The Death of Frances Bavier Aunt Bee

Frances Bavier – “Aunt Bee”

January 2002: Did she have an attitude?  Read the red stuff below.

We all remember her for her role in The Andy Griffith Show, andthanks to my friends Cathy and Dave Bradford of North Carolina, we now can SEEwhere she lived her final days. Here’s the buzz on Bee:

The show that won her an Emmy ended in 1968, and in 1972 – Frances retiredto SilerCity, North Carolina. She’d visited the townpreviously during local celebrations, and fell in love with it, and bought ahouse on WestElk Street.

During her time in Siler City – she avoided fans and interviews like theplague. This aside, she supposedly made many friends in the area, and a lot ofthem called her, “Aunt Bee.” Inevitably, some idiot would come andknock on her door, looking for Sheriff Andy or some such nonsense. I don’tblame her for being a bit apprehensive, but I think she was losing her marbles.

Andy Griffith once did an interview with Ralph Emery, and the subject ofFrances came up. He said that both he and Ron Howard tried visiting her in SilerCity. Unannounced. She flipped. Later, a mutual friend of theirs called Andy,and said that Frances wanted to talk to him. Andy called her, and she told himthat she was sorry they never got along better. She told him that she hadsuffered twoheart attacks and cancer. Andy said in the interview that it wasn’t that theydidn’t get along, it was just that she didn’t always feel up to playing therole. Hmm.

She was admitted to the ChathamHospital, the day before Thanksgiving, 1989. She waskept in the coronary care unit fortwo weeks, and finally discharged on Monday, December 4. She died inthishouse on Wednesday, December 6. HeartFailure. She was 86 years old.

Upon her death, whoever went in the non-curtainedhouse found it reeking of cat piss, which is one ofthe worst smells on the planet. The plaster was peeling, the carpets frayed, andthe upholstery worn. She didn’t keep a tidy home. She had 14 cats (ugh.), andtheir litter box was the basement shower.  Not in it, it was it.

Supposedly, Frances spent most of her time in a large back room, sparsely furnished with a bed, a desk, a television and an end table. The only mementoesthey found were a few hats and dresses that she wore on the show. In the garagethey found a blue 1966 Studebaker, with four flat tires. (Thisjust in from friend Bill Gregory Terlecki, “Aunt Bee drove a 1964, I think that was the year, Studebaker Lark.Way after that date, she would drive herself to the studio in it. It was pea green. This I know as fact, as I use to be in the Studebaker Packard club in Vancouver area, and the monthly magazine did an article about it.”) Supposedly it was thesame car that she drove in Mayberry, RFD. Cool. The last time she used the carwas in 1983 – for a trip to the grocery store. In all, her estate was worth$700,000 (not too shabby) and her possessions were worth just under $32,000.

I have no funeral information for Frances, but I do know that she is buriedin the nearby Oakwood Cemetery. Her tombstone says “Aunt Bee” on it.

In her will, Frances bequeathed her house to the Moore Memorial Hospital, inPinehurst. The contents of the house went to the University of North CarolinaCenter for Public Television. The cats were found homes, well, except for onethat got away.

On Saturday, June 2, 1990 – there was an auction held of Frances’sbelongings. Fans lined up to pick over things like velvet hats and white gloves(which Frances really wore), and even her old contracts from The AndyGriffith Show. All in all, there were 800 items for sale. Boy, I betthey wished that Ebay existed then. They could have made a killing.

Trivia: I once wrote Andy Griffith a fan letter, and thiswas my response.

Thanks again, Cathy and Dave. You guys are just tits! friend Kay sent in this piece oftrivia:  Aunt Bee–Frances–whatever….(great story, BTW)…in light of her…eccentricities, shall we say, it is perhaps surprising that she filmed her last movie,Benji (yes, the dog story), in the Dallas, TX area in 1974…she played the old lady whose cat Benji chased every day..

Trivia from friend Jim:  I was told that Howard Morris (Ernest T.Bass) couldn’t abide Frances Bavier. Their feud supposedly came to a head during an episode he was directing. 

Morris was placing actors on the set. He said:”Frances? I’d like to move you over here.” Frances was sensitive about her considerable girth, and real or imagined slights. She turned on Morris and snarled, “Nobody will `move’ me!!!! I am not a sofa! I am not a dining room table!! How dare you?!!!!!” 

She did this in front of cast and crew. Morris told my friend it was all he could do to hold himself back from slugging her in the jaw.

Check out this great website about The Andy Griffith Show, HERE.

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