Wednesday, May 17, 2006
MOUNT AIRY, N.C. —Two fans of the "The Andy Griffith Show" have commissioned a life-sized bronze statue of Barney Fife that they plan to donate to Mount Airy, N.C., the model for the show's fictional town of Mayberry.
Tom Hellebrand and Neal Shelton are raising money for the $35,000 project as a tribute to Don Knotts, the late actor who portrayed the bumbling Fife on the popular show. Knotts died on Feb. 24 at the age of 81 from pulmonary and respiratory complications.
"We felt something needed to be done about honoring Don Knotts," Shelton said. "He was an original."
The pair first had to get permission from CBS Corp., which owns the rights to The Andy Griffith Show characters, and negotiate with city leaders about whether they would accept such a statue and where they would put it. Everyone agreed it was a good idea.
"Don Knotts was a talented actor who played a memorable character on a legendary CBS show," said CBS spokesman Chris Ender. "We salute their effort to honor Mr. Knotts."
Hellebrand and Shelton will raffle off one of Shelton's restored cars along with a golf cart built to look like a squad car. They are accepting donations and have agreed to donate any money over the $35,000 they need to a charity in Knotts' name.
They hope to have the statue built and installed by this fall.
"I didn't think it would ever happen," Hellebrand said. "I'm very excited. Mayberry without Barney Fife just wouldn't be the same."