Fond memories: Latham’s death mourned by staff at Historic Bath

Published 5:44 pm Friday, January 3, 2014

KEVIN SCOTT CUTLER | DAILY NEWS Bea Latham, assistant site manager of Historic Bath State Historic Site, is fondly remembered by co-workers. She died Dec. 8.

Bea Latham, assistant site manager of Historic Bath State Historic Site, is fondly remembered by co-workers. She died Dec. 8.


BATH — With the passing of Bea Latham last month, members of the Historic Bath State Historic Site staff say they lost a friend, co-worker and fellow history buff.

Latham, who died Dec. 8, had worked for Historic Bath since 2000 and served as assistant site manager for six years.

Site manager Leigh Swain said she was inspired by Latham’s obvious love of history and noted Latham was especially fascinated by anything, in general, that pertained to Bath and Beaufort County.

“When local historian John Oden, Bea’s good friend, passed, she took up the banner,” Swain recalled. “She really got into research and learning all that she could about Bath and the people who make up the Bath story.”

Latham’s love of history was put to good use in Historic Bath, Swain continued.

“She did a lot of different tasks here, but her main duty outside of what was needed in the daily operations was developing programs for the site. She particularly enjoyed children’s programs. She always handled the Past Times Day Camp each summer and Heritage Days, the annual program we do for fourth-graders in Beaufort County.”

Swain recalled that Latham was heavily involved in the planning of Bath’s tercentennial festivities in 2005 and 2006, including writing the children’s program that was a highlight of the celebration.

“She also made contacts and lined everything up for the May 5, 2012, event marking the 50th anniversary of the Palmer-Marsh House and the Bonner House being open to the public,” Swain said. “She was so capable that it was a pleasure to delegate a task to her because I knew it would be first class.”

Latham was also the creative force behind the display case housed in the Bath visitors center. In the final days before her death, Latham was busily planning a new exhibit focusing on Bath’s naval stores.

“She was working closely with Amy Sawyer, our exhibit designer for historic sites, in Raleigh,” Swain said. “Amy plans to come down and install the exhibit in Bea’s memory in mid-January.”

Latham was also sought out by history enthusiasts who were doing their own research into Bath’s past, Swain said.

“I always turned to her when someone came into the visitor center looking for information on their ancestors,” she said. “Bea had such a memory for who owned what and when in Bath, and that helped people with their research.”

Swain said she and the staff continue every day to struggle with Latham’s death.

“I feel like we lost a friend and a co-worker, but everyone connected with Bath lost a tremendous amount of information that she had retained from all her reading and research,” Swain said.

Historic interpreter Elizabeth Midyette, Latham’s co-worker and friend for several years, agreed.

“What I remember most about Bea is that she had such a passion for history. She made it come alive through her work,” Midyette said. “Bea truly loved what she did. She always had high work expectations and she wanted you to achieve your best.”

Wayne Randall, the historic site assistant overseeing maintenance and grounds at Historic Bath, fondly recalls working with Latham on the colonial-style garden at the site.

“In years past, she would allow me to plant in one of the smaller beds, and she would do her magic in the other beds,” Randall recalled. “Needless to say, her beds always looked better than mine. She had that touch. I will admit that at first gardening was not my cup of tea, but with her help I found a passion for it. I can only hope that, in time, I will learn to have the same hands-on approach she had when it came to gardening. I will always be grateful for all that she taught me.”

Historic interpreter Robin Suggs said she began working with Latham in 2001, first as a part-time employee and later as a full-time staff member. In fact, she gives Latham much of the credit for helping her attain full-time status at the site.

“Through my part time years she helped groom me and teach me so that when the opportunity came to go full time I was ready,” Suggs said. “And she taught me how to do family research. My parents are heavily into genealogy, but it wasn’t until I met Bea that the bug hit me.”

Swain said that, out of necessity, she has started the process of finding someone to replace Latham on the site’s staff.

“Her job title can be filled, but no one can ever be expected to make the kind of achievements that Bea did,” Swain said. “I think she found her life’s work at Historic Bath, and I’m honored I was a part of it.”