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raffa & morgan Mother and Daughter Side-by-Side in Kuwait donna lyons Veterans’ Service Officer Retires

emily saffer Clear Creek Ranch Wrangler

Veronica ward Anything You Can Shoot ...

maura scanlin Award-Winning Local Musician

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“Each moment of the year has its own beauty . . . a picture which was never before and shall never be seen again.� - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photo by Sherrie Norris

publisher Gene Fowler

executive editor Tom Mayer

editor Sherrie Norris 828.264.3612, ext. 251

writers JoAnne Alllison Genevieve Austin Heather Brandon Danielle Bussone Jesse Campbell Bonnie Church Yogi Collins Heather Jordan Kellen Moore Kelly Penick Raney Rogers Reta J. Winebarger

production & deisgn Jennifer Canosa Meleah Petty Kelsey Steller

advertising Radd Nesbit 828.264.6397, ext. 271

cover photo by Sgt. Joshua Holt, Third Army/ARCENT Public Affairs

Any reproduction of news articles, photographs or advertising artwork is strictly prohibited without permission from management. ŠCopyright 2012 A Mountain Times Publication

contents news bits 7 medical directory 8 valerie daniels 10 guardian ad litem 12 avery pregnancy and resource center 14 women of the children’s council 28 america’s perfect miss 30 mary-ann prack 32 ramona renfroe 34 healthy lady 36 by the book 38 mom’s world 40 young at heart 42 pets 44 beauty 46 local homecoming queens 48

mother and daughter in kuwait






donna lyons

emily saffer

veronica ward

maura scanlin



editor’s note

Happy Thanksgiving from the staff of All About Women – Sherrie Norris (standing), Kelsey Steller, Jennifer Canosa and Meleah Petty. Photo by Gene Fowler

I am thankful November seems to be a period of transition for many of us as, once again, we begin to consider the purpose of celebrating the fourth Thursday of this month as a national holiday. It’s so easy to pack up the office on the Wednesday afternoon prior and head out the door with a “Happy Thanksgiving” aimed at anyone and everyone in our path. Are we any more or less thankful in November than we are in June? Why not celebrate Thanksgiving every month? We certainly have enough blessings to go around the calendar and I feel sure most of us do express our gratitude on a regular basis. For what do you have to be thankful? How do we count the ways? I am blessed with a wonderful family that loves me, despite my idiosyncrasies (my “peculiarities” for those who are wondering — and there are several). Besides a few extra pounds that love me so much they refuse to leave me, I think I’m relatively healthy. I have a comfortable home that stays warm in the winter and



cool in the summer, nestled next to the New River where the beauty of nature is at its height four seasons out of the year. I have a job that I’ve been told is a ministry, of sorts, and I am thankful that I can help spread good news about people, places and things and hopefully, help inspire someone along the way. I can see, hear, touch, smell and taste. I can walk and talk, (the latter at a much greater speed than the former), and I am blessed with some of the greatest people in the world who I call friends. I am thankful for life, in general, and for much more than I’ve mentioned above. Space will not allow me to include all that comes to my mind and heart. I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to interview Richard Sterban, that great bass singer with the Oak Ridge Boys, who said something that puts it all in perspective: “We’ve been very blessed, but with that blessing, comes a responsibility to give back.” So, when I say Happy Thanksgiving to you, I really mean it. Be happy — for all you have been given and all you can give back.

newsbits&clips Miss High Country Sweetheart Pageant Accepting Registration Registration is now open for the 4th Annual Miss High Country Sweetheart Pageant. The event will be held Sat., Feb. 16, at the Ashe Civic Center in West Jefferson. Participants of all ages are welcome.  For more information, visit or call (828) 773 0017. Leah Hampton, the 2011 Little Miss High Country Sweetheart, at the 2012 All About Women Expo. Photo by Sherrie Norris

Salthouse Named CEO of High Country Community HealtH Alice Salthouse, long time director of Community Outreach for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is now chief executive officer with High Country Community Health, Inc.   HCCH, a nonprofit organization that formed in 2010, recently received a $608,333 grant to establish a new federally qualified health center that receives funding under the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration's Health Center Program. In her new role, Alice will operate centers that will provide comprehensive primary healthcare services, as well as supportive services (education, translation and transportation) that promote access to health care. The services provided by the clinic will be available to all, with fees adjusted based on ability-to-pay. "Alice has dedicated her life toward serving others in our community,” says Chuck Mantooth, president of Watauga Medical Center. “While I am saddened to see her go, she is a perfect fit for this new position. She will most certainly make a meaningful difference in the lives of people in Avery and Watauga Counties." Formation of the new centers has been a collaborative effort involving the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, district health departments, and other local individuals in order to provide healthcare to patients without insurance. Alice is a native of Morganton and has served in various healthcare leadership roles since 1990. She was CEO of Blowing Rock Hospital before the ARHS merger in 2007. Alice holds a degree from Western Carolina University and a master's in healthcare administration from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her responsibilities with ARHS included organizing and obtaining a variety of grant funding for programs such as the Migrant Farmworker Program, Watauga County Healthy Carolinians and Appalachian Healthcare Project. All of these projects offer services to low-income, uninsured residents of Watauga and Avery counties. Gillian Baker, vice president of Corporate Communications of ARHS, will add oversight of the community outreach department to her current role with the healthcare system.      To learn more about Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, visit

Alice Salthouse




Cook Named High Country Host Marketing Director North Carolina High Country Host has announced that Candice Cook has become the organization’s marketing director, a selection that enhances High Country Host’s mission to renew its focus on marketing the northwest mountains of North Carolina as a premier vacation destination. Candice is a native of Valle Crucis and graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in communications. Most recently, she was the marketing and business development director for IPC The Hospitalist Company of Johnson City, Tenn. Previously, she was marketing director for the High Country Health Care System. In 2008, she completed the Watauga County Leadership Challenge, sponsored by Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. “The primary role that Candice will undertake is to position the High Country as a top tourist destination, and to drive business to the organization’s members,” said Kent Tarbutton, president of High Country Host. Tarbutton also said that her duties will include directing the operations of the High Country Host Visitor Center in Boone. “I am very excited about the opportunity to promote this beautiful area of North Carolina,” Candice said. “This region has so much to offer visitors in every season of the year. High Country Host has a long history in tourism promotion; yet it has so much more potential to help people to discover all the things to see and do in our mountain region.” Millie Barbee, who has been serving as the host’s executive director for the past two years, welcomed Candice to the organization. “I am delighted to place High Country Host into Candice’s capable hands, and all our members should welcome a new generation of leadership,” Barbee said. For more information on the High Country Host, visit or call (800) 438-7500.

Candice Cook

november Medical Listings




Daniel Boone Native Gardens Receives Nonprofit Status The Daniel Boone Native Gardens, now 49-years-old, has just received its status as a not-for-profit organization. “We hope that the community will see this as an opportunity to help restore this local treasure,” says Rebecca Kaenzig, the gardens’ chairperson. “We are now able to accept major gifts and move forward on plans to make the gardens look terrific in time for our 50th anniversary next year. All donations are tax-deductible contributions and 100 percent will go to improving the gardens.”   A landscape plan is in place, she says, to restore the gardens and donations will help implement this ambitious plan.  “At this time, we have only one part-time gardener. All other work is done by volunteers,” Rebecca says. Sponsored by The Garden Club of North Carolina to protect native plants throughout the state, the gardens thrive due to community support and dedication of surrounding garden club members in Watauga County. “This year, we launched our Friends Club, a great way to support the gardens and also receive e-mail updates of events in the gardens” Rebecca says. New board member Dr. Zack Murrell, ASU associate professor of biology, whose class visits the gardens for field studies, notes that there are more than 200 species of plants in the Gardens.  Also new this year, Rebecca says, has been the cooperative efforts of local landscape architect Bob Oelberg, who was joined by committee members in special projects.  “Thanks to partnering with local community groups such as High Country Audubon, Neighborhood Yoga’s Karma Krew, the Master Gardeners of the Watauga County Extension and the High Country Watermedia Society, we offered many activities,” she says. The Daniel Boone Native Gardens are located at 651 Horn in the West Drive, Boone, N.C. Open from May to October. Admission is a suggested donation of $2 for adults with children younger than 16 free. For more information, visit, find the gardens on Facebook or call (828) 264-6390. Donors may contact Rebecca at (828) 264-1440.



A Voice for the Children Valerie Daniels is a busy wife and mother who serves as supervisor of the 24th Judicial District’s Guardian ad Litem Program, which was established in 1983 by the N.C. General Assembly to advocate for abused and/or neglected children. In 2006, Valerie moved from medical social work to become a voice for hurting children, she says, and to make sure they are properly represented in court. She was nearing a “burn-out point” in her previous role and had become emotionally drained, “after working with so many families who were losing their loved ones to terminal illnesses,” she says. “I will always cherish those families and the memories we made together. I learned so much about life from each of them, but I felt that I had done all I could do,” she says. With a bachelor’s degree and lengthy employment in social work, Valerie says she “thought” she knew a lot about child abuse and neglect. “But, I quickly had the scales cleansed from my naïve eyes through the cases our GAL program serves daily,” she says. “I have seen time and time again the true resiliency of children who have experienced unthinkable life circumstances. If they can put a smile on their faces and push forward in this life, then surely I can. As idealistic as this sounds, my hope is that each child in our program will somehow have the courage not to allow their past to define their future.” Valerie and her peers, who currently manage “at least 80 cases each,” she says, strive to give each child’s case the advocacy it deserves. “But, we cannot do it



Valerie Daniels, supervisor of the regional Guardian ad Litem program, is pictured with John Lewis, Guardian ad Litem district administrator, left, Geoff Farmer, regional administrator, right, and Howard Davenport, seated, who was honored upon his retirement earlier this year following 27 years as the longest-serving GAL volunteer in the district. Photo by Sherrie Norris

without trained and active volunteers,” she says. “Our local program, serving the 24th Judicial District, is comprised of Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Yancey and Madison counties,” Valerie says, “I cover primarily Avery, Mitchell and Watauga counties and am occasionally pulled into the other two, as the workload requires.” Valerie works closely with John Lewis, GAL District Administrator, Becky Deyton, Program Specialist and numerous volunteers who give of their time to serve the children. (See accompanying story on the GAL program.) Valerie also serves on the Child Fatality Prevention Teams and the Community Child Prevention Teams in Avery, Mitchell, and Watauga Counties, and routinely attends Community Children Collaborative meetings in those same counties. Valerie has been married for 17 years to Bill Daniels, the director of maintenance and public works and golf course superintendent for the Village of Sugar Mountain, They have two sons, Austin, 15, and Jacob, 13, “who are truly the focus of my

daily life,” she says. “They are involved in many extracurricular activities and keep me busy running Mom’s Taxi Service to practices, performances and games, as well as watching their sporting events and helping with various fundraisers for the activities in which they are each involved.” Valerie is the chairperson of the school improvement team for Cranberry Middle School. “This is my current personal volunteer job,” she says. “I get to see first-hand how much school has changed since I was a student and work with an awesome principal and teachers who are trend-setters in their fields.” For the last 13 years, Valerie has taught Sunday school at Linville Evangelical Methodist Church — “from preschool age to high school,” she says. She has also planned, organized, and implemented numerous events, including Vacation Bible Schools and annual Christmas programs. Valerie helped form the nonprofit organization known as Avery Citizens Against Domestic Abuse, was a charter member of the board of directors and served for near-

ly three years as secretary for the board. She co-authored two major grants for operational funding from the NC Governor’s Crime Commission and the NC Council for Women and helped establish ACADA as a full service organization for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault including shelter, 24-hour crisis line, and counseling services. She also helped develop a volunteer training manual, and helped conduct the volunteer training, as well as hiring the staff. Valerie is the daughter of Omie Ruppard and the late Roger Ruppard of Banner Elk. “My dad died at the age of 48 of a massive cerebral aneurysm,” she says. “One of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to be a part of was when our immediate family had to consent to disconnect his life support systems after being told by the neuro-surgeon that he was clinically brain dead.” While completing her social work degree in 1995 at Appalachian State University, she enjoyed a full-time internship with Avery County School System as Home-School Coordinator, working with at-risk youth at the middle and high school levels. Valerie organized and conducted a support group for young women from challenged home environments, and acted as a liaison between home, school, and community to assess student’s needs and improve overall functioning. In the meantime, she added 30 semester hours toward her teaching licensure in special education. Her career in social work began with nearly a decade as director of social services at Sloop Memorial Hospital, followed by another nine years-plus as case manager for Community Alternatives Program for Disabled Adults in Avery County. She spent another eight years as coordinator of the Community Alternatives Program for Children in Avery County, prior to joining the GAL team.

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A group of Watauga County Guardian ad Litem Volunteers. From Left: Mary Horn, Joan & Dick Hearn, Mary Farthing, Esther Manogin, Jane Cherry, Meg Atkinson, Dr. Jan Rienerth, and Howard Davenport. Photo submitted

What Is a Guardian ad Litem? In 1983, the N.C. General Assembly established the Office of Guardian ad Litem Services as a division of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts. As outlined in N.C. General Statute 7B601 which specifies the appointment and duties of the program, when a petition alleging abuse or neglect of a juvenile is filed in district court, the judge appoints a volunteer GAL advocate and an attorney advocate to provide team representation to the child. 12


This team works with a member of the program’s staff to protect the child’s legal rights and to promote the best interests of the child. GAL staff recruits, trains and supervises volunteers. These roles, along with thorough screening and criminal record checks, help ensure the safety and best interests of child clients. Staff duties include developing and providing appropriate in-service training opportunities, maintaining a recordkeep-

ing case management system, assuring quality representation for children and developing positive community relations to promote commitment to the program while educating the public. Staff must have knowledge of child development, juvenile court, applicable laws and statutes, program development and evaluation techniques. They often serve on local interdisciplinary task forces and committees that impact the availability of services for GAL child clients.

GAL attorneys represent children’s best interests in thousands of court hearings each year, including nonsecure custody hearings, adjudicatory proceedings, dispositional proceedings, review hearings and proceedings to terminate parental rights. In addition, they often participate in team meetings and any court ordered pretrial conferences. Although juvenile appeals are expedited, the number of appeals is rising. Attorneys from law firms across the state contribute pro bono time and expertise to handle more than 25 percent of all GAL appeals. The GAL Program trains, manages and pays conflict attorneys. Volunteer advocates are screened, interviewed and receive 20-30 hours of initial training. At least six in-service trainings are offered each year to maintain the knowledge and skills needed to advocate for child-clients’ best interest. The number of volunteer advocates has grown by 40 percent in just eight years, and 12 million volunteer hours have been contributed since the program’s inception. While GAL attorney advocates are appointed to every case, the program still needs more volunteers to ensure that staff can focus on their primary duties of supervision and recruitment, instead of performing the duties of a volunteer advocate on a case.

On the Home Front “In our judicial district which is comprised of the five counties of Avery Mitchell, Madison Watauga and Yancey the greatest number of volunteers are in Watauga County,” says program supervisor, Valerie Daniels. “We are in serious to critical need for volunteers in the other counties and are always recruiting, even in Watauga. Valerie describes GAL volunteers as “a dynamic mix of individuals from varied career and educational backgrounds who display individual grit and determination in working their cases and advocating for abused, neglected and dependent children.” They each have different strengths and personalities, Valerie says, but they all believe strongly in the program’s mission “They very often go above and beyond the

call of duty to improve a child’s life. “ The volunteers, along with the children represented, Valerie says, inspires her daily to keep going and to keep fighting the fight against child abuse and neglect. “My personal goal is to have a GAL Volunteer on every child’s case petitioned into the court system as abused or neglected,” Valerie says. “The latest national statistics show, on average, an abused or neglected child’s case will linger in the court system eight months longer without GAL representation.” Eight months is an extremely long time in the life of a child, especially if one looks at it through the child’s eyes and the child’s sense of time, she says.

Local Program Updates “I have been blessed this fall to have two part-time interns from the sociology department at Appalachian State University to work with our program,” says Valerie. “Will Bracken and Carrie Ann Wible were trained as GALs and sworn in prior to their internships, which has enabled them to work on cases as well as take on individual projects aimed at improving our program.” Valerie has trained and sworn in nine new volunteers since January 2012 — about half of the programs recruitment goal for the calendar year 2012. On Friday, Sept. 14, the program hosted a statewide in-service in Boone for volunteers, called “Testifying in Court.” “It’s always beneficial for GAL volunteers from this area to meet and network with others from throughout the region,” Valerie says. The program is currently under the leadership of Cindy Bizzel, GAL State Administrator. For more information on the GAL program, contact Valerie Daniels, program supervisor, at (828) 737-6721.

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Avery Pregnancy & Resource Center Offers

Compassion and Care The Avery Pregnancy & Resource Center located near Newland has become a haven to expectant mothers and new parents in the area. Now in its second year, the center offers emotional, spiritual and physical support to any pregnant woman regardless of age, marital status, race or religion. The staff recognizes that pregnancy and parenting, no matter the circumstances, are life-changing events that are often filled with uncertainty. With that in mind, the staff and volunteers offer empathetic care by providing a one-to-one program, which includes personal mentoring, educational videos and other material that is essential, especially for a mother and her baby. Through the educational “Earn While You Learn” video curriculum, participants have the opportunity to increase their knowledge in parenting aspects, which include everything from prenatal care to labor and delivery and how to care for their newborns. Clients who attend these helpful sessions, as well as keep their doctor ap-



pointments and/or stay in school, can earn “Baby Bucks” or “Daddy Dollars” to be spent in the center’s resource room, which is stocked with maternity and baby clothes, diapers, blankets, bassinets and many other baby necessities. Clients can continue receiving assistance through the center until their child reaches the age of 3, which includes access to videos that help them with parenting through the toddler stage. Whether married and already parenting or single students with no experience as a parent, the center welcomes a wide range of clients. Fathers of the babies are also welcomed and encouraged to attend the video sessions. On occasion, expectant grandparents have joined in to watch a video, which has resulted in increased excitement and anticipation. The center is funded entirely by donations from churches, local businesses and individuals from the community. The generosity of women’s groups, Sunday school classes and individuals familiar with the tremendous needs of

providing for a new child, is evidenced, especially, in the resource room. All of the items therein have been donated and many through baby showers that these groups have hosted. Others, including quilts, prayer shawls and knitted blankets, have been hand-made and send a loving message to those who use them. The Avery Pregnancy & Resource Center provides many opportunities for those wishing to become involved. Volunteers fulfill many needs vital to keeping the ministry growing and flowing smoothly. Volunteer opportunities include working in the resource room, where baby clothes and other items are sorted and displayed and where assistance is given to clients with their purchases. The volunteers who serve as mentors are able to develop a rewarding one-onone relationship with their client as they guide their physical, emotional and spiritual development throughout the client’s pregnancy and/or parenting. Mentors receive extensive training through the Equipped to Service Program,

The center offers emotional, spiritual and physical support to any pregnant woman regardless of age, marital status, race or religion. enhancing any God-given gift of counsel, compassion and/or knowledge that they may already have. Volunteers also provide necessary assistance in the office, where they answer phones, greet clients and visitors, make copies and do much more. The staff and volunteers are a compassionate arm of the community that extends help, hope and love to those they serve. Prayers for the ministry and its clients are always needed, as well as donations of money, time and materials. Visitors are always welcomed at 1808 Miller’s Gap Hwy. in Newland. Gifts may also be sent to P.O. Box 625 Newland, NC, 28657. Center hours are 1- 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays For more information, call (828) 7332400, visit, or ďŹ nd Avery Pregnancy & Resource Center on Facebook. Information for this article provided by JoAnne Allison, Client Services director.



Mother & Daughter


Side Side In Kuwait Military deployments usually separate service members and their families, says U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Holt, public affairs spokesman, but he adds that Capt. Raffa Gibbard and her daughter, Spc. Morgan Gibbard “are an exception to the norm.” The mother-daughter duo from Boone comes from a long line of military personnel — and they have gone a long way to keep the family tradition alive. Raffa, currently a battle captain with the 505th Engineer Battalion, and Morgan, a physical therapy technician at the 349th Combat Support Hospital, are currently stationed together at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Raffa is a member of the NC National Guard with 13 years of service. She was commissioned in 1984 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Michigan State University. After a 16-year break in service, she returned to duty in 2007. Morgan enlisted in the Army Reserve in May 2010 and completed more than a year of training to become a physical therapy technician. She finished her clinical training at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii in June 2011 and came home to Boone for about a year. She began to get “antsy,” she told Holt in an earlier interview, “to get back out in the fight.” Upon contacting officials about volunteering for a deployment, she learned that a reserve unit from Los Angeles was pre-



paring to deploy to Camp Arifjan. Morgan jumped at the chance to deploy, Holt said. “I grew up watching my dad put the boots on every morning and walk out the door in the uniform,” she says. “I never thought about doing anything else other than the military.” In 2009, Raffa had deployed to Afghanistan; when she learned that Morgan was deploying to Kuwait, she volunteered do the same. “The two arrived in-country, one month apart,” Holt says. When Holt interviewed the duo last month, Raffa told him, “I feel like she and I are standing side-by-side on the front. I am really proud of that.” Both mother and daughter feel the need to serve and rely on each other for support. “We’re not just an asset to the big Army, we are an asset to each other,” Morgan told Holt. “The thing that makes this work so well is that me and my mom talk a lot about almost everything.” Morgan and Raffa are not the only service members in their family, Holt says — Raffa’s husband and Morgan’s father, Maj. Bob Gibbard is retired after serving 20 years in the Army. Morgan represents the fifth generation of her family to serve in the military. At about the same time that AAW made contact with the Gibbard women, their battalion had “a black out,” meaning

that some soldiers from their brigade were killed in Afghanistan in an IED blast. Raffa shares that of her immediate family of four, daughter, Shannon, is currently preparing for a career in the medical field. “Bob was in the Army in Germany when we decided it was time to retire,” she says. “We had an idea what kind of town we wanted to bring our children up in and we developed a matrix. When the search was complete, Boone was at the top of the list.” When Bob applied with the Military Professionals Recruiting, Inc., to teach Reserve Officer’s Training Corps, he was immediately assigned to Michigan Institute of Technology. “He thanked them for the opportunity, but declined,” Raffa says. “They then offered him Wake Forest and Duke, but he said Appalachian State University — or nothing.” Raffa remembers well, she says, “The first time we ever laid eyes on Boone was when we came in from Deep Gap. It was the right choice. The area is beautiful, the people lovely and the schools were great. We were able to ski and hike and pursue the lifestyle we had hoped for.” After 20 years of moving, she says, they were “finally able to have pets and set down roots.”

Photo by Sgt. Joshua Holt, Third Army/ARCENT Public Affairs



Raffa The First Female in Five Generations of Military Service Raffa is the first female in five generations of her family to serve in the military. “Morgan, our ‘first healer,’ is the second one,” she says. “All of us went to war, including Morgan’s dad, with Desert Storm. My dad fought in Vietnam, everybody was involved in World War II, and both sides of the family fought in World War I.” Raffa was commissioned in the 1980s and received an honorable discharge, but, she says, “It felt like I had unfinished business.” After Bob retired, she went back in as an engineer. “My first tour was with a route clearance battalion in Kandahar Afghanistan,” she says. “This time, I am with a construction battalion in Kuwait.” Raffa received a Combat Action Badge for being in a firefight in a town called Sanjaryin, Afghanistan. Why does she serve, we asked? “Out of love of my country,” she says. “I know there are things that are not perfect, but the ideals that built this nation are noble and that’s good enough for me.” We would have to see some of the things she’s seen, she tells us “to know how



good American females have it.” Raffa was in Afghanistan when a 17-year-old girl had her ears and nose cut off. “The girl was the same age as my youngest,” she says. “It happened 30 miles from my forward operating base.” While stationed together, Raffa and Morgan do not room together. “She is in zone 1 with the troop medical clinic and I am in zone 6 with the engineers,” Raffa says. “Morgan works in a hospital and I work in a tent.” When Raffa first arrived in Kuwait, the temperatures topped 120 degrees, she says, but it is much cooler now. “We saw a few dust storms. Some days it is humid because we are about 10 miles from the Persian Gulf — a sandy desert,” she says, adding that Kuwait City is very modern. Currently the battle captain, Raffa “runs” the nerve center of the battalion, she says. “All reports come through that office, we monitor all movement in our battle space, we deliver Red Cross messages, and disseminate information to the companies and up to headquarters.” She also handles public affairs. “I interface with the media, try to send human interest stories back home and escort VIPs in the area,” she says. “My battalion currently does a good bit of work with host nations, so most of our dignitaries are

Kuwaiti.” In response to our questions regarding the challenges she faces in Kuwait, she says, “The biggest challenge I have encountered over here is how the playing field constantly shifts. We’ve been given orders in the morning only to see them rescinded at night, some involve deploying to other countries.” Since all the orders have to be taken very seriously, she says, “They all involve a good bit of work. It’s also a little more challenging for females; since hitting the ground, three of my female soldiers have been attacked.” When asked about her future plans, Raffa says, “I would like to be given command of a line company after this deployment. I don’t know what I’ll do on the civilian side. I’ll keep carrying mail for the post office, something I’ve done since 1994.” Eventually, she says, she hopes to retire. “I’d like to just enjoy my house for a while; these tours make me homesick. I miss the seasons.” With thoughts never too far from home, Raffa is a member of the Watauga County American Legion Post and the National Association of Letter Carriers. Bob is in the American Legion and the current chapter president of State Employees Association of North Carolina.

Morgan Keeps The Tradition Alive Morgan said her parents both love the military, but as the first of the family to go into the medical field, she just always wanted to be there for those who needed help. She never “really” thought about another lifestyle, she says. “I grew up watching my father put his uniform on and lace up his boots. I always thought that it was great to be part of a group, as well.” She made her mark in high school though basketball, golf, track, orchestra and other organizations including Future Business Leaders of America, she says. She joined the public workforce upon graduation, with the goal of joining the Air Force. After more than a year of “trying to get in,” she says, she waked into the recruiter’s office asked, “What can you offer me and when can you ship me out?” She told him that she was good at chemistry and wanted to help people. Calling him “ a great recruiter,” he helped her choose the role of combat medic “with an identifier in physical therapy.” There were “many reasons” for joining, she says: “Family, school, because I didn’t know what else to do, and to own something that no one can take away from me. This will always be something I did for myself and by myself with a lot of support from my family.” Morgan’s home unit is the 320th Combat Support Hospital from Greensboro, but she is deployed with the 349th Combat Support Hospital out of Bell, Calif., near Los Angeles. When asked to describe life in Kuwait, she says, “Its like the big time-out box. I can still see new movies that come out, but I won’t hear any new songs that come out on the radio. I just turned 21 in October and I can’t drink, and all thoughts of a relationship are a no-go. So, for the next eight months, I’m in time out.” When she feels like “getting away,” Morgan says, she heads toward her mom’s bunk, about a mile away, and stays the night. Morgan works in a hospital six days a week and sees patients “from 0730-1600, (7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.) and then after that,

Photos by Sgt. Joshua Holt, Third Army/ARCENT Public Affairs

it’s pretty much free time for me.” Among her challenges, Morgan says, is being the youngest in her clinic. “I work with three other people over the age of 30 and sometimes it’s really noticeable,” she says. “In hospitals there’s normally a really good guy-to-girl ratio, so in the work place I hardly ever notice it, even though I am the only female working in my clinic.” Personally, she says, it’s hard to still feel close to people back home, family excluded. “You find out who really cares about friendship by who stays in touch and who pulls the whole out-of-sight, out-of-mind stuff,” she says. Morgan loves being deployed with her mother: “We aren’t just an asset to the Army, but we are also an asset to each other.” Family relationships are “hard in the military,” she says, “because we tend to sacrifice a lot of time that we could be spending with our family for our country. I think it’s hard to realize how precious that time is until you have to give it up for the greater good.” She describes her “hardest moments” — so far — have been when “bad things happen back home and I can’t be there physically for my family.”

Morgan’s future plans include continuing her education in health care management and human recourses — “as a pre-med student,” she says. “I’m not 100 percent sure what kind of doctor or physician’s assistant I want to be, but I do know I want to go that far.” Back home, she is affiliated with the student veterans program at Appalachian State University — “a great organization for students,” she says, “because it’s hard to come back from a deployment or get out of the military and go to school. Otherwise, she says, “You can’t really relate to the people that are in class with you, but with this organization, you can meet other people like you.” Both Morgan and Raffa are deployed to Kuwait for nine months and will return to Boone upon the completion of their tours. Our thanks to Sgt. Joshua Holt, Third Army/ARCENT Public Affairs, for contributing to this feature. sherrie norris Editor, All About Women



Donna Lyons, Watauga County’s veterans’ service officer, retires after more than 31 years assisting those she calls the nation’s ‘true heroes.’ Photo by Kellen Moore

Veterans’ Service Officer Donna Lyons retires When Donna Lyons started working in the Watauga County Veterans’ Service Office, her clients included 28 World War I veterans and two widows of men killed in the 1898 Spanish-American War. Through more than 31 years of service, Donna saw her clients change quite a bit. But the passion she holds for her career and for the families she assists never wavered. “The work was rewarding because I got to work with true heroes,” Donna says. “They never played basketball. They



never had their name in big lights. But you worked with the heroes, and that made it worth it.” When Donna was hired as the assistant county officer, she was newly married and simply looking for a job that paid the bills. She says she never imagined she would enjoy the work as much as she did. The veterans’ service office, a county department, helps veterans and their families apply for benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. That can include health care services, disability compensation, pension programs for war-

time veterans and scholarships for dependent children. Donna compares the job to detective work, building a case and seeing which scenarios apply. “Every case is unique,” Donna says. “There are never two cases that are the same.” In one year, Donna found that she had logged more than 5,000 in-person or telephone contacts with veterans or their families. Today, the office is seeing more Korean War veterans and Vietnam veterans

as they enter their older years, Donna says. They also are seeing an increase in Gulf War veterans, she says. The scope of work can be a challenge, but it’s the human side of the equation that makes her job truly difficult, she says. Donna’s father was a Korean War veteran, and her oldest son, T.J., served with the N.C. National Guard for six years, she says, so each veteran’s story echoed. But her hardest year of work came in 2004, when her younger son, Todd, deployed to Iraq. “I could not think in the terms of VA work because I was thinking for a year with a mother’s heart,” she says. “ … It gave me a new appreciation for past mothers and mothers now that see their children in that situation.” It may sound trite, but Lyons truly cares about those she serves, said Paul Caudill, a district service officer for the state who has worked with her for about six years. “She’s a great lady, and like everybody else, I’m going to miss her,” Paul says. “ … She really does go to bat for the people who file claims with her.” April Pope, veterans’ service assistant in Watauga County, says Lyons often has gone above and beyond what was needed. “Her experience, and training underneath her, has been invaluable,” April says. “I feel very honored to have worked with her.” After she walks out of the office for the last time, Donna says she’s not sure how she will spend her days of retirement. With deer-hunting season starting soon, Lyons said her favorite hobby will probably get more attention this year. She may eventually look into part-time work just to stay busy, she added. “I can guarantee it won’t involve any type of forms,” she said with a laugh. She also hopes to spend more time with her husband, Craig Lyons, her mother, children and three grandchildren. But on that first Monday morning after retiring, her only desire was to brew a pot of coffee and sit in her rocking chair on her front porch in Boone. “I always said I would leave when I still enjoyed my job as much as I did the first day I walked in,” Donna says. “And I did.”

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Emily Saffer Emily Saffer, a 2007 graduate of Watauga High School, is spending a year working as a wrangler at Clear Creek Ranch near Burnsville, before perusing studies in the veterinarian program at North Carolina State University. With a passion for animals since childhood — and especially horses — Emily has long desired to become a veterinarian and is now aiming toward that goal, one trail at a time. Her career pathway seemed clear when she enrolled in the Wildlife Biology and pre-vet program at Lees McRae College in Banner Elk soon after high school. Two years later, she says, the program was “pulled,” leaving her with limited options. “I need to work while I wait to get into State next year,” she says, “and was very fortunate to find this amazing opportunity at Clear Creek.” Nestled on a winding mountainside in the shadows of Mount Mitchell, Clear Creek Ranch employs several wranglers and workhands on a contractural basis, most of which arrive from parts west with experience working on sprawling spreads. To have her dream job within a couple of hours from home makes the deal “a

sweet one,” Emily says. Surrounding herself with experts in the field — and 53 horses — is the perfect setting for Emily, especially, since she was able to bring her own horse, Buttermillk, along for the job. Emily has owned Buttermilk for seven of the horse’s eight years of life and has taken it everywhere she has gone. “She literally went to school with me, at least for one day,” she says. “We had a ‘how-to’ day in my college English class one day, so I took her and showed the class how to ride a horse.” Buttermilk is registered through the American Quarter Horse Association and has been “a fun training project,” Emily says. “We’ve participated in a lot of rodeos and she’s won me several blue ribbons.” With the exception of “about two months with Bill Johnson from Avery County,” Emily says, she has trained Buttermilk, exclusively. “Now, she’s leading trail rides here at Clear Creek.” Of the two “lady wranglers” at the ranch, barn manager, David Batzer says that Emily does “a really good job and especially working with the kids,” and that she is “hardworking and energetic and has

one spoiled horse.” Emily has spent a busy summer working six days a week, leading up to four trail rides a day and “loving every minute of it,” she says. Among her duties are helping with the day-to-day care of the horses and helping train them for the trails. Among her summer responsibilities —“and something I absolutely love about this job,” she says, was leading a horsemanship class, which included teaching young riders how to brush and saddle the horses. When her year at Clear Creek Ranch comes to an end, a new beginning will be just around the corner. And, when Emily heads off to Raleigh for school, Buttermilk won’t be far behind. Emily, with “a big extended family,” she says, is the daughter of Tracy Taylor and Chuck Saffer, both of Watauga County.

sherrie norris Editor, All About Women

Emily Saffer and her quarterhorse, Buttermilk, are living the dream at Clear Creek Ranch. Photo by Sherrie Norris NOVEMBER 2012 | AAWMAG.COM


Boys, Beware:

Female hunters

may make up only about 20 percent of the hunting population, but their status as “sportsmen” has grown exponentially in recent years with many of these women held in high esteem by their male counterparts. One such woman is Veronica Ward. With her blonde hair, blue eyes and bright smile, Ward looks more like she might have been a cheerleader rather than a budding sportsman in high school, but she’s serious and succinct when she states, “I played sports, I didn’t cheer for them.” Had she wanted to cheer, there’s no doubt the resolute Ward would have, but she craved more of a challenge. It was the challenge of bow hunting that drew her to the sport. “Anyone can sit behind a crosshair and a trigger and kill a deer,” she says. “Bow hunting, though, requires practice and you have to be 20-35 yards away to shoot — successfully. It’s much more of a challenge to manipulate nature at that distance and take a deer with a bow. It’s pretty awesome.” While Ward grew up shooting guns with her hobbyist dad, no one in her fam-



Anything You Can Shoot . . .

ily hunted, which makes it more remarkable that she wanted to try the sport after talking with her high school buddies who hunted. Although Ward’s mom wasn’t thrilled with the idea, she became more understanding — once Ward explained the stance of responsible hunting. “Hunters, by buying their licenses, put money into preserving animal life,” Veronica says. “When deer are overpopulated they contract diseases. If I take a deer, I eat it. I think that’s more humane than them being overpopulated and diseased and they just starve to death.” Ward bought a bow and learned to shoot and hunt so well that she soon was selling gear to men with more experience, earning their respect in the process. Ward manages the gun department at Grashal Outdoors, where she works. If new customers do not take her seriously, it doesn’t bother her — they learn quickly enough that they’re wrong. “Sometimes they’ll say, ‘You might not know what I’m talking about,’ so she challenges them. “OK, try me,” Ward says, “If I don’t, I’ll be the first to tell you. But, don’t

assume I’m stupid because I’m a woman.” One of Ward’s customers, Mark Scruggs, owns Mayview Rod and Gun Club and Covey Hollar Hunting Preserve and was so impressed with Ward’s knowledge and her way with customers, that he hired her to be one of his hunting guides. “She’ll actually put the birds out there, work the bird dogs, take the hunters out, and control the safety of the situation,” Scruggs says. “The people who know Veronica will tell you, ‘Don’t let the looks fool you.’ She’s definitely a girl — you can tell by looking at her — but, she’s armed at all times, one way or another. Armed and dangerous,” he says with a laugh. Hunting has had such a positive impact on Ward’s life that she volunteers with the local chapter of Hunters Helping Kids, a nonprofit organization that inspires children toward wildlife conservation by giving them a love for hunting and the greater outdoors. Yozette ‘Yogi’ Collins Mom, television producer/writer, and obsessive internet researcher. Though her name suggests otherwise, she is not (yet) an actual yogi.



Photo by Yosette ‘Yogi’ Collins

Local Musician Wins National Competition Maura Shawn Scanlin of Vilas, was recently named the winner of the 2012 US National Scottish Fiddle Competition in Edinboro, Penn. Photos submitted j



Maura Shawn Scanlin, a 17-year-old musician from Vilas who rose to fame locally as a member of the celtic band known as the Forget-MeNots, has just brought home an enviable title as winner of the 2012 US National Scottish Fiddle Competition. Scanlin was among numerous competitors from across the United States who earlier qualified to compete for the title in September on the campus of Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. In 2008, she won the US National Scottish Fiddling Championship in the Junior Division and Open Division in 2010 and 2012.

No stranger to the winner’s circle, in 2010 she was also the Junior Division first place winner of the Charlotte Young Artist’s Competition and appeared as a soloist with the Charlotte Youth Symphony. In 2011, she was the strings category winner in the Senior Division of the Charlotte Young Artist’s Competition and received an honorable mention in the Senior Division of the NC Music Teacher’s National Association Strings Competition. Earlier this year, she was a finalist in the NC MTNA Strings Competition, the Hilton Head Youth Concerto Competition and the NC Symphony Youth Concerto Competition. She was also selected to serve as concertmaster of the NC All-State Honors Orchestra and the NC Regional Honors Orchestra. Maura Shawn started playing violin at age 3½ and began competing at age 9 at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. After studying with Nan Stricken of Banner Elk, she studied with Jacob Dakon of Appalachian State University’s Community Music School. She then studied with Nancy Bargerstock at the Hayes School of Music at ASU. She also played for several years in Appalachian State’s Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra. She also spent time as a Junior Appalachian Musician at the Jones House learning to play guitar and assisting with fiddle classes. Her summers have been spent at various music camps where she has learned several different styles of fiddling as well as chamber music, orchestra and solo repertoire. Along with her friends, Willa Finck and Ledah Finck, who make up the ForgetMe-Nots, Scanlin was classically trained through the Suzuki method and developed an early interest in playing old-time and Celtic fiddle music. Inspired by Dr. John Turner, Bonnie Rideout, Jamie Laval, Jerry Holland, Jeremy Kittle, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie MacMaster, Maura Shawn learned to master the sophistication of Scottish music in its ability to tell stories that describe a rich cultural landscape. Maura Shawn attended Mountain Pathways Montessori School for her primary education. She is currently a high school senior at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-

Salem, where she studies violin with Sarah Johnson and plays in various chamber groups and the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra. She also enjoys writing music, playing piano and guitar, as well as photography, reading and running While the Forget-Me-Nots are currently pursuing their individual interests and skills, they continue to perform as a group, having most recently appeared at the Sugar Grove Music Festival and with some of the region’s most admired musicians at “An Appalachian Afternoon,” at the Rosen Concert Hall at ASU. Maura Shawn will be applying to colleges this year and plans on pursuing a career in music. sherrie norris Editor, All About Women

A younger Maura Shawn Scanlin in 2010 during a classical performance in Boone. h


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The Women of The Children’s Council It’s no secret that parenting is a challenge. Even ‘supermoms’ and dads need the support of family and friends. There is good news for parents of youngsters in the High Country — we’ve found your new best friends, and they’re looking forward to meeting you. The seven women who run The Children’s Council of Watauga County are passionate about helping families — especially those with children younger than the age of 6 — with a wide range of childcare and general support issues. While each of the women has her own domain of expertise, together they are a force for kids in the area. 28


“Everyone here is very passionate about early childhood and working with young families,” says Crystal Kelly, executive director of the Children’s Council. “Our backgrounds vary widely, but we have a team-oriented approach to working together for the community.” Primarily funded by North Carolina’s Smart Start initiative, the council offers programs and resources that aim to stimulate young minds. For example, the council’s resource corner is stocked with books, learning kits and puzzles to check out for use at home or even to play with in-house. “Families can come in and use the resources, including coming here to play

with their child,” Crystal says. “We want to expand our outreach for people to know it’s available to all. Yes, some of the programs target the high-risk parent, but our resources and the importance of supporting early childhood is for the whole community to access.” Beyond the resource corner, the council offers other valuable programs for our community at no charge (see sidebar). One such program can even help you work from home with your child(ren). Lee Marshall, Childcare Resource and Referral Director, says, “There are 2,200 children birth to 5 years of age in Watauga County; 1,500 of those children need child-

care, but there are only 600 being served.” That’s a big gap, says Lee, who adds that she’s always willing to walk someone through the process of setting up a family childcare home. As The Children’s Council’s mission spreads, Crystal sums up their goals succinctly. “Parenting is hard for anybody,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what your socio-economic bracket is or whether you’re a single parent or a grandparent. Parenting can throw you off. We want to be a place that supports you when you have questions.” The Children’s Council is at 225 Birch Street and is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call (828) 262-5424 or visit www. Yozette ‘Yogi’ Collins Mom, television producer/writer, and obsessive internet researcher. Though her name suggests otherwise, she is not (yet) an actual yogi.

Programs and Resources of The Children’s Council: GED program – the only GED program in the county that offers on-site childcare.

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Incredible Years - a parenting class focusing on positive behavior Baby Magic – a class for parents-tobe with helpful tips and tricks Drop-in play groups - Toddlers on the Groove (1 ½ to 3 years); Babes on Blankets; Angel Bear yoga (2 ½ to 8 years). Reach out and Read – provides a free book at well-child visits from 6 weeks to 5 years old at Blue Ridge Pediatrics and the health department. Doula Program – provides a doula at no cost. Doulas can also hold free, private or small childbirth classes. Childcare Resources – will walk you through setting up your home-based childcare business. Die-cut machine, laminating machine, copier – available for use, some for a small fee.

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Longtime Ashe County resident Brittany Shepherd, center, recently won the America’s Perfect Miss contest in Orlando, Fl.

After more than three years

Ashe Woman is America’s Perfect Miss 30


of preparation, Ashe County native Brittany Shepherd captured the title of America’s Perfect Miss earlier this August. The honor caps off a rewarding, yet challenging, chapter of her life, her family says. Brittany, the 23-year-old daughter of Joey and Karrah Shepherd, competed and bested 39 girls who were representative from across North America and Europe. Her ascension into the national pageant scene began with an online modeling contest she won in 2009 that directly led to an invitation to a statewide contest. “She had no clue what the ‘perfect’ pag-

eant system was like, but decided to give it a shot,” her mother says. To the delight of her parents and supporters, Brittany won the North Carolina title and began preparing for the America’s Perfect Miss contest in Orlando. Out of a total 64 participants, she finished fourth. “It was quite an experience, because it was like no other pageant that she had competed in before,” says Karrah. “She loved it so much, she wanted to go back the next year to try to bump her chances of winning.” “I didn’t know what to expect,” Brittany

says “I really enjoyed it. It was different from any other pageant.” Brittany says the pageant setup more closely resembled a “Victoria Secret-style runway. “This wasn’t like your typical pageant. They don’t try to tell you how to sit, how to talk or even what to wear,” says Brittany. “They want someone who is confident in being themselves.” The following year, Brittany returned to Orlando, this time donning the South Carolina sash, as the system allows entrees to “state hop” the system on that level. She again landed in the Top-15 in the preliminary round and eighth overall, taking the Best Physique in the swimsuit category and won the Overall Most Beautiful Perfect miss honor. Despite the high marks, Brittany was not happy with the results and vowed a better showing the following year. “I wasn’t really prepared like I should’ve been,” she says. With the 2012 pageant approached, Brittany decided to give the contest one final try.

“This would be the last time she walked the runway, and she went in with the mindset that it has do or die and that if she was to win, she had to outshine all others in every competition,” says Karrah. “It was all or nothing,” adds Brittany. With the contest now accepting international participants, Brittany knew the pressure had increased. One phase of the contest consisted of an interview that felt more like a press conference. Each contestant went before a panel of five judges and an audience. “It is like a red carpet affair with celebrities,” says Karrah. Next was the swimsuit and evening gown portion of the competition. Brittany won the title, along with the “Best Interview Award,” “Best Physique,” and the “Best Fashionista” award. Her prize package consisted of a scholarship to the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, a scholarship for Floral Design with the New York School of Flower Design and a scholarship to Premiere Modeling School in Minneapolis, Minn. She will also appear on digital bill-

boards in Florida and in the Citrus Bowl Parade. Brittany will also be working closely with SantaCroce Model Group to give her additional opportunities to further her career. At press-time, Brittany was lining up for a modeling contest in Cancun, Mexico. “They are looking for a girl who exhibits entrepreneurial spirit, passion for personal self-improvement and an interest in the beauty and wellness industry and is the “it” girl,” says Karrah. “They think Brittany is the ‘it’ girl.” If selected as a finalist in Cancun, Brittany will travel to Las Vegas in January. Brittany, who currently resides in Winston-Salem and works at Intuitive Touch Massage, said she first began “doing pageants” as a teenager as a starting point for even bigger dreams. “I really didn’t want to do them forever,” she says. “What I really want to do is go into modeling and acting.” JESSE CAMPBELL

Everything About

Mary-Ann Everything about Mary-Ann Prack is big, except for her physique — her sculptures, her paintings, her list of commendations and awards and, last but not least, her spirit. It is difficult to imagine how such a feminine, petite and soft-spoken woman creates huge works of art with great slabs of heavy clay that delivers such strong messages. Mary-Ann, a committed artist who puts in eight-hour days, although not always consecutively, travels regularly for exhibitions and gallery placements and always appears to be prepared and at peace through it all. Mary-Ann was introduced early in life to the world of art. Her father was a third-generation architect, and both her mother and sister were accomplished artists. Collecting art, as well developing an appreciation for it, was a part of her life that came naturally. Always a bit shy, Mary-Ann found comfort in immersing herself into “creating” — without need for explanation of her desire to be alone and learn about her “true self,” she says. She started to draw and paint “weird” figures with pen and ink, and never looked back. Her fine art study started in Ontario, Canada, before she decided to do something “more practical,” she says, and attended the Art Institute in Florida for Interior Design. It was during that time that she met her husband, Bill, who owned an interior design firm, where she ended up working for a number of years. Later attending Florida Atlantic University, Mary-Ann took a clay sculpture class which inspired her to gravitate toward clay, a predominant medium in



which she continues to work. Her early work, she says, was not typical of most sculptors, as abstract shapes and control of the medium seemed to come “more naturally” to her, she says. The process of Mary-Ann’s sculpting is not for the frail at heart. Twenty-five pounds of raw clay is rolled out on a slab roller for consistency of thickness. Slabs of the rolled clay are cut into 3”x15” lengths, from which she begins building the basic shape, from the bottom upward. About halfway through the process, her vision begins to develop and shapes begin to appear. Having earlier sketched her ideas, she allows the sculpture to evolve on its own throughout the creative progression. Many of Mary-Ann’s pieces are designed for ease of transport, as well as for observation. Large, bulbous shapes are precariously balanced on smaller balls, which separate the protruding shapes and allow for viewing the piece as a whole. Numerous pieces of her sculptures resemble great, full-bodied Amazonian goddesses sporting brightly colored attire and seemingly, with joy and grace. Her work has “no front or back, but two fronts,” she says. The pieces are built on a turntable, allowing for full-view, easy access and assimilation. Following an approximate three-weeks drying period, in which a 75- pound piece of clay has decreased to about 50 pounds, it is ready to be “fired.” Upon assembly, PVC pipe is attached between the pieces, in preparation for glazing. Some of the color is fire glazed and some is painted directly onto the surface, a method that creates a greater variety of

texture and pattern, thus enhancing its appearance. The firing process, which can include several pieces at a time, requires an additional three days. The first time she opened her kiln was “like Christmas” Mary-Ann says, but not every time has been so pleasant. “Surprises do occur,” she says. More times than not, however, enthusiasm builds with each kiln opening, and keeps Mary-Ann in great anticipation of seeing her next work of art emerge from the clay. About eight years ago when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, MaryAnn’s gift of artistry was expanded to include painting. Among her inspirations are great artists such as Rothko, Kandinsky and Calder, which is evident in her own work. She is currently represented by six galleries throughout the country and has an upcoming solo exhibition, from Jan. 22Mar. 23, 2013, at the Turchin Center’s Gallery A in Boone, The arts circle of West Jefferson considered it stroke of luck when the talented and spirited Mary-Ann moved to town with her husband and son, 17 years ago. She continues to color our world with hope and inspiration. Mary-Ann’s work may be viewed at, and from Nov. 2 – Jan. 12 at Wilkes Art Gallery, in conjunction with Ward Nichols.

raney rogers Well-known artist, art instructor and owner of Acorn Gallery in West Jefferson.

The arts circle of West Jefferson considered it stroke of luck when the talented and spirited MaryAnn Prack moved to town with her husband and son, 17 years ago. She continues to color our world with hope and inspiration. Photo by Raney Rogers h NOVEMBER 2012 | AAWMAG.COM


Ramona Renfroe Preserving our Past while Creating her Future

A relative newcomer to the area, Ramona Renfroe began volunteer-

Ramona Renfroe believes that you are who you are because of where you are — that’s why working and living in Ashe County means so much to her, she says. Photo by Reta J. Winebarger



ing at the Museum of Ashe County History soon after her arrival in 2011. When the position of museum director became available, curator Don Long thought that Ramona was a natural choice — and the foundation board agreed. After all, she had gained valuable experience as education coordinator (for 13 years) with the Onslow County Museum in Jacksonville, coupled with that as interpretation manager for the Cultural Heritage Museum in Rock Hill, S.C. While in Rock Hill, Ramona supervised 127 volunteers, eight staff members and was actively involved in special events, in particular, often dressing in period attire to bring history alive for visiting school groups. Ramona was among the first 200 people to be certified as environmental educators in North Carolina by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Today, as the “new director” of the Ashe museum, Ramona rarely sees a dull moment — whether assisting Long or updating exhibits and arranging for new ones like “Over here, Over there — Ashe County’s contribution to World War II.” With “exciting plans,” Ramona hopes to help create events that will attract more visitors to what she calls, “our wonderful museum.” “We have three log buildings and a one and one half story house to set up hopefully by next year, near the courthouse,” she says. “We also hope to do living history events outside on the green.” She aspires to partner with the schools, the library and the county’s parks in creating venues for the museum, which is currently raising funds to renovate the upstairs “courtroom.” “I am so proud of all the work that has been done up to this point in restoring the

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courthouse,” Ramona says. “I believe that you are who you are because of where you are. That’s why working here and living here in Ashe means so much to me.” Ramona is a member of Leadership Ashe, an innovative and highly successful program designed to assist new and emerging community leaders in building their skills while learning more about Ashe County. The group, which meets weekly, is a joint venture of county officials and the Ashe Chamber of Commerce, with a focus on local organizations — inclusive of the arts, education and business. Ramona was born in Richmond, Va., and graduated with a degree in theatre arts and English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She completed her graduate work at Winthrop University. She has a great love of the theatre and is active in the Ashe County Little Theater. Most recently, she filled the role of “Mrs. Hoadley,” in the theater’s production of “The Silver Whistle” and was stage manager for “Oliver!” Ramona is the mother of one son, Rowan, a student at Ashe County Middle School. Sharing his mother’s love for the stage, he earned the lead role in “Oliver!” and is also a singer and artist. “My son and I love it here and I am so proud to be an employee of the museum,” Ramona says. “When I drive by at night, I think, ‘Hey, I really work there’ — and it makes me so happy.” The Museum of Ashe County History, Inc. is located in the old Ashe County courthouse in Jefferson at 301 East Main Street. Hours are 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., Mon.-Sat. For more information, call (336) 8461904 or visit reta J. winebarger Wife, mother, avid reader and a CNA at Ashe Memorial Hospital. Her passion is writing stories about her Appalachian heritage.






How to

Comfort a Grieving Friend It’s painful to watch someone grieving the death of a loved one. It can feel awkward and leave us uncertain as to what to say or do. Once the funeral is over — and the flurry of sympathizers disappear — a dedicated friend is needed more than ever. It’s important to be sensitive to the stages of grief your friend is likely to pass through. She (or he) will experience some disturbing emotions including the following: • Shock and Denial: This is often called “numbed disbelief.” It’s the mind’s way of coping. • Pain and Guilt: As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Many experience vexing guilt about what they could have done and should have done, but didn’t. • Anger and Bargaining: In an effort to calm the pain and guilt, they can go through the stage of blaming others for the loss. Or begin to question, ‘Why me?” • Depression, Reflection, Loneliness: The true magnitude of the loss hits and depression can set in. Your friend might retreat into isolation to reflect and focus on memories of the past. The best thing you can do during the grieving process is to ‘be there.’ Make yourself available to listen when she wants to talk. Encourage her to talk openly about what she is feeling. Respect those times when she can’t express the pain and all that’s needed is a silent hug from a friend. Avoid trying to console with clichés, like “it was his time,” “he lived a full life” or “he doesn’t have to suffer anymore.” All that might seem helpful, but the one in grief usually doesn’t feel any better hearing such things. Also, don’t try to relate your own past losses to theirs. Most

grieving people can’t see past their own pain. Be sure to not just lend an ear. Sometimes, your friend will need you to lend a hand. If she is too distraught to shop for groceries, run errands or clean the house, do this for her, or help make arrangements to get the practical things done. Don’t wait to be asked. Chances are your friend might feel like she is asking for too much, already. Some days will be particularly painful, especially birthdays, holidays, and the anniversary of the death. Some places will trigger anxiety or sadness — a park where her child used to play, or a restaurant where she and her loved one used to eat, or a drive by the venue where the death took place. Offering to be with her as she faces those tough times and places will mean a lot. If you are concerned that she is not making progress through the pain, suggest professional support and help her research the options. The good news is your friend, in time, will come through this. Most people in grief go through a period some call “the upward turn,” in which the depression begins to lift and they begin to adjust to the loss and reconstruct their lives. The void of loss will not disappear, but it will not consume their thoughts as frequently. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and your friend will not forget that you were there during the darkest of days.

bonnie church Certified Life and Wellness Coach Author/ columist, motivational speaker Certified Trainer for TLS Weight Loss Solution



Mabel’s Way by Lila Hopkins More often than not, fellow members of the baby boomer generation are shocked to discover we are not spring chickens anymore. We notice that the profiles of our men, once strong and athletic, have come to resemble sets of parenthesis. Their gorgeous thick heads of hair have thinned and grayed. Perfect postures, which had previously exuded the vigor of youth, are now bending forward with backs no longer strong enough to support them against the omnipresent pull of gravity. We are reminded daily in the shortened strides of our significant others, that time is catching up with us all. Worse, we look in the mirrors in the morning and ask ourselves, “Who is that old woman in my bathroom?” We see the deep wrinkles fanning from the corners of our faded eyes, once bright with anticipation of the days to come. Our jawlines are beginning to droop and our necks make us wish winter would arrive early so we can hide them inside bulky sweaters. Our breasts, at one time a perky 34-C, now look more like old socks weighted down like bags of marbles. Our tummies are sagging, our arms undulate with every movement and our thighs, forget it. It’s all down hill from here. Not so fast! Lila Hopkins’ refreshing new novel, “Mabel’s Way,” shows us it is not over ‘til it’s over. This engaging tale of life in a retirement community is a muchneeded breath of fresh air. Her characters are endearing. Mabel Yancy is a 78-year-old independent, takecharge kind of woman who organizes the personal lives of everyone in the com-



munity — except her own. A broken hip landed her in Dogwood Glenn Retirement Center following great protests. She soon discovered that she liked it there and quickly became the center of her new circle of friends. Twice widowed, Mabel thinks that romance is a thing of the past for her. Yet, she is diverted by the attentions of an 85-year-old widower and neighbor, Dr. Tucker Quick, whose personality is a match for strong-willed Mabel. There is something mysterious about this man, Tucker Quick. As her relationship with “that crazy old man” develops, she discovers he is keeping secrets from her — secrets that began to involve her own son. When they both disappear, Mabel has to confront her fears and sort out her feelings about Tucker and his growing attachment to her family. The cast of characters is as diverse as the situations in which they find themselves. Someone seems to want to drive Ruthie Sue crazy. Dolly has Alzheimer’s and sometimes wanders off. Lucus Pullen, a junk food junkie, has a thing for fitness nut, Arlene. Corrine Newman is someone we all know — the friend who talks inces-

santly and never listens. Poor Nettie is terrified of dying. Olga has racial issues. There is a long list of residents of Dogwood Glenn whom we come to know and understand. Lila Hopkins opens up their worlds to us with humor and sensitivity. Amid the societal jumble of the Dogwood Glenn Retirement Center, we experience a snake, a tornado, a body in a pool, a cat and dog fight, a carjacking at knife point and a home robbery — not to mention international intrigue. Yet, we still find room to discover new love. “Mabel’s Way” is a tender view of growing old with grace, acceptance and faith — letting go of the things of the past which no longer serve us, and embracing fully the life and talents we have remaining. Lila Hopkins has created a story of light-hearted humor, which teaches us that age is just a state of mind, that death is a transition not to be feared, and that love knows no boundaries. Danielle Bussone Danielle Bussone is a writer, an artist and a wellness coach. Visit her blog at

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Never forget the journey Sometimes we make choices to embark on a journey — not because it is simple or smart or because we are just looking for something to do. Rather, the decision is made despite misgivings, rational dispute and impracticality. For me, such a choice came in the form of a running challenge — the decision to run in my first full marathon. The initial thoughts began stirring last year when I started running half marathons. I remember thinking, at the end, ‘There’s no way I could do that twice. That’s insane.’ Then, my friend, Emily, announced her plans to run a marathon this year and wanted me to join her. I quickly dismissed the idea, citing my crazy work schedule and family responsibilities. But, the seed was planted. I told her if she came to run the Grandfather Marathon, I would be there cheering. In the spring, the thought returned. I bounced it off of my colleague and friend, Dr. Charles Baker. He was honest and remarked that he did not have “much fun” running anything over 20 miles. Case closed, I thought. Why would I have considered it when, to most people, it just appeared to be four-plus hours of torture? A few more months passed. In May, I ran in another half-marathon. Afterward, a patient of mine asked if I was ever going to do a full marathon.



I quickly reacted with the well-rehearsed spiel as to why it was impractical — especially since I only ran three days a week. At that point, her husband responded that he had followed a three-day-a week marathon training program. Suddenly, the dormant seed — buried under layers of rationale — sprang forth and sprouted. I mulled this “new found” possibility over in my mind. I started surfing the web for the training program and calculating weeks until the Run for the Red, the Valle Crucis marathon sponsored by the local Red Cross office. My husband vowed support, provided I didn’t complain the whole time about training. I made the commitment by registering for the race. Weeks of training ensued. I checked the long runs off my schedule. I learned how to drink and eat while I ran through the beautiful back roads of Avery County. Early-morning runs with a flashlight, weekend runs and runs following four hours of sleep were among the challenges. As the day approached, I knew that I could be called to a delivery before or during the race. My sister, Holly, shared lastminute advice from her past marathon experience. Race day arrived. My nerves were bundled. I was committed to finishing. Mentally, I broke the race down in multiple ways with every mile. The first six and a half miles were up,

then down and winding, and on through some of the most beautiful countryside anywhere in this world or the next. I marveled and plugged along, feeling pretty well until mile 18 when the road straightened and seemed to lengthen with each step. At mile 21, exhaustion and energy depletion were realities. My sister, Jill, was waiting. She smiled and waved excitedly, jogging along side of me. “Do you need sugar? Water? Oh, Heather, you’re doing so good! You can do it!” I was relieved to see her, but fatigue was setting in. I told her there was a big hill at mile 23 or 24 and asked that she go there. Her presence buoyed me up, but then I would be alone again with the road, trying to keep my feet going, my mind focused and the delirium from overcoming me. Mile 23 wound upward toward mile 24. Then, I saw the steep incline where Jill had parked. To say I did not feel well was an understatement. My sister informed me that everyone she had seen, so far, had walked that hill. I turned my exceedingly slow running gait into longer strides of a walk and achingly moved forward, Jill at my side, encouraging every step. I found it difficult to speak, drink or eat. At the top, I admitted I was light-headed. Jill gave me fresh cold water and told me to keep going. I felt “glazed over,” but

relieved to find the road going down. I started running again. At mile 25, I truly felt like there was (almost) nothing left. Just as I had encouraged women previously — in labor when transition seemed to last too long — that they should press on just a little bit further as if it were mile 25 of a marathon. The finish line finally was visible, as my husband, children and sister cheered me the last final yards. For me, it was about making something possible that seemed impossible. Working through life’s challenges often requires ignoring why we might not succeed and focus on ways we can succeed. As a mother, I have tried to teach my children, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” It is your task to determine where your desire can take you. As for today, my sore legs are feeling better two days after the race, and my heart is filled with much gratitude for the support of family and friends who helped me grow that seed into a reality. I don’t know what races are ahead — or if I’ll ever face that challenge again — but I do know that I will never forget the journey.

heather jordan, CNM, MSN Comments or questions? 828.737.7711, ext. 253




Unfortunate Typos



Frankly, I was horrified when my husband, Roger, pointed out an unfortunate typo in a previous All About Women column. “Great article,” he said, “But, I think you wrote ‘panty’ instead of ‘pantry.” Believing that he was joking, I immediately opened the article to check. Sure enough, in my essay titled “Regular Food” (Sept. 2012), I had written, “My panty is stocked with Sriracha, curry pastes, coconut milk, fish sauce and other Asian staples as well as ingredients to make anything from Cuban-style beans and rice to Chicken Pot Pie.” My panty is not stocked with these things, but my pantry is! Amazing what a difference one little letter makes. Embarrassed, I immediately deleted my Facebook post sharing the article — not wanting to endure the virtual mocking of friends and family. Later, I realized that I was taking myself way too seriously. Typos are the bane of writers worldwide. And, in this autocorrect day and age, technology meant to help can often hinder. I have lost count of how many books I have read where I discover typos or misspellings. If I was not before, I am now very forgiving of such errors. After all, I know what the author was trying to say. That being said, I am guilty of laughing at unfortunate typos. I have enjoyed Facebook posts with pictures of misspelled tattoos and graffiti as well as signs using incorrect language or grammar. While I will forgive other writers for these types of gaffes, I draw the line at tattoo artists — those things are permanent and should be spelled correctly! I have also been known to snicker at homophone mix-ups. One of my favorites was a church marquis stating, “God never gives you more than you can bare.” While I guess this is technically true, I have doubts that the church was actually encouraging

its parishioners to bare themselves. The English language is notorious for these types of blunders. It is full of words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different definitions. Bare and bear are two such words. As are two, to and too. And, how about accept and except. Board and bored, aloud and allowed, there, their and they’re — and the list goes on. Then, there are those troublesome words, like panty and pantry, which are separated by one letter. Get to typing too fast, and you may have an “oopsy” on your hands. Interior can become inferior, land becomes lard, learning becomes leaning, lose become loose, plaque become plague, bump becomes lump, fined becomes find, and so forth. Oh, and did I mention words with transposed letters? As if we writers did not have enough about which to worry! “Is your article on regular food out yet?” asked my mother and friend, Kristan, during a recent stroll on the Greenway Trail. “Yes,” I admitted reluctantly. “But, it contains an unfortunate typo. I kinda, maybe wrote that my panty is filled with food stuffs instead of my pantry.” My admission was greeted with uncontrolled laughter. While it was good to laugh with them at my error, I’m not sure it was quite as funny as they seemed to believe. Between giggles, Kristan admitted being paranoid of mistyping “public” lest she leave out the very important “l.” More laughter followed as we discussed how that would indeed be an unfortunate typo. heather brandon Considers life to be one big anthropological field experience. She observes and reports. She enjoys travel, food and wine and adventures with her husband, Roger.



Conyay the Curious Conure

Photo by Genevieve Austin



Curiosity comes in every shape and size. Conyay the Conure, is a curious bird. We do not know whether Conyay is female or male, but my son presumes male. Conyay is social, alerts anyone in a neighboring room to his presence, and makes sure you know he’s interested in whatever it is that you’re doing.   Conyay belongs to my son and lives in and out of his cage in the bedroom — safe from cats and other household traffic. When we first took ownership of Conyay, we expected him to talk. We talk to him. We talk with him, but he doesn’t respond like we hoped that he would.   At one time, our pet menagerie included a sweet guinea pig named Peppermint. My son noticed that one of Conyay’s frequent sounds is identical to Peppermint’s squeaks and squeals. Peppermint was always fairly quiet until she was hungry and even after she ate, she ran around, emitting a unique “gassy” sound.

Conyay imitates both her squeak indicating hunger — and the “other” sound that follows, as he, too, “runs around.” While it’s nearly impossible to guess what a bird “thinks,” Conyay communicates sufficiently to let us know some of his personal preferences. If someone is playing a video game and he can’t see the screen, he squawks. When I first heard this, it was my son’s annoyed voice that I heard first. Then, when I entered the room, I noticed my son was facing Conyay’s cage and had a computer game in his lap. The screen was not visible to Conyay. Noticing that Conyay could not see the screen, I suggested to my son that he readjust his own position so that Conyay could watch him play. As soon as he made that adjustment, Conyay sat back and seemed fascinated by the screen. We have also discovered that Conyay enjoys hearing someone read out loud. It’s impossible for someone to be in

a near-by room and not acknowledge Conyay. If there is action, Conyay insists on being able to see what’s happening. When we move the cats elsewhere and take Conyay through the house, he seems content. We have also discovered that he enjoys open curtains, which allows him to see outside. He seems to enjoy “hanging out” on curtain rods and, occasionally, on shoulders and hands. Conyay seems to know that it’s time to eat when I rise in the mornings. However, we have also discovered that he is mindful of my son’s need for sleep. If my son is still asleep when I enter his room, Conyay doesn’t make a peep. Conyay is a most curious Conure — and a devoted friend. Genevieve Austin Genevieve Austin is a mother of one and received her teaching certificate from ASU. She is a writer who is working on her first book, ‘The Toy Box,’ and is also a radio personality, artist, singer and animal advocate.

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Hands Up for Beauty

Most of us are aware that our face is a prime area for showing the signs of aging, but what about our hands? Many times we neglect to properly care to our hands and forget how easily they can become damaged. Our hands go through a number of activities throughout the day, resulting in continual wear and tear. They are exposed to many chemicals and are constantly exposed to the sun. Proper care of our hands is vital if we desire to keep them looking young and prevent the signs of aging. The skin on our hands is quite thin and will only become thinner with age. The following suggestions for hand care can easily be incorporated into your beauty regimen without costing a fortune: Use a salt scrub on your hands to exfoliate the skin and create a smoother surface. Once, or maybe twice a week should be sufficient. Applying sunscreen to your hands is also vital when spending time outdoors. We often rub it all over our bodies, but too frequently forget that our hands need the same protection. 46


Exposing our hands to extreme water temperatures increases the threat of robbing them of hydration. The heat strips from them natural oils, so if your hands are exposed at length to water or chemicals, wear gloves and spare them from chapping or dehydration. Incorporate moisturizing gloves into your evening skincare regime once or twice a week. Simply apply a rich cream or body butter to the hands and slip them into a pair of moisture- retaining gloves that will assist the hands in retaining moisture. Hopefully these simple tips will help prolong the signs of aging to your hands. Even if they don’t all ďŹ t into your schedule, implementing just one of them will help.

kelly penick Licensed aesthetician 828.773.3587



Taelor Critcher (left) and Dustin Hickernell were named the 2012 Watauga High School Homecoming Queen and King.

Photo by Steve Behr

Photo by Steve Behr

Avie Huffman (center) was named the Homecoming Princess during halftime of the Watauga homecoming football game. Escorting her are Collin Augustine (15) and Jimmie Accardi (32).



Homecoming royalty


Avery Avery High School Homecoming Queen Erika Hughes and Homecoming King Bill Lien

Photo by Jamie Shell


Photo by Jesse Campbell

Senior Erin Bingham was named the 2012 Homecoming Queen at Ashe County High School.



If only they had listened to Benjamin Franklin, I would be the official bird of the United States and I, too, would have my equal rights — instead of running for my life this time every year.






deserve a relationship with a real person. That始s our stand.

Wendy Green 869 Hwy 105 Ext #1 Boone, NC 28607 (828) 264-6828

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All About Women November 2012  

All about women of the High Country.