ROCKINGHAM —Betty Yount was “still in shock” a day after receiving the state’s most prestigious service award, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
Yount worked for Richmond County Schools for about 30 years before retiring in 1983. Four of those years were spent at the old Hoffman School.
“It was my birthday yesterday,” Yount said on Thursday. “My two daughters told me they wanted to take me out to lunch at the National Clubhouse in Pinehurst. I got there and there was this one particular class there that I taught in Hoffman during the early years teaching in Richmond County. I was surprised to see them there. I remember them being students who really wanted to learn.”
The surprise for Yount’s 87th birthday was hosted by the Hoffman High classmates of 1962-64. One member of that group was Richmond County Commissioner Don Bryant, who held Yount’s birthday cake as she blew the candles out.
“I graduated in ‘62,” Bryant said. “What I remember most about Mrs. Yount, being in a small school, she was extremely attractive and a lot of fun. All the guys were in love with her. She had two little twin girls and she made learning fun. I told her she kept me from skipping. She was very involved with her students. Out of 12 of us in my graduating class, four of us became teachers, and a total of six of us pursued higher educations.”
It was surprising enough to be surrounded by her twin daughters and her son, and members of a former class that cared enough to get back together for her 87th birthday celebration, but Yount also noticed a pair of strangers among the intimate gathering of loved ones.
She asked her daughters whether they recognized the men, but no one seemed to know who they were.
“After we ate, these two men came over and asked me to stand up,” Yount said. “They were holding a plaque up, and they had me stand with them. I couldn’t see the front of it because of how we were standing. And they made a nice speech and said they were from the governor’s office and they awarded me with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. I was absolutely shocked! I had no idea.”
The representatives from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office were community liaisons George Jones and Jarrod Lowery.
In remarks to the group, Carol Graham, who organized the event, commended Yount for her “strength of character, dedication, integrity and impartiality to all her students.”
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, created in 1963, has been presented to honor those with a proven record of service to the state of North Carolina, some other achievement or as an act of friendship and goodwill, according to longleafpinesociety.org. The roster consists of fewer than 17,000 names.
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @melonieflomer.