I remember the days of Appalachian State Teachers College growing up and the “talk” when joining the University of North Carolina system was headline news in the Watauga Democrat. My Aunt Steve [Mary S. Shook] was the infirmary nurse for many years and her husband, my Uncle Zeb [Shook], was an Appalachian librarian. I named my oldest son Zeb to honor Uncle Zeb and he lives his heritage proudly as a skilled outdoors man patterned after Uncle Zeb. As a teenager I remember how special I felt when every Friday night each fall I cheered the Watauga Pioneers to a hopeful victory on the astro turf at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Getting to play in a college stadium and on turf was unheard of in the ’70s and it felt “big time” and grown up. I attended my first concert as a high school student at ASU and sang along with the 5th Dimension as they belted out their popular tunes and landed in an aerial balloon in the gym.
My father was born in Valle Crucis, North Carolina. My grandparents and their four sons lived in the “S” curve on Old Hwy. 194 above Mast General Store, Dutch Creek Falls and the Episcopal Mission. My Grandaddy Shook was a supervisor for DOT and was responsible for overseeing the building of many roads in Watauga County. My Grandmother Shook never worked outside the home and never drove a car but she worked long hard days essentially running their 33-acre farm while Granddaddy worked. My grandparents made a huge impact on our rich childhoods by teaching my six siblings every moment of every visit. We were captivated and enjoyed learning about the wonders in the woods, gardening, wildflowers, cooking, quilting and farm animals. My connections to the community go well beyond being a native of the area, though. My parents both worked in the health care field in the Boone area. My mother was the anesthetist at Watauga Hospital and her career began when the hospital sat at the entrance of ASU in the red brick building (now known as Founders Hall). Being the only anesthetist in the area she knew every family by meeting them when she administered anesthesia to a family member in the operating room. My father was a purchasing agent for Cannon Memorial Hospital during the existence of that health care institution in Banner Elk.
About 10 years into my teaching career I joined an education cohort and completed my Ed.S. in school administration at Appalachian, and proudly give credit to the institution for my current position in higher education. Five of my six siblings enrolled at Appalachian in the departments of education, health care management and construction management. Appalachian has played a large part in the success of my family members.
My father is now 96 and a bit frail and has moved “off the mountain,” living three miles from me in the Village of Clemmons, North Carolina. He walks daily but his favorite day trip continues to be the periodic drives up to Watauga County to renew his Mountaineer spirit as we drive through the town of Boone!
Generations of Appalachian students received care from this founding member of the Student Health Association of North Carolina. The university's M.S. Shook Health Service is named for her.