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Couples share Lake Junaluska love stories in honor of Valentine’s Day


LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. — For more than 100 years, love has blossomed at Lake Junaluska. In honor of Valentine’s Day, five couples shared their stories about finding and embracing love at Lake Junaluska.


Jim Hart moved to Lake Junaluska in 1934 when he was 6 years old, and he spent his youth “gigging frogs” and water skiing on the lake. Two years after graduating from high school, he worked as a gate boy during the summer and met the girl he would call his wife for 57 years, Frances Cobb.

When he heard from a friend who had dated Frances that she would be returning to the lake the following summer, he did not hide his feelings.

“When he came to me and said that Frances was coming back the next week, I told him, ‘You better just as well hang it up. You don’t stand a chance. I’m going to take her over,” said Jim with a laugh.

Jim and Frances started courting in 1947 and continued for the next four years. In 1950, Frances campaigned to become Queen of Junaluska and Jim, who was running the soda shop out of what is now the Harrell Center, served as her campaign manager.

“We had quite a campaign,” he said. “There was a movie called ‘Francis the Talking Mule,’ and so we got a mule and put it out front at the soda shop with a speaker that would say, ‘I’m Francis the talking mule. Vote for Frances for queen.’

“When Frances won, there was a big coronation held at the end of August,” he said. “The auditorium was full and I was master of ceremonies. It was at the ball after the coronation that I gave her her ring and we became engaged.”

They were married at Frances’ home church in Florida, but returned to Lake Junaluska for another summer in 1951. They built a house at the lake in 1957 and visited frequently through the years when Jim was preaching across the Southeast. In 1982 the couple moved back to the lake where Jim served as the director of services for the conference center and Frances became the director of the heritage center.

“She was the most capable lady I’ve ever met in my life,” said Jim of his wife, Frances, who passed away in 2008. “She could do anything. I way out-married myself. We were very close. We just liked to be with each other.”


She was a waitress from Haywood County, working her way through high school; he was a summer cook from Florida whose grandparents lived in Clyde and had Lake Junaluska connections. Amber and Mike McKendrick met while working in dining services at The Terrace at Lake Junaluska when Mike offered to help reach some tea glasses from the top shelf for Amber. He asked her on a date to the state fair that same day.

“After our date, we returned to Lake Junaluska where we had our first kiss in the middle of the pedestrian bridge – a magical moment,” said Amber.

Amber said their bond continued to grow through great times working with incredible coworkers, helping out at special events and decorating for Christmas at Lambuth Inn.

“We both agree that working at the Terrace - ‘The Big T’ - was one of our all-time favorite jobs,” said Mike.

Mike moved from Florida in 2001 and the couple married in 2005.

“We now live and work in Jackson County with our 2-and-a-half-year-old son, Tristan, but we have always felt a special connection to Lake Junaluska and often return for walks and recreation,” said Amber.


Theirs is a love that sparked a legacy three generations long, but it didn’t start out that way. Lucy Neely was far from impressed by Woody Adams when they first met in the summer of 1952. He was the best friend of her then-boyfriend Bill, and she would become angry and irritated when they had too many “boy’s nights” leaving her behind. She came to think of Woody as nothing more than a pest who was stealing precious time from her and her boyfriend.

The next summer, when Lucy and Woody both returned to work at Lake Junaluska but Bill did not, she spotted Woody in Memorial Chapel and said, “Oh no, not Woody Adams again!”

Her opinion changed dramatically just one week later when she heard Woody sing “Too Young” during a talent show. She approached him afterwards and said, “Woody, I sure am glad I like you this summer!”

Woody said there was nothing for him to do the next morning but go ask her why she had not liked him the previous summer.

“We talked that day and now, 65 years later, we are still talking,” he said.

They married in Memorial Chapel at Lake Junaluska on June 10, 1955. Afterwards, Woody and Lucy went out to preach but returned every summer. Their three boys grew up at Lake Junaluska, worked there during the summers and met their wives there. In 1984, their second son, Scott, got married in Memorial Chapel and, in 2016, their granddaughter Bekah also married in Memorial Chapel.

“It has been marvelous to see our children grow up and continue to love the lake,” said Woody, who now lives with Lucy in Tennessee. “There’s no way to describe how Lake Junaluska has impacted our family – physically, emotionally, spiritually. It is a paradise.”


Judson and Wanda agreed on an outdoor spring wedding at Lake Junaluska. The couple first met at church in their hometown of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Judson said that their getting together was a second chance at love.

“We’re both retired, so we’re not a young couple,” Judson said. “The two of us – she was a widow and I am a widower, so for us that in itself was special that at our age we found each other. The main component that helped our relationship to grow was that we are both devoted Christians.”

They chose Inspiration Point garden located near Lambuth Inn as the location for their special day. But on the night before their May wedding, it wouldn’t stop raining.

“We went to the pastor of our church and we said we need the church to say a lot of prayers that we’re going to have perfect weather up there tomorrow,” said Judson. “The very next day the sun was shining and we had a beautiful morning wedding. Talk about prayers being answered - God held the rain off just for us.”

The wedding was so memorable that Judson said he wanted to re-create the romance by coming back to Lake Junaluska for his and Wanda’s two-year anniversary. The couple will return to the newly renovated Lambuth Inn this May to celebrate.


Will Crenshaw had been coming to Lake Junaluska during the summers his whole life. His grandfather, a retired Methodist minister, and grandmother bought a summer home at the lake in the 1960s, so Will came up for two weeks every summer to go the pool with his brother, hang out with his cousins and watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July.

In 2005, he came to Lake Junaluska for a different reason – a summer job as a help desk technician. Little did he know the course of his life was about to change forever when he met Sendy, who was working in accounts payable at the time.

“Will was bad at submitting his check requests, so I always had to do a manual check for him or send him a reminder, which was annoying, but that is how we started talking,” said Sendy. “I asked Will what he did for fun around here and he said he did not really know his way around Asheville, so I said, ‘I’ll show you Asheville sometime,’ and that was it!”

The couple bonded over camping and hiking trips, going out for dinner with friends and many walks around the lake, enjoying the wildlife and natural beauty. They bought a house at Lake Junaluska and married in 2009. Today nearly 15 years after meeting and falling in love at the lake, both Will and Sendy are still on staff, he the information technology director and she the finance manager.

“If you had told me in 2005 when I came up for a part-time summer job that I’d end up married with two kids and a mortgage, I would have told you that you were crazy,” said Will, who . “But there’s something about Lake Junaluska that takes your life in unforeseen directions. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Visit and to see the Lake Junaluska love stories series.

Lake Junaluska is a conference and retreat center and residential community that surrounds a 200-acre mountain lake in Western North Carolina. Lake Junaluska’s mission is to serve as a place of Christian hospitality where lives are transformed through renewal of soul, mind and body. For more information, visit


Mary Bates
Lake Junaluska
PO Box 67, Lake Junaluska, NC 28745