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Beech Mountain Couple Honored with Highest Civilian State Award on Sunday Evening

Rep. Ray Russell (left) presented Marjorie and Fred with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine on this past rainy Sunday evening.

Long-time Beech mountain Residents Marjorie and Fred Pfohl were presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Rep. Ray Russell at the town’s Sunday Evening Concert this past weekend.

The award is the highest civilian honor conferred by the Governor of North Carolina. Since its creation in 1963, it has been awarded to persons for exemplary service to the State and their communities that is above and beyond the call of duty and which has made a significant impact and strengthened North Carolina. 

Among the recipients, you will find the familiar names of the following North Carolinians: Maya Angelou, Charlie Daniels, Dale Earnhardt, Morton, Richard Petty, Earl Scruggs, Arthur Smith, Dean Smith, Randy Travis and “Doc” Watson.

Marjorie moved to Beech Mountain in the late 1970s — a single mom with five children. Through the Property Owners Association recreation programs, she met and married Fred Pfohl. Together, they saw a need in our community for a general store and subsequently opened Fred’s General Mercantile. This store has been at the heart and soul of Beech Mountain ever since.

“Tending the counter, she became mother to this community,” Rep. Russel said. “Extending credit, cosigning notes and mortgages, mentoring young people and so much more.

“She was a part of virtually every community event here: July 4th Pig Roast, Arbor Day, Street Dances, Kite Festivals, Sunday Concerts, Cool 4 Run, Winterfest, Town Birthday, Garbage Day, Spring Clean-up, active in her church and Property Owners Association summer programs. She was the unofficial fire department lady’s auxiliary, providing food and drinks at fire scenes, and she organized socials.”

“She has been a part of every good deed I’m about to list about Fred, and vice versa,” Rep. Russell added.

Fred and Marjorie are happy to have been recognized together for the award. Fred commented, “That, to me, was the best part of it all. She’s been as much a part of it as I have. Because of her, I’ve been able to do things that I know I wouldn’t have been able to if she wasn’t around helping, supporting, backing me up and filling in the blanks when they needed filling in. The fact that they recognized us both was wonderful, and she deserves it more than I do because she’s been out supporting me all these years.”

Marjorie and Fred Pfohl were recognized together for the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award.

Fred Pfohl grew up in Greensboro, went to Appalachian State, and moved to Beech Mountain around the time the community was established. A student internship brought Fred to Beech mountain. The Property Owners Association hired Fred after college developing programs for summer residents. Fred’s General Mercantile store has been featured in magazines and newspapers throughout the South.

“It’s not only the heart of this community, it is a tourist destination,” Rep. Russell said. “Fred’s General Mercantile has been open every day for more than 40 years.”

Fred was the first elected and longtime mayor. He has spearheaded town beautification and park projects as head of the town Recreation Committee: the Parkway Overlook, Pine Ridge Road and Beech Parkway Fraser fir planting, the Mile High Kite Field, the Town Bark Park, Fulgham Park, Santis Lake and Park, stocking of two trout lakes and development of the state trout fishing program, Perry Park, Firemen’s Park, 23 miles of town hiking trails, Emerald Outback cross country mountain bike and hiking traisl, the town sledding hill and snowmaking, town white light decorations at Christmas, the Buckeye Recreation Center and 43-acre Park. Many of these were developed and worked on with his store staff.

Fred helped start many town events and volunteers annually: the Annual Roasting of the Hog, Street Dances, Sunday Evening Concerts and Crafts on the Green. He is a founding member of the volunteer fire department as served as board president for many years, a founding member and past president of the Beech Mountain Chamber of Commerce, a founding member and past president of High Country Host. He served as chairman of the Town Tourism Development Authority. He served on the fundraising committee that raised money to build Cannon Hospital and YMCA in Linville. 

He was a long-time board member of the Blue Ridge Rural Land Trust and put 43 acres of land into a permanent recreation easement. He ushers and greets members at St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church in Linville, NC. Fred has been the official U.S. Weather Observer for over 30 years. 

“Fred hires teenagers and mentors them in his store and in the community,” Rep. Russell said. “Fred, Margie and their employees pick up roadside trash and work on countless community projects. The couple has loaned people money to buy homes and cars.”

Working with young people is one of the things Fred enjoys most. “Sometimes this is their first job. I like to take on young folks as a project to try to teach them a little bit about working, and hopefully I’ve taught them a little bit and in turn they’ve helped me by working.”

Fred is a longtime member of the High Country United Way Board and served as both vice-chair and chair of that board.

Fred served in Vietnam and was assigned working in a Vietnamese village helping improve living conditions for the community through improved agriculture and healthcare. It was more like a Peace Corp mission than a combat assignment. He recently visited Vietnam and has helped other veterans do the same.

Fred is an avid lover of trains. He volunteers at the Jonesboro, TN, railroad museum and raised money for the museum.

“We have many great people around us, but no one has done more for this community than Fred and Margie,” Rep. Russell said during the presentation. “We thank you both for your service and appreciate all of your accomplishments, cannot imagine what this community would be like without you. But most importantly, we love you both dearly.”

Fred noted that it was important for him to remember that it wasn’t just him who had done so much good, “When I got up this morning, that was thing I thought most about — that this Long Leaf Pine award doesn’t just belong to me but all these people who’ve helped me in my life, especially my wife. If I’ve been successful, it’s because of all these around me, from employees to family to friends. I’m just the guy whose name is on it, but there really is a lot of other people that made it happen. I’m grateful for all of them.”

As for why he is so involved in the community, he says that he thinks we should all be helping each other, “We could all get on the same hymn book and the same page and pay attention more to each other’s needs.”

Rep. Russell, a former minister, then recited scripture appropriate for the occasion: 

Matthew 25:37-40

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Fred and Margie have always been supporters of ‘the least of these'” Rep. Russell concluded. “Because of that, you are admired and loved by everyone around you.

“So today, I’m proud on behalf of Governor Roy Cooper to present you with the order of the Long Leaf Pine.”

Fred commented that he will be “eternally grateful for such a great trip.” Fred’s General Mercantile can be described as a magical, small-town gathering place where the whole community comes through and keeps connected, and Fred says he “hopes it can always be that way. We strive everyday to make it the special place it is.”

Fred and Marjorie’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine awards.