From Marion to Murphy, Columbus to Newland, Western North Carolina is expansive. Carolina Public Press’ We are WNC feature profiles Western North Carolinians, in photographs and their own words, who share what it means to live in Western North Carolina, offer insight into our collective and solitary lives, highlight personal and community successes and struggles, and showcase our region’s uniqueness and commonality. We are WNC explores the themes, ideas and experiences that connect us to and with our mountain region.

By Mike Belleme, contributing photographer, and Kristen Molina-Nauert, contributing audiographer

John Belleme lives in Saluda, N.C. A leading expert on the topic of Japanese food and health, Belleme has co-authored five books and more than 100 articles with his wife, Jan. Currently, he is a partner in a company that organizes an annual holistic cruise.

In honor of Father’s Day, we present this portrait of Belleme, father to photographer Mike Belleme, who helped produce this piece. A son in a traditional Italian family, John shares how he struggled to find connections with his father, and how he worked to change that type of relationship with his own sons. “He was the one who introduced me to photography and taught me the basics and has influenced me throughout my life in so many ways,” his son Mike writes.

Kristen Molina-Nauert is a contributing reporter and audiographer for Carolina Public Press. Contact her at

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Mike Belleme is a contributing photographer for Carolina Public Press. Contact him at

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