HEARTS, feed the hungry, lift the spirits of children, bring joy to the elderly and disabled and offer assistance while partnering with social agencies. Their aim is to provide nothing short of amazing Catholic Mission Trips! Each Workcamp is equipped with a summer staff, director, manager, musician, nurse and priests to celebrate mass/confession. It is a youth friendly Christ centered Week of caring for others. Catholic HEART Workcamp faithfully and enthusiastically serves the Roman Catholic Church and its teachings and is an excellent opportunity to “love the least of these”.

United Way of the Lowcountry is proud to have coordinated the 18th Annual Catholic Heart Work Camp.  More than 350 students from across the nation visited the Lowcountry to lend their time and talents to help make life better for elderly, disabled, and families in need throughout Beaufort and Jasper counties.

The students arrived on Sunday, June 18 and worked through Thursday, June 22.  Friday was a free day for the students, allowing them the opportunity to enjoy the amenities of the Lowcountry, including beach visits, touring, and other activities.

Coming from all over the country, these student volunteers started their work day around 8am and ended each work day around 3pm.  These students, along with 100 plus adult leaders and several local volunteers worked together on at least 55 projects throughout the community, with the work ranging from yard work and minor repairs to installing handicap ramps.

“These young people make a big impact in just a few short days by doing simple home repairs including painting, yard work, cleaning, repairing screens, and anything else that is difficult for an elderly or handicapped person to accomplish.  With the impacts of Hurricane Matthew, there is a big need for these types of services and we’re excited to have this wonderful group of kids in our community to help us meet the needs of our neighbors,” said Bethany Marcinkowski, United Way of the Lowcountry’s Vice President of Education Impact.

Several local volunteers with skill and building experience handled the larger, more complicated repair jobs at various sites.  Hilton Head Glidden donated all the paint, as they have every year since the first group of HEART work campers arrived in 1999.

“This program’s mission is to revitalize communities and beautify homes of the elderly, the disabled, and those who cannot afford needed repairs,” said Marcinkowski.  “This falls right in line with United Way of the Lowcountry’s Community Impact agenda, which includes working to meet the basic needs of our neighbors by transforming substandard homes in to safe living conditions.”

The United Way of the Lowcountry’s mission is to mobilize resources to solve human problems.  Their vision is to be the leading force for social change to improve basic needs, education, health, and financial stability outcomes for the citizens of Beaufort and Jasper Counties.

Story By: Cindy Reid

Photos By: Susan DeLoach

Friends, Families and Traditions

Meet Jason Berry, Commodore of the 62nd Annual Beaufort Water Festival. Yes it’s that time of year already, time for the biggest and best water festival on the southern coast. After 62 years, the Water festival has gone through many changes and, as always, this year promises to be bigger and better than ever! The Henry C. Chambers downtown waterfront park hosts the Water Festival from July 14 through 23. The Opening Ceremony takes place Friday July 14 with music provided by the Parris Island Marine Band and there will be fireworks at dusk. The event is free of charge, in fact many of the events are free and enjoyable for all ages. And, in a break from tradition, this year there is no charge for the Tuesday night concert!

There are many sporting events that take place from now, up to and during the Water Festival. You can check the website for further information on those events and to stay updated throughout the week of nonstop fun.

Beaufort Lifestyle recently caught up with Commodore Berry and got the “inside scoop” on this year’s Water Festival.

Traditions play an important role in the events but the Water Festival stays current by adding new and exciting events from time to time. What is new or different at this year’s Annual Beaufort Water Festival (BWF)?   

We are always trying to improve what we do every year, and this year I think we have done a great job of making some great changes.  We will be bringing back the ski show on the first Saturday, a longtime favorite for all.  The air show will be bigger and better this year.  Tuesday night has changed and will be an honor to all of our heroes, locally and abroad.  It will be called “Hometown Tuesday” and is now free to all with local band “Bootless” playing.  The big change is Thursday for “Low Country Supper” night.  We will have our traditional supper served with the “Whistlers” performing.  Then we will have nothing but local bands.  Opening act will be Eric Daubert, Broke Locals as the main entertainment and then our big announcement; we are bringing Candace Glover in for a special guest performance.
One of the Commodore’s many tasks is to design the popular annual tee shirt. Tell us about this year’s tee shirt design.   

This year’s t-shirt is special to me, just as sure as I am all others have been to past Commodore’s.  What makes it so special to me is that this year’s t-shirt was designed by my daughter-in-law, Devon Berry.  She and I had many discussions and then put our ideas down to canvas.  I believe it captures what everyone appreciates when they come to the water front park. The view, scenery and the memories we all share. We couldn’t believe the overwhelming positive response we have gotten from the public.

How long have you been involved with the BWF?

14 years.


How did you first get involved?

I transferred to Beaufort in January 2000 as a Navy Hospital Corpsman Chief.  I have always been very involved with volunteering in the local community wherever I went. So, when I arrived at the Naval Hospital and asked around what was important to the community that I could volunteer for, I was told about many opportunities.  However, it just so happened that the command Master Chief of the naval hospital at the time was Bob Bible, 2011 Commodore, and he made a very convincing suggestion that I could do great things for the Water Festival.


Why did you continue as a volunteer with the BWF?

There are many reasons why I chose to continue to volunteer with the Festival, but the one that makes me most proud, is the fellowship of this organization and how it strives to improve the community.  It’s like when I became a Chief in the Navy.  It is very hard to explain what brings folks together to put on such a large undertaking every year, but the bonds that are made with the volunteers, the community and the sponsors are why I continue every year.


What is your BWF favorite memory? 

Wow, this is such a hard question but overall it’s when I walk through that crowd during opening ceremonies every year.  I feel so much appreciation from the crowd that is there to enjoy this event every year. Just to see everyone coming together smiling, laughing, dancing and enjoying themselves is the most memorable and fulfilling experience. I personally feel such a sense of pride being a part of it every year.


What is your favorite event?

The Opening Ceremonies.


What entertainment do you have lined up for this year?

This year has several changes and a couple of big names that I am sure will be exciting for everyone. Concert in the Park is always our big event for the week, and this year we have lined up national recording artist Aaron Lewis, along with opening act Jordan Rager. Also appearing, local band Steel Rail Express. Monday night wouldn’t be Motown Monday without Deas Guyz, and this year Hometown Tuesday night will be FREE, featuring local band Bootless. Wednesday night is our traditional talent show featuring local acts.

Thursday, Low Country Supper night, I am sure will be a favorite this year. We will have our traditional “Whistlers” performing. Then opening act will be Eric Daubert and Broke Locals as the main entertainment and then our big announcement, we are bringing      Candace Glover in for a special guest performance.  Friday night, we are bringing back “The Band Punch,” if you missed them last year during Commodore’s Ball you don’t want to miss them this year. Keeping with tradition, Saturday night will be Commodore’s Ball featuring The New Royals.


Tell our readers something they may not know about the BWF

It has been voted and recognized as one of the best top ten festivals in the Southeast United States and is the longest running 62 consecutive year all-volunteer festival in South Carolina.


Where were you born and raised?

I was born in San Antonio Texas, and raised in a small town named Boerne, much like Beaufort.


How did you come to live in Beaufort?

I transferred in the Navy from Afghanistan.  After a few years, Beaufort became the town I chose to retire in after serving for 22 years.


Anything else you would like to add?

I would just like to recognize the many volunteers that come out and put in their time to help this organization continue.  Even if you are a first-time volunteer, coming out just for a couple of hours, you are GREATLY APPRECIATED, every job is important.  After all, that’s where I started out at first, and look at me now.  Also, I would like to give another special thanks to all the sponsors.  We couldn’t have the opportunity to volunteer without the support of all the local businesses that sponsor.  Thank you all and I wish everyone a very Happy 62nd Water Festival. It will be the best Water Festival yet!

Story By: Cindy Reid

Photos By: Susan DeLoach

This year’s 62nd annual Beaufort Water Festival tee shirt is a gorgeous sunset scene, looking from the waterfront park out to the Beaufort River. It’s a scene of shrimp boats and pleasure boats, blue skies and orange sunset. Bold yet tranquil, it speaks to anyone who has ever spent an evening watching the sunset at the river. This year’s motto, “Families, Friends & Traditions” is cleverly splashed in deep blue on the side of the graphic, alongside the Beaufort Water Festival logo and festival dates.

Devon Berry, the tee shirt designer, has a very personal connection to the Water Festival. In addition to being the daughter in law of this year’s Commodore, she says “I have beautiful twin girls and an amazing husband that are featured in the silhouettes on the back of the shirt design. Our girls were born opening day of the festival 3 years ago!”

Devon says, “I studied visual arts at the North Carolina School of Arts and I’ve always been interested in creating artwork in many mediums. I’m looking forward to seeing my first “wearable” artwork around town this summer. “And see it she will, as the tee shirts are always a big seller and many people collect the shirts from year to year. Devon says, “I wanted this year’s shirt to have a bold and graphic design that would appeal to everyone. Of course the setting is in the downtown waterfront park where our amazing festival takes place.”

She continues, “To me, the best part of the Water Festival is getting together with family and friends to make some memories and to have a great time. “ she says, “We all meet up along the water’s edge and wait for those magical opening night fireworks to kick it all off.”

Magic is the stuff Water Festivals are made of and this year’s tee shirt is magical too!

Friday, July 14

Festival Arts & Crafts Market 

Location: Promenade at Waterfront Park

Event Details: Noon – 7pm


Sponsored by The Preserve at Port Royal

Entertainment: The Parris Island Marine Band & Fireworks at Dusk

Location: Waterfront Park

Event Details: FREE EVENT | Gates open at 6pm, Ceremony at 7pm | FREE Shuttle Service from the Beaufort County Government Center

Saturday, July 15

Raft Race

Sponsored by CPM Federal Credit Union

Location: Waterfront Park Seawall

Event Details: 8:30am – Noon

Festival Arts & Crafts Market

Location: Promenade at the Waterfront Park

Event Details: 9am – 7pm

Bocce Tournament

Sponsored by JoCo Construction / Sea Island Elevators

Location: Waterfront Park Main Field

Event Details: Play starts at 9am

Badminton Tournament

Sponsored by A.C. Harvey’s Screen Printing

Location: Waterfront Park Stage Field

Event Details: Play starts at 9am

Children’s Toad Fishing Tournament

Sponsored by Plair Enterprises, Inc.

Location: Waterfront Park Seawall

Event Details: FREE EVENT | 10am – Noon | Ages 12 and under only | Bring your own rod, reel and tackle | Bait provided

Sponsor’s Expo

Location: Waterfront Park Pavilion

Event Details: FREE EVENT | 10am – 2pm

Shrimp Boat Tours

Sponsored by Sea Eagle Market

Location: Waterfront Park Seawall

Event Details: FREE EVENT | Noon – 4pm

Ski Show

Sponsored by Sports Clips

Location: Waterfront Park

Event Details: FREE EVENT | 1pm & 3:30pm


Sponsored by New Country Bob 106.9

Headline Entertainment: Aaron Lewis

Opening Entertainment: Jordan Rager

Also Appearing: Steel Rail Express

Location: Waterfront Park

Event Details: $30 | Gates open at 7pm, Show at 7:15pm | No strollers, coolers, outside food or beverages or professional photography | No Refunds | FREE Shuttle service from Beaufort County Government Center | Children age 5 and under FREE

Sunday, July 16

Festival Arts & Crafts Market

Location: Promenade at the Waterfront Park

Event Details: 9am – 5pm

River Rally

Sponsored by Butler Marine of Charleston

Location: Local Waters

Event Details: 9am – 1pm

Children’s Day

Sponsored by Coastal Orthodontics

Location: Waterfront Park

Event Details: FREE EVENT | 11am – 3pm | Featuring Games, Activities, Shows, Bounce Houses and Prizes

Shrimp Boat Tours

Sponsored by Sea Eagle Market

Location: Waterfront Park Seawall

Event Details: FREE EVENT | Noon – 4pm


Sponsored by John 3:16 Project

Entertainment: DJ Donna

Location: Waterfront Park

Event Details: $10 | 6pm – 9pm | Gates open 6pm – 9pm, No entry after 8pm (NO RE-ENTRY ALLOWED) | Ages 13 – 17 only, ID Required | Clutch Purses Only (6” x 9” size) | Please Wear Appropriate Clothing | No refunds, outside food or beverages, or coolers

Monday, July 17

Festival Arts & Crafts Market

Location: Promenade at the Waterfront Park

Event Details: 10am – 7pm


Sponsored by A&R Dock Builders, McElveen Bail Bonding and Lime Lite Salon

Entertainment: Deas Guyz

Location: Waterfront Park

Event Details: $15 | Gates open 7pm, Show at 8pm | No refunds, outside food or beverages, or coolers | FREE Shuttle Service from the Beaufort County Government Center | Children age 5 and under FREE

Tuesday, July 18

Festival Arts & Crafts Market

Location: Promenade at the Waterfront Park

Event Details: 10am – 7pm


Sponsored by Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce

Headline Entertainment: Bootless

Location: Waterfront Park

Event Details: FREE EVENT | Gates open 7pm, Show at 8pm | No outside food or beverages, or coolers

Wednesday, July 19

Festival Arts & Crafts Market

Location: Promenade at the Waterfront

Event Details: 10am – 7pm


Sponsored by McDonald’s

Hosted by: The Preceptor Omega Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi Sorority

Location: Waterfront Park

Event Details: $10 or FREE with Official 2017 62nd Annual Water Festival T-Shirt | Gates open at 6pm, Show at 7pm | No refunds, outside food or beverages, or coolers | Children age 5 and under FREE

Thursday, July 20

Festival Arts & Crafts Market

Location: Promenade at the Waterfront Park

Event Details: 10am – 7pm


Sponsored by WastePro USA

Headline Entertainment: Broke Locals

Opening Entertainment: Eric Daubert

Special Guest Performance: Candice Glover

Featuring: The Whistlers

Location: Waterfront Park

Event Details: $15 | Gates open at 6pm | Supper served 6pm – 7:30pm | No refunds, outside food or beverages, or coolers | Children age 5 and under FREE

Friday, July 21

Festival Arts & Crafts Market

Location: Promenade at the Waterfront Park

Event Details: 10am – 7pm

Bed Race

Sponsored by Lohr Plumbing

Location: Corner of Bay & Harrington

Event Details: $25 entry per team | 4:30pm check-in | 5pm start time | Same day registration based on space availability


Sponsored by City Electric Supply

Entertainment: The Band Punch

Location: Waterfront Park

Event Details: $15 | Gates open at 7pm, Show at 8pm | Must be 18 or Older with Valid ID to attend | No refunds, outside food or beverages, coolers or strollers | FREE Shuttle service from Beaufort County Government Center

Saturday, July 22

Festival Arts & Crafts Market

Location: Promenade at the Waterfront Park

Event Details: 9am – 7pm

Water Festival Grand Parade

Sponsored by Moss, Kuhn & Fleming

Organized by: The Beaufort Lions Club

Location: Downtown Beaufort

Event Details: FREE EVENT | 10am – Noon

Non-Profit Expo

Location: Waterfront Park Pavilion

Event Details: FREE EVENT | Noon – 4pm

Air Show

Sponsored by Executive Flight Training

Location: Waterfront Park

Event Details: FREE EVENT | 1pm – 4pm | Stunt Planes | US Coast Guard Search & Rescue Demo


Sponsored by Mike’s Marine Repair

Entertainment: The New Royals

Location: Waterfront Park

Event Details: $10 | Gates open at 7pm, Show at 8pm | No refunds, outside food or beverages or coolers | Children age 5 and under FREE

Sunday, July 23

Festival Arts & Crafts Market

Location: Promenade at the Waterfront Park

Event Details: 9am – 3pm

Blessing of the Fleet and Parade of Boats

Sponsored by The Past Commodores of the Beaufort Water Festival

Location: Beaufort River in front of Waterfront Park Seawall

Event Details: Noon – 2pm | FREE registration | Boats must register to be eligible for prizes | All applications must be at the judge’s table prior to Noon

Festival Ends – 3:00 pm – 

See you next year!

Story By: Marsha Stewart | Photography By: Susan DeLoach


Well-known local artist, Aki Kato, has lived in Beaufort since 2003.  But the journey to get here has been a long one.  Born in Yokohama, Japan in 1957, Aki attended public elementary and junior high schools.  He started drawing and painting at a very young age, and by age 7 he already understood art concepts such as perspective and the color wheel.

In 1973, Aki entered military high school and graduated in 1976.  Immediately following graduation, he moved alone, with no family, no friends, and no sponsor, to Washington DC to study art and English.  While there, he studied English for 10 months at the Catholic University of America.


Aki then moved to Gainesville, Florida and spent the next two years at a nearby community college studying math and science before transferring to the University of Florida.  At the University of Florida, Aki studied art, intending to major in oil painting.  He did not finish the program, concerned that art was “too unpredictable” to make a living at.

He relocated to Atlanta and struggled to be noticed.  As a young artist who had not graduated from art school, it was difficult to have his portfolio taken seriously.  Aki took on different jobs to make ends meet.  He worked as a waiter, a manager, and a cook.  He then returned to Japan and also worked different jobs there.  But he was determined to finish an art program and moved back to the United States.  This time he landed in Orlando and attended the University of Central Florida where he completed his bachelor of fine arts degree.

After graduation, Aki worked at Universal Studios as a scenic painter.  Before long, he moved to Atlanta and had his works displayed at several art galleries including Eclectica, Chicken Lips, and the Defoe Center. He was then hired by Habersham Plantation in Toccoa, Georgia.  At the time, Habersham Plantation was the industry’s leading high end, hand painted furniture manufacturer.  For the next year and a half, Aki worked at Habersham Plantation before being recruited as head artist by newly formed company, Camden Field, located in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Camden Field moved to Beaufort in 2002 as a retail custom made hand painted furniture store.  The showroom and workshop was located on Robert Smalls Parkway right at Broad River Bridge.  In 2004, Aki became an equal partner with owner Lynn Bonge and the pair relocated the showroom to Boundary Street in Beaufort.  Camden Field is no longer in business.

When he arrived in Beaufort, Aki immediately felt at home.  He explains, “When I was in high school in Japan, I saw a movie about Gullah children on Daufuskie Island.  I was mesmerized by the smiling faces of children and vast and beautiful scenery of the Lowcountry.  Back then I had no idea where ‘Lowcountry’ was.  The movie was Conrack and was an adaption of the Pat Conroy novel The Water is Wide.  After I came to Beaufort, I found out that the movie was filmed not far from here and that Pat Conroy lives in the same town.”

In 2006, after Aki and his partner closed Camden Field.  He taught ‘Art of Furniture Painting’ at the Technical College of the Lowcountry to supplement his income.  In his first class, Aki met a lady who showed him a small planter and asked if he could help her paint it.  She said it was for her brother’s birthday.  There was an open area in the center of the planter and he suggested that she should write his name and message there.  She wrote ‘Happy Birthday Pat.’  Aki asked her what his full name was and it was, in fact, Pat Conroy.  Since then, the two have become best friends and, through her, he was able to meet Pat and his siblings Mike, Tim and Jim.  Conroy’s siblings, along with Conroy’s wife Cassandra King, are Aki’s biggest supporters and they own many pieces of his artwork.

Conroy’s writings have become quite an inspiration to Aki.  He loves painting Lowcountry scenes: the marsh, tidal rivers, live oak trees – all stemming from his earlier love of the novel The Water is Wide.  “I like to paint birds, trees, sea creatures, water scenes and working boats,” Aki says of his love of the Lowcountry.  He has recently worked with the Pat Conroy Literary Center where he donated a large scale mural.

The Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity is an organization that Aki is actively involved with.  “I feel very strongly about their mission and love the idea of ‘re-store.’  They salvage old but good quality furniture and building materials to recycle and repurpose.  I have worked in the American furniture industry for 20 years and realized that all the furniture industries in this country are being taken over by foreign countries, especially China.  I am very much against buying inexpensive, low quality furniture which is made overseas and has to keep being replaced.”

roduces himself as a “blue collar artist.”  He explains, “What I mean by that is, instead of painting things which I like on canvas or paper and sell them in a regular gallery, I enjoy meeting new people and interacting with my clients.  I paint any subject on any surface or size, including walls, paper, canvas, salvaged wood, tiles, windows, etc and in any location.  It is not as easy as people think.  I have worked in different places and learned different styles and techniques.  For example, I worked at Universal Studios in Orlando in the early 1990’s as a scenic artist.  Scenic artists paint backgrounds of the amusement rides and paint steel structures and fiberglass to make them look like something else.  It was here that I learned large scale painting as well as faux finish.  Right now, my job as an artist is to understand what my client wants and then help them to visualize and refine their idea, then execute.  Therefore the finished product is a collaboration of my client and myself.”

Aki believes that good art is a kind of art which evokes viewers’ emotions and makes them think, whether it is statements for political propaganda or social issues or even something much more simple.  He says, “For example, I painted a mural, a picture of a big bald eagle about to catch a squirrel on a large tree.  The squirrel is so scared and cannot move and is just gazing at the eagle’s talons.  It is a very intense scene.  When my client first saw the mural he asked me a question which made me very happy.  He asked, ‘Aki, what is going to happen next?  Did the squirrel escape or was he eaten?’  That is the kind of reaction I love to get from my clients.  I think it is something very similar to a good book.  We cannot wait to turn to the next page.  Except in my case, the homeowner can decide the outcome.”

Aki Kato is still pursuing his goal to become a better artist.  His journey may have begun an ocean away, but it has guided him to Beaufort.  He is happy that this has become his home and he is always striving to be a better citizen of Beaufort.

You can visit his website at www.akikato.com or look him up on Facebook at www.facebook.com/akikatostudio.

Story By: Mary Ellen Thompson | Photography By: John Wollwerth


One of Beaufort Lifestyle’s photographers, John Wollwerth, has written an inspiring book entitled The Missional Life: What I Learned from Engaging in Missions in East Africa, which is a compilation of his experiences, his wisdom, and his photography.


It all started with a photo blog in which he tells stories about photo shoots, shares photographic techniques, and mixes it together, often humorously, with life experiences and personal beliefs.


Ever inspired to write, John says, “I’ve always written. I wrote a couple of full length sci-fi novels when I was in high school although I never did anything with them; I’ve just always known how to write.”


In an opening paragraph of the book John declares, “I am the son of a missionary.” John’s mother was a missionary to Nigeria in the 1960’s and three of his brothers preceded him into missionary work in Senegal, Swaziland, and China. “You would think that I had some calling to missions, but until 2009 that had not happened. My church was involved in projects in Romania, but that had never interested me. This was the way it was supposed to be. Just because a ministry is available doesn’t mean God has called you there. Sometimes He has something else in mind, and you have to wait for that opportunity to be placed before you.”


In 2010 he was getting ready to go to South Sudan, which at that time was the second most dangerous country in the world for aid workers, on his first mission trip. His main purpose on that trip was documentation through photography. He explains, “When I started writing, it wasn’t so that I could eventually put a book together. Rather it was so that I could keep my thoughts in the right place as I got ready to go to some dangerous places and situations where the outcome was unknown. For me, putting things down into the written word helps me to clarify ideas and thoughts that would otherwise be scattered and unintelligible, and aids in my focus.” Subsequently these writings became his mission blog, and the basis for the book.


What John wanted was, “To open people’s horizons and let them know what the rest of the world looks like. People just don’t have any concept what’s really going on in the world. The blog, and this book, are written to inspire people to join us in this work. You don’t understand how culturally motivated your way of thinking is, until you leave your own culture.”


Photographs illustrate heart-stopping wondrous landscapes, arresting poverty, and images where, despite the odds, joy, hope, and innate beauty seem to prevail, all captured and locked forever into time and place. Of one series of photographs, John explains,  “When people think of Africa, they usually think of herds of animals on the grasslands with the occasional Acacia tree breaking up the horizon. Sure, there’s that aspect of Africa, but there is so much more to it than that. There are jungles, scrublands, deserts, big cities, mountains, even glaciers.”


His prose exemplifies the despair that sits alongside hope, conditions that look appalling to most of us, but still we see the beautiful smiles of those people. He tells stories, shares facets of his faith, brings Africa home to us, and does it in such a way that you feel you are part of an important conversation. The religious overtones are down to earth and deeply personal, laced with quotes and observations from not only the Bible, but also such unlikely sources as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the Screwtape Letters, and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, illustrating his points in common parlance.


One memorable experience excerpted from the book: “Just a short note as I sweat here in my hammock in South Sudan. I’m in a partially open, tin shack that serves as the church. As I lay here in complete darkness, but hearing music in the background, I’m reminded again of an observation made on my first visit and only confirmed since then. The South Sudanese hate silence. They listen to music all night. When they’re in a car they crank the stereo up until it distorts. You can be standing in a group of people having a conversation, and one of them will start blasting a song from their cell phone. It’s as if they think as long as there’s music or noise, things are ok. That bad things only happen during the night, when things are silent and dark, and terrible things come out of the darkness and silence. When it’s dark and silent, that’s when the attacks come, when children and cattle are stolen. It’s when the snakes crawl into your bed for warmth. It’s as if as long as there’s noise, things are all right. It’s like children who are afraid of monsters, only here the monsters are real. There’s been a lot of talk here about insecurity, about the attacks that come from cattle raiders, and the fact that they’re not far away. Seventy people were killed here just last week in cattle raids, and people go to bed afraid. And so I think of that as I lay here in my hammock, wishing for silence.”

    by Cindy Reid


Breakwater Restaurant, now in thirteenth year, has earned the right to be called a Beaufort institution. Their sophisticated menu, lively bar scene and downtown location have come to represent the best of the casual upscale dining and libation environment. But Breakwater doesn’t ride on their reputation, in fact they are committed to shaking things up every few months with seasonal menus,  make-you-happy Happy Hours and week night food specials that reflect their fun and fresh hospitality. Summer offers the opportunity for a seasonal reset and Executive Chefs Gary Lang and Beth Shaw have designed the perfect menu for you to enjoy summer’s local bounty.


Let’s start with the food. It. Is. Always. Superb. Doesn’t matter what you order. Could be the filet mignon or could be Southern fried shrimp. It simply never disappoints. Breakwater has been using a contemporary approach to traditional Lowcountry dishes for years and they are always updating the menu to include seasonal seafood and other local fare. It is what good food is supposed to be and exemplifies the best of “New Southern” cuisine.

The Sorghum BBQ Pork Belly, a new item on the menu, illustrates this perfectly. At Breakwater the pork belly is compressed again after cooking, removing fat, making it a more flavorful and updated take on the traditional dish. Served with bacon macaroni & cheese and sorghum barbeque sauce, it is a rare treat.

Another popular item is the Ricotta Gnudi, served with wild mushrooms, smoked gouda, and spinach. “It is important that we always have a vegetarian entrée available for our customers” says General Manager Donna Lang,” and this one is both healthy and delicious.”

A perennial diners favorite is the Scottish Salmon, served with caramelized fennel , spinach and grape tomatoes , artichokes ,marinated chick peas ,charred lemon and basil vin blanc. It is a refreshing and healthy choice, beautiful to look at and even better to eat.
Summer Specials

Don’t want to eat heavy meals in the summer? Pop in and enjoy one of the many small plate options on the menu or one of the small plate specials served twice a week. Tuesdays are officially dubbed Taco Tuesday, with each week bringing a new version of the fan favorite. One week it might be Kung Pao Chicken with julienned sugar snaps peas and smoked cashews and the next Tuesday it could be Fried Shrimp with corn salsa, green curry creme fraiche and  spinach. What a great deal at 2 for $8.00 ! A new addition is Slide into Thursday, which features the ever popular sliders, in this case the  Nashville Fried Chicken sliders. They were such a hit at the Breakwater Kentucky Derby party that they have put on the menu for the summer. That makes all us a winner!


Blended Burger Project

Donna Lang, “We are doing the  James Beard Foundation Blended Burger challenge for the third year in a row. It is a nationwide competition and our Chef de cuisine Megan Horne is entering her creation the Lowcountry Black and Blue. It starts with a fifty/ fifty blend of chopped wild mushrooms and wagyu beef that’s seasoned with her own Lowcountry blackening spice.”

Seared to perfection, it is finished in the oven, topped with blue cheese, port onions, lemon aioli, local melon salsa and arugula all served on a brioche bun. Wow! Starting May 30 and running until July 31st, Breakwater will be serving up Megan’s signature blended burger.

The Blended Burger project “asks participants to join a movement that strives to make burgers better by blending ground meat with chopped mushrooms, creating an incredibly delicious patty that’s healthier and more sustainable for the planet.” The James Beard foundation will award the top five chefs with the most online votes with a trip to the historic James Beard House in New York City where they will showcase their burger at an exclusive event in 2018.

So swing by, try the Lowcountry Black and Blue and then go online and vote for Beaufort’s own Megan Horne!

Happy Hour

And what about that Happy Hour? Monday through Friday from 5- 7 PM you can enjoy $4 well drinks and $4 glasses of wine, with a red, white and rose available. In addition there are seven draft beers on hand, including local craft beers. Donna Lang says, and patrons agree, “It is the best deal in town. Come on in and have a drink and enjoy a summer special, all for well under twenty dollars.”

The restaurant’s ambiance compliments the cuisine and libations. The dining room and bar are among the most comfortably cool rooms in Beaufort. Cool in the sense of after a scorching summer day, it is a welcome relief to enter and immediately feel better, and cool in the sense of its modern design and sensibility. Breakwater pulls off the very rare feat of being sophisticated but not stuffy. It is just chill y’all!


Breakwater  843-379-0052, 203 Carteret Street, Beaufort, SC


Open at 5 PM, Monday through Saturday (Closed Sunday)