Celebrating the Life of Shelton Fields
March 31, 2015
We are very honored that Wanda, Brad and Jenny have asked us to speak today. We are Mike and Kim Johnson–or as Shelton liked to call me “Kimberlonian” because I called him “Sheltonian.” We first met Shelton in 1991 at GTCC, while taking a class about “The Andy Griffith Show.” Our mutual love for that show brought us together, and developed into our 24-year friendship with Shelton and Wanda. Today, we’d like to share with you the Shelton that we knew and loved.
Shelton and Wanda were married for over 50 years, and Wanda spent those years totally devoted to taking care of Shelton. I remember Shelton telling the story of Wanda always rushing back from wherever she was to prepare his lunch, and he admitted he could make his own sandwich, but he wasn’t going to let her know that. I know he loved all the special attention she gave him, and over this past year Shelton told us many times, “What would I do without Wanda? She takes such good care of me.”
Shelton was very proud of his children Brad and Jenny, their
accomplishments, and the lives they had created with their spouses, Nancy and Jamie. The greatest gifts he received from his children were his granddaughters, Amanda and Lainey. He was so impressed by Amanda’s graceful dancing ability and her beautiful singing voice, and he was amazed at Lainey’s creative imagination at such an early age. I think he got in trouble with Jenny one time because he took Lainey for breakfast early one morning and let her have ice cream. He adored them both.
Some people have the ability of meeting a stranger, striking up a conversation, connecting with them, then becoming their friend. This was a talent Shelton possessed and was evident by the many friends he made during Mayberry Days each year — several of which are here today from out of state.
Along with us and others, Shelton was a member of the Barney Chapter, which is a fan club of “The Andy Griffith Show” Rerun Watchers Club. Aside from having our monthly gatherings over the past 20 years, the Barney Chapter also participates in the Mayberry Days parade each year. One year we all dressed as one of Barney’s many characters.
For those of you who witnessed it, you may never forget the sight of Shelton walking down main street in Mount Airy with thousands of people in attendance, wearing a long, white, ill-fitting wedding dress, and a veil. He made the front page of the Mount Airy News. Shelton was the hit of the parade.
His friendships were also witnessed by us just a few months ago at a restaurant we visited together nearby. Due to his illness, Shelton had not been at this restaurant in a while. We were surprised when the cooks, waitstaff, and most of the customers wanted to hug him and express how much they missed him. Shelton was like a celebrity.
These friendships were also developed during his many visits to Wesley Long Hospital, where I happen to work. Many times a nurse or an employee of the hospital I didn’t even know would stop me in the hallway and ask, “How’s your friend Shelton?” I realized he was probably entertaining the nurses, making them laugh, making that people connection. Shelton was memorable.
I believe Shelton could easily make these friend connections because of his humor. I found that if I was with Shelton, I was usually laughing. He was funny. Shelton and I shared a similar sense of humor and we could laugh at just about anything. Now this sometimes got us in trouble. If our laughter got too out of control in public, Wanda would threaten to come sit between us—and that just made the situation even funnier. I will miss his humor.
One thing about Shelton that we didn’t know too much about was his love of airplanes and flying. This interest started at an early age, and he eventually took flying lessons and got his pilot license. He would also build and fly model airplanes and radio-controlled planes. I know he will be missed by his flying buddies, Lewis, Luke, and Charles. Shelton also had many four-legged, furry and feathered friends.
Ten years ago, he found two small kittens while walking around the lake near his home. These two cats, named Malcolm and Sarah, (characters from “The Andy Griffith Show”) are now treasured family members of the Fields household. Shelton loved the outdoors and wildlife and would feed the deer, birds and geese that lived around the lake.
Shelton also loved our dog, Daisy. We knew that Shelton dog sat for friends in Asheville, so we asked him to stay overnight in Greensboro with Daisy while we were out of town. He agreed, and things were going great until he and Daisy went outside one last time before going to bed.
Unfortunately, he closed the door and locked himself and Daisy out of our house. Now picture this…it’s about midnight, middle of July, Shelton wearing only his boxers, no phone, no wallet, no shoes. The only thing he has is a spare car key hidden under his car. So, he loads up our dog into his car, and heads home to Reidsville, driving Miss Daisy! Can you imagine the look on Wanda’s face when he shows up at the door?
Mike Johnson picks up the narrative here.
Every now and then you meet a person that has a profound influence on your life. Shelton was that person for me. Shelton was a very intelligent and a well-read individual, and he knew a lot about many things besides flying and “The Andy Griffith Show.” He was very knowledgeable of music and could remember songs and lyrics from all genres, which amazed me.
I would accompany Shelton on guitar when he would sing at our Barney Chapter gatherings. Later on, I and the fellows in the band I was with convinced him to start singing with us and performing some of the many songs he knew. Shelton played guitar a little bit, but being the craftsman that he was, he enjoyed building guitars over playing them. So, he would play percussion on a washboard instead, and sing. The first time he performed professionally, he was very apprehensive, but after that, it was “game on.” Shelton would drive from Reidsville every Tuesday afternoon for rehearsal at our house in Greensboro.
Even after becoming ill, he kept this up as long as possible. He even scheduled medical appointments so they would not interfere with playing music together. The music would always pick him up, even on a tough day. Shelton would always bring along a song for us to learn that would brighten the mood, and bring us joy. Many of the songs I had never heard before, but now, I will never forget.
The last song Shelton brought during the height of his illness was called ” Everything Will Be Alright.” The song is about a farmer that has everything going wrong on the farm, but at the end of every verse he says, “but everything will be alright.” I think that was Shelton’s way of letting us all know that everything will be fine now that his suffering is over, that he’s in a better place, and I’m sure he’s singing and playing in a much better band now–a band of angels. I hope he saves me a place.
As we leave here today, I know we will all remember and celebrate Shelton every time we make a friend connection with someone, watch an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show,” see a plane flying overhead, love an animal, have a good laugh, or hear a particular song–because he would want us all to know…that everything will be alright.
Many thanks to Kim and Mike Johnson for sharing their thoughts about their great friend Shelton.