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Thelma Lou from "Andy Griffith Show" celebrates 90th birthday
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Thelma Lou from "Andy Griffith Show" celebrates 90th birthday

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Barney Fife’s best gal is about to turn 90.

Betty Lynn — who played Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show” and later became a resident of the town that inspired Mayberry — will celebrate her birthday on Monday, and the Surry Arts Council is commemorating the occasion with a series of special events that day.

“It is so wonderful to have Betty, one of the most important folks from ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ living here in Mount Airy where she can meet and greet fans regularly,” said Tanya Jones, the executive director of the Surry Arts Council, in a release announcing the event. “She’s been an enormous advocate for the arts, and we wanted to show her how much she means to us.”

Photo gallery

Lynn, who was born in Kansas City, Mo., acted on radio, Broadway, films and television before landing the role of Thelma Lou. She reprised the role in the 1986 TV movie “Return to Mayberry” and also appeared in several episodes of Andy Griffith’s later series “Matlock.”

She frequently visited Mount Airy, taking part in the annual Mayberry Days celebration, the latest of which will be held Sept. 21-25. In 2007, she decided to move to Mount Airy and will celebrate her 10th anniversary there in January.

Monday’s birthday festivities will kick off with an autograph session at the Andy Griffith Museum in downtown Mount Airy, which will run three hours. That will be followed by the unveiling of a new exhibit that looks at Lynn’s career, which will be next door to the museum in the lower level of the Andy Griffith Playhouse. Among the highlights are items from her role as Thelma Lou and memorabilia from her USO tour during World War II, Broadway shows, and Hollywood movies.

At 5 p.m., a birthday dinner will be held for Lynn at the Loaded Goat, one of her favorite restaurants in Mount Airy, which was named after a memorable episode of the series. Then, at 6:45, Lynn will speak briefly at the Earle Theatre and David Browning, aka “The Mayberry Deputy,” will make a special presentation before a screening of her 1948 movie “June Bride,” in which she co-starred with Bette Davis, Barbara Bates and Robert Montgomery.

“Beyond her many memorable performances throughout her career, most especially as Thelma Lou, Betty has lived a truly remarkable life,” said Jim Clark, the author of several books about the history of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

“She is a wonderful person, a tremendous ambassador for Mayberry, a beloved friend, and an inspiration to countless people. Barney Fife had it right — she’s the cat’s!”

Admission to the museum is $6, and fans can buy autographed photos of Lynn for $10. Reservations are required for the birthday dinner; call (336) 755-3627 to see if seats are still available. Tickets to the 7 p.m. movie will be $6. For more information, go to www.surryarts.org or call (336) 786-7998.

tclodfelter@wsjournal.com (336) 727-7371 @tclodfelterWSJ

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