Who’s Your Local Hero? - TribPapers

Who’s Your Local Hero?

A painting of Reva Mae Harwood.

– Who’s a hero to you? The Tribune runs a bi-weekly sponsored hero of the week where we recognize first responders, but heroes come in a lot of different forms. Take the late Reva Mae Harwood.

Born in 1916, Harwood was the subject of a recent history talk at the Community Center at Dottie Sherill Knoll sponsored by the Dry Ridge Museum. Harwood was a fixture for years in Weaverville as she walked everywhere she went. With a hearing problem, she was a very private person. She was the main provider for her three other unmarried siblings, who were also hard of hearing, speech impaired and didn’t work. 

She was an industrious mountain woman and an entrepreneur to help provide for her siblings, who all lived together in a mobile home. Harwood picked wildflowers to make bouquets and sell them. 

Sally Smith, of the Weaverville Milling Company restaurant, kicked off the event with her recollections of Harwood, who would pick the busiest time of the restaurant to come and sell Smith flowers for her tables. Smith reckons (to use a good ‘ole mountain word) that to Harwood, cars in the parking lot equated to money to pay for flowers.

Harwood also sold bags of nuts gathered from the area. One resident recalled how Harwood picked walnuts from her property, not knowing that she owned them, and then sold them back to her. Another resident remembered being a child when Harwood knocked on their door to sell flowers to her mom. Harwood also sold pine wreaths at Christmas—she would make the wreathes herself out of hemlock branches.

In times past, government assistance was not as robust as it is today. While the siblings did receive some assistance, it was Reva’s job to see ends met. 

While she sold most of her products locally, Harwood’s customers stretched into Asheville. She almost always walked to get there.

Smith supposed it was a legend that every year Harwood, on her birthday, walked to Tennessee. This is until Smith and her husband actually encountered Reva doing just that, walking towards Erwin where her brother picked her up later. 

Newspapers wrote articles about Harwood and a local painter illustrated a portrait of her that currently hangs in the Dry Ridge Museum. Reva died in 1997 and was laid to rest in the West Memorial Cemetery. Several at the meeting said Harwood was a hero to them.

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