Richel Albright

"Leiper's Fork was such a special place to grow up. I lived on an 85-acre farm on a dead-end road and was granted a lot of independence to roam the property from an early age. As a little girl, I'd spend weekends and summers playing in the creek, fishing at our pond, riding horses, and helping in the garden. We were so lucky to have such incredible neighbors that also welcomed me into their homes and property where I got to experience things like bottle-feeding lambs and sheering sheep -- I didn't know many kids my age at the time who had these kinds of experiences.

As I grew up, my parents made sure I was involved in my community. I played in recreation sports leagues, attended summer camps in town, and went to countless local events. My favorite was in college when I waited tables at The Country Boy in downtown Leiper’s Fork. You really could keep on pulse on all the happenings in the community and I had the privilege to get to know so many of the men and women who were – and still are – the beating heart of the community, to hear their stories, and see the way people cared for one another. It’s what makes small towns so special.

As I've gotten older it's been more about the quiet and slow pace of the farm that's been a blessing. Sitting on the front porch with coffee or a glass of wine and a good book watching the birds is rejuvenating. I'll never forget the first time I came home after COVID hit, I was working as the communications director for the Mayor of Chattanooga, Tenn., at the time and that job had its stresses during a regular week. But the constant uncertainty of COVID, doomscrolling, working late hours and not being able to really connect and decompress with my team took a toll on me mentally and emotionally. When I turned onto the last street before my parents’ house, I just broke down in tears as I was hit with this overwhelmingly calm sense of peace. I felt like I could breathe. That moment will stay with me forever.

I have so many special memories growing up here, and they mostly center around being outside - whether it was being in the garden, my dad guiding me on our horse, Boomer, or fishing and grilling out down by the pond. Also, Christmas. We have this incredible stone fireplace in our den and my mom would always go all out to decorate the house and have the most beautiful tree. Sitting in the living room with my family watching Christmas movies by the fireplace is one of my happiest places.

I feel that I’ve lived an extraordinary life. I grew up in a home where creativity and imagination were encouraged. I experienced things growing up on a farm and in a small town that valued community and I know that’s rare today. I also had the privilege of getting to travel and explore other places but was raised by a man who never felt his success made him superior to anyone, which is why I believe he so valued Leiper’s Fork and its people. There’s a lot more people visiting the Fork than when I was growing up. Fortunately, we have people in town working to preserve the character that makes our community so special.

As for the farm, it’s aging and in the last year, I’ve really come to learn and respect the work that goes into keeping up land like that. It’s not easy. My dad handled all of that on his own, which was a bit of therapy for him, but there were hot July days that I’d be out on the farm weed eating, cutting brush, etc., and I don’t know how he did it into his eighties – it made me have an even deeper sense of respect for him and his work ethic.

My dad experienced tremendous success in the music industry, and you’d never know it by the modest way he lived and humble attitude he carried. He would always take the time to stop and talk to anyone who reached out, he was never “too busy” or “too good” to speak to someone. He was always that boy from Arizona who worked in the mines. Admittedly being career-driven and a bit of a workaholic, I’ve reflected on the way he carried himself with others. He listened and observed, and I’ve carried that into my own career.

 A central piece in all the work I’ve done over the last decade is storytelling whether as a reporter, a public relations specialist, or government communications director/spokesperson. What I’ve learned growing up in a tight-knit community and from my dad is that everyone has a story to tell. You can’t write someone off from their outer appearance, the immediate circumstance, etc. and if you do, you’re probably missing out on some really incredible stories, lessons and, maybe, even opportunities."

- Richel Albright, Leiper's Fork native, daughter of late musician Richie Albright


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