In June of 1967, Steve finished his Master’s degree at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, and he and I moved to North Carolina. He was hired to teach basic speech classes at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, and would start in the fall. For income during the summer, he—brace yourself, if you know Steve—worked construction! He helped to build a sewage disposal plant near Boone. I got a teaching job in Lenoir, 20 miles down the mountain, that started in August.
We rented a house in the country near Blowing Rock, NC, which was basically a summer rental, but the owners, the Tripletts, agreed to rent it to us. It had been their starter home before they built a nice house next door and moved to that. Insulation was non-existent, but we enjoyed our 15 months there.
One day when Steve was at work, a beautiful woman with curly black hair knocked on my door bearing flowers. She introduced herself as Julia Vetrie, but we always knew her as Julia. Her husband taught at Appalachian and she welcomed us and invited us to dinner.
I was fascinated by Michael and Julie. When we got to their sweet little A-frame on the edge of Boone, Julie had nothing prepared. I watched her make an apple pie (delicious!) and then start dinner. Coming from a family that wanted to be ready to sit down to eat the minute guests walked in the door, this was fascinating. I loved their laid-back approach to life, though about certain things Mike could be very intense.
At the university, Michael showed Steve around and introduced him. He had been there a couple of years and could caution Steve about certain things and guide him. He answered questions and saved Steve much time, energy, and angst.
From that moment on, Julie and Michael Vetrie were our close friends. Julie had grown up in the Church of Christ—actually a PK—so we had lots in common. She occasionally visited the little church in Boone where Steve was preaching. Mike was more of an agnostic, as I recall, and we had many interesting—and cordial—conversations about beliefs and faith.
The Boone-Blowing Rock area offered little to do past the summer tourist season, so the four of us would drive to Hickory or Charlotte for a full Saturday of food, fun, and shopping. It was the first time Steve and I both had full-time jobs, and we enjoyed having a bit of discretionary income. Our favorite splurge was to eat at The Epicurean, one of the few upscale restaurants in Charlotte at the time.
Then our year ended and we moved to Bloomington, Illinois, for Steve to work on his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois while he taught at Illinois State. Mike had also decided to pursue his advanced degree at the U of I, so they moved to Champaign and Julie got a job there. Mike was in theater and Steve in communication. We were excited that both were accepted into the Ph.D. programs.
Steve was driving 50 miles each way to go to classes, and on Monday nights Julie and Mike would have him over for dinner after his 4 p.m. class. They continued their bonding and occasionally I could go, too.
After four years, Steve graduated and we moved to Southgate, Kentucky, for him to teach at Northern Kentucky University. Mike and Julie had already moved to Lima, Ohio, for Mike to direct a local theater. So, once again, we were fairly close—about three hours apart. We visited each other and enjoyed being with their daughter Micki as we introduced our son Josh.
Then they moved to Louisiana, where they were from. Too far for weekend visits! But when our family vacationed at Amelia Island, Florida, they joined us there for a couple of days with their children Micki and Andy. A fun reunion! Those are the pictures I have.
And now they’ve lived in California for about 40 years! We’ve visited them a couple of times when we were there for a conference or to visit relatives. Every time we pick up as though we hadn’t been far apart for years.
Mike and Julie were always the very best hosts ever! Julie is a great cook and Mike seems to anticipate the every possible need of a guest. They are fun and comfortable to be around. They are outspoken about their political beliefs, and they always advocate for the underdog.
The Vetries are dear to us even though we don’t see them often and rarely communicate. No matter what, they are dear friends of the heart.