Pillars of Local History, Art, Culture Honored in ‘Salute to Ocean County’

Margaret Thomas Buchholz, Thomas Rutledge, Willie deCamp Recognized
By VICTORIA FORD | Apr 17, 2019
File Photo Pat Johnson Margaret “Poochy” Thomas Buchholz of Harvey Cedars

Three individuals who are vital contributors to the history, arts and nature of Southern Ocean County were formally recognized on Thursday, April 11, at the Ocean County Cultural and Heritage Commission’s annual “Salute to Ocean County” awards presentation held at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Performing Arts, on the campus of Ocean County College.

Margaret “Poochy” Thomas Buchholz of Harvey Cedars, Thomas E. Rutledge of West Creek and Willie deCamp, head of Save Barnegat Bay, received lifetime achievement and special merit awards.

As the winner of this year’s Pauline S. Miller Lifetime Achievement Award for Ocean County History, Buchholz has made “an enormous contribution to the recorded past of Ocean County and the New Jersey shore,” as stated in the nomination letter submitted by Randall Gabrielan. Raised in the home where she still resides in Harvey Cedars, her father, Reynold Thomas, was a mayor of the borough.

Buchholz said she is “thrilled” to be the recipient, adding cheekily, “I’m glad I lived long enough.” Her interest in history came from her mother, in whose memory she happily receives the award. International travel plans kept Buchholz from being able to attend the Salute in person, but her spirit was captured in the form of a mini documentary about her, produced by the students of Lacey Township High School. The video also won an award.

When Buchholz graduated from Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pa., her bachelor of arts degree in English “didn’t prepare a woman for much in the ’50s,” she said.

“I had an interview with the principal at the then-new LBI Elementary School, who told me I was qualified for nothing but getting married. He actually said that. But within a year, 1955, my husband and I had bought The Beachcomber newspaper, which had been founded in 1950, and where I worked for several summers in college (when I wrote a series about Barnegat Light history). My husband died two years later, and I published seasonally until 1988, when I sold to The SandPaper and happily became just ‘editor.’ Having someone else worry about the business end was a real pleasure. And I had the time and freedom to start researching and writing books.”

Beach life was the focal point of multiple works for Buchholz as an author, including a personal memoir filled with highlights from her mother’s life, titled Josephine: From Washington Working Girl to Fisherman’s Wife; and Seasons in the Sun – A Photographic History of Harvey Cedars: 1894-1947.

The period of 30-plus years during which Buchholz published The Beachcomber after her husband died was marked by significant growth for the Ocean County shore and Long Beach Island in particular, Gabrielan noted. In her work, Buchholz has recorded the immediacy of that expansion, then placed significant segments in another work, The Long Beach Island Reader, a compilation she edited.

Other works encompass the whole Jersey Shore, such as Shore Chronicles: Diaries and Travelers’ Tales from the Jersey Shore 1764-1955; Great Storms of the Jersey Shore with the late Larry Savadove; and New Jersey Shipwrecks: 350 Years in the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

Buchholz said she is “proud of having The Beachcomber take pro-environmental and beach preservation stands in the late ’60s and ’70s, long before it became popular (even though it was a drop in the bucket), and even though it caused some advertisers to cancel and one local mayor to call my writer a ‘commie’ (that writer was a Marine).

“Someone said to me once, ‘After you pass age 50, not much chance you’ll do anything new with your life.’ Wrong. That’s when I started writing books, not just the occasional newspaper column.

“I owe a great debt to Ray Fisk of Down the Shore publishing for his initial encouragement in publishing Great Storms of the Jersey Shore in the early ’90s. I am proud that both Great Storms and New Jersey Shipwrecks were reviewed by the New York Times and that Shipwrecks won the Foundation of Coast Guard history award.”

Buchholz reflected: “There was no online research when I started out – fortunately I loved visiting all the local libraries and historical societies – but the availability of material makes it easier, and (the field) will continue to grow.”

Fine Artist Gives Back

To Community

Thomas E. Rutledge, a West Creek resident and longtime member and instructor at Pine Shores Art Association in Manahawkin, was nominated for the Ocean County Lifetime Achievement in the Arts by Jan Becker of Little Egg Harbor:

“Rutledge is a fine artist, working in the style of the Brandywine School of Illustration. He lives in Ocean County and gives back to the community in various ways,” Becker wrote.

Rutledge said he feels honored and humbled, “to be recognized for doing what I love and enjoy doing – even the teaching part of it, helping many others to make their work better and more satisfying for them.”

He never thought he would teach art, he explained, but as his reputation grew he was asked to demonstrate his techniques. He also teaches classes both for art societies and privately at his home studio. “For me, the great culmination of this teaching was when Rutgers University invited me to teach drawing in a special drawing society set up at the university,” he said.

Rutledge describes his art career as two-sided, as a professional illustrator for over 40 years and a fine artist at the same time.

As a senior at East Side High School in Newark, he explained, his artwork was recognized by the head of the school’s art department, and even though he was not in the art course of study, the teacher decided to submit his work for a full art scholarship, which he won. With that scholarship he attended the prestigious Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, where he studied pictorial illustration. There, one of his instructors was the famous American illustrator Charles Waterhouse, who became Rutledge’s mentor and lifelong friend.

As a young man, Rutledge worked for Monroe International, a subsidiary of Litton Industries, as a staff artist on the corporate level, where he rose to second assistant art director by age 23. But his art career was put on hold when he was drafted during the Vietnam War. He was a combat soldier, went to Vietnam and was wounded there, he said. “After years of therapy, I returned to my career as an artist and illustrator and set up my own freelance studio.”

Among his favorite accomplishments are his commissioned portraits and the joy of seeing his work reproduced in books, magazines and newspapers. But his students’ successes are his greatest reward.

“I have been fortunate to see students of mine achieve so much. I have students now who are being accepted into top professional art exhibitions, some winning awards. Their paintings are beautiful, some exceptional. I enjoy the excitement of seeing each new painting they create. Some have even had solo exhibitions.

“My hope for the future is to continue to pass on what I have learned from experience and from what was passed on to me, so other artists can realize their own personal goals and dreams. Yet for others to achieve greatness beyond what they thought they could. I want to continue to create new and exciting works in an ever-changing art world, and to speak my thoughts through my work.”

Healthy Barnegat Bay

Is His Goal

Mantoloking resident Willie deCamp has served as president of Save Barnegat Bay since 1986 and was honored for his lifetime of dedication to the cultural fabric of Ocean County and for his work to celebrate and save Barnegat Bay. SBB is a grassroots nonprofit environmental organization that works to restore, protect and conserve Barnegat Bay and its watershed.

DeCamp has a history degree from Brown University. His interest in the environment stems from having grown up in a nature family, playing in the woods of Short Hills with his sisters. His career path in environmental activism was not what he had originally planned, but “I’m happy it happened,” he said.

Save Barnegat Bay was founded by Charles Hedlund in 1971 as the Ocean County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America. In 1985 the organization adopted the name Save Barnegat Bay. (DeCamp took over the reins in 1986, he says, “because no one else wanted to do it.’”

Since then, the group’s stated goal has been “resisting imprudent development and promoting conservation of open space in its natural state.” More recently, as the watershed has become largely built out, SBB has worked to address the vast number of factors that threaten the health of Barnegat Bay and its ecosystem.

SBB is run by a small staff and a very active board of directors, of which deCamp is president, and is supported by 350 families and businesses each year. Its headquarters is on 40 preserved waterfront acres in Browns Woods. Its EcoCenter is open to the public.

While the organization is “still gung-ho for not having massive developments,” deCamp explained, there has been a shift toward stormwater management.

“A body of water is a report card on how the surrounding land is being managed,” he said. “When you’re trying to keep water clean, you have to keep the water that runs into it clean.” The bay’s main problem is too much nitrogen, which causes algae to overgrow or “bloom,” which cuts off sunlight to the bay bottom, where eelgrass lives.

In his line of work, deCamp said finding allies at the grassroots level is essential. Whereas SBB understands the bureaucratic hurdles to land conservation, “the people know what’s going on near their homes,” he said. As a grassroots group, coaching and partnering is often part of the process of getting things done, he said. Those who are motivated to “dig in and learn” are those who find themselves suddenly caring about a local issue because it is going to cost them money or threaten their own scenery or lifestyle.

For the future of the Barnegat Bay watershed, along with continuing to educate people to the point where they “cross a threshold of action,” deCamp hopes to convince residents to stop fertilizing lawns (fertilizer is the number one contributor of nitrogen); plant native plants that soak up harmful nutrients before they hit the bay; landscape residential yards with rain gardens; and install rain barrels under downspouts and use collected water for plants.

“When the world turns, it does turn,” he said. “Thought patterns eventually do flip.”

victoria@thesandpaper.net

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