The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 105
BFF | THE REAL THING
friendships. That would describe Angela, who works at
Hunting Hills Country Club, and Robert, a customer
service manager at American Airlines, who used to cut
hair. In fact, that's how they met: in Robert's chair.
"It was instant," says Angie. "He has a great sense of
humor and we started off by laughing. A lot." It was
mutual: "I saw this beautiful person inside her and we
just loved to hang out."
Her long-term boyfriend has had no problem with
the relationship between Angela and Robert. "If he can't
go somewhere with me," says Angela, "he'll say, 'I think
Robert could go'," even though Robert now lives in
Charlotte, where his job is.
"I'm different from a lot of gay men," Robert says. "I
hate shopping and things like that. I had a best friend
who recently passed at the age of 90. I don't let a lot of
people in. Less is more."
Angela appreciates the relative permanence of a best
"Boyfriends come and go," she says, but "best friends"
They've both been through difficult breakups together
and "I'm sad when he's sad," she says.
Next year, they turn 50 together and the plan is to
do that in Paris. As best friends.
MARK DEARING (64)
& ALLEN SHIPLETT (64)
They met 60 years ago "out in a field throwing dirt
balls at each other," says Allen. The stories began at that
moment and they haven't even slowed since. The two
native Salemites (just listen to their authentic accents)
are born storytellers who missed their calling (Allen is
a plumber, Mark a Volkswagen mechanic with his own
shop-Salem Imports-and three engineering degrees).
They've done what guys their age and temperament
often did as kids: raised hell, drank beer, went to concerts with bands like Trucker's Delight and the Grevious Angels, experimented with mind expansion, took
a VW bus across the country and got in a dither with
In 4th grade, they were separated into different school
rooms to quell their disruption. In 7th grade their homeroom burned down and, says Mark looking sheepish,
"they blamed us." Aw, pshaw! The powers wouldn't even
let them ride the school bus together in middle school
and by high school "we got separated again." School
They got married and Allen had a daughter. Mark has
a dog. They've both been married more than a quarter
century. They settled into long-term careers and found
traditional comfort and security.
They never really changed much, though. Mark
was always the "redneck hippie," says Allen. "He was
the first hippie I ever knew." Allen claims to be more
Mark's legendary dad, Hank Dearing, was chief of
engineering construction for years at Norfolk & Western Railway and a character of some note. His influence
was indelible on both boys. Allen's dad was a plumber
and that was passed on, too, almost as soon as Allen was
out of high school. Mark's dad also taught the boys to
work on Volkswagens.
Their two-month, 17-state, 14,000-mile trip in a
VW bus-with eight people piled in-following Richard Nixon's resignation in the early 1970s remains a
highlight, one they visit often for stories they don't necessarily want to tell in a publication. Mark opened his
Angela Drinkard and
Robert Pilot: "He has
a great sense of humor
and we started off by
laughing. A lot."
Mark Dearing and
They've done what
guys their age and
temperament often did
as kids: raised hell ...
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 | 105