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Paul Marshall Dunn

Paul Marshall Dunn, 69, of Buxton, NC died Wednesday, February 15, 2023, at Duke University Hospital in Durham, NC.

Born in Jacksonville, Florida on April 1, 1953, he was the son of the late Claire M. Dunn and the late Stephen F. Dunn.

Paul attended Brevard Community College earning an education in carpentry and woodworking. For over 40 years, he spent his career as a commercial fisherman.

Paul and Dorothy met each other in Florida while surfing, got married, bought a small sailboat, and shortly thereafter they were married and had many adventures, eventually sailing to Hatteras Island. There Paul got a job commercial fishing and Dorothy just happy to be near an ocean. They began a family together and bought some property in Buxton. The land overlooked the sound . . . it was in a great location. Their first home on their land was a mobile home. Then they added a larger mobile home to the property. And, finally, they built a two story home also on that land. Paul and Dorothy were a wonderful couple in a marriage of almost 50 years. Paul was a loving husband and father, and he became a very capable fisherman. He especially loved being with his grandchildren. The Buxton - Hatteras area is a small community, and Paul was very well-liked and respected by everyone. Paul and Dorothy loved to travel. Yearly vacations were important to Paul and his family. They traveled up and down the east coast and would visit the west coast for skiing and snowboarding. Spring, summer, and fall were spent on the beach surfing, boating, fishing, and relaxing. They especially enjoyed traveling to Costa Rica where surfing was excellent.

Paul was a friend to all and will be dearly missed on Hatteras Island. He loved his children and family deeply.

In addition to his wife, Dorothy Jane Dunn and sister Kim Tennant, he is survived by his two children, Shannon and Shaun Dunn. Shannon is married to Erick O'Neal and they have two children, Mikaela and Kaiden. Shannon has taken over Paul's commercial fishing boat The Shannon D. Shaun is married to Victoria and also continued in the fishing industry with a charter boat named Dunn Deal. Paul's legacy will live on through them. He was very proud of his children.

Paul was preceded in death by his mother and father, Claire Dunn and Stephen Dunn, two sisters, Bonnie Braden and Jean Bryant; and two brothers, Stephen and Murray Dunn.

A celebration of Pauls life will be held at a later date.

A Tribute to Paul Marshall Dunn

When we talk about the "Heart of America,"” I would suspect that many Americans might think of Iowa farmers, making their living off their corn and potato crops, and raising their children in a loving manner.

Paul and Dorothy Dunn, and their children, were also a “Heart of America” family, but they lived in Cape Hatteras on the Atlantic coast, and their "crop"” was seafood that they caught and sold commercially.

Paul and Dorothy settled into Cape Hatteras by arriving there on a 26 foot sailboat that they had navigated up the inland waterways from Miami. The night they arrived, they tied their boat up at a restaurant called the Clam Box. They asked the owner if they could tie up for the night and the owner said yes. The next morning they asked what might it cost for them to leave their boat tied up and get access to water from a hose and electricity from an extension cord from his house. The owner said $50 a month, so that's where Paul and Dorothy lived for their first three years in the area - on a 26' sailboat!

However, Paul and Dorothy noted that the owner was elderly, and he had the task each night of disposing of the many clam shells from his restaurant. So each night they helped him, and at the end of the first month the owner told them that due to their help, they need not pay any more rent.

For the next few years Paul began learning the fishing business and Dorothy found ways to add income to their household.

It wasn’t too long before they were able to purchase a piece of land facing the inlet, and on that property they set a single wide mobile home that they had purchased.

Not too much later, they purchased a double wide mobile home and parked it more to the east side of their property. And not too long after that, on the same property, they built a two-story home, where they lived for many many years, and where Dorothy still lives today.

Dorothy and Paul were married in 1973. At that time Paul’s sister Bonnie (my wife) and I were overseas in Germany, and from there we went to Kansas, and then to Fort Monroe, Virginia, which happened to be about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Dorothy and Paul’s home. At this point, Jay and Bonnie were able to visit them more often. Later in Jay's military career he was assigned to Fort Eustis, just north of Newport News, Virginia. A bit further away - but not that much further.

Meanwhile, Paul had taken up crabbing, and Jay would go out with him while he fished his pots. Later, Paul did pound net fishing, and Jay would go out with him as he emptied the catch in his nets into his boat, and then traveled to the fish dock where the catch would be loaded onto screening tables and sorted by type and size. Fish not eligible for purchase due to size or type would be sold to crabbers there to use for their bait. A special benefit of pound net fishing was that a reasonable number of large shrimp would come up with the catch and Paul always carried an iced container to take those shrimp home. Jay will always remember that pound net fishing begins before light so that one can get to the dock at first light, fuel up there, and head perhaps 16 miles into the sound to where the pound nets are located. Jay always loved accompanying Paul on his crabbing and fishing, but was quick to point out that if he had to do this 30 days a month he would be worn out by the first seven days. On one of Jay‘s last visits, Paul was doing gill net fishing just off the coast of Ocracoke Island and the nets were sent maybe 200 yards off the beaches were people were swimming. As the nets were reeled into the boat, Paul would pull the catch into sizing buckets and release fish that were of no commercial value. This happened to include a number of small sharks in the range of 2 to 3 feet in length, and Jay had to marvel how those sharks were swimming in the same waters as the nearby beach goers.

One of the things that the Braden family loved to do when visiting Hatteras was to go clamming. So dear Paul, who fished all week, got to go out and do even more fishing. But he was such a good sport about it - he never said anything except for encouraging words as we ran our toes through the sand to fill our baskets with clams that Paul would so gracefully cook for us at night on his grill.

In our visit to their home and community, Bonnie and I marveled how Dorothy and Paul seem to know everyone there, and everyone there knew them; and it was so clear that they were very well liked, and respected. Deservingly so, in my opinion.

I do recall that Paul always loved a good joke, so in times I would talk to him by phone and in times when he was home from the hospital I would either call him with jokes or send them to him in the mail.

A few years ago Paul’s heart began failing, and we all watched and prayed for him as he met with doctors and looked at options for his heart disease. During this time – and note that while a heart hospital is within 10 minutes of where I live - it is a bit of a drive to a heart hospital when you live on the Outer Banks. But Paul took this all in stride (with Dorothy being the most wonderful caregiver ever), and soon Paul was on the heart transplant list. Then there was the waiting and hoping and praying. At least one heart that was available was rejected because it was not large enough but eventually one was found, and the operation was a success. As a sidenote, I think it’s a wonder that they found, something at all for Paul, because he had such a wonderful GIANT heart.

And so Paul seem to adjust well to the new reality, that he could no longer engage in the strenuous activity that had hallmarked his career as a successful fisherman, and he allowed his family to come to the rescue with both Shannon and Shaun pitching in to help. And, of course, it was a given that Dorothy was there for Paul 100% of the time.

But then came the terrible news that we all know about: that Paul’s days on this earth were numbered.

The passing of Paul Marshall Dunn comes with great sadness, but those of us who now remain can feel blessed and thankful that we had the privilege of knowing and interacting with such a wonderful person.

Rest in Peace, Dear Paul.

The photos are from around 1990 - when I was stationed at Fort Monroe, Virginia.

(Click on any slide to enlarge it.)

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