I was young, and only three or four months out of college when I had the chance to attend my first Mayberry Days event.
It was just a short time before I got a job as a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News, so I was covering it for work, just attending with family.
I walked into the front door of the blue house on Main Street, known as the Dr. Robert Smith House and at the time it served as the Mount Airy Visitors Center. My mother was by my side.
She smiled at a couple standing in front of the steps to the second level of the home, and introduced me to them — Andy Griffith’s best friend from his childhood and his wife, the late Emmett and Bobbie Forrest. The Dr. Robert Smith House was the first home of Emmett’s massive Andy Griffith collection, which is now housed at the Surry Arts Council’s Andy Griffith Museum.
Now I may not seem like the image of someone who is the typical “Andy Griffith Show” fan, because I’m younger than that generation that grew up watching him — my parents’ generation. But in fact, I’m a huge fan of Andy Griffith in general, including “Matlock,” and so I was honored to meet someone who knew him as well as Emmett and Bobbie did.
From that day forward I frequently saw Emmett and his wife Bobbie downtown and at church where we all attended, and I considered them friends.
Many of the stories I’ve written at The Mount Airy News include coverage of Andy Griffith and Emmett, including the happenings leading up to as well as the actual dedication of U.S. 52 as the Andy Griffith Parkway, stories about the new additions to the collection through the years, a story when independent auditors came and appraised the collection’s worth for insurance purposes, a profile on Emmett just a couple years ago when he was honored on the Mayberry Days T-shirts, and many, many other stories I’ve had the privilege of doing.
I was so sad Saturday when I learned of Emmett’s passing, just months after the death of Andy Griffith.
Also, as a frequent diner at Barney’s restaurant, I ran into Emmett many days when he also was frequenting the Main Street establishment.
The last time I saw Emmett before he got so very sick the last few weeks he was sitting on a bench in front of Talley’s Frame Shop next door to Barney’s. He, my husband, Little Man and I spent a good amount of time talking and catching up and just visiting.
He always had a smile for everyone, and loved talking with people he met on the street, and especially as he volunteered his time showing people around the Andy Griffith collection at the museum.
I’m not sure that I ever saw Emmett without a smile, a hand shake or a hug for whoever he was talking to or even strangers he greeted.
And he has thousands of friends and fans who have spent years getting to know him through his love of Andy and the time he spent sharing Andy’s work with his fans.
We are so very lucky to have had someone as good to our community as Emmett was, and his work and dedication will live on through our memories as well as through the daily visits made to see his Andy Griffith collection.
Hats off to Emmett. We will miss you dearly.
Wendy Byerly Wood is the associate editor of The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 719-1923.