BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE
PUNGO — It may come as little surprise that the Rev. Walter A. Whitehurst, a retired pastor who remains active in church and mission work, is good at talking to people. He’s also skilled at capturing stories, as he has in a series of books that gather slices of Pungo life, and he said he enjoys learning about the people who may buy his books when they meet.
“I like to talk to the people who are buying,” Whitehurst said recently, speaking at home. “I ask them where they are from.”
As he finds out about them, he relates tales he has gathered to their interests. At heart, he said, “you get some feel for life here.”
The center of the Pungo Tales series is, of course, Pungo. A good center, he noted, and his introduction to the second volume, Pungo Tales Two: Some Old, Some New, speaks of days of country stores and the old air station, as well as providing updates on modern additions, such as a surf shop, convenience stores and the Senior Resource Center in Creeds.
“You’re in Pungo,” he said, explaining his salesmanship. “You need to read about Pungo.”
The books started with the recollections of friends and locals. Whitehurst wrote down rememberances, anecdotes, stories, slices of life, even discussions of how the stoplight here came to be.
The tales, as the Virginia Beach Public Library put it in a blog post, “are the kinds of tales we love to remember and tell about our own friends and relatives.”
Said Whitehurst, “I meet with a person, jot down what he or she says, and I write it.”
The books also reflect a partnership between Whitehurst and his wife, Betty C. Whitehurst. That collaboration previously resulted in their 2008 book Following God’s Call, which gathered stories of Methodist mission work experiences. [Another discussion of Whitehurst’s own recent mission work can be read at this link.]
With the tales, Betty Whitehurst also has a hand in the editorial aspects of writing. After her edit, Whitehurst brings stories back to their originators.
The books are available a number of ways, including through the author and at locations such as the Military Aviation Museum gift shop and the dentist’s office in “downtown” Pungo, he said.
Whitehurst often sells books during local bazaars and craft shows, as well as, every year, in front of his home along the Pungo Strawberry Festival route. He and his wife also delight in sharing “The Pungo Song,” a tune about here.
“I guess I’m just an advocate for Pungo,” he said.
He may have an aggressive deadline, too.
“Perhaps in time for the Strawberry Festival,” he said.