A year ago, the Web site with the URL
www.whencousinsmarry.com was in the
hands of a business in Baghdad offering to
arrange marriages. This year, it’s the place to
go to find the latest gig for a band with the
The debut CD Shotgun Wedding is out from
the Tar Heel “family” band When Cousins
Marry. But if you think you’ve already heard
of them, that’s no surprise. The group has
been around since the early 1980s.
“We have a great future behind us!” quips
bass player T. James “Jimmy” Dickerson
Jr. ’ 73.
“I can’t tell if Charles really thinks we’re
going to make it or he’s being ironic,” comments Tom Cole ’ 88 (MPH).
“Hey, when I told my students the band
was on i Tunes, I was suddenly cool,” adds
Steve Esthimer ’ 73.
“It’s an object lesson in consanguinity,”
Charles Blackburn ’ 73 concludes.
The whole thing started when Esthimer
and his wife, Nora Gaskin Esthimer ’ 73,
joined a food co-op in Durham and met
Spence Foscue, the fifth member of the band.
They played music in Esthimer’s basement.
Soon enough, him to join because
Blackburn showed up. Cole played trombone
Esthimer didn’t know and Foscue wanted an
Blackburn while they ally against the driving
were at UNC, but he rock guitar enthusiasm
had heard about of Esthimer and
“cousin Charles” from Blackburn. Dickerson
a college friend, became a cousin two
George Blackburn years ago, taking up
’ 72. At UNC, the the mantle of a long
Blackburn cousins string of bass players.
When Cousins Marry has put out a debut CD after decades
shared a basement of playing together: from left, Tom Cole ’ 88 (MPH), Jimmy Band members do
suite in Teague dorm Dickerson ’ 73, Charles Blackburn ’ 73, Spence Foscue and have some accom-
with Charles O’Hagan Steve Esthimer ’ 73. plished day jobs.
Grimes II ’ 73 and Anson Dorrance ’ 74, who Dickerson is retired from the UNC chemistry
went on to become well-known as UNC’s library. Blackburn is communications manager
women’s soccer coach. To keep themselves for the scientific honorary society Sigma Xi, a
sorted out, Charles Blackburn became founding member of the Paul Green
“Cousin Charles,” and the name stuck. A Foundation and past president of the N.C.
decade later, they decided to ditch their place- Writers’ Network. Esthimer still teaches at St.
of-origin-name, The Basement Band, for Mary’s in Raleigh, where he is the Nancy
When Cousins Marry. O’Herron Rankin Chair of humanities and
Esthimer was teaching at St. Mary’s College, social sciences. Cole is an editor for the Journal
so he volunteered his band for a school event. of the American Medical Society, and Foscue has
That led to about 25 years of St. Mary’s events, a 25-year career in the mental health field.
private parties and other gigs, mostly playing While he is just a “cousin” and not an offi-covers of “Mustang Sally” and “Midnight cial Tar Heel, Foscue’s second claim to fame is
Hour.” As original material swamped the his place as the drummer behind Equinox, the
music scene, the group began to write songs. band that features UNC Chancellor Holden
“It’s a collaborative process,” Blackburn Thorp ’ 86 on keyboards.
says. Cole suspects drummer Foscue invited — Susan Simone
In November 2006, Caroline Owen was in
a single-car accident that left her in a coma for
months. Once she came out of her coma in
April 2007 and began the long rehabilitation
process, brothers Reid Owen ’05 and Jay
Owen started Caroline Can!, challenging
themselves to swim a relay across the English
Channel. The goal was to raise money for the
rehabilitation center in Knoxville, Tenn., where
their sister was working hard to overcome
fractures and acute traumatic brain injury.
“Based on the hard work Caroline was
putting in and how much she loved the therapists, my brother and I decided to do something for the therapists in honor of my sister,”
The brothers, both living in Washington,
D.C., trained for 18 months, with long swims
on weekends and open-water races over the
summer. Swimming long distances came naturally for Reid, who walked onto the UNC
swim team his freshman year and specialized
in distance events, including the 1,650-yard
freestyle. He was an All-America honorable
mention by his junior year.
The Owen family and supporters traveled
to England in August to cheer for the brothers as they attempted the swim. But windy
weather made the water too choppy for the
26-mile swim from Dover to France. Instead,
they swam the same distance in Dover
Harbor, where the water was slightly less
choppy, over seven and a half hours against 27
mph winds. Reid swam 14 miles, Jay 12.
The day was still a huge celebration. “The
water was still cold and still wavy. It just wasn’t
from England to France,” he said. “My sister
makes the best of everything, so we did, too.”
Caroline Can! ( www.carolinecan.com) has
raised more than $42,000 out of a $50,000
goal to provide scholarships for physical therapists at the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation
Center at Fort Sanders Regional Medical
Center in Knoxville to attend training on
treating traumatic brain injuries.
Reid said he and Jay hope to get another
chance to swim across the English Channel as
a family relay with Caroline, once she is better.
— Elizabeth Templin
COURTESY OWEN FAMILY
Jay Owen and Reid Owen ’05 celebrate their swim in Dover
Harbor with sister Caroline. The swim was part of fundraising for the rehabilitation center that helped Caroline.
Read extended pieces in Class Notes:
Art Menius III ’ 77, page 83
Jeb Stuart ’ 78, page 84
Dr. Jessica Y. Lee ’02 (PhD), page 93
John A. Tate Jr. ’ 38, page 64
Hayden Carruth ’ 43, page 65
Nancy Correll Roberts-Brown ’ 47, page 66
Edward Wike Sutton ’ 57, page 67