Rarely a day would go by when Lovell Linton wasn’t cranking up the radio on his porch, sipping homemade wine and frying the fish he had just caught.
The 65-year-old often threw a line into Johns Island ponds for catfish and whiting. Paired with rice and potato salad, his fish dinners were famous among family members and neighbors.
But the longtime newspaper deliveryman was cautious around the water he was attracted to: He couldn’t swim.
On Tuesday morning, his near-daily routine of catching his dinner turned fatal. He was angling from the shore of a pond off Mary Ann Point Road near his home when he hooked a fish, loved ones and neighbors said. The creature pulled his rod into the water, and when he leaned over to fetch the pole, he fell in. His wife tried throwing him a rope, but the rescue failed. Linton sank into the pond, which drops off sharply from its shoreline to about 14 feet.
“She couldn’t do anything for him,” said Francisco Aguayo, 29, a neighbor of Linton’s for about three years. “He’s been helping her all his life, and she couldn’t help him.”
Linton was thought to have drowned, but an autopsy will determine how he died. Deputy Coroner Kimberly Rhoton confirmed his death. Maj. Jim Brady of the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office said no foul play is suspected in the 11:30 a.m. accident.
Investigators found a johnboat in the pond, but it was not involved, he added. Sheriff’s divers, volunteer rescuers and firefighters from the St. Johns Fire Department searched for hours and found his body in the murky, greenish water.
The pond, just west of the intersection of Mary Ann Point Road and Jay Drive, is oblong and about 200 yards at its widest. It’s accessible from a grass-and-dirt driveway.
Aguayo and 26-year-old Ashley Dyson gathered in the shade with other neighbors and family members and mourned the loss.
“He watches my house when I’m on vacation and brings me a newspaper every morning,” Dyson said. “We’re like family. We look out for one another.”
Linton once remarked about the 4-foot-deep pool in the backyard of Aguayo’s home on Main Road, and he talked about his cautiousness around water, Aguayo said.
But Linton’s carefulness didn’t hold him back. He was a resourceful man who found happiness in the simple things, Aguayo added. On Monday, the neighbor explained, Linton was overjoyed about a new set of dentures.
Linton also took pride in making fine cuisine out of the squirrels and raccoons he hunted.
“That man would never go hungry,” Aguayo said. “He knew how to live in the wild.”