North Carolinians can name the characters one by one: Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee, Opie, Gomer, Floyd, Goober, Helen, Howard, Charlene, Otis, Ernest T., and of course, Thelma Lou. Fans can recall their favorite episodes from the goat who ate dynamite to the little bird Opie nursed back to health to the arrival of the singing Darlings from the mountains.”The Andy Griffith Show” has been on television for more than 50 years, and the town of Mayberry has resonated as a place where family dinners are valuable, kindness towards neighbors is expected, and church on Sundays is important. The characters have become beloved and iconic.”Mount Airy has adopted me, and it is the sweetest thing ever,” said Betty Lynn. “I go to the market and people go, ‘Are you Thelma Lou?’ I say, ‘yes’ and they hug me. They cry. All these emotions come up.”Mount Airy, the birthplace of Griffith, has embraced “The Andy Griffith Show,” its characters, and the adoration from fans. The streets are welcoming, the people are friendly, and the nostalgia is heartwarming. You’ll find the Andy Griffith Museum, The Loaded Goat restaurant, Barney’s Cafe, Floyd’s Barber Shop, Squad Car Tours, and many more.”I enjoy signing autographs and learning where my fans are from. Some can quote the show better than I can. It’s been a thrill all of them are our audience. I meet them and answer their questions as best I can,” said Lynn.She greets each fan with a smile, a wave, a hug, or will even blow them a kiss. She is gracious to each and every one while taking the time to learn who they are.Lynn played the role of Thelma Lou, the lovable, friendly, and supportive girlfriend of Deputy Barney Fife, who was played by actor and comedian Don Knotts. She moved to Mount Airy in January of 2007, and the town has warmly adopted her as a native while North Carolina has embraced her as one of its own daughters.On August 29, she celebrated her 90th birthday as the community, fans, and friends came together in her honor. Autograph signings were held at the Andy Griffith Museum; the Surry Arts Council unveiled the Betty Lynn Exhibit; dinner and birthday cake were had at the Loaded Goat; the movie “June Bride,” which stars Lynn and Betty Davis, was presented; and there was even a video tribute from Ron Howard. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest presented Lynn with the North Carolina’s highest honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.”It is wonderful all this has happened to me on my 90th birthday, and people have come from all over to celebrate,” said Lynn. “I don’t know how you say thank you to all this.”The exhibit contains the outfit from Lynn’s USO Camp Shows; a script from her film, “June Bride;” a rhinestone-studded mirror that was a gift from Don Knotts and much more, as it gives viewers a glimpse into her life.”I loved being on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ those were the happiest days of my life,” said Lynn.Knotts and Lynn had a friendship outside of the show and continued after the show’s run ended.”He was actually very quiet, nothing like Barney Fife. In later years, Don and I would have dinner, and his wife, Francey, would join us. Don would sit quietly and smile while Francey and I would talk and talk,” said Lynn. “He was as sweet as can be.”Lynn still watches episodes of the show and takes pride in the fact that generations after its original airing have done the same.”Children today can learn a lot from this show,” said Lynn. “The longer I live here, the more I see what Andy [Griffith] drew from this area. I’m so grateful to be here.””It touches my heart. People who care about the show mean so much because I care about the show,” she added. “I think it’s the best thing ever on television, and I hope it never goes off. I loved the show, cared about it, and am emotionally attached to it.”Both Betty Lynn and Thelma Lou are delightful, charming, wholesome, and adored. And while Barney continues to love Thelma Lou, North Carolina continues to love Betty Lynn.
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