By Nathan Ham
The lives of Boone residents George and Michelle Ligon will be celebrated on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Boone United Methodist Church with a private memorial service for family, friends and coworkers. The service will be live-streamed for the general public through the Jenkins Funeral Home Facebook page.
George Ligon was born in Richmond, Virginia and spent time living in Indonesia when his parents, Wendell and Mary, spent time working in the mission field. He later returned to the United States with his parents and lived in Norfolk before eventually settling in Charlotte. He was a 1980 graduate of South Mecklenburg High School, a 1983 graduate of Lees-McRae College and a 1986 graduate of Appalachian State University. George spent over 20 years serving as the Boone branch manager of Terminix of the Triad and was a member of Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church in Blowing Rock.
Michelle was born in Fayetteville and moved to Greenville, South Carolina with her mother, Peggy, in 1966. She graduated from Berea High School and began attending Appalachian State University. She briefly left school after getting married and having two children before returning to App State and graduating in 1994. Michelle had always been a quiet but important force between tourism in the High Country. She started working as the Public Relations Director for the Boone Convention & Visitors Bureau after graduation and then transitioning to the Director of Public Relations and Social Media at ExploreBoone.com in July of 2010.
“We’ve been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support for Michelle from our tourism friends and colleagues all over North Carolina and even the southeast. It’s amazing to see how many people Michelle touched all over the southeast through her work at Explore Boone,” said Wright Tilley, Executive Director of the Boone Tourism Development Authority. “She had been with us for 11 years and was with the Boone CVB (Convention & Visitors Bureau) for probably 10 years or so prior to that, so she had devoted over 20 years of her life to marketing and promoting the place that she loved. She loved living here and loved sharing pictures and stories about Boone and the High Country.”
Along with her work promoting the good things happening in Boone, Michelle loved the history of the area.
“She was very involved in organizations that were near and dear to her, the Southern Appalachian Historical Association being one of those. She had been involved with the Horn in the West production and Hickory Ridge Living History Museum for a long time. She actually helped start the Boone Heritage Festival that was around for a few years,” Tilley said. “I remember her making cornhusk dolls for the kids that came through Hickory Ridge and the festival and teaching them how to make cornhusk dolls. She loved all things historical in nature. She was on the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail board and wrote their newsletters. She just enjoyed the historical aspects of Boone and Watauga County. It was great to have that resource on our team here.”
The relationship George and Michelle shared together was a love that showed on their faces every time they would see each other.
“It was very obvious that there was a deep connection there and that they loved each other dearly. You could see that when they were together. George would come by the office every other Friday or so and pick Michelle up for lunch. They were just happy together; it made them both smile to be around each other,” Tilley said.
Michelle did a lot of writing about events and happenings around Boone and would pitch many story ideas, all without needing or wanting the attention.
“She was our chief storyteller and dealt a lot with the PR and social media side of things telling our story, but yet she was a quiet, behind-the-scenes type person,” Tilley said.
The couple would give back to the community in many different ways, but maybe the most important was their work with the Quiet Givers. Donors are usually anonymous, however following the tragic events that led to the deaths of both George and Michelle, the organization sent out a statement recognizing them for all that they had done for the group throughout the years and put together a fundraiser for the family.
“George and Michelle were longtime supporters of our organization and this is our way of giving back to them by supporting their family during this difficult time,” said Executive Director Matthew Lucas. “Michelle was our very first monthly recurring donor; she’s been there for us since the very beginning. Whenever we needed someone to test out new features on our website or social media – Michelle was our go-to, helping us make sure everything was running smoothly before passing them on to the public. And there was rarely a need that we posted that George wouldn’t swoop in and top off to make sure it got filled.”