A Half-Century of Service

Article Published: May. 26, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
A Half-Century of Service

Cullie Tarleton, right, honors Pinky Hayden as North Carolina's most recent recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award during a ceremony at the Meadowbrook Inn in Blowing Rock last Friday.

Photo by Jeff Eason


Surprise was on the menu at the Appalachian State University Friends of the Library's Literary Luncheon at Meadowbrook Inn last Friday.

Not only were the guests there treated to a meal and a presentation by a nationally known author, but one of the guests also received the state's highest civilian honor during the reception.

Cullie Tarleton presented Blowing Rock resident Pinky Hayden with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, on behalf of Gov. Beverly Perdue.

"Many of you have heard me say that I believe that people who have basically devoted their lives to community service deserve to be recognized for their dedication and service," Tarleton said. "Such it is with Margaret 'Pinky' Hayden.

"Born in Todd, an ASU graduate with post graduate work at ASU, a former public school teacher, former Teacher of the Year, former mayor of Sparta, entrepreneur, former legislature in the N.C. House of Representatives - and I can tell you from personal experience the commitment that requires - assistant state superintendent at the North Carolina Department of Instruction, and the list of her service goes on and on. She currently serves as chair of the High Country Women's Fund."

According to the Order of the Long Leaf charter, the award is "among the most prestigious awards presented by the governor of North Carolina. The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is presented to individuals who have a proven record of extraordinary service to the state. Contributions to their communities, extra effort in their careers and many years of service to their organizations are some of the guidelines by which recipients are selected for this award."

Previous local recipients of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine have been Wade Wilmoth, Jerry Burns, Ginny Stevens and Albert Yount. Other recipients include such luminaries as Maya Angelou, Michael Jordan and Charles Kuralt.

"The good news is that in North Carolina we have a way of recognizing people for their years of service," Tarleton said. "In Pinky's case, we're talking about at least 50 years of service."

A framed copy of the award was presented to Hayden in the tradition of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. It reads, in part, "Reposing special confidence in the integrity, learning and zeal of Margaret 'Pinky' Hayden, I, Governor Beverly Perdue, do by these presents confer The Order of the Long Leaf Pine with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary, privileged to enjoy fully all rights granted to members of this exalted order, among which is the special privilege to propose the following North Carolina toast in select company anywhere in the free world ..."

It also includes the first verse of the official toast of North Carolina, from a poem by Leonora Martin and Mary Burke Kerr:

"Here's to the land
of the long leaf pine,
The summer land
Where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong
and the strong grow great,
Here's to 'down home,'
the Old North State!"

"As you'll see from the date on the award certificate, I've been trying to present this to Pinky for months," Tarleton said. "Reba Moretz and I schemed for weeks about how to get Pinky to a reception in order to make this presentation. That proved to be impossible because, as many of you know, Pinky is the queen of time share, and she and Tom took off for Hawaii for three weeks or so and, upon their return to Blowing Rock, they left for two or three months at Amelia Island."

Tarleton solved his dilemma by asking ASU head librarian Mary Reichel if he could take a few moments during the Friends of the ASU Library's Literary Luncheon last Friday to present Hayden with the award.

The solution worked out perfectly as the featured speaker at the luncheon was Hayden's step-granddaughter, Claire Robinson, a Food Network chef and author of the cookbook, "5 Ingredient Fix."

"This is a truly humbling experience to receive this award," Hayden said. "I am totally surprised, but I am so glad I got to experience this with my family. It was just a case of Cullie demonstrating perfect timing."

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