By VICKI LOVERN
For the Daily News
DELBARTON - With grace, integrity and depth, Emily Maynard has captured the hearts of all who are aware of her tragic loss and her subsequent search for love. The stunningly beautiful 26-year-old single mom from Morgantown is quite possibly the most popular Bachelorette in the history of ABC’s hit franchise. And she has a strong connection with our community.
Her grandparents, Elizabeth and Jennings Maynard, and their son, and Emily’s father, David Maynard, along with his two sisters, Lorraine and Jennifer, were all born and raised on Elk Creek in Delbarton. Both Elizabeth and Jennings worked at the Island Creek Coal Company for many years. And Emily’s dad graduated from Burch High School in 1966, where he also played football.
Though Elizabeth and Jennings moved to Paintsville, Ky., in 1976, they still have their home on Elk Creek and come back to Delbarton often. They recently came home and attended the Delbarton Opry House, where Elizabeth’s two cousins, Joe Curtis (J.C.) Crum and Jack Crum, perform.
“When we were at the Opry, Delbarton Mayor, John Preece, welcomed us and made an announcement that the Bachelorette’s grandparents were in attendance. Suddenly, we were surrounded by fans of Emily’s,” Elizabeth said, slightly amazed. “There were a lot of out-of-state students at the Opry that night and they all wanted to get our picture and autograph.”
It is not surprising that they received such an enthusiastic response. This season’s Bachelorette was unlike any of her predecessors. First, and foremost, Emily is a mom. Her seven-year-old daughter, Ricki, is a sweet and precious child and is truly the love of Emily’s life.
“Ricki is the sweetest child,” Elizabeth said. “And she looks so much like her dad - even their toes look alike!”
Tragically, Emily was only 19-years-old when she lost her first love, Ricki’s dad, to a fatal plane crash in 2004. Emily met Ricky Hendrick when she was just 14-years-old.
“I remember when she first met Ricky, she wrote me a letter,” recalls Elizabeth. “She said, Granny, I really love him.”
Throughout the next five years, Emily and Ricky’s love blossomed and they became engaged to be married.
“They were deeply in love,” her grandmother said. “Ricky was a very special young man - very caring and compassionate. Just three weeks before his death, he and Emily visited us in Paintsville.”
Emily’s fiancé was a NASCAR driver and owner. He and nine others died when the Hendrick Motorsports plane they were aboard crashed into Bull Mountain, only seven miles from their destination of the Blue Ridge Airport in Martinsville, Va.
Emily had planned to accompany Ricky that day. But she wasn’t feeling well, so she decided to stay home. Just a few days after Ricky’s death, Emily discovered she was pregnant.
“Emily has always loved children and hopes to have more,” her grandmother said. “She is a wonderfully nurturing and loving mother. Ricki is her world.”
After graduating from Burch High School, Emily’s dad moved to Morgantown to attend West Virginia University. He graduated with a degree in Mine Engineering. David still lives in Morgantown, as does Emily’s brother, Ernie and her mother, Suzy.
“Though Emily’s mom and dad are divorced, they have remained the best of friends,” Elizabeth said. “Suzy is a great person and has done a wonderful job raising Emily.”
Emily and Ricki recently visited her family in Morgantown to celebrate Ricki’s seventh birthday. Though Emily was born and raised in Morgantown, upon graduation from high school, she moved to Charlotte, N.C., where she and her daughter now reside.
“We all try to get together on holidays and birthdays,” Elizabeth said. “My mom lived to be 105-years-old, she just passed away last year, and Emily always came to Paintsville to celebrate mom’s birthdays.”
Throughout the years, Emily and Ernie visited their grandparents in Paintsville frequently. “Without a doubt, Emily was the best child I ever took care of,” her proud grandmother fondly recalls. “She has just been so good all of her life. Once, when she was young, she did something, I can’t even remember now what, but I know it wasn’t anything. But she kept saying, ‘Oh Granny, I’m so sorry.’ Emily is so kind, she would never do anything on purpose to hurt anyone.”
As a young girl, Emily loved Judge Judy and told her grandmother that she wanted to be a judge when she grew up. “She watched Judge Judy nearly every day,” Elizabeth said. “So I bought her a plaque and had ‘Judge Emily’ engraved on it. She loved it!”
Her grandmother said that, as a child, Emily had lots of hobbies and interests. “She enjoyed dancing and took dancing lessons. I remember altering some of her dance costumes. She also really liked horseback riding and participated in some riding competitions.”
Elizabeth has watched every episode of “The Bachelorette” and is really proud of the way her granddaughter has conducted herself.
“I felt so good when I heard Chris Harrison (the host of “The Bachelorette”) say that Emily was the only Bachelorette that didn’t sleep with any of the guys.”
Emily has certainly been a good role model for other young women and particularly for single moms. She insisted that the filming be done in Charlotte so that Ricki wouldn’t have to be uprooted and she never introduced any of her suitors to Ricki, except the lucky one she chose in the end. She never once compromised her daughter or her position as a mother. In fact, the only time we saw the normally soft spoken Emily get angry was when one of the guys said a disparaging comment about her daughter. When Emily said “I want to go West Virginia backwoods hoodrat on his ass,” you could almost hear a universal cheer go out across the country - especially here in our state.
“Ricki is the center of my universe and everything else just goes around it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Emily said on the show.
Elizabeth said that the last time she and Jennings saw Emily in person was at Thanksgiving in Morgantown. However, David, Suzy, Ernie and his fiancée were all with Emily and Ricki in Curacao for the finale of “The Bachelorette” which aired last Sunday.
“We usually get to see her more often,” Elizabeth said. “But she’s been pretty busy this past year.”
Indeed she has. Despite the odds, and more than a little skepticism, Emily did find love on “The Bachelorette” this season. She is now engaged to 27-year-old, Salt Lake City, Utah, native, Jef Holm. The couple plan to live in Charlotte so Ricki won’t have to leave her family and friends.
“I really believe that Jef is my soul mate,” Emily said on the show’s finale. “He is the kindest, most thoughtful person I’ve ever known. And I know he will be a great husband to me and a great father to Ricki.”
Jef, perhaps, sums it up best. “Emily is witty and caring and smart and happy and such a good mom. She’s the most caring person ever. She’s gorgeous.”
We couldn’t agree more. Plus, she’s a Mountaineer.