Jonathan Stuart was a man in his fifties. He had traveled to NC on a visit and fell in love with the state and this area. I don't remember his reason for coming to Traphill. During his visit to the area he fell in love with this area and in particular with the riverside property. I mentioned that he was trying to establish a residence and as he put it: "Find himself a wife". So, he purchased the land, moved a mobile home on it and resided there ever since. He was using an online dating service to fulfill his other wish.
At the time we bought our vineyard property, he was already living there. Every time we came up from Florida to visit, we always made a point to visit him. He also kept an eye on our land since we did not have a caretaker at the time, and only had a cattle gate to secure our property. We gave him a key and would open the gate when we had deliveries made ahead of our arrival.
I remember one time while we were visiting him he told my husband how lucky he was to have a good wife. And how much he wanted that for himself. We knew he had not yet found his soulmate but he kept dating different women.
We told him that once he built his dream home that his prospects would be much better but he never got to realize his dreams.
On December 6, 2010 Tom was on a business trip in NC and decided to look in on our property, we had a residence on top of the hill by that time, so it was easy for him to stay there. During his visit with Jonathan he found that he was sick and had a cough that sounded really bad, so Tom suggested that he needed to see a doctor. Jonathan stated that he did not trust doctors and that he would self-medicate.
He had an unusual belief system. He did not trust the government, stated that they had fly-overs just to spy on us. But he was the nicest guy, not a mean bone in him. He adopted 7 dogs that people dropped off by the Roaring River bridge near his home. So the fact that he did not trust doctors did not surprise us very much. Regardless of that, Tom strongly urged him to see a doctor. We did not hear from him after that because we did not come up often during the winter season.
In March, of 2010 we got a call from our Vineyard Manager that Jonathan had died. We were shocked! Apparently, after self-mediating he was not getting better and decided to see a doctor the week between Christmas and the New Year. Soon after he received the bad news that he had stage 4 lung cancer.
Soon after that, his son came to drive him to Florida at first, then to Alabama where his family lived. He was hospitalized and passed away 3 weeks later. As soon as we found out we called his family to express our condolences and found out his brother also had cancer. It broke our hearts to hear that.
His mother and sisters came to visit not long after we bought the house and were happy to see what we had done with it since purchasing it.
We felt so bad that Jonathan never saw the house in its finished state and not had the chance to live in it. In the beginning I felt his presence, and sometimes addressed him. We built a memorial by the Grist Mill that was a popular swim home in the area- it has the date when he was born and the date he died, with his name and a bible verse to honor his memory. We showed it to his mother on a subsequent visit and she was happy that we remembered him in that way.
The construction workers told me that Jonathan's departure was so rapid that he left the sun roof of his Mercedes open, his cell phone on the seat. Left the house and pick-up truck unlocked. They fed the dogs while they continued working on the construction of the house. Eventually, after they found out he had died they fed the dogs everyday until they were able to place the dogs. Only one dog remained after some time, and the builder drove over him in his pick-up. The next day the builder brought his gun to finish off the dog and put him out of his misery. But when he arrived the dog was running around like nothing had happened! Evidently, the ground was soggy after some rain, and when he was run over the dog sank in the mud, saving his life in the process. They could not find anyone to adopt him so we took him in. He is a beautiful large Australian Ridged-back, rust-colored and named Rusty. The funny thing is that we already had two dogs and one of them was also named Rusty. Our dogs are inside dogs, and he was a free running outdoor dog. So we asked our Vineyard Manager to watch over him, that we would own him, and pay for his food and expenses until we move here permanently.
In October 2012 we officially relocated from Florida to Traphill, NC. We live in Jonathan's old house and now have 3 dogs. Rusty stays on top of the vineyards and visit our house by the river. When he comes down "Little Florida Rusty" and Bobo bark at him and chase him when he visits they just can't understand that he, too, is our dog!