In 1989, beloved The Andy Griffith Show actress Francis Bavier who played Aunt Bee on the classic television show passed away at age 86.
The Emmy Award-winning star passed away in her Siler City, North Carolina home in early December of that year. The actress hailed from New York City, which may surprise some. She attended Columbia University and graduated from Manhattan’s American Academy of the Arts.
While filming The Andy Griffith Show though, she visited Siler City and fell in love with the town and its people. In 1972, Bavier retired from acting and moved to the small central North Carolina town. She lived there for almost 20 more years before her death.
John Meroney, Andy Griffith Show Appreciation Society founder, spoke about Bavier’s important role on the show. He called the actress “essential” to its success. In addition, Meroney pointed out how talented the actress was for her portrayal of Aunt Bee considering she’s from NYC.
″Many episodes focused on her and she was essential to the success of the show,″ Meroney said, according to an AP News article.
″When she started on the show she was 57 and had more experience going in than any of the other cast members,″ he said. ″She was the only one from a large city. The fact that she could portray Aunt Bee showed the depth of her talent.″
Sadly, Bavier suffered heart issues at the end of her life in Siler City. She spent time in Chatham Hospital not long before she died. In fact, one week before the actress passed, the hospital released her from their coronary care unit. While the exact cause of death was not reported, it’s safe to assume The Andy Griffith Show star passed away from heart-related complications.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star’s 1966 Studebaker Was Object of Wild Bidding War
Previous to The Andy Griffith Show actress Francis Bavier‘s death, she became a devout driver of only one type of car. The star went 50 years without learning to drive. When living in New York City, that’s not an essential form of transportation.
However, after years of not even attempting to get her driver’s license, Bavier changed her mind. When she did become a driver, the famous actress only had one car in mind. For the rest of her life, Bavier only drove classic Studebakers. She owned numerous models of the cars, but only held onto one 1966 Studebaker Daytona until her dying days.
Following her 1989 passing, the vehicle shocked many when an all-out bidding war ensued when it went to auction. She hadn’t driven it for years, since at least the early ’80s. Bavier’s Studebaker sat in her garage for years with flat tires, expired plates from 1983, and cat hair all over the interior from her pets sleeping in the car. But that didn’t stop the bidding war for the famous Hollywood star’s automobile.
Studebaker stopped making the vehicles in 1966, and Bavier did have a rarer model. Yet the people auctioning the car thought it would only command a few hundred dollars. They were very wrong. Instead they began to receive bids that increased well into the thousands. Fans wanted Aunt Bee’s old car for themselves.
Fred Fox, a car historian, spoke to the Chicago Tribune in 1990 about her Studebaker. He explained that even though the car isn’t valuable, even he became intrigued by the car since Aunt Bee owned it.
“The thing that interested me so much is that later in the show [“Mayberry R.F.D.”], she drove a ’66 Studebaker, and all indications are that it’s the same as her car,” Fox said. “I never heard anybody who used their own car in a television series.”