The Three Rs of Mountain Air in North Carolina

Burnsville, NC (PRWEB) July 31, 2014

Some are into the art of molding clay. Others enjoy creating works of art. One has even impacted the overall well being of the surrounding county.

Dig deep into the residential directory, and you may just find the proverbial butcher, baker and candlestick maker.

Famed British mystery novelist Agatha Christie once wrote, “It has a quality that stays in the memory.” Though she spent most of her days in Europe, Christie could have easily been writing about life in this luxurious community that sits high atop the Appalachians.

Despite typically being portrayed as such, the daily routines at Mountain Air are not just about golf. A good percentage of the talented folks living there rarely, if ever, step up to the country club’s first tee.

Many are retirees who write stories or books, like Christie once did. Or they are second actors who delve into new or carried-over interests like pottery making, assembling scrapbooks, designing dresses, crafting furniture or brush stroking paintings, or taking pictures of the 100-miles views over the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround them.

Or these are people who, for whatever reason, simply don’t care for the sand of the beach, or the traffic of the big cities, or the heat and humidity of the south. They prefer to thrive on pure oxygen and crystal-clear views of the mountains.

The women of this year-round community are a particularly vibrant group when it comes to enjoying their luxurious surroundings. Sure, some will sneak away at times to take in a shopping spree or two a half-hour away in Asheville. But that’s not the primary reason they connect with the mile-high lifestyle.

At Mountain Air, it’s more about what has attracted people to the area for hundreds of years – relatively cool summer temperatures and sense of well being that helps accentuate their creative sides.

“Mountain Air is a unique composite of extraordinary and accomplished residents,” says Joan Alexander, a member of the community since 2005. “It’s somewhat mystifying how such a large group of extremely successful individuals would find such solace in Yancey County. It’s very, very special. Every time you come back here and get on this mountain, it’s like going home.”

Act One

Pam Witters is a full-time resident of Mountain Air. After living in North Carolina for nearly 20 years and falling in love with the Western North Carolina mountains, she and her husband built a home at Mountain Air in 2007. Before retirement from the corporate world of food and manufacturing, Witters’ life was crazy. Her businesses required constant travel and time away from home.

Yet, after retiring at the end of 2010, she became a potter.

“Within three weeks of retirement, I was in my first class and hooked for life,” Witters says. “There is no better place to be a creative person. Artisans of all genres surround us here, and inspiration and resources are all around us. Now, three years later, I have a home studio and a wonderful post-retirement business. I’m one of those ladies who does not golf and never had an interest. I’ve found a life-long passion in clay, and wonderful new friends here at Mountain Air who share my passion. I really love my journey here. I truly live in paradise.”

“I spent many years teaching kindergarten and first grade and at the end of my career,” Wiese says. “I was traveling to national conferences speaking to educators about teaching strategies and techniques.”

After retiring to Mountain Air, she took to scrapbooking – big time.

“It is my passion to record the memories of my life for my family and the future generations,” Wiese says. “It is a way to tell my story so others will know me and my values. I truly share my thoughts and feelings about my blessed life in my scrapbooks. I have also been the historian for the last three years for the Mountain Air Ladies Golf League. It has been my pleasure to photograph the ladies events and tournaments and then document and record the information in a yearly memory album.”

She even went so far as to build a dedicated scrapbook and craft room at her place in Mountain Air.

“It is my place to reflect and remember,” she says. “My husband often tells others that I am a retired kindergarten teacher who still loves to play with scissors and glue when I am busy scrapbooking.”

Act Two

A number of accomplished quilters live at Mountain Air. Shirley Rothouse is one of them.

“Quilting was not part of my family heritage growing up in Chicago,” Rothouse says. “I started sewing for my Barbie dolls and then progressed to clothes for myself. Quilts, at that time, were made with calico prints and looked very ‘country’ to me. I lean toward the contemporary side, so I was not interested in pursuing this side of the sewing industry.”

With a career background is in Medical Technology and a specialty certification in chemistry, quilting became an obvious departure from her former life.

“When I retired, I was the director of a chemistry lab at a hospital in Indianapolis,” Rothouse adds. “It wasn’t until the mid-nineties after I retired – and friends were talking about making quilts – that I actually visited a local quilt store in Indianapolis and found wonderful contemporary fabrics. I was hooked. My journey in the quilting arena led to my receiving several ‘Best of Show’ awards at this year’s Palmetto Quilt Guild Quilt Show (in Hilton Head, S.C.).”

Another community quilter – as well as having developed many other skills – is Kathryn Royen. She not only quilts, but she designs garments, sews, weaves and knits both by hand and by machine. Royen says the machine knitting, quilting and weaving outlets are what she calls, “new textile ‘sports’ for me since I came to Mountain Air.”

Royen, who moved to Mountain Air from Toledo, Ohio in 2008 with her husband, took up the added interests when she moved there.

“I took up quilting and weaving because of the environment here,” Royen says. “When you move to a new place you want to integrate yourself in a new community.”

Her weaving adventure was inspired in part by the former weaving department head at Penland – a prestigious art school just outside of Spruce Pine in the North Carolina mountains.

“Because of his influence, three of us here on the mountain went in together to buy and share a portable loom,” Royen says. “None of us had ever woven items before, so it was fun learning together. It was like meeting a rock star in weaving. He offered some classes, so three of us ladies decided to buy one loom and share it among the three of us. It is a portable loom. Every couple of months we would move it around.

“That’s how that started,” Royen says. “For me, when I had to say goodbye to that loom, I was really sad. Since then I have purchased a large floor loom for my textile studio. So I went and went from a small portable loom to a big stationary one. It was like a quantum leap in this ‘sport’ of weaving. I know I would never have done that back in Ohio. It’s the richness of this community that lets you express your creativity. Most of us sew, or quilt, or weave, which brings back the tie into the community.”

Her quilting interest, meanwhile, was inspired by the local quilt guild and quilt shop as well as by friends on the mountain who quilt.

“Of course the boost in discretionary time with retirement has allowed me to explore textile hobbies more in depth,” she says. “Until then, I sewed much of my work wardrobe without time for any other hobbies. Now I still don’t have all the time I would like to explore my new interests and keep up with sewing as well!”

Act Three

Joan Alexander grew up in California and later lived 35 years in Florida. How she ended up in the mountains of North Carolina was by coincidence. She was visiting some friends who owned a 600-acre farm in Burnsville and it was then that she discovered the lure of the region.

“When you walk into a store, people greet you,” she says. “When you attend church, there is a sense of community and friendliness that has been long lost in places like California and Florida. There is a quality of people and a concern for one another. It’s all very special.”

Alexander’s mountain odyssey began with a stint in 2009 and 2010 when she assisted a local group help folks not at Mountain Air, but across the greater expanse of North Carolina’s Yancey County. She helped put together the Children’s Advocacy Center of Yancey County, a non-profit organization that in part protects children in the community through a team-oriented, child-focused approach of preventing, detecting, investigating, and prosecuting child abuse.

“One day as I sat in church; a good way I thought to meet people, a gal tapped me on the shoulder and asked if after church we could have a cup of coffee,” she recalls. “She proceeded to explain the poverty in Yancey County and the need of the children that live here.”

Over the years since, the initiative has raised thousands of dollars to help needy individuals throughout the region.

Since then, Alexander has been more involved with the Mountain Air Community Residence Fund. The fund reaches out to the good people of Mountain Air to help better the lives of those around them.

“We send out e-mails reminding residents that we are very blessed to live an environment that is very special,” she says. “We raise some $40 to $50 thousand a year to help feed many of the needy people in Yancey County. It goes to show how special our residents are and the Mountain Air Community is. The residents are constantly impacting the greater community of Yancey.”

And finally, we have one of the many talented writers on the mountain.

Her name is Karen Miller and she’s a children’s author. She says living at Mountain Air inspires her to write.

“Mountain Air really does allow me to be creative and to be everything that I can be,” Miller says. “It’s a very spiritual place. It’s not just golf, or tennis or parties. It has a way of attracting people who are thoughtful and kindhearted. There’s something about Mountain Air that draws unusual people. I’ve never lived in a place like this before, nor do I expect to find another. I don’t think I could replicate it.”

Her first book, “Monsters and Water Beasts: Creatures of Fact or Fiction?” was published by Henry Holt in 2007. A second, entitled “Boogie Man 101,” is coming out in August by Rocking Horse Press. They are humorous, non-fiction works for kids.

Originally from Wisconsin, Miller lived in Chicago for 30 years and wrote a variety of stories for the Chicago Tribune. She and her husband, who just retired, moved to Mountain Air 10 years ago and they live there now full time.

Miller says her husband found Mountain Air “serendipitously.”

“He was on a fishing trip and weather forced a delay getting out of the region,” Miller concludes. “So he and his friends drove up here to check it out. He fell in love with it. Amazing. It was crazy. From the first minute we knew this was the place for us.”