Welcome to the happiest girl in the whole U.S.A.

First Posted: 10/28/2009

Today, North Carolina Highway 103 will be named for Mount Airy native Donna Fargo and it couldnt be happening to a nicer or more deserving person.
Fargo, who now lives in Nashville, Tenn., never forgot where her roots were. She is proud to call Mount Airy her hometown and told me that she couldnt be more excited to be honored in this way.
Just recently, I was talking with an old friend who has moved away from the area. He told me that when he was younger, he wanted to be so famous that his picture would be the fourth one at the old Mount Airy Greyhound station. He asked me if I knew who was in those pictures. My response was that while I knew where the old bus station was, I didnt go there ever. Knowing that my friend will probably become famous one day because of his intellect, I stupidly guessed that one of the pictures was of Einstein. Thats when he gave me my first hint one of the pictures was of Donna Fargo. I easily guessed the second picture as that of Andy Griffith. The third one had me stumped. After he figured Id never guess it, he told me it was a picture of the granite quarry.
I suppose the third picture probably should have been of our famous Siamese twins Eng and Chang Bunker. They already have a permanent landmark at White Plains Baptist Church where they are buried, not to mention the legacy of all their descendants, many of whom still live in the area.
Now that a highway has been named after Andy Griffith and Mount Airy now has a museum in his name, and the granite quarry is already a landmark, we will translate those photographs that no longer hang on the old bus station into permanent landmarks. Today, Donna Fargo will get her own landmark, the road that runs beside where she and her family grew up.
Fargo memorabilia will also have a permanent place as a part of the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, which will be opened today as well. When I talked to her this summer, she told me she was picking out the best dresses and awards to donate to the museum.
I have to say from personal experience that Donna Fargo is one of the most genuinely gracious people I know. She is nothing like the celebrities of today who are not in touch with their fans and cant be bothered with little things like a kind word or an autograph.
When they dedicated the Donna Fargo exhibit in the Robert Smith house in 2003, she signed autographs all day, until every fan who came to see her got to spend a few moments with her getting an autograph or having a picture taken. She took time to listen to people and really make them feel special. I dont know many people today who are so gracious.
Before she came for that dedication she asked Ann Vaughn (who has been in charge of the highway dedication) if she thought anyone would show up. When the day came, 4,000 visitors lined up to see her. She started signing autographs at 11 a.m. and signed the last one at 10 p.m. that night.
In my own experience, I saw Donna the day before I had a procedure at Northern Hospital this summer. After hearing me mention it, she sent flowers to me at the hospital, which not only thrilled me to pieces, but also really impressed the nursing staff. Thats just one example of what a kind, generous and thoughtful person she really is.
When I was just a little girl riding in the back seat of my parents car, I remember hearing Donna Fargo tunes on the radio. I still know all the words to The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A. So to be able to talk to her on the phone and meet her in person has been a humbling experience for me to say the least. At my home, I proudly display a picture that Ann took of me and Donna together this summer. To me she is like a member of the family.
Now as we welcome her back to her hometown, I know that she will not only be happy to see us, but I know we will give her the warm hometown welcome that she deserves.
Mondee Tilley is a staff reporter at The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at [email protected] or at 719-1930.

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