One of Georgia’s greatest natural and historic treasures is being honored by a new book, “Ossabaw Island: A Sense of Place.”
On Dec. 20, a book launch and signing party will be held at Cohen’s Retreat. The event will feature the book’s photographer, Jill Stuckey, and Roger Parker, Ossabaw Island’s “Salt Water Cowboy,” who is the subject of some of the photographs found in the book.
Both will make brief remarks during the event, which will have a cash bar stocked with cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. Dinner reservations can be made in advance for after the signing.
In the book, Stuckey’s images and the narrative by Evan Kutzler bring to life Ossabaw’s human and natural past and present. Stuckey is a longtime friend of Eleanor “Sandy” West, who was the last private owner of Ossabaw Island.
“I had been going to Ossabaw Island since the early ‘90s,” Stuckey says. “I worked for the state of Georgia for 20 years.
“I saw the need to run a power line out to the island and was able to help do that. I’ve been going out to the island ever since. I befriended Sandy West and Roger Parker.”
Parker worked on Ossabaw Island for more than 65 years as West’s employee.
A 26,000-acre undeveloped barrier island on the Atlantic Ocean, Ossabaw is located in Chatham County about 20 miles south of Savannah. Today, it is owned by the state of Georgia, but at one point was owned by the Torrey-West family.
Accessible only by boat, Ossabaw is undeveloped and set aside by an executive order for natural, scientific and cultural study, research and education. It also was set aside for environmentally sound preservation, conservation and management of the island’s ecosystem.
The former part owner of Triangle Inc., Stuckey sold her company interest in 1992 and went to work for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, where she combined all state-owned fuel tanks into one agency’s control, the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.
During Gov. Roy Barnes’ administration, Stuckey was appointed the director of Alternative Fuels. Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed her the director of the Center of Innovation for Energy, and Gov. Nathan Deal appointed her to direct the Herty Advanced Material Development Center.
In 2014, Stuckey left the state’s employ to start her own business, J & J EcoCool. A resident of Plains, she serves on the Plains City Council and is involved with Maranatha Baptist Church, where she works with former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.
As Georgia’s governor, Carter was a frequent visitor to Ossabaw Island. He was instrumental in the island’s purchase by the state and its establishment as the first Georgia Heritage Preserve.
Carter wrote the foreword to the book, which is Stuckey’s first.
“He’s written 29 books of his own,” Stuckey says. “He also consulted with me and helped me along. I was very fortunate, indeed.
“The author of the narrative, Dr. Evan Kutzler, is a boarder at my house. He has been a longtime friend of my brother, who is an author and Civil War prison camp expert, and Evan is in the same area of expertise.
“His specialty is sensory perception of Civil War camps,” Stuckey says. “He does that here with Ossabaw Island.”
Stuckey’s interest in photography was born from tragedy.
“My husband was killed about nine years ago,” she says. “I found solace on Ossabaw Island.
“I had a Kodak camera and someone made the mistake of telling me I have ‘the eye.’ I went out and bought an expensive camera.
“I have several cameras now,” Stuckey says. “I don’t have children; I have cameras.”
Response to the book has been very encouraging, Stuckey says.
“All I’ve heard are good things so far,” she says. It’s been very, very positive from people I don’t even know.”
That may encourage Stuckey to put together more books in the future.
“I could foresee another Ossabaw book,” she says. “I’m also working with Rosalynn Carter on a book idea using my macrophotography.
“I love shooting bugs,” Stuckey says. “She and I are working on an idea as we speak.”
One hundred percent of sales at the book launch and signing party will benefit the Ossabaw Foundation.
“We’re working closely with the Ossabaw Foundation,” Stuckey says. “I’ve been a fan since going to Ossabaw. We donated 50 books to the foundation to make a little money.
“I have a passion for Ossabaw,” she says. “It’s my most favorite place in the world.”
IF YOU GO
What: Book launch and signing party for “Ossabaw Island: A Sense of Place”
When: 5-7 p.m. Dec. 20
Where: Cohen’s Retreat, 5715 Skidaway Road
Cost: Free to attend, books available for $45
Info: firstname.lastname@example.org, 912-233-5104; make dinner reservations at 912-355-3336