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Amron Takes Her Leave
Elvis has left the building
June 18, 2019

t’s Tuesday morning, a little after 6:30a. Amron Wagoner is measuring out whole roasted coffee beans into a grinder, prepping Oriental’s harborside coffee house, The Bean, for the morning rush. Amron, born in a house just a few blocks away, is the manager of The Bean, serving coffee and breakfast sandwiches to tourists and regulars for nearly 11 years.

Today is her last day of work in Oriental.

Amron Takes Her Leave
Amron at The Bean, where she worked for over a decade.

Amron, memorable for her brilliant blue eyes, ends her shift at noon Tuesday and heads back to the Pearson 323 she shares with her daughter, Clara, and boyfriend, Evan Myers. It’s where they’ve lived for the last 5 months, saving money to fund their move west to Colorado.

Born and Raised
She is one of the several residents, along with her daughter, to be born and raised in Oriental, and to have stayed. Amron’s parents, Will and Lori Wagoner, brought her older brothers to the town after, Amron believes, Lori read about it in a magazine. They bought a home at Mildred and 3rd St, where Amron was born in the downstairs bedroom.

Will worked in Oriental’s boatyards and Lori home schooled Amron and her brothers, Braelyn and Logan.

Growing up, Amron was parade Grand Marshal in the Spirit of Christmas parade, sang on the stage of the Old Theater in 1999 with Bill Mason for Oriental’s Centennial, and eventually competed in the Croaker Queen pageant. She was a consistent presence in the village.

By age 14, she decided to attend public high school. She wanted the experience.

Though her parents divorced several years before her decision (she was 11), Amron’s father Will was the one to take her to the high school to enroll for the first time. “It was a very proud moment for him,” she said. He had always wanted his children to attend public school, even if just for a few years.

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Amron and her family.

“It was awesome,” Amron said. She became friends with other girls in her neighborhood, people she’d seen in town but hadn’t been close with. She joined the art club, went with the school to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, and was a straight-A student. She also become known as the Cupcake Girl.

“I remember baking with my Grandmother, my grandma Norma Jean. I vividly remember being in her kitchen – we were making a chocolate cake,” she says. “I was cracking an egg and I didn’t put all of the egg in and she was like, ‘nope, you have to scrape all of the egg out.” Amron mimes sticking her finger in an egg shell and scraping out the egg whites.

“And she said, make sure you follow the recipe because the recipe is there for a reason. It’s teaching you how to do it, so do it the way that they say. And ever since then, I’ve had this knack for – I can do that, I can bake that, I can make that, and 9 times out of 10, I can.”

Whenever she knew it was someone’s birthday, she baked cupcakes and brought them to school to celebrate. It made her happy to make others happy.

But sophomore year was different. “It was a joke.”

Two of her major classes has substitute teachers every day, resulting in a class where the students learned little. “It was a waste of time.” Amron was also sick for much of the first semester. And she became the target of bullies. She’s still not sure why, but partially credited her excitement for and love of learning; it wasn’t a popular idea around her classmates. “Even if I don’t have the opportunity to be taught something new, I try and teach myself new things so that way I can better myself.”

Amron Takes Her Leave
Brooke Deaton and Amron, around 7 years old.

She and her parents made the joint decision to withdraw her from high school. She sat for and passed the General Education Development (GED) tests. She was 16.

First Job
Soon after, Amron moved out of her mother’s house and into a small studio apartment on Midyette St. She began working at Scoots, a restaurant owned and run by Ralf Heit. “I honestly think that there was something about working at Scoots that kept me level. I attribute it a lot to Bud.”

Bud was also known as Charles Krause, Jr. She later referred to him as “my inappropriate uncle.” Amron was the one who found him when he passed away. “Bud was initially an enemy because he was a rude and grumpy bald man who I was intimidated by. After we got through that feud part, he confided in me. He talked to me. He saw something in me that I didn’t necessarily see.”

Ralf and his wife Judi, whom Amron called a second mother, saw something in her, too. They all fostered that spark that encouraged her to go out and scrap for herself.

Amron continued to make her own way, eventually finding work at The Bean after Scoots closed. She went to work for Bean owner Eric Kindle in September of 2008.

Amron married her high school boyfriend in January of the next year. They’d met while she was going through tough times in high school. She’d fallen in with a rougher crowd, partially, she thinks, to help keep her safe from her bullies. And partially because the bullying had isolated her. “I am an outcast that is welcome here.”

They eventually married, though she had her doubts. “I saw a better person inside, but that better person never came out.”

Amron Takes Her Leave
Amron and Kristin Gatlin, ready for the 2004 Croaker Queen Pageant.

He began to have run-ins with law enforcement and she saw where he was headed. Her time with Bud, Ralf, and Judi had reinforced her own sense of self-worth; “I’m not meant to go down that road.”

She became pregnant with her daughter Clara, giving birth at age 23. Sherry Boehme, who had attended Amron’s birth, was also there for Clara’s. “There’s a part of me that wants to believe I stuck it out because I was meant to be Clara’s mom and I wasn’t going to be Clara’s mom unless I had her with him.”

Her husband was arrested and jailed nearly a year later. Her divorce soon followed. “I want Clara to have a good life; if it means she doesn’t have a father, then she doesn’t have a father.”

Amron and Clara lived together in and around rentals in Oriental. She eventually moved back in with her mother, into the very house where she’d been born.

Amron Takes Her Leave
Amron and Clara with her first place ribbon in the 2013 Croaker Fest baking contest. The cake: Triple Berry Zinger.

Her husband was tried and sentenced, but Amron knew he’d be out. She was nervous that he’d come looking for her and Clara. She began to make plans to leave.

Hannah Thorn, Amron’s best friend, had moved to Colorado to attend Colorado State University. They talked about Amron making the move out west. When Hannah left for college, the pair had driven cross country to the state and Amron began to fall in love with it. But making the move wasn’t easy.

“I have been stuck here this long because I’m taken care of here. I have a community that does help me. I’ve had a boss for the last eleven years that’s there when I need him. I have customers that continuously care about me. That’s one of the things, I’ve been conditioned to believe that it was going to be too hard to find that somewhere else – too hard to make it happen.”

She tried to make the move closer, to preserve some of the support system a single mother would need. Amron enrolled in a culinary program at AB Tech in Asheville and was looking into an internship for culinary arts at the Biltmore Estate. She went to Asheville in an attempt to get housing set up, but the trip, and her plans to move, fell through. While she was there, Amron received a call.

Amron Takes Her Leave
Amron in 2014, fresh from the Dragon Boat Races.

It was from someone at The Bean telling her that her ex, newly released from jail, had come by the shop looking for her.

She returned to Oriental and to Clara. Her ex-husband’s mugshot went up by the register at the coffee house. Amron focused her attention on avoiding her ex, even buying a new car to avoid him. Plans to move fell to the side.

She bought tickets to head back out to Colorado with Clara, to visit Hannah and to look for a place to live. While there, she says she met great people and found a community where she thought she could belong. Another call came in. This time, it was notifying her that her ex had been jailed once again and was facing a potentially longer sentence. She saw an opportunity to be done with her ex for good, and returned to Oriental to petition to have his parental rights terminated.

While waiting for the trial, Amron fell in love with a friend. Evan Myers had come to town, to fulfill his dream of cruising and living on a boat. He’d been married, but it didn’t last.

Amron succeeded in having her ex’s rights terminated. His lawyer told the judge that his client agreed that everything in her petition was true and accurate, and that Clara would be better off if he were out of the picture. He did not contest the petition. Amron had her and Clara’s surnames changed to Wagoner.

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Amron and Clara wade in the waters of an October flood. (2015)

Evan supported her and her dreams in ways her ex never had. “All the dreams he has had in his life,” she says, “he has gotten to fulfill. So [he said] it was my turn.” Eventually, the two began to discuss moving away together.

They went on trips together, scouting places in Western North Carolina, and again in Colorado. While they both researched their options, Evan took it one step further, looking for the things he knew Amron would want and need to help make her happy.

“Every time I’m [in Colorado], I’m just kind of dumbfounded at the beauty there. I feel it’s the same reaction that people who haven’t seen the water have when they come to Oriental. It’s like they can see this beauty that I’ve seen for so long, that I don’t appreciate as much anymore. I want to go somewhere where I can actually appreciate it.”

They arrived with the intent of going to Colorado Springs. But Evan, and a snowstorm, had other ideas. They stopped off near Dillon, a place Evan had heavily researched, and went to get coffee at a place called Red Buffalo – named for a nearby mountain.

Inside, they met Natalie and Tamra. Tamra was readying a bicycle cart with coffee. Amron explained she would be moving to the area and handed over her resumé. When she told Natalie she had 10 years experience managing a coffee shop, Tamra, who’d been listening in, began talking excitedly. She’d been preparing the cart to go and hand out applications. Amron had walked in at exactly the right time.

Amron Takes Her Leave
Cleaning up after Hurricane Florence on 2018.

“After that,” Amron says, “it was like talking with friends.” She made plans to meet with the owner the next day. Tamra and Natalie were already telling her where to find housing and giving directions and advice to the couple. A nearby lake marina was interested in hiring Evan, as was the county – they were looking for a diesel mechanic. Everything seemed to be falling into place.

When they returned home, the speculation began. Customers asked if she was really moving this time. Others said she’d hate the snow and be back in a few months. Some said it just wasn’t a good start to the day if she wasn’t at The Bean. Amron felt there were a lot of discouraging words, unintentional though they may have been.

“I go to Colorado and I don’t always see the brighter side of things. I see the homeless people walking around, and I’ve been there for the late night college nights, and it’s not all the best, but I also go there and I stand on top of a mountain; and this is life and I want to experience this. I don’t care if I get to make a lot of friends. I don’t care if I just come here and make money. Then I get to go walk up a mountain. Or I get to take Clara to see these things that she’s never seen – I want to experience this and I want her to experience this.”

Amron Takes Her LeaveAmron Takes Her Leave
Amron’s baking skills have leveled up over the years. She says you could have bounced her first batch of brownies off the wall.

Go West
In a few days, they’ll pack up their car and head west. There is a furnished apartment waiting for them. Amron is already on the schedule at the Red Buffalo. She has contacts at local bakeries, some of whom will take her on as an apprentice to learn high altitude baking.

Evan will return to pack up the boat and, he hopes, sell it before he leaves to join them.

“We’re ready to start this together,” she says. “I can see my own strength now. I can look at my life and see all the stuff that’s happened in my life and understand that this is something small, in retrospect, because I’m moving across the country but I’m going to be doing the same thing that I did here. I’m gonna be with a person that encourages me and I’m giving my daughter the best experiences in life by getting to do this.

“My hopes for going to Colorado is that we get to experience life in a different area. I don’t know if I’m gonna live there forever, don’t know if I’m gonna live there for a year. I know I’m gonna go experience it. So whatever comes, comes. And I’m damn sure strong enough to get through it.”

Amron Takes Her Leave
Evan, Amron, and Clara.
Other articles featuring Amron

Posted Tuesday June 18, 2019 by Allison DeWeese

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