Frances Bavier retired to a real town near Mayberry after leaving The Andy Griffith Show
The actress left Hollywood for the quiet life in North Carolina.
Frances Bavier acted alongside cowboys and aliens before she settled into a role on Mayberry. Her breakout role came in 1951, as she neared 50 years old, in the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. Not long after, she was dressed up for the Old West alongside Jimmy Stewart in Bend of the River. Two years later, after some bit parts on cop shows, Bavier landed a regular role on TV, playing a lead in the family comedy It's a Great Life. She starred in an impressive 71 episodes on that series, set in sunny Los Angeles.
But, of course, Bavier will forever be best known as Aunt Bee, the caring housekeeper on The Andy Griffith Show. She logged ten years in Mayberry, playing the character on both TAGS and Mayberry R.F.D., longer than any other actor. Yep, Aunt Bee appeared in Mayberry longer than even Andy himself.
Her interpersonal relationships with fellow cast members made for juicy gossip in behind-the-scenes tales from The Andy Griffith Show. Griffith himself once famously said in regards to Bavier, "There was just something about me she did not like." Other reports labeled the actress as difficult and cold.
But Bavier must have loved Mayberry. Not only did she appear in more Mayberry-set TV episodes than any other actor, but she also retired to a small North Carolina town that was essentially Mayberry in real life.
Born in Manhattan, Bavier was a city girl. She went to college uptown at Columbia University. She began her showbiz career on vaudeville and Broadway stages. But something about the quiet life in the Carolinas appealed to her private personality.
In 1972, not long after her final appearance on Mayberry R.F.D., Bavier left Hollywood and purchased a home in Siler City, North Carolina. Despite the fact that her TV shows were filmed in California, Bavier noted, "I fell in love with North Carolina, all the pretty roads and the trees."
Siler City sits about 90 miles southeast of Mt. Airy, North Carolina, Griffith's hometown and the real-life inspiration for Mayberry. At the time, both little burgs were about the same size, with about 5,000–7,000 residents. It's easy to assume that life in Siler City was akin to living in Mayberry.
Bavier lived the rest of her quiet life in the town, until she passed away in 1989. She was buried in Siler City. Chiseled on her tombstone, under the name "Aunt Bee," the inscription declares, "To live in the hearts of those left behind is not to die."