Whatever happened to Aunt Bee?
Frances Bavier had roles in more than a dozen films, as well as playing a range of supporting roles on television, but it is her role as Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry Rfd that her fans remember her.
I’m not Aunt Bee
Contrary to her character, Bavier was easily offended on the set, and the production staff took a very cautious approach when communicating with her. Series star Andy Griffith once admitted the two clashed sometimes during the series’s long run.
Move to Siler City
When her time was up playing Aunt Bee and pretending to live in North Carolina(the show was actually filmed in California) Bavier moved to the real Siler City, sometimes mentioned on the Andy Griffith Show.
On choosing to live in North Carolina instead of her native New York, Bavier said, “I fell in love with North Carolina, all the pretty roads, and the trees.
At first, when she moved to the town in 1972, everybody welcomed her. She rode in the high school homecoming parade as a grand marshall and became a local celebrity. She promoted Christmas and Easter seals from her new home and would write long inspirational letters to her tv fans who asked for autographs.
But for some reason, people couldn’t separate the actress from her television alter ego. They would insist on calling her Aunt Bee. When she didn’t attend church people would say “But you attended church in Mayberry!”
Pretty soon curiosity seekers walking all over her lawn and peeking in her windows. School buses would unload in the front yard and people would walk around her house. She hired a neighborhood boy to cut her grass, and when the kids at school started teasing him, calling him Opie, he quit.
Frances Bavier became a recluse. She had groceries delivered. She kept a lot of cats, and the house fell into disrepair. Her car sat in the garage all 4 tires flat. She rarely ventured out. By 1983, she stopped going out at all. In 1986 when Ron Howard and Andy Griffith tried to visit she refused to see them.
It seems, though, that she mellowed a slight bit in the last year of her life. First, she recorded a short audio clip to be used in the Return to Mayberry movie. Then, according to Andy Griffith, Just 4 months before she died, she phoned Andy and apologized for being “difficult” during the series’s run.
On November 22, 1989, Bavier was admitted to Chatham Hospital, where she was kept in the coronary care unit for two weeks. She was discharged on December 4, 1989, and died at her home two days later, eight days before her 87th birthday.
In the end, even death couldn’t separate her from her most famous role. Her headstone reads:
To live in the hearts of those left behind is not to die