Tribune Print Share Text

Shore thing

Chincoteague Island resident trades hurricanes for weatherproof living inland

Created date

April 17th, 2015
Oak Crest resident
Oak Crest resident

Cathy Brodersen called the tranquil shores of Chincoteague Island, Va., home for 18 years. But after Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, she decided to head inland for a weatherproof lifestyle at Oak Crest, the Erickson Living community in Parkville, Md. 

“I had a small single family home on the north end of the island on Assateague Channel, the body of water that goes up to Ocean City, Md.,” says Cathy. “I went through quite a few hurricanes, as well as Nor’easters, but Sandy was the worst I can remember. During the storm, I was there alone watching the water come up under my house and into the garage and I thought, ‘This is a message.’ I didn’t want to go through that again.”

Island retreat

Cathy’s parents bought the house on Chincoteague Island in 1968. Cathy joined them on the island after she retired in 1995. 

“I worked for the state of Maryland as a public health nutritionist out of Baltimore and was transferred to Salisbury on the Eastern Shore,” says Cathy. “I always loved Chincoteague, and my parents were getting older, so it was an easy decision.”  

Soon after moving, Cathy began volunteering as a tour guide with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Assateague Island.

“We gave bus tours of the island, and I was the narrator,” says Cathy. “Chincoteague is well known for the ponies who live on the island, but I wanted people to know about all of the other wonderful wildlife and vegetation the island offered. 

“One of the things I loved was when the Monarch butterflies migrated through Chincoteague in September on their way to Mexico. They fed on the milkweed and goldenrod in order to get the energy they needed to fly over the Chesapeake Bay. There would be entire bushes covered with butterflies. There were also other migrations that came through the island, including waterfowl and snow geese. Eagles also nest there.” 

Planning for the future

Cathy enjoyed the simple pleasures of island life: walking on the beach, birding, being surrounded by the wildlife and vegetation, and watching the stars and rocket launches from the shore. But as the years passed, her remote address also presented obstacles. 

“I had a good friend in Annapolis, and she was always concerned about me living alone out there on the island,” says Cathy. “I was also concerned about having convenient access to medical care as I got older. My doctor was in Pocomoke, which was a 25-mile drive one way, and for most anything else, I had to drive to Salisbury, which was 100 miles round-trip. It was also becoming harder to take care of the upkeep around the house. I knew I needed to plan for my future.”  

After Hurricane Sandy came ashore in October 2012, Cathy really got serious about moving.

“After things settled down, I traveled up to take a look at Oak Crest,” says Cathy. “As soon as I saw it I knew it was perfect for my needs, so I joined the priority list and waited for the apartment I wanted to become available.”

Weatherproof and worry-free

Nearly a year after Sandy had come and gone, Cathy sold the house, settled into her new apartment home at Oak Crest, and left all her worries behind.  

“I couldn’t be happier with my choice,” says Cathy. “It was such a relief to be removed from the responsibilities of the house. Now I don’t have to worry about anything. And I’m so much busier than I was before. I’m in a knitting group. I use the fitness center. I’m involved in a little bit of everything. I also love walking. When I was living on Chincoteague, I was stuck inside all winter. Here I can walk outdoors when it’s nice and inside when it’s not.” 

Cathy brought a little bit of the island with her when she moved. Shells, starfish, and other keepsakes she collected on her walks along the beach are displayed throughout her apartment. Every November she travels back to Chincoteague for a mini-vacation with friends. And she even has a solution for those times when she misses seeing the water.  

“I go up to the Windows [Restaurant]. You can look out the window and actually see the Chesapeake Bay,” she says.