Dawn Wells, Mary Anne of Gilligan’s Island, visits the Homestead

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That may be a change from Christmas music, but chances are, it also brings back some memories for many of our listeners. Gilligan’s Island was a staple TV show from 1964 through the seventies, and one of the stars, Dawn Wells was visiting the Omni Homestead this week. On Gilligan’s Island Ms. Wells played Mary Anne, a sweet, polite Kansas farm girl, She had many other acting accomplishments, and is also an author, entrepreneur, motivational speaker and philanthropist.

But Tuesday afternoon at the Omni Homestead, with the year of daily birthday celebrations drawing to a close, Dawn Wells was in charge of cutting the cake. Lynn Swan introduced her.

“What’s a celebration without a special guest, and today, I think you can tell we have a very special guest with us. For those of you who don’t know, we have Dawn Wells with us.

‘I’m still alive!’

We’re thrilled to have her with us, and immediately following the blowing out of the candle she will be selling copies of her book What Would Mary Anne Do? in the Jefferson Parlor. So now, if everyone would join us we will now sing “Happy Birthday” to the Homestead.

(HB Song)

Always eager to meet a published author, and to eat cake, I followed the crowd to the Jefferson Parlor. There I asked Ms. Wells what she thought of the old hotel, and Bath County.

“I’m blown away. I’m born in Reno Nevada. This is gracious. This is manners and graciousness. Reno, we’re cowboys, you know it’s just a whole different thing. And of course, the history here, I’m just fascinated with it; I’m so thrilled, and we’ll be back.

‘ So did you go from Reno to the television industry?’

“No I went from Reno to Stephens College. It’s a women’s college in Columbia Missouri. I’m a graduate from there, was on the board of trustees for a while, and then I transferred from there to the University of Washington in Seattle. And then at the end of that I said, I’ll give myself a year or two. I’ll go back and get a PHD if I don’t go to work.

I made the decision between New York City and Los Angeles. You have to go where it is. And I don’t sing or dance. And most of New York is musical comedy. So I thought ‘I’ll give myself a year in Los Angeles’, and I have a cute story, because I was well-trained.. And I was a perfect type, a perfect Injinoo, and I got to Los Angeles, and I did this play with Mercedes McIndridge, and agents came to see you, and I had this small little agent, Bob Peyton, and he said ‘I’d like to represent you’, and e sent me on an interview to Warner Brothers, and I sat down, a half hour or so, with Jack Warner, head of Warner Brothers, just to get to know people you know, and the next day he called my agent and he said, you know Bob? I had incredible experience yesterday; I had an intelligent conversation with an actress. (laughter)”.

Ms. Wells book, What Would Mary Anne Do? was published in 2014, and is a guidebook for young women with an emphasis on character and common sense. It also has a great collection of photographs from Dawn’s days as Miss Nevada, through travels to far off countries on philanthropic missions. Now that Mary Anne’s sunshine has graced this little corner of the world, it sounds like we can look forward to return visit.

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Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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