For Lineberry, father’s stories become most cherished keepsake

Jan. 20, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

After spending 29 years creating keepsake bears for others, Connie Lineberry created a keepsake of her own almost a year ago by writing down stories her dad told her about his encounters with Frances Bavier — who folks knew best as her character, Aunt Bee, on the Andy Griffith show.

Lineberry tells in her book, “Daddy Meets Aunt Bee in Siler City,” about her dad’s first encounter with Bavier one Sunday morning in 1972 at the First United Methodist Church.

After services one Sunday, her dad, Hoyt Holt, greeted Bavier and she introduced herself. She asked him what kind of work he did, and he told her that he had been employed for about 30 years with a local dry cleaner and he ran truck routes picking up cleaning throughout several counties.

Much to Holt’s surprise, the next morning, Bavier called the dry cleaner and asked for Holt to start coming to her house to pick up her dry cleaning. The owner, who was a neighbor of Bavier’s, offered to come by her house himself, but she said that she just wanted Mr. Holt to come.

Throughout the short book, Lineberry relates many of the times her dad and Bavier interacted through Holt sharing the bounty of his large vegetable garden and even gifting her with her first cat. Copies of several notes Bavier wrote Holt thanking him for his kindness and describing how she used the vegetables are included in the book, as well as holiday cards she sent him over the years.

During the eight or nine years that he served her, Lineberry recalled that her dad said, “Aunt Bee was always a very kind lady.”

“Aunt Bee and Andy Griffith were regulars in our home. I was only 10 years old when the show began in 1960,” she continued. “We would all crowd into our den to watch the show each week when it came on. We watched it as a family. That show taught us good morals. I wish there were more shows like it that I could watch with my grandchildren.”

Lineberry said, “We never missed the show, and even today we watch the reruns.

“Back then, and even today, the characters were so close to us; we thought of them as good friends,” she said.

When she would run into people from out of town, and tell them she was from Siler City, people would ask, “Isn’t that where Aunt Bee lived?”

“I would tell them that my dad had met her and share some of the stories he told us about her,” Lineberry said. “They would tell me I should write them down.”

The cover of her book features photos of her dad and Aunt Bee, along with an artist’s sketch of First United Methodist Church as it looked back when the two of them met. Since then, the church burned down and was relocated west of town. Aunt Bee died in 1989 and was buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Siler City. Lineberry’s daddy passed away 11 years later in 2000, and his grave site was about 20 yards away.

“I woke up one morning real early and couldn’t go back to sleep,” she said. “I prayed, and as I thought about the day, the stories came to mind. I came into the dining room and just started writing them down. When I start writing, I always put the date at the top, and when I put Feb. 1, 2012, on the paper was when I realized that would have been my daddy’s birthday. I dedicated the book to daddy, and I cried when I started writing his stories.”

Lineberry has come to know the importance of keepsakes, as she has made more than 22,000 teddy bears since she started in 1984 and has kept busy ever since working out of her home. She makes the bears out of old garments and things that are special to a family to preserve a memory.

“It’s been a great career,” she said. “It allowed me to stay at home with my children, later stay with my parents while they needed me, and now I am a stay-at-home grandma.” Along with her Keepsake Bear business, she also is a caregiver for three elderly family members and is working on a children’s book she aims to get published within the next year.

Her book came out in November and can be found at the Joyful Jewel in Pittsboro; the Gift Gallery at Best Foods Cafeteria, the Farmer’s Alliance Store and Paperbacks Plus in Siler City; and the the Circa Gallery and Faith Book Nook and Gift Shop in Asheboro. Her bears are displayed online at www.originalkeepsakebears.com.