A friend of a friend-Mike Kelly and Tonnie Prevatte-May 24

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for May 24, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

Memorial weekend is the traditional start of the summer. For many folks that live in my part of North Carolina that means beach trips. One of my friends Tonnie Prevatte of Lumberton, NC is one of those people that likes to spend time at the beach specifically his second home at Ocean Isle, NC. He and his wife Marilyn have a beautiful home on a canal but that hasn’t always been the case.

When I first met Tonnie in 1986 we bonded because we were both comfortable with the definition of a good time being with family & friends. He liked an informal setting cooking outside on the grill and drinking beer was formal enough for him. He didn’t need fancy.

Our familes soon became such good friends we would go to the beach together and spend a week in rented house. I remember one house located on a canal that had Tonnie excited. We went to my in-laws lake house and got their jon boat and 25 HP outboard motor. Tonnie and I had a vacation plan to do some daily flounder fishing. We spend every day that week driving from Cherry Grove SC to Ocean Isle, NC to a marine repair shop. I still cringe  everytime I drive by it when I go to Ocean Isle. We never got that boat in the water for any extended time.

Other trips included gas grills exploding, limousine rides to a series of night clubs, Tonnie daughters having to clean up baby poo while babysitting, feasts on shrimp, sunburn, lots of beer, and even more laughs.

In 1988 Tonnie Prevatte who had been a high performing district sales manager in the manufacturing housing industry left to start Prevatte Home Sales in Lumberton, NC. That was a bold move considering he had two small daughters and a wife to support.

There were some rough spots along the way but his award winning business in still in place today some 27 years later. In recognition of the businesses success many awards have come to Prevatte Home Sales. One of those includes the 2010 North Carolina Manufactured and Modular Homebuilders Association (NCMHA) eighth annual North Carolina Independent Retailer of the Year award.

This prestigious award was created to recognize manufactured/modular retail businesses within the state of North Carolina whose sales team shows consistent and outstanding involvement in serving the NCMHA, its local community and the manufactured and modular housing industry as a whole. As a pivotal part of the Lumberton region for the past 27 years, owner Tonnie Prevatte is proud to provide the quality of service that a small, family owned business is known for.

In 2014 Tonnie received the Rollan Jones Member of the Year award as voted by the members NCMHA. He has distinguished himself in the 40 years he has worked in that industry.

Tonnie is also a leader. He has been appointed by the Governor of North Carolina to serve on the North Carolina Manufactured Housing Board. Tonnie also is part of our community and is an active member with the local masonic lodge. He is constantly involved in supporting local community events.

Picture of Tonnie and Marilyn with four of their five grandchildren


In spite of all of those business and leadership accolades what Tonnie really is most proud of is being a husband to Marilyn, a dad to Stephanie and Tina, a granddad to five special children, a self-proclaimed world class fisherman, the captain of the seafaring vessel Precious, and to me and many others a trusted friend. He has aways been loyal and extremely generous. My wife and I will never forget when Tonnie and Marilyn invited us to join them on a trip to the  Bahamas that he had won for record sales.

I am just one of the many friends Tonnie has. Another special one is Mike Kelley


The Friend of the Friend-MIKE KELLEY

(l-r) Tonnie, Marilyn, and Mike in Red Shirt


Fishing aboard Precious

There is no telling how many days Mike Kelley and Tonnie Prevatte have fished together. What would be harder to calculate is how many beers the two of them have drank. What I can tell you is that over time the two of them have become better friends. Over time despite opinions to the contrary they have become accomplished fishermen.


Even accomplished fishermen have their moments. My favorite story about Tonnie and Mike happened a decade ago. I think it shows how Tonnie optimism as a fisherman would have to be balanced with Mike Kelley’s sense of reality.

Tonnie decided to stay down at Ocean Isle, NC on a fall Monday. Mike was gone back to work at Fleetwood and Marilyn was gone. It was going to just be Tonnie and the remmants of a 12 pack of Natural Light. He pulled the boat Precious easily out of the canal and headed to the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). He proceeded towards Sunset Beach, NC and found a bridge to tie off on. He got his rod holders in place and put out four lines including one that had a $500 reel on it. He bent over to get a beer out of the cooler when he heard the reel wheezing. He turned around and watched his $500 reel which was not placed in the rod holder correctly go overboard.

Two thoughs went thru Tonnie’s mind-1. That was probably a very big redfish and 2. He wanted to get his fish and reel back in the boat. He also fantasized about telling Mike he had caught a citation size fish.

He had what he thought was a brillant idea. He was going to take his cast net and snag that fish or better yet get the rod n’ reel. He began tossing and on third cast he thought he had hit paydirt. He tugged on the rope and he knew there was something in that net because of the resistence on the line. When the 10 foot cast net came up along the side of the boat Tonnie was flabbergasted. The freaking net was packed with shrimp. He dumpd the shrimp into his cooler. He cast again hoping to get that reel back. He again was filled with an optimistic spirit as he tugged on the line. When the net came up it even had more shrimp than his first bounty. He dumped those in the cooler but he had so much it was overflowing.

Tonnie gave up on the lost rod n’ reel and citation size redfish. He went back to his opened beer sat down and called Mike at work. Leaving the part of the story out about the lost rod he bragged to his pal Mike about the success he had shrimping. Mike let him go on and on about his successes until Mike finally had to bust his bubble. He told Tonnie that in North Carolina waters he was shrimping out of season. Each shrimp could carry up to a twenty-five dollar fine. Tonnie had enought shrimp to warrant a fine number that would be in the thousands of dollars in that cooler.

Tonnie very carefuly drove Precious back to the dock. He didn’t get fined but factoring in the lost $500 reel he hosted Mike Kelley and Marilyn to a very expensive shrimp boil.


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