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It’s where I want to be

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: LOCAL Life asked longtime Hilton Head Island resident Peter Cooper to share his thoughts about what it means to be local. Cooper was recently appointed to the World Affairs Council of Hilton Head Board of Directors. LOCAL Life welcomes letters to the editor and comments to our website. Write to [email protected].

By Peter Cooper

Both Peter Cooper and his wife, Pam, are fully retired but keep engaged by participating at various nonprofit organizations, including Rotary, Hilton Head Prep, Heritage Library, Volunteers in Medicine and World Affairs Council of Hilton Head.

I first visited Hilton Head in the summer of 1970, two years after my aunt, uncle and grandmother moved to Sea Pines from Long Island. At the time, I was living in Rio de Janeiro. What a contrast when I saw this carefully planned community and went for a stroll on the wide, sandy beach. There were few people on the beach, and the swimwear was considerably more modest than the “dental floss” bikinis of Ipanema Beach.

I visited Hilton Head many times until we moved here in 2007, especially after my wife and I had two daughters. The island provided a welcome respite from the large cities where we lived overseas (Paris, Bogota and Tokyo in addition to Rio). Besides the beach and local swimming pools, we took full advantage of the golf and tennis venues, as well as the local restaurants. 

When moving here permanently after living overseas for 31 years, I was somewhat apprehensive about what it would be like to live in such a quiet place. It didn’t take long to learn just how busy Hilton Head can be and how many opportunities exist for meeting interesting people and contributing to the community. Those in which I have been involved include Rotary, Hilton Head Prep, Heritage Library, Volunteers in Medicine and World Affairs Council.

The Rotary Club’s Thursday lunch speakers provide fascinating stories, many of them about the good work that nonprofits in the area provide. The Rotary Club itself has won many awards for the service projects it completes each year. The club also has several fellowship events each year when we get to know the other members on a more personal basis.

After living here for just six months, I was offered the position of interim head of Hilton Head Prep. That experience enabled me to meet a large number of people, old and young, and learn how they take advantage of the many activities in the Lowcountry.

The Heritage Library is another impressive organization, as it is the premier genealogy and local history research center in the area. Volunteers in Medicine’s 650 volunteers serve 10,000 patients each year who otherwise would not have health care. Finally, the World Affairs Council attracts renowned speakers from around the country and even internationally.

The people of the Lowcountry make this area such a special place. Many of them only moved here at a later stage of their lives, like me. Most surprisingly, many have international living and work experiences similar to my own. While I still love and take advantage of the natural beauty surrounding me, I have discovered that there is so much more to being a local. Each person does so in his or her unique way, but I now know why the Lowcountry is where I want to be.