A keeper of history, stories, knowledge, a lifelong local resident, and the hub of the Plum Island and Merrimack River fishing, Kay Moulton passed away this morning. In the early light, when she would normally be slowly walking down the hill from her house to the shop, she quietly left us. Cancer took our friend and confidant. Her five children, David, John, Cathy, Liz and Martha have been at her side.
She’s got another family too. Us. I’ve never known a person with so many friends. And customers. The customers she loved to see, chat with, and help at Surfland. Fishing includes a group of people broad and diverse, and Surfland is a place they all come and meet with a common interest. Your airline pilot, accountant, ditch-digger and brain surgeon all have a destination they equally belong. That’s Surfland. And Kay was the ringmaster to the daily show.
Until recently a local guy, Jim Chase, put it this way, “You know you’ve made it as a Plum Island fisherman if you walk into Surfland and Kay knows your name.” She knew a lot of names.
Kay and Surfland are so entwined it’s hard to talk about them separately. For a woman who didn’t fish, most everyone agrees she knew it all. Tactics, location, gear, styles, and history. History, history, history. Names of fishermen, changes in the area, who, what, when, why and how the area grew and changed.
Among the most interesting documents she’s built for us are her scrapbooks. The scrapbooks started in ’60, when she and Ray started taking pictures of fishermen and their catches at the shop. Not so many photographs that first year, but after that they grew into a remarkable photographic archive of every season for all the years since. You had a fish in the weighed-in sometime in 1967. She’s got the picture. Your 5-year-old kid who’s now 40? If they had a portrait done at the shop, it’s still there. Along side those images are clippings from just about every fishing-related story from all types of publications. It’s about the best archive of fishing in the area one could imagine.
In the next few weeks there will be a long list of stories coming from Kay customers. About how they knew her, liked her, loved her or hated her, about the first time they met, and the last time they saw her. Mine is filled with respect, love, and now a big pocket emptiness. Kay will be missed.