Mt. Airy, NC-- We went to one of the last surviving actors from the Andy Griffith show to talk about what Andy means to us all. News 2's Liz Crawford sat down with the woman we all know as "Thelma Lou".
Betty Lynn choked back tears as she talked about Andy Griffith, a man she's been close to for more than 50 years. The last time they talked was a month ago on Andy's 86th birthday June 1. Lynn said Andy sounded like he always has, happy and strong.
"This has been a hard day. I really loved Andy so much," Betty Lynn told News 2.
Lynn added, "I don't know if he even realized how much he meant to everybody, you know, I'm not sure. I hope he did."
Betty Lynn played many different acting roles in her life, but none touched her quite like "Thelma Lou."
"This was not just another show to me. I loved the show. I was really into the part of Thelma Lou to a point you can't believe. I watch it all the time. I love to watch it. I laugh so hard. Children have nothing to watch anymore, hardly, nothing that is good and clean and fun and important and shows heart."
For Betty Lynn, Andy was always a loyal friend.
"You really felt he cared about you and that means so much."
Betty Lynn wasn't the only one in Mt. Airy who lost a friend. Over at the Visitor Center, the phone rang off the hook all day on Tuesday. People dropped by just to share a memory and reflect on a simpler time.
Steve Martin, the Tourism Information Specialist at the Mt. Airy Visitor Center said, "He exists on television. He's on right now as we're speaking and he always will be and to think of him as gone is kind of hard for people to accept."
Martin said he took a call from someone in New England who said: "you don't know me, I don't know you, but I just wanted to tell you how much Andy meant to me and how he impacted my life."
It wasn't just Andy Griffith's emotional impact on the town.
The Greater Mt. Airy Visitors Center welcomed 58,485 visitors in 2011. The travel and tourism industry directly employs more than 740 people in Surry County. Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Surry County was $13.78 million.
In 2011, Mt. Airy had Andy Griffith fans visit from all 50 states and even had more than 700 international visitors.
WFMY News 2, Mt. Airy Chamber of Commerce, Mt. Airy Vistors Center