Marci Tressel, Capt Mickey Price and Dr. Roselle Wilson - Hilton Head Island, SC

Local Gems: Marci Tressel, Dr. Roselle Wilson and Capt. Mickey Price

Taking a closer look at the beauty of the Lowcountry yields breathtaking surprises.


There are an infinite number of reasons why the Lowcountry is so special. Each of us has something different that drew us here, that keeps us here and that captivates us with every day. Some of these reasons are impossible to ignore. 

The brilliance of a cotton-candy sunset reflected in tidal creeks between inky banks of oyster shells. The clink of a perfect tee shot and the gentle arc of the ball’s approach to manicured greens. The gentle swell of an ocean breeze as it crests over a spartina-dusted dune. 

But then there are the reasons that don’t demand your attention. Rather, they reward it. These are the hidden gems, the aspects of the Lowcountry that must be sought out before they can be truly appreciated. 

That same sentiment applies to the people who call the Lowcountry home. There are some you’ll hear on the radio, see on the TV or read about in magazines. Then there are those whose beautiful contributions to our community fly a little more under the radar. Join us as we unearth a few of the Lowcountry’s most dazzling hidden gems. 

Marci Tressel

A portrait of art, animals and adventure.

Marci Tressel, Hilton Head Island, SC

Marci Tressel first arrived on Hilton Head Island in 1972, a time when the postmaster merely needed to know your home’s name to deliver a letter. 

“I rented a house called The Sand Castle and would get my mail addressed to The Sand Castle, Hilton Head Island,” she said. 

It was a different era in the island’s history, a time when Tressel could wave to friends on the road, knowing that she’d see them later at the Red and White. A time when a game of pool with comedy legend Jackie Gleason, whose yacht was a regular fixture in Harbour Town, was just another Friday night. 

A gifted artist, Tressel made her mark on the island’s art scene with indigo mirrors that saluted the Gullah traditions of her adopted home, as well as photography that captured the flavor of an island just coming into its own as a town. She became active with the Art League of Hilton Head and the Artists of Sea Pines, eventually opening Maye River Gallery along with a group of fellow artists. 

Informed by a four-week workshop with Ansel Adams’s contemporary Minor White, Tressel’s images reflected her own fascination with the Lowcountry. That fascination, it seems, goes both ways. Just ask the countless animals that seem to find her, fueling her standing as one of the island’s preeminent animal rescuers.

“No matter where I am, they find me. I think I have ‘sucker’ written across my forehead,” she said with a laugh. 

Or maybe the animals just sent them to a friend who will help. Just ask the cat who famously got a jar stuck on its head, prompting Tressel to elicit help via a David Lauderdale column. “I told David, put my number in the paper, I need help,” said Tressel. “I had a couple of judges, some bartenders, just people from every avenue who wanted to help.”

They were able to get the jar off the cat’s head, by the way. And that was just one of countless animals that Tressel has helped, whether it was the kitten who found itself 40 feet in the air on a dock piling, the orange tabby who had to be coaxed out of a hotel bed frame or the colony that calls her custom-built cat condo home. 

It’s not just cats either. Tressel has braved the Lowcountry wilderness to rescue scores of wild birds, from owls and hawks to loons. A few years back she rescued an eagle with a hole in its head in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. She assumed it had run afoul of an osprey, but vets were able to determine that it had been shot. It was rehabilitated in Charleston and lived a healthy life, thanks to her.

“There’s never a dull moment,” she said.

Piper the Therapy Dog and Marci Tressel

Piper the Therapy Dog and Marci Tressel’s mission of healing

As much as Marci Tressel is a human working for the benefit of animals, her collie Piper is only too happy to return the favor. One of five collies that Tressel has obtained from Collie Rescue of the Carolinas over the years, Piper quickly proved that she wasn’t necessarily cut out for the average dog’s life.

“She’s very laid back. I had her in an agility class, and she just walked the entire course,” said Tressel. “Clearly, it wasn’t her thing.”

So Tressel began training Piper as a therapy dog. Whether giving seniors at assisted living facilities a chance to hand out some belly rubs or being read to by children at the local library, Piper is out there helping people, just as her owner helps animals. 

“It does people a lot of good,” said Tressel. “My uncle has Alzheimer’s and when he sees her, he just lights up. Animals are wonderful for that.”

Good dog, Piper. Good dog.

Dr. Roselle Wilson

A guardian of Gullah heritage and an architect of community advancement.

Dr. Roselle Wilson, Hilton Head Island

It’s almost impossible to tell the story of Dr. Roselle Wilson without first telling the story of all those who came before her. While her own story is a fascinating tale of a woman forged by family, honed by higher education and focused on moving her community forward, it is merely one chapter in a longer saga.

That saga stretches back to the birth of the Gullah people, carries on through traditions and histories that have defined the Lowcountry and embraces a future where native islanders are seen, heard and respected as the true keepers of Hilton Head’s spirit.

“It goes deep into the hearts of the people who are descendants,” she said. “We are a legacy people, so we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. We revere what they endured, suffered through and created.”

That reverence for the legacy forged by her ancestors informs Dr. Wilson’s work with the Native Island Business & Community Affairs Association (NIBCAA). Whether helping native islanders retain their land by meticulously tracking documentation, preserving Gullah businesses or simply doing the work to start conversations with the broader island community, it’s a task she undertakes with the legacy of her ancestors in her heart. 

It’s also one that calls on every fiber of the keen intellect that launched her academic career at the age of 16, when she enrolled in Michigan State University as a Black National Merit Scholar. She would remain in higher education, serving as an educator, administrator and vice president at schools from Rutgers to the University of Michigan. While her academic career drew her far from her Lowcountry roots, it was those very roots that fed her rise.

“I have that in my heritage – I had a cousin who was president at South Carolina State, where my aunt was the director of enrollment management,” she said. “My grandfather was dean of industrial arts at Savannah State, and both of my parents were second-generation college students at a time when not a lot of Black folks went to college.”

Throughout her storied career in academia, she would regularly return to the community she had called home since she was a child, returning via Charlie Simmons’s boat until the bridge was built. While her family had homes on the island for 70 years, and she had her own home here for 45, it wasn’t until 12 years ago that she made her way back full time.

Which is when that legacy of the Gullah community on Hilton Head got a new champion.

“The Native Island community welcomed me back home, and it just went from there,” she said. 

Joining the board at the Gullah Museum and then the board at NIBCAA, she played a large role in helping expand the island’s Gullah Celebration into one of the most well-attended festivals in the Lowcountry. 

“This is a community that’s thriving. New generations are coming back to reclaim it. People are creating new ways of binding the community together.”

Dr. Roselle Wilson Headshot - Hilton Head Island

Harmony through heritage: A vision for Gullah unity

For all the work that Dr. Roselle Wilson has done to ensure the preservation and longevity of the Gullah culture on Hilton Head Island, she’d be the first to recognize that the generations before her deserve more recognition than she does.

“We’re a legacy people, and legacy is chosen by the people who follow you,” she said. “I’m just using my skill sets.”

And she’s using those skill sets to engage with the entire island as one island. Where anyone else might see the divisions that splinter across the island – the Gullah community, the town, islanders both in and outside of the gates – she sees subdivisions of a greater whole that only need to be spanned. “It’s a matter of building bridges and handling situations that create an opportunity for bridge building.”

The first step in building those bridges is simply having a conversation, even though those conversations can often be uncomfortable. “Especially at this time in the United States, it’s a difficult time for people to talk to one another across those barriers. But one has to acknowledge that barrier.”

Capt. Mickey Price

At the helm of Hilton Head’s natural wonders

Capt Mickey Price - Hilton Head Island

Some people were just born to be on the water.

Mickey Price was just a kid from outside Philadelphia when he first arrived on Hilton Head Island in 1982. Vacationing during the summer, he fell in love with the unique natural beauty of the Lowcountry – specifically the waterways that snake their way through the low-lying marshland as they make their way to the sea. As he matured from a child to a teenager, the week-long visits would turn into summers here with family, then entire seasons here by himself.

“I got to spend time with Tom Doyle from Commander Zodiac, the original small boat dolphin tour company. He taught me to sail at 6. Later on I would stay with him and his wife,” said Price. “They would be my guardians, and I would stay with them every summer during high school. And when I got done with high school, it was summertime again, so I just moved here. I pretty much knew I was moving here when I was 7.” 

Receiving his captain’s license at 19, Price officially began the life on the water that had been an inevitability since his first trip to the island. He worked for Doyle but also for Island Watersports under original owner Jim Harkins and later the Sonberg family as well as H20 Sports for about seven years under Brooke McCullough. But a chance encounter at a Chamber event with Outside Hilton Head’s Mike Overton, the company’s founder, set the course for the next 18 years of Price’s life. He has learned everything from boat handling and sailing to engine repair, fiberglass work and much more to make him a true Lowcountry waterman. 

“I had gotten married and thought I should get off the water and get a real job,” he said with a laugh.

That real job saw him at least close to the water, working as a boat claims adjuster for Progressive Insurance. As you can imagine, life on dry land held limited appeal, so within a year he was ready to get back on board. Which was when an encounter with Overton set the course for Price’s future. 

“He asked if I still had my license; then he asked if I wanted a job,” said Price.

Not only did his new role at Outside Hilton Head get him back on the water, but it also gave him an outlet for his natural gift for gab. As a child he’d dipped his toes into the acting world and came out the other end with a flair for public speaking that fuels the tours he leads on the water.

“Our goal at Outside is to have it be more of an organic experience, where once we see something exceptional, we share it with the guests,” he said. “Dolphins strand feeding, an osprey with a fish in its talons… it really makes every trip different.”

He has raised two children on Hilton Head and instilled in them an appreciation for nature and the water, something he now gets to do for children from all over. 

“We had a church group out one time with kids who didn’t really have dads in their house, and this one kid caught his first fish. It was a flounder. Later at camp I took that flounder, filleted it, dressed it with some salt and vinegar potato chips, put it on the grill, and that’s what the kids ate,” he said. “The next morning, it wasn’t quite dawn yet and that kid was back on the dock fishing.”

“I love seeing people just get joy from being in nature,” he said. “Most visitors have that one- or maybe two-week vacation here in the summer, so I just try to fill that with as much of the outdoors as possible.”

Capt Mickey Price - Hilton Head Island - Headshot on Boat

Starting with Outside Hilton Head 18 years ago, Mickey Price considers it a privilege to have watched the company grow from just a few boats to a thriving year-round operation with retail and destination management operations. 

“I think when I started here, our first winter, we might have had 16 people on staff,” said Price. “Now in our summers there are over 150 on staff. That’s a lot of people who are getting to work because of how Mike Overton grew the business and how thoughtful and careful he was.”

Of course, Price got something out of the company’s growth as well. As Outside blossomed, he got the rare chance to travel to the boatyard and watch new ships get built, explore the waterways that have captivated him since childhood and pass that love on to others. 

“There was a lot of fun and growth, not just for Outside, but for me personally as well,” he said.

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