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Murrells Inlet: Annual award marks a lifetime of achievement

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Bill Chandler has spent his retirement years working to maintain the health of Murrells Inlet.

He was the first chairman of Murrells Inlet 2007, the predecessor of Murrells Inlet 2020, and spearheaded the building of the Marsh Walk and bike paths and the extension of the Veterans Pier and supported efforts to keep the water clean and the shellfish edible in a relaxed fishing atmosphere.

Murrells Inlet 2020 presented Chandler its Golden Oyster Award at its annual Chowder Talk this week. The first Golden Oyster was presented to Dr. Pat Worrell, a dentist and civic leader. Subsequent winners are honored for environmental stewardship in his memory.

Chairman Whitney Hills said the 2020 board nailed it this year. Chandler’s selection is as much a lifetime achievement award, though his latest cause is to have the inlet designated as a bird sanctuary.

“There’s no one I can think of more deserving,” said Chip Smith, a former Murrells Inlet 2007 board chairman and Golden Oyster Award recipient. “You could not have chosen a better advocate for the creek.”

Smith said Chandler is literally a rocket scientist — he and his brother both worked for NASA in Houston on the U.S. space program. But he couldn’t wait to return to his childhood playground, Murrells Inlet, in retirement.

Smith said he first saw Bill Chandler on a boat in the creek, head shaved, skin tanned to a nut brown and grinning his unforgettable grin. “There’s your Murrells Inlet, right there,” he thought to himself.

Chandler was born in 1933 at Wachesaw Plantation and moved to the inlet as a child. There was not a single house on Garden City Beach in those days, said Tom Hora, Chandler’s nephew who added some family perspective in presenting the award Tuesday.

Chandler was taught to value the inlet as a primary source of food, Hora said. He would carry his shotgun on the bus to Myrtle Beach High School so he could hunt while walking home. While he was living in Texas, he trained a championship Labrador retriever, Waccamaw’s Tinker. After a field trial performance, he was offered a large sum of money for the dog and turned it down flat. “To me,” Hora said, “that says Bill has true character.”

Chandler said there are a lot of people deserving of the environmental award. “I feel like the luckiest man in the world,” he said.

Murrells Inlet 2020 honored Mike Kelley with its Volunteer of the Year award. Kelley installs the plaques on the Marsh Walk and often meets families at sunrise or sunset for a memorial service. “We can not do what we do without him” said Renee Williamson, executive director of Murrells Inlet 2020.

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