SUTTON, W.Va. -- He owns Sutton Lake Marina. The role suits him. He's laid back and social, a veteran boater and a visionary businessman, the perfect persona for overseeing the casual ambiance of an intimate lakeside resort.
At 65, Connecticut native Bill Hunt feels at home in the oasis of serenity he discovered when he moved to Gassaway to set up a new plant in the 1970s.
He was a gearhead in high school and college and a notoriously poor student. His passion for cars and cycles ultimately shifted to refurbishing and showing antique boats.
Eventually, fortuitously, he found his vocational niche in real estate. Rewarded and encouraged by the demand for land in rural West Virginia, he moved on to commercial sales in the bustling, big-city environment around Washington, D.C.
The lake kept luring him back. When the sale sign went up for Sutton Marina in 2008, he bought the place, burned it down and rebuilt it.
Ah, peace at last. Thanks to a little kismet.
"I just started on my 65th trip around the sun. I grew up in Hartford, Conn. My mother was a very difficult woman. She was an attorney before it was cool to be a woman attorney, so she had to be difficult. My father was an architect who worked for the state of Connecticut.
"I had no clue what I wanted to do. I was an absolutely terrible student. I spent my life flunking out of schools.
"I was a greaser -- hot rods, cars and motorcycles, drag racing and auto-crossing. It was an expensive hobby. I earned my own money working at gas stations as a mechanic and at fast food joints.
"I did graduate from high school, finally. I was 1-A and ready to get drafted. Before I was ready to go to Uncle Sam, I drove off in my 1961 Corvette just to travel around.
"I stopped at a bar in Monroe, La., a hangout for kids who were going to Northeast Louisiana University. I stayed with them and partied and drank too much.
"A lot were from New Jersey and New York. I asked what they were doing in Monroe, La., and they said they were going to college. I said, 'You're just as stupid as I am. How can you be going to college?' They said at this school, if you had the tuition you could get in.
"It took me six years to get through high school, but they said I could still go to college there. The dean of admissions asked if I could scrape up the tuition. I said my parents probably would help me. He said, 'Well, you are enrolled for the fall session.'
"What I did not know is that it was a land-grant college. When I signed papers to get into school, I also enrolled in ROTC. So there I was with an M-1 rifle and a helmet parading around the parade fields in the Louisiana sun. Instead of being a grunt in Vietnam, I was slated to be a second lieutenant and shot in the back of the head.
"I had to maintain a 3.0 to stay. If I didn't, I had to write essays and do pleadings to the board of directors. I got pretty good at that.
"Because of my connection with automobiles, I met a lot of guys from Plaquemines Parish up around New Orleans. They were Cajuns and spoke as if they were dead black. They are the greatest people on the planet. My best friend was Felix Dalbor. He lived in the swamps and hadn't seen a car until he was 13, and it was love at first sight, so he was a gearhead.
"These Cajuns and I lived together and had a very good time. Plaquemines Parish was an oil and gas parish and incredibly rich. If you were a high school student and went to Northeast Louisiana University, the parish would pick up the entire tab for your education. That's why all these Plaquemines Parish people were there.
"My lottery number was 284. I have the highest respect for those who went to Vietnam. Some from Plaquemines Parish didn't come back. I beat the draft, but maybe going was something I should have done.
"I stayed in college three years. Finally, the college fired me and I went on my way. It was time to get out in the world.
"My family had a summer place in Leesburg, Va. On a sister farm in Leesburg, I was introduced to Mary. We got married in 1970.
"I was working for Cellular Industries. They were going to move their plant to Gassaway, W.Va., and asked if I would like to move with the plant and put it together.
"Gassaway? Where's that? But I moved here. For six months, I lived in a mobile home and just went from there to the plant. I didn't know this stuff was out here.