Pasquotank River Rescue


 

Growing up, my friend Warren G. Pierce and I spent quite a lot of time on the Pasquotank River, in Elizabeth City, NC

On Sunday, August 28th, 1955, we were in Warren's boat with his dog "Pal".  As we were gliding along, we saw a man jump into the river from another boat. We thought he was playing until we realized that the boat continued going along, on its own power. We investigated further and found the man in the water holding up his wife, who I recognized as Mrs. Cooper, my fifth-grade teacher in 1950-1951.

Warren and I were going to try and pull them both into our boat, but he was a little reluctant at first to touch a "dead" body. We succeeded in getting the very large man, Shelton Cooper, into the boat, and then pulled unconscious Elizabeth Cooper onboard. At that point, we had quite a load in our small 14-foot skiff and proceeded to the only house nearby for help. We pulled up to the home of Lucky Wood, near the north side of the river where another resident, Frank Benton gave Elizabeth (who was still unconscious) artificial respiration. She was taken to the hospital for treatment and recovery from the ordeal. 

We later found out that Mrs. Cooper had been standing in the boat taking pictures of the picturesque shoreline when a swell hit their boat, and she fell overboard. Her husband, not thinking, immediately jumped into the river to rescue her without first stopping his boat.

Our rescue made the news in THE DAILY ADVANCE on August 29th and 31st, September 2nd, and again on October 25th, 1955. The local Lions Club gave a dinner in recognition of our efforts, where Warren and myself were honored with awards on October 25th.

This story was chronicled in William E. Dunstan's book series, Adventures of a Southern Boyhood, Vol 6, Finding My WayThe major events were told with pseudonyms: Richard as "Walt", Warren as "Penn" on pages 118-119; minor events on page 150 (Penn) and page 158 (Walt). 

Elizabeth Harris Cooper Winslow, age 90, died March 25, 2005

 
Richard Walter