During his long career as one of Charleston's best-known outdoor caterers, John G. Thornhill was responsible for a lot of the empty oyster shells that have been recycled into local waters where they help regenerate new oysters, which in turn help filter the water, protect against erosion and serve as nursery grounds for juvenile aquatic life.
Now, the Coastal Conservation Association of South Carolina is honoring Thornhill by naming an oyster reef in Thornhill's memory and by raising funds for a new recycling trailer to help serve the Charleston restaurant industry. Thornhill, co-owner of Charleston Bay Gourmet and best known as John G, died Jan. 30 at the age of 67.
Approximately two-thirds of the $15,000 goal to purchase the new trailer has been raised, according to Gary Keisler, who heads CCA's Topwater Action program. People can donate by visiting https://squareup.com/store/coastal-conservation-association-south-carolina. Donations also can be sent to: CCA SC, Memo: John G Memorial Reef, 3021-10 McNaughton Drive, Columbia, S.C. 29223.
"John G and Jamie Westendorff cooked all the oysters at the Boone Hall Oyster Festival since 1989. He had that unique Charleston accent and used to say 'Look out! Coming with yo' hot 'osters' now," Keisler said.
"When we started our habitat program, the Topwater Action campaign in 2009, I went by to see if he was interested in helping us collect shells to be recycled. He was all over it. We actually put a trailer there at Charleston Bay Gourmet in the Old Village in Mount Pleasant. Charleston Bay Gourmet still collects a lot of shells."
Topwater Action works closely with S.C. Department of Natural Resources' SCORE (S.C. Oyster Restoration and Enhancement) volunteer program. Oyster shells are collected, sterilized, bundled and then placed in area waterways with a goal of regenerating into new oysters.
Keisler said the first year CCA East Cooper volunteers collected shells at Boone Hall, the seven participants recycled about 15,000 pounds of shells out of the 50,000 pounds available. This year there were 150 volunteers and annually they collect 99 percent of the shells, which can run between 70,000 and 80,000 pounds.
Keisler said Thornhill would call Topwater Action, which would drop collection trailers at oyster roasts. He cooked for numerous CCA functions.
"He helped get the Restaurant Association on board. He talked about (recycling) everywhere he was going, talking about what we were doing," Keisler said.
Keisler said SCORE already has begun a reef at the old Pitt Street Bridge in Mount Pleasant and oyster shells will be continue to be added to that busy site.
"John G. Thornhill loved his native Charleston and celebrated our heritage by hunting, fishing, storytelling, and feeding people." Keisler said.
Charleston Coastal Anglers Tournament
Joe Davis was the outstanding angler in the Charleston Coastal Anglers fishing tournament. Eric Douglas won the outstanding male angler award, Lindsay Natale won the outstanding female angler award and Cole Barfield won the outstanding youth angler award.
Approximately 200 anglers participated in the event that raised $2,000 for Project ReSpeck to help revive South Carolina's trout population after January's cold snap.
Category winners were: King mackerel - Joe Davis, 38.48 pounds; Laura Hughes, 29.76; Hampton Sires, 28.52. Spanish mackerel - Lindsay Natale, 4.84; Lee Moyer, 4.70; Lindsay Natale, 4.20. Trout - Paul Cordina, 3.80; David DiBenedetto, 3.04; Cameron Luden, 2.42. Flounder - Eric Douglas, 2.84; Eric Douglas, 1.90; Sara Anderson, 1.80. Spadefish - Mark Stroub, 7.56; Jeff Baumann, 7.46; Mark Stroub, 7.10. Bluefish - Erica Murry, 2.66; Steve Joy, 2.62; Steve Joy, 2.46. Redfish (most spots) - Brad Frazier, 12; Sam Wise, 3; Jesse Cox, 2. Blackfish - Mark Hueske, 2.20; Dan Leschore, 1.94; Dan Leschore, 1.82. Ladyfish - Gerrett Schmelten, 2.02; Sam Wise, 2.00; Traywick Birchmore, 1.92. Dogfish - Robbie Watkins, 1.28.