For nine decades, Our State has made its way into homes across North Carolina, the United States, and the world. To celebrate, every month this year, we’re paying tribute to
For nine decades, Our State has made its way into homes across North Carolina, the United States, and the world. To celebrate, every month this year, we’re paying tribute to the readers who inspire us, offering a taste of our earliest recipes, and revisiting old stories with new insights. Follow along to find out how our past has shaped our present.
Even after 50 years in North Carolina, Helen Aneskewich still doesn’t consider herself a Southerner. (“With a name like Aneskewich?” she says, rolling her eyes.) But in March of 1967, her late husband, Jerry, who worked in the fledgling world of computer programming, flew out of New Jersey in near-blizzard conditions for a job interview in Charlotte. Once he got into town, he called Helen. “They’re mowing grass here,” he told her. “Whatever they offer me, I’m taking it.”
Within a month, they’d bought a house with a cherry tree — the kind for which the Queen City is justly famous — and quickly “fell in love with Charlotte,” but “too soon” were moved to Ohio. Throughout their four-year stint, they remained determined to return to North Carolina. In 1973, they did; this time to Little Washington. “It was a culture shock. We’d come from a city of 800,000!” recounts Helen, who’s 83 and unintentionally hilarious. “When McDonald’s opened, it was a major event. Everyone wanted to work there.” She laughs at the memory. “Our time in Little Washington was the best time of our lives. Oh, Jerry loved his barbecue.” A neighbor decided that his goal was to make the Aneskewiches Southern. “He brought over a copy of The State, saying, ‘You need this magazine.’ It was The then, not Our — thin, black-and-white. I was skeptical,” Helen says.
And then the couple fell in love with the publication, using its stories to acquaint themselves with North Carolina. “We read about the creation of UNC Charlotte and drove there. I got to see UNCC when it was still a cow field,” she says. “I have a picture of my children in front of a rhododendron twice their size because a field of [the shrubs] at Mount Mitchell was photographed for an issue, and we took a day trip.” When the Linville Viaduct was featured on the magazine’s cover, Helen drove herself to the Blue Ridge Parkway to experience the engineering marvel firsthand.
After Little Washington came 30 years in Raleigh for the couple. Two of the three Aneskewich daughters went to UNC Chapel Hill; one attended UNC Wilmington. (“She’s never going to leave there,” Helen says with resigned acceptance of the lures of our coast.) When the time came for retirement, the couple built a home on acreage outside Mocksville that they had purchased earlier as an investment. The pair always worked on the Our State quiz together, until Jerry died last year. Now, Helen solves them with her granddaughter Emily. “I fare fairly well,” she says. “Last month I got 70 percent.”
Helen scarcely needs an interviewer; she doesn’t hesitate in her narrative. “The magazine has evolved, and it’s still evolving, which I love,” she says. “It’s woven its way in and out of our life and introduced us to a state we fell in love with. We stayed here. Jerry is buried here. I don’t intend to ever leave.” Never mind those years in Charlotte and Raleigh; Little Washington taught her the charms of small-town life.
Helen Aneskewich may not know it, but she’s a character. She’s a grandmother to 10 and a great-grandmother to six. She’s an adventurer, a 50-year North Carolina non-native resident, and an Our State reader.