Home from the Range

Innkeepers Bob and Bebe Woody recall their decades as National Park Service rangers
Bob and Bebe Woody at the White Doe Inn in Manteo, North Carolina.
Bob and Bebe Woody at the White Doe Inn in Manteo, North Carolina.

Brooke Mayo

As innkeepers go, Bob and Bebe Woody seem perfectly normal. They spend their days tending to the White Doe Inn, a 1910 Victorian bed and breakfast on Roanoke Island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. They make breakfast for their guests. They fix things that break. They rest when they can.

But once people discover that the couple spent three decades as National Park Service rangers (he in several locations across the country, she in Cape Hatteras National Seashore), it’s clear the Woodys are no regular innkeepers. “Guests can’t believe it,” Bob says. “They want to hear our stories.”

And boy do they have some to tell. Both native North Carolinians, Bob and Bebe accepted jobs with the National Park Service in the early sixties for different reasons: He wanted to work outdoors, while she was interested in restoring and preserving the country’s cultural resources. When Bebe joined, she became a clerk typist because women weren’t allowed to be rangers; once the rules changed in 1978, she was one of the first females to wear the service’s trademark badge. They met in the early eighties, when Bob was transferred from Joshua Tree to Cape Hatteras.

By that time, he’d already had his share of adventures: He’d hunted a killer grizzly in Yellowstone and hidden from a prowling panther in the Everglades. In Cape Hatteras, he joined a team tasked with sampling DNA from wild horses on the secluded island of Corolla to determine their lineage.

1005903_10151537277517939_373893695_n (1)

The Woodys at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, in 1988.

During their time as Cape Hatteras rangers, Bob and Bebe’s work occasionally overlapped, such as when they both joined the team that moved the park’s namesake lighthouse from the ocean’s edge to safer ground. Bebe spent months researching the nineteenth-century structure to ensure it was properly restored; Bob served as a spokesman for the project.

As their retirements approached, the two knew they weren’t ready to stop working. That’s when they discovered a vacant home on Roanoke Island listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Bob suggested turning it into a bed and breakfast, and “a light went on in Bebe’s eyes,” he says.

The two opened the inn in 1995 and haven’t looked back. As the National Park Service turns 100, they’re happy to tell stories from their ranger days, but they’re satisfied with their lives as innkeepers. As Bob puts it: “We feel like we’ve had two of the best jobs you can have in life.”