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Pam Dunn: Not a Day Goes to Waste in a Lowcountry Backyard Escape

As I arrived at Pam Dunn’s property, my jaw dropped with astonishment from the boundless colorful flowers and perfectly plotted greenery that went on as far as I could see. I was greeted in the courtyard by Mrs. Pam as she invited me into her interestingly shaped, beautiful home with a glass of fresh lemonade. I took note of the open and bright look as the inside features enormous windows allowing me to see every angle of the surrounding yard and the delightful view of the river. I was excited to see the rest of the home and grounds, but equally enthusiastic to learn about this southern gem who helped create this marvelous backyard escape.

Pam was born in Florence but truly grew up in Georgetown County. Her family had a summer home in Pawleys Island on the creek where she enjoyed crabbing, fishing, swimming, and spending quality time on the dock with loved ones. Pam cherished her time on the beach and outside with nature. She expressed, “My upbringing created wonderful memories and I knew I never wanted to leave this area. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else!”

From a very young age, Pam became infatuated with music. Her Nana was very musically gifted and would always play the piano or the autoharp and sing for Pam and her siblings. Pam started playing the piano by ear and when they could afford a piano, her mother antiqued it in blue, and Pam would get up early before school and play all morning. Her love and inherited gift of music developed into playing strings as well.

She exclaimed, “Music has taken me on the most interesting journey of meeting people, learning new skills, and growing. Music always offered a challenge to better myself, so I never wondered what to do next. The most important things in my life, in this order, are my faith, family, and friends, and then music.”

Just like with music, Pam loved learning in every aspect of her being. She explained, “Whether I had a career in them or not, I earned my private pilot’s license, real estate license, insurance license, and my series 7 to be a financial planner, and that’s just a few of them.” Pam graduated from USC where she earned her Master’s in Corporate Public Relations in the Journalism school. She was hired as a Director of Employee Relations with a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company and later worked in marketing and public relations. Unsurprisingly, she moved back to the Grand Strand and worked as a financial planner with a brokerage firm for over 15 years. She said it was a wonderful job and career because she was able to help others and felt it gave her purpose.

Before, during, and after her career, Pam still finds purpose through her music. She enjoys taking her autoharp to nursing homes in the area and loves to tell stories through it. She also loves to play songs that are easy to sing and dance along with her. She feels that music is the perfect way that she can give back with the gift that was given to her and is so grateful to still have her Nana’s autoharp that she played for 65 years. Pam also plays the violin, bass fiddle, ukulele, and has quite a collection of antique and rare musical instruments. She performs with a chamber orchestra in Myrtle Beach and a theatre orchestra in Georgetown. They entertain audiences at various events and churches. She is a supporter of the Pawleys Island Festival of Music & Art (PIFMA) because she loves that the organization’s mission is to bring more music, arts, and culture into the community. She supports their annual events, has played with the orchestra for their parties, and has hosted their Culinary Symphony fundraiser a few times in her and her husband’s magnificent home.

Pam met Levon on a blind date set up by a mutual friend and the two southern love birds married a year later. They have three very active children, two daughters and a son. Their son, the youngest, owns a large aviation company. Their middle child entered the Navy after graduating from Clemson and today, she leads the community outreach ministry for her church in Virginia. Their oldest daughter is a regional vice president with one of the largest home health agencies. Pam and Levon also have plenty of lovely grandchildren who all stay together in their guest house and adore visiting the property. Pam smiled and said, “And they all know how to fish. I have taught them how to put their own crickets on and how to take the fish off the hook. They think it’s just the most fun to catch, cook, and then eat the fish they have caught.”

The greatest part of the Dunn’s property is that they have so much fun and so much to do without ever having to leave, thanks to all their hard work. The land was purchased in 1982 and at the time, it was all trees and river. The myriad of azaleas and crepe myrtles were soon planted, and the camellias and irises came after, making for quite a pretty show this time of year. Pam’s husband has a creative mind and designed all of the greenery, walkways, gazebos, and docks while Pam’s focus was on the inside of the home. Levon’s ultimate goal was to have something blooming all year round. About 5 years ago, they hired a landscape architect to design the Charleston gardens which included a large fountain in the center. Although Pam ruled the remodeling of the home, she also loves to garden. She has an herb garden and a huge vegetable garden during the summer. She also has an impressive, year-round citrus orchard full of kumquats, satsuma oranges, blueberries, several types of lemons, and a fig tree. She recently planted trees that she hopes will grow pomegranates, avocados, Hawaiian guava, and pink grapefruit.

The grandchildren stay entertained with scavenger hunts, riding the golf carts, visiting Pam’s citrus garden, and picking the fruit. Outside of fishing and kayaking, the family also takes the boat out on adventures. The Dunn’s have traveled to Hilton Head, Charleston, and Beaufort, and have spent many weekends there. They have a Pontoon boat so that they can fit more family on it for their sunny excursions. They have a unique outdoor patio that is the perfect area for grilling out, oyster roasts, and s’mores over their massive fire pit. Pam also enjoys reading on the upstairs porch or spending time out on the swing down by the river.

“Watching the sun rise and set over the water plants something in your soul that you never get over,” declared Pam. Her entire family never had a desire to be anywhere else other than the Grand Strand. Pam’s mother and siblings all live within 40 miles of their residence. For Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and to celebrate every family event, they all gather together on the property and bring covered dishes. Pam believes that spending quality time together with family is really the most important thing they can do for one another. Their grandmother lived to the age of 101 and even at 100 years old, she was still playing the piano at nursing homes. At the age of 96, Pam’s mother, Mary Shaw, is still actively playing bridge and running her bed and breakfast, The Shaw House, in Georgetown. I’m convinced that Pam’s family has found the key to staying young and living longer, and it’s to truly live; to spend quality time together laughing, dancing, singing, and soaking up all of the love and nature that surrounds us in the summer daze and every day.

The Shaw House is a charming bed and breakfast located near downtown Georgetown. The house overlooks the marsh and is overflowing with antiques and southern hospitality. It is owned and operated by Pam’s mother, Mary Shaw, who has graciously given us her famous Grits Casserole recipe.

The Shaw House Grits Casserole Recipe
(time: 30 min, serves: 12)

1 cup raw grits
4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter
1 Ib sausage (I like Jimmy Deans Hot)
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese

Add 1 cup raw grits to 4 cups of boiling water
Add 1 tsp salt and 1 stick of butter to grits and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes
Cool the grits after cooking, pour them into your 13” x 9” casserole dish and prepare the rest
Cook 1Ib sausage and drain
Beat 4 eggs with 1 cup of milk, add Jiffy cornbread mix, stir, add sausage, stir
Pour this over the grits in the casserole dish and stir it all together
Top with cheese
Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes

“The family flipped over this but decided that it would be extremely good paired with pancakes or waffles – something sweet to balance it all out. Enjoy!” -The Shaw Family

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