I woke up this morning and wanted to tell my friend Glenn Eure that I had taken my “pretty pills” because he always suggested that I had every time he saw me. I know he said this to all the women that came into his Ghost Fleet Gallery in Nags Head, but I believed him because Glenn said it with a warm smile.
I knew Glenn for close to 40 years before he passed away in early-September, and every time I saw him, he made me feel special. It was his way with all who walked into his gallery or those who happened to be in the restaurant he chose to visit for lunch with his wife Pat.
You know the saying, “He didn’t know a stranger?” Well, it was true with Glenn. Having worked in his gallery for a spell, I saw the positive reaction on people’s faces when he spoke to them. I saw the return of customers that had been making a stop at his gallery a “must do” on their regular trips to the Outer Banks for years. Gallery visitors either were treated like family or a new friend that he was delighted to have discovered. Countless people went away with a watercolor pen and ink drawing of a boat inscribed with their name on the bow. They were caught speechless that they should receive from Glenn a real work of art that was personalized. The drawings were handled reverently despite possibly being the one thousandth one given out by Glenn. He also did countless works of art that Pat framed for community gifts. He was a giving kind of guy and warmed many a heart.
Speaking of hearts, Glenn taught me how to hug just right. It was all about aligning heart-to-heart when you leaned in. I have never been good at the left and right thing and never got it right, but he was patient and turned me so our hearts matched every time. It was important to him.
Love and laughter filled the rafters of his gallery. There is no way one can count how many people chuckled there for all the jokes he told. Everyone said they were corny. I guess they were, but corny fit him perfectly and went well with his easy smile and twinkling eyes. I was amazed that he had such an arsenal of jokes and could remember them, following one after another easy as pie. He helped his visitors not take themselves so seriously.
Underneath his joking exterior, though, was a very serious man. He took seriously his love for his wife Pat, a poet and gallery manager by trade, and a soulmate to Glenn who was a non-stop creator and thinker. Naturally, Glenn also took art seriously as an individual artist and graduate of East Carolina University art school who created shaped canvas paintings, hand-pulled prints and collagraphs, carved table tops, wood carvings, clown paintings, book illustrations, and the Stations of the Cross for the local Catholic church, where he was a member.
Glenn also took seriously the role art played in the community. He and Pat hosted the Dare County Arts Council’s Frank Stick Memorial Art Show at the gallery for years, removing his own work to fill the space with the work of others with no personal gain in mind. The exhibit allowed people to see what was happening in the art world on the Outer Banks and gave a well-needed boost during the winter season. They also had shows for new artists and established artists, helping many a newbie gain a leg up in the community and established artists to showcase new work. Glenn and Pat also hosted themed shows, literary evenings, outdoor art demonstrations and happenings. Glenn was instrumental in establishing the Monument to Century of Flight in Kitty Hawk — making it happen was like pushing a boulder uphill — but one he powered with his positive can-do attitude, which was his way. Any time there was a hurdle, he kept his focus and ignored the naysayers. It stands tall today as a testament to his fortitude and that of his cohorts.
Glenn was also a man of courage. Before he became a gallery owner and art school graduate, he served two tours each in Korea and Vietnam and retired as a major. He has won his share of accolades over the years including the “Service Above Self” Award by Rotary International, and the highest civilian distinction in the state, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by the Governor of the State of North Carolina. He was named by the Town of Nags Head “Keeper of the Light,” and he was proclaimed a “Living Legend at the Land of Beginnings Festival.
To me, Glenn was a friend who listened, shared, made me laugh on happy days and grim days and put his heart, soul and time into service for the arts and the community. His gallery was a hub for all things art. It was a place to connect. Today, you can visit the Second Dimension — the second floor of the gallery — and view the history of Glenn Eure lovingly put together by Pat. It is a historical library that catalogues this marvel of a man and is open to the public. His death is a great loss to the Outer Banks, one that will take many folks to fill. But it’s our duty to try to carry on. Glenn would want that. Let our memories of Glenn and his indomitable spirit guide us. He is infused in us, because he gave himself to us and our community so freely.
Mary Ellen Riddle has been writing the Coast’s art column for more than 20 years and brings to her work a BFA in painting from East Carolina University and a profound passion for the role the arts play in society.