A couple of deaths greeted Avery County residents in 1962. Almost a year after the passing of her husband Eustace, Dr. Mary Martin Sloop passed on January 13. The Avery Journal considered her one of Avery County’s “most valuable and outstanding citizens.” Born in Davidson County in 1873, she was a graduate of the Statesville Female College and the Pennsylvania Women’s College of Medicine. In 1909, she married Eustace Sloop, and the couple moved to Plumtree to practice medicine. A year later, they moved to the Crossnore community. She founded the Crossnore Academy, which later became Crossnore School, and later a hospital and Presbyterian Church. In 1951, she was selected as The American Mother of the Year. She is buried behind the Crossnore Presbyterian Church.
Samuel K. Mortimer, Sr. was born in Virginia in 1889. After graduating from school, he went into the lumber business with his brother, Ed Mortimer. In 1927, S.K. Mortimer became general manager for Howard Marmon, and oversaw the construction of Anthony Lake, Anthony Lake Fish Hatchery, and later the nursery. He was also a partner of W.C. Stewart, who owned a store in the Pineola area. Mortimer was chair of the local Democratic Party, on the Crossnore School Committee, and was an elder at the Pineola Presbyterian Church. He passed on January 17, and is interred in Pineola.
In early March it was announced that the Jaycees, at the direction of the Board of Aldermen, were in the process of organizing a volunteer fire department in Newland. According to The Avery Journal, the town had a fire truck, but it had fallen into disrepair and the town lacked a trained crew. At the community meeting, questions were answered by members of the Crossnore Volunteer Fire Department, and local men agreed to the undertaking. Helping with the organization was J. Paul Fletcher, recently appointed Newland Chief of Police. In a meeting on March 9, Junior Sluder was elected chief, and George Willis, assistant chief. It was reported that the new fire suits were purchased in September, and a new building was under construction in October.
Appalachian State Teacher’s College (now University), started an Appalachian Hall of Fame in 1961. Their goal was to recognize alumni who were exemplary graduates. Several of the inductees in 1962 had Avery County connections, including Attorney Thomas A. Love and former Elk Park mayor John R. Pritchard.
Mary Cherry of Newland was crowned Miss Mountain Laurel of 1962 at the annual Mountain Laurel Festival on June 9. There were 14 young ladies in the competition. Shelley Young of Ingalls was the first runner-up.
Gilmer Johnson passed away on June 17. Known far and wide as Uncle Gilmer, with his wife, “Aunt Pop,” he had set up the original second-hand clothing store in their home in order to benefit Crossnore School. The profits from the store supported the educational opportunities for many young boys and girls. Uncle Gilmer was buried beside Aunt Pop, who passed away in 1949, in the John Johnson Cemetery.
Two new post office buildings, in Newland and Banner Elk, were dedicated on June 30.
“Aunt Zona’s Web,” a book recalling the life of local school teacher Arizona Hughes, was released in July. She was born on Henson’s Creek in 1876, and taught in local schools for 57 years. “Aunt Zona’s Web” was written by Thomas C. Chapman, and follows the life of a “lady who faced many hardships in following a carer that she loved.” When asked why she chose to have her story published, Hughes answered that “present and future generations may know what teachers and students did in order to acquire an education in days gone by.”
Governor Terry Sanford was in the area in July. He spoke to 300 at the Annual Banquet of the Avery County Chamber of Commerce and took a little time off to fish for trout in some of the local streams. Sanford returned in September, speaking at several different schools.
“Largest Crowd Ever at Singing” reported The Avery Journal in August. The Rev. Billy Graham delivered the keynote address at the 38th annual Singing on the Mountain event on Grandfather Mountain. The crowd was estimated to be 150,000, “the greatest number of people ever to assemble in one crowd in North Carolina.” In attendance besides Graham were Arthur Smith and the Crossroads Quartet, Cliff Barrows, Joe Emerson, and Lulu Belle and Scotty Wiseman. Traffic was snarled for hours and miles in either direction. “Today, the cross of Christianity faces the hammer and sickle of communism,” Graham preached from the rock at Macrae’s Meadows.
The K.W. Sams home on Mitchell Street in Newland was purchased by the county in August. The building would be named the Avery County Sams-Cohoon Library.
Also in August, Capt. Sam Ray was selected to pilot an F102 fighter based out of Seymour Johnson Air Force base named “Town of Newland.”
Work began in late September on the new Avery County Airport next to the Harris Clay Company in Ingalls. The site itself has much history. It was here that a barn stood where the first couple of court sessions were held for the new Mitchell County in 1861.
In national news, an embargo against Cuba began in February; also, John Glenn orbited the earth in Friendship 7 that month; Scott Carpenter followed in his earth orbit in May; the first Walmart store opened in July in Rogers, Ark.; President John F. Kennedy delivered his iconic “We choose to go to the Moon” speech at Rice University in September; in October, the Cuban Missile Crisis began.
Those born in 1962 include actor Tom Cruise, baseball star Roger Clemens, Governor Chris Christie and actresses Demi Moore and Jodie Foster. Those who died in 1962 include author William Faulkner; poet E.E. Cummings and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.