We’ve posted before about the enduring appeal of The Andy Griffith Show to a near religious level, especially here in the South. It embodies many of the things we hold as sacred – love of family, the laidback small town lifestyle, strong sense of community, etc. The show has a timeless appeal that stays strong despite being well over 50 years old. It is particularly odd since most episodes are still shown in black and white in today’s HD world. It proves that quality will always stand the test of time.
A while back, I had the pleasure of speaking with actress Betty Lynn while visiting Mt. Airy, NC. Ms. Lynn played the role of Thelma Lou, who is best known as the girlfriend of Deputy Barney Fife. I asked Ms. Lynn about when and why she had moved to Mt. Airy and she responded, “I decided to move after my home in Los Angeles was robbed for the second time. I no longer felt safe there so I started looking around at options – my first thought was to move back to my original home state of Missouri. I was asked at about this same time to come visit Mt. Airy to be part of the ‘Mayberry Days’ celebration. Once I came here, they suggested that I should move here permanently. I decided to try it out for a bit – I actually just rented a place at first because I wasn’t sure that I’d want to stay. It wasn’t long after I moved here that I just fell in love with the area and knew I wanted to be here.”
I asked what was the deciding factor that made her choose to stay for good, she quickly replied, “It’s a beautiful area and I love the mountains, but what really made me know it was the right place for me was the people. I’ve met some of the sweetest, most genuine people that I’ve ever known since I have been in Mt. Airy. Everyone I meet is so kind that it really feels like home to me now.”
Betty Lynn gives off an unquestionable aura of peace, happiness and positivity. I asked her secret to living a happy life and she gave me these pearls of wisdom, “I had a great family while I was growing up. My family supported me 100% with unconditional love that made me feel I could achieve anything I wanted to do. As I grew older, I surrounded myself with friends who were positive influences on my life. I think it is important to make sure you stay around good people. I also tried to do everything I could to return the support that my family gave me. God blessed my life and I wanted to use that to help the people who’d been there for me.”
Finally, I asked her why she still makes public appearances at the age of 88-years-old to which she said, “I love seeing how much it means to the people who love the show. I’m as a big a fan of the show as they are and still watch it every chance I get. I get the biggest joy out of knowing that I can do a small part in making their day better. I get as much out of the experience as they do just by seeing their smiles and excitement.”
I wanted to share this experience with TAP because I think it is good to hear confirmation of what we already know – our people are the greatest natural resource in Appalachia. She might not have begun her life in Appalachia but Betty Lynn chose to spend the rest of her life here – quite a testimony. I think it also serves as a great reminder that the happiest people in life are those that give more than they take. Betty Lynn doesn’t have to put herself out at her age but she does so to put smiles on other people’s faces. I think we would all find that is a pure reward in what sometimes feels like a sea of selfishness. Barney Fife would be proud to see that Thel has nipped selfishness in the bud. – Shane
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