BJ DRYE COLUMN: Goodbye, Charlene

Over the years, I have the fortunate opportunity to meet many celebrities.

Now, I know, celebrity is a relative term.

Anyone can be a celebrity today thanks to social media.

I heard the other day about 40,000 people streaming a video of a woman sleeping.

My dog is a lot more entertaining and he only sleeps three-fourths of the day, so he could rake in millions of views. Maybe one day.

Two of the most kind celebrities I have met were on the tail end of their careers.

They had seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows.

Mel McDaniel was one of the two. I was able to interview him on his tour bus. Except for his smoking during the interview, it was a great day and great concert.

We lost him a few years ago, and we lost the other of the nicest ones this week.

Maggie Peterson Mancuso, who was best known for her role of Charlene Darling on “The Andy Griffith Show,” died at age 81, her family announced on Monday.

Oakboro resident Jeff Branch first met Maggie at the 35th reunion show in Winston-Salem in 1995. He was just a fan of the show then.

By 2000, Jeff was portraying the character of “Howard Sprague” as a Mayberry tribute artist. That was the first year he worked with Maggie at Mayberry Days in Mount Airy.

A few years later, Maggie and the Dillards, who were the Darlings on the show, were performing for audiences at Oakboro Music Hall and in Troy.

Jeff estimates he worked with Maggie around 20 times just locally.

He says they would get up to do TV interviews for Greensboro and High Point based channels.

“I can’t think of other stars that would get up at 4:30 a.m. to go do those, but she loved it,” he said. “Maggie was so humble and sweet. It was an honor to be a close friend to her and we checked on each other frequently.

“Maggie loved the fans and they kept her drive going. The glow in her eyes and fans were remarkable. Last July at the Mayberry meetup for fans in Mt. Airy, I surprised the crowd and got Maggie on the phone. The fans said that was their favorite part of the event, to hear her voice one more time.”

Each time I met her was a joyous occasion. Whether it was enjoying her and The Dillards sing in Oakboro or making a quick trip around Albemarle to meet a few special fans, she was a professional all the way.

B.J. Drye is editor of The Stanly News & Press. Call 704-982-2123, or follow bjdrye1 on Twitter.