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Who was Cappy, the Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach swimmer?

Alexandra Koch
StarNews

Famous for his long-distance swimming, Henry Dominic “Cappy” Capillary was one with the ocean — swimming up to 10 miles a day, every day of the summer, for 42 years.

The grey-haired man would be spotted swimming far out into the ocean, swimming for hours on end. He cruised the water several miles off Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach every summer after his college graduation in 1940.

Newcomers to the beach would send the Coast Guard to help the older man, worried that he had drifted off to sea. Upon the Coast Guard’s arrival, Capillary would just swim farther out to sea and say, “Thank you, fellas,” continuing on.

“I appreciate them coming out,” Capillary said. “It might not have been me.”

Yet he insisted he was fine on his own.

Capillary received a teaching degree at Elon University, yet went on to work as a civilian employee at Fort Bragg, various Wilmington shipyards, and Western Electric in Burlington before retiring to Graham and living out of his ’69 Cadillac. At the age of 77, Cappy passed away on July 5, 1990.

Cappy’s 42-year habit kept him young at heart. “I’ve got to be out there swimming. It’s like a magnet to me. If I don’t get out there, something is wrong — I’ve wasted my day.”

A photo of Henry "Cappy" Capillary is displayed on his headstone in Carolina Beach. Photo Courtesy Tom Reece

A photo of Henry “Cappy” Capillary is displayed on his headstone in Carolina Beach. Photo Courtesy Tom Reece

Cappy lacked fear of the water and claimed to have a spiritual bond with the wildlife.

“It’s like swimming into paradise. I forget I’m swimming and get out there a mile or more,” he said.

For more, read past stories from the StarNews and The Associated Press.

Or find out more about Cappy’s gravesite in Carolina Beach.

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One Response to “ Who was Cappy, the Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach swimmer?”

  1. On July 26, 2016 at 9:38 am Anne Russell wrote:

    Love this! Thank you., Alexandra Koch. Reminds me of my poem Cap’n Ed in my Wrightsville Beach collection: “My grandfather swam with the dolphins…” And reminds me of my husband Howard Garriss, who swims far out in the ocean every day, along the beach, with folks reporting him, as they did with Cappy.



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