Like the shifting sands of our iconic golf pits and manmade lakeside beaches, the cultural landscape of Moore County changes with every passing year. Some families are drawn to the area for our recreational opportunities and attractive climate — or for the respite from the chill and climbing cost-of-living index of the Northeast. Others are transplanted in by Fort Bragg — military families who return the way they came, leaving behind scores of broken-hearted friends and neighbors.
Destiny and choice are equally-contributing factors in John Gay and his family’s settlement in Moore County. John, himself, has lived in the general area three times in the last twenty years — coming alone, at first, stationed at Fort Bragg from 2001 to 2005. He was summoned to Fort Bragg a second time in 2008, then a married man. Finally, of his own volition, he settled in Moore with his family in tow in 2018.
Of his three separate times living in the Moore-Cumberland-Hoke area within the span of two decades, John insists that it hasn’t changed much.
“Sure, it’s grown,” John said. “But it still carries that small-town vibe. Still holds that uniqueness. Downtown Aberdeen has its own feel. Downtown Carthage has its own feel. Southern Pines has its own feel.”
The Gay family’s favorite local activities include brunching at Betsy’s Crepes, wandering around Downtown Southern Pines, and hiking Weymouth Woods, with its trails so well-shaded by old-growth pine stands and intermittently scorched by control burns.
John lives by the scripture embedded in the skin of his arm. His tattoo reads, Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). “The difficulty of life makes it easy to treat people poorly,” said John. “It takes a much bigger person to be civil… to resist the idea to get down in the mud with people who have done you wrong.”
John independently started his business, Volunteer Woodshop, in 2012. “I was inspired to start turning out these projects when my friends began to retire from our unit. I would make these custom wooden flags as parting gifts. People loved them, it showed they were cared for.” John’s business venture has greatly expanded since its humble beginnings in handmade wooden flags. He now produces custom home décor, tables, bedframes — and, of course, retirement gifts.
After twenty years of service in the United States Army, John will celebrate his own retirement with a small gathering of friends and family. Of his long tenure, John said, “It just flew by. Faster than I could ever believe.” Reflecting on his many years of service, John advises others in his position to savor their milestones and experiences. “It all seems to come at you at once, but you have to try not to rush life.”
In lieu of his retirement, John anticipates expanding Volunteer Woodshop — moving from part- to full-time — and especially spending his newfound time with his wife, Jessica, and three young children, aged 10, 8, and 6.
For information on Volunteer Woodshop, please click here.
Written by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Shelby Herbert.