Thelma Lou

Thelma Lou gives me a kiss on the cheek at the Andy Griffith Museum in Mt. Airy, N.C. Don't tell Barney, or my wife.

My dog’s name is Opie. That should tell you enough about my fanboy status for the “Andy Griffith Show.”

Opie was a red-haired poodle when we purchased him eight years ago – the same hair color tint as Ron Howard who portrayed Opie on the show. That’s how my wife convinced me to get another dog after a previous poodle we had was put down after 17 years with us.

She hit me in the heartstrings with the red-haired Opie. His hair color changed after about a year to more of an apricot color but that’s OK. Opie is still Opie.


I received the news about the death of Betty Lynn, AKA Thelma Lou on the show, from a fellow show lover through a text message on Sunday. I knew Thelma Lou was in her nineties but still alive when we visited Mt. Airy, North Carolina, a few years ago. She died Saturday at the age of 95 after a brief illness. Her photos are prominent in the Andy Griffith Museum and ’ol Thel made Mt. Airy her home for the last 15 years or so of her life. They say she was always great with the fans and made many appearances at the museum.


We need more of the wholesomeness that came out of Mayberry in today’s world and in our small cities that sometimes are “too big for their britches” as Andy would have put it.

The show provided us with some of the greatest life lessons you’ll ever hear. They were so good that pastors have used them as illustrations in sermons and a Sunday School series was produced using scenes and episodes as part of the workbook.


The show’s values have made it a favorite for many the past 60 years and the characters on the show like Andy, Barney, Otis, Thelma Lou, Ernest T. Bass and others are stuck in our minds as we see them today in living black and white. I suppose I’ve watched every episode multiple times to the point where I can quote many of the scenes.

The homespun humor still makes me laugh even when I know it’s coming.

Thelma Lou appeared in 26 episodes and was written off the series when Barney (Don Knotts) decided to leave the show, which was a death blow for the series. She came back for one of his guest appearances and then again in 1986 for “Return to Mayberry” where she married Barney, something fans of the show figured was going to happen eventually although not many of the main characters were married in Mayberry strangely enough. Some have said that’s why it was such a happy place but I’ll leave that right here.

Ron Howard, the aforementioned “Opie” on the show, is the last of the regular characters still living. He is 67 years old and recently penned a book about the show with his brother, who portrayed Leon, the young boy who didn’t have any lines but offered peanut butter sandwich bites to Barney and others on several occasions.


I prefer to learn as little as possible about the real-life-behind-the-scenes activities and watch the classic show for the entertainment value it still gives me. Thelma Lou may have been 95 at her death but she will always be a thirtysomething to me.

MARK MAYNARD is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at

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