Shadowline ‘mascot' loves the daily grind
by Sherrie Norris
Conrad and Jody Poe and their son, Travis, hosted a drop-in celebration for their friend, offering cupcakes throughout the day to their clients, neighbors and others who know Seymour, and have come to know him as the “mascot of the Shadowline Shops.”
For the last two years, Seymour has spent the majority of his waking hours at the coffee shop, where he has built friendships and accrued a “second family,” he said on Thursday.
“They are really good to me around here,” said the spry Canadian native, who said it took him 90 years to find the peace and contentment that he now enjoys in the High Country.
He credits Deborah Greene of Boone for not only directing him to Watauga County from his last home in Catawba County, but for also helping him find a place to live and for helping take care of his needs.
“I had moved south about eight years earlier with my wife, who was not well, so she could be near her son,” Seymour said. “I got to know Debbie's parents and was close friends with them and lived on their property after my wife's death.”
After both of Greene's parents died within a short time of each other, she took Seymour under her wing and helped him get established in an apartment near her home on Castleford Road.
“It's just what I need,” the spry senior said. “I love the mountains and I love the woods and now, I've got them both.”
Seymour found his niche soon after relocating.
He began to accompany Greene to town, and especially to Conrads, where he became a fixture in his own right.
The Poes welcomed his friendly visits from the beginning, which eventually led to him offering to clean the roaster, sweep the floor and sidewalk, while greeting customers — at least four days a week and about eight hours a day.
“We love having him here,” said Jody Poe. “He likes to help and we really appreciate what he does for us.”
Seymour takes time out of his day to read —“anything I can about these mountains,” he said, and he loves Conrad's coffee, “especially the hazelnut blend.”
He routinely visits the neighboring shops and enjoys dropping in at The Pet Place. “I really like the birds and I try to take Scoochie, the parrot, an apple,” he said.
Seymour is a man of wisdom and knowledge and he loves to share his life experiences — but he doesn't do all the talking.
“He is very observant,” Greene said, “and seems to know if someone, in particular, needs to talk.”
She cited a situation in which Seymour reached out to a young man one morning at the coffee shop, who, unbeknownst to him, was dealing with a difficult medical condition.
“After Bill approached him and sat down with him for a while, the young man said he had really needed someone to talk to,” Greene said. “We had never seen him here before, nor have we seen him since.”
Seymour was born on July 25, 1920, in Canada; as an infant, he moved with his family to Hyde Park, Vt.
“There wasn't any border crossing back then,” he said, “and my family didn't report my birth until after we moved. It saved a lot of red tape, that way.”
He was one of four children born into a family of Indian descent with Catholic beliefs and raised on a farm. He attended school, but “not much,” he said. “I learned a lot from my parents and grandmother.
“We could see the school from the farm, but in the winter, the snow was so deep, nobody could get there.”
The family kept “about 22 milk cows,” a few horses, raised corn and gathered hay to see the cattle through the harsh North Country winters.
He was about 14, he said, before he had his first store-bought shoes. “Up until then, I wore moccasins that we made from groundhog skins.”
At about the same time, Seymour's father bought him a beehive. “I didn't know anything about it or how to care for it, so I let it die,” he said.
He later graduated from Ithaca Bee School and became a proficient beekeeper — at one time, caring for 80 hives.
At 25, Seymour married his sweetheart of three years; the couple exchanged their vows in the hospital where his bride died a short time later. “A blood vessel must've ruptured in her stomach,” he said. “It wasn't something we expected.”
It was several years later before he remarried; he enjoyed 25 years with his second wife, with whom he eventually moved south.
Seymour has worn a number of hats, as the saying goes, and admitted to being a jack-of-all-trades.He operated a Caterpillar snow remover and worked at a cheese factory in Vermont before the onset of World War II.
“When the war broke out, I went to work with a plywood company and made ammunition boxes for the Gatlin gun and other guns for the military,” he said.
He was soon drafted and was sent to basic training at a Massachusetts camp.
“When they learned that I was doing my part, already, they sent me back home to work in the plant, until the war was over,” he said.
He later obtained his electrician's license, which provided a career path to retirement.
“Then, I worked in a police department for a couple of years,” he said. “It was just me and the chief. There wasn't a lot going on, back then and I'd ride out with him when we got a call. There were only two bars in town and not much else to worry about — not like it is today.”
Refusing to stay idle, Seymour managed a couple of veterinarian's office for a number of years. “I always loved animals,” he said.
A significant time in his life was spent as chief of the Abenaki Nations, a tribe of Native American and First Nations people.
“Their language was very difficult to learn and speak,” he said. “But, I think I did some good in helping to write education grants and I worked to make it legal to fish without a license.”
Seymour credits his heritage for his knowledge of, and love for, nature. He possesses a unique understanding of plants and animals and makes good use of the land.
“I make everything count,” he said. He grows his own garden and doesn't believe an animal should be killed, “unless you are going to use it for food,” he said.
“He knows every single part of the deer and knows how to put it all to good use,” Greene said.
“You can use the rib for beaming the hide,” he said, as he described the process of removing the animal's membranes.
“You can dry the sinew from a deer and make a thread that won't break. You can also use the brain of an animal to tan its hide by mixing it with water and rubbing it into the skin, then letting it dry. I grew up learning to waste nothing,” he said.
Seymour shapes polar bears from soapstone and beef bones, and carves out Indian peace pipes from other natural resources.
“I like to share what I know,” he said. The expanse of his knowledge is evident through his tutelage of men he met at Howard's Creek Baptist Church, where he attends.
“I'm helping one learn to make the bears and another about keeping bees — and knowing what to look for in diagnosing problems, such as feral brood,” he said. “That's a disease that can wipe out the whole colony, if you don't get it first. I talked to a group of beekeepers not long ago who didn't know anything about it.”
At 92, Seymour said, it's been healthy, clean living that has brought him this far — and oatmeal, every day.
He has no regrets and has nothing left on his “bucket list,” he said.
“It took me this long to make it to these beautiful mountains,” he said. “I love living here and have no plans to leave any time soon.”
For now, he's happy to take his walks in the woods, sit a while watching the deer and turkeys — and spend as much time as he can at Conrad's, where more than coffee keeps him coming back.