Virginia woman immortalized in children’s book ‘Misty of Chincoteague’ dies at 81

A Chincoteague, Virginia, legend has passed.

Maureen Beebe Hursh, whose story inspired both a children’s novel and film, died Saturday. She was 81.

Hursh’s experience with a pony named Misty was the basis of the 1947 book “Misty of Chincoteague,” which in turn inspired the 1961 film “Misty.”

Her larger-than-life status belied a personality that shied from the spotlight, one friend told WTOP.

“She was just an absolute wonderful person and really epitomizes how wonderful the people are of the Eastern Shore and especially Chincoteague,” said Kevin Carr, artistic director for the Arlington Children’s Chorus.

Carr recalled how he met Hursh about 15 years ago when he stayed at a Chincoteague beach house for which she served as a caretaker of sorts.

“She was a master storyteller and just an infectious person to be around,” Carr said. “She was just so much fun and could tell so many stories, and really had all these wonderful insights about the Eastern Shore and growing up there, and all about ‘Misty’ and how that evolved and the way the island looked when the movie was filmed.”

Hursh and her brother’s experiences with the namesake pony were the inspiration for Marguerite Henry’s 1947 book, which also spotlighted life around Chincoteague and nearby Assateague Island — including the annual pony-penning event.

“She was just so good to everyone. … She was such a resource, a wonderful storyteller, a beautiful soul — a good person through and through, and smart as a whip,” Carr said.

In a Facebook post Saturday, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Co. remembered her as so much more than the little girl in that famous book. “She was a legend, a testament to good works, a heartfelt soul who cherished her independence and her family,” they said.

Hursh is survived by two daughters. A visitation is set for Thursday at a Chincoteague funeral home.

WTOP’s Keara Dowd contributed to this report.

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