June’s MVP: Natalie Hefter

Lowcountry maven Natalie Hefter is commended for her contributions to our community.

Lowcountry maven Natalie Hefter is commended for her contributions to our community.Want to know the history of life before the mainland bridge to Hilton Head Island? Just ask Natalie. Ever wondered about the headstones that seem to lean into the sunset along Broad Creek? Curious to know where alligators go after sunning themselves on the lazy lagoon bank or how long it takes to restore an old hunting plantation to its former glory? Just ask Natalie. Sometimes we’re all defined by what we do and when you carry around in your head the breadth and depth of knowledge about all things Lowcountry that Natalie Hefter does, you’re bound to garner a reputation as the one with lots of answers to lots of questions.

As Vice President of Programs for the Coastal Discovery Museum, Hefter counts herself lucky to be doing what she’s always loved since childhood. She hails from a family where international travel was the norm and time spent in museums and historic sites in the hinterlands of China, Australia and Europe, and she sowed the seeds of curiosity that you’ll still find growing in Hefter today. The best part is that she’s also sharing her knowledge with everyone from grade schoolers learning the basics about marsh life, to retirees wanting to know more about the interesting past and present of a place they now call home.

With an undergraduate degree in art history, it was the years following in graduate school studying public history and historic preservation that brought Hefter to the island full time. She began at the Coastal Discovery Museum as a grad school intern, 11 years ago, and has been part of its thriving growth ever since.

She’s originally from Indiana, but if you ask Hefter about favorite spots among her travels, she’s quick to answer Venice, Italy where she spent a year studying ancient civilizations. Closer to home, she loves wandering historic Charleston and meandering among the waterways on the boat she and her husband Chris step aboard as much as possible.

Ironically, though neither of them lived here at the time – both knew each other while living in Connecticut, she made the connection with husband Chris while both were on vacation with family at Hilton Head’s Holiday Inn 20 years ago. They began to date in high school and throughout college and have been married for eight years.

Both lead busy lives in Bluffton and Hefter claims that when it comes to domesticity, Chris wears the chef pants in the family. Salad and grilled cheese is what she calls her specialty, but Hefter is the first to admit that, with all the great Lowcountry seafood to be found, she’s not too upset about her lack of culinary skills.

When she’s not busy helping others discover the flora and fauna and legacy of the Lowcountry, she can always be found volunteering for any number of organizations in the area and is a ready presence at most events on the island and in Bluffton.

“I love the area’s natural beauty and love learning about the Lowcountry,” said Hefter. Lucky for us, if we have questions, she usually has the answers.

Learn more about Hefter and her work at the museum by visiting coastaldiscovery.org.