By Melanie Threlkeld McConnell
Alfred Blount ’88 and Regina Blount ’88 aren’t quite plumb on when they met and fell in love, but the truth seems to lie
somewhere between the laundry room of Scott Hall, a science class and the university’s
black gospel choir.
“You know there are two truths?” said Regina, a playful dig at her husband of 33 years for sharing his version of their beginning.
His and hers? “Yes, that’s right,” she said laughing.
The Blounts met as freshmen at WCU and married after graduation on Oct. 10, 1988. Alfred’s degree was in marketing and Regina’s in English, with a minor in journalism. “I took Latin when I was in junior high and high school,” said Regina, who grew up in Asheville. “That gave me a really strong grasp on how language is put together, and I just really enjoy that. I love grammar and I love reading. When I got to Western, English was the thing for me.”
Alfred liked business and went to work for JC Penney following graduation, working in several cities, including Knoxville, Tennessee, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. But the seemingly unending hours of retail took a toll. “When I got to the Oak Ridge store, it really started interfering with being involved with church and attending church and that was something that was important,” said Alfred, who grew up in Monroe. “I prayed about it, and I resigned from Penney’s and went to work for the YMCA for a year, and then UPS for two years, and then came back to Asheville to pastor.”
Blount became pastor of Tried Stone Missionary Baptist Church, the same church in which he and Regina married when they were congregants and fresh out of WCU. He’s been pastor for 22 years. “I found that I didn’t have the drive or love for retail that many of my cohorts had,” Alfred said. “I also knew that church would play an important role in my future. It was retail that allowed me to evaluate and see where my passion was and to pursue it.”
As a result, Alfred returned to school for his master’s of divinity degree and currently is working on his doctor of ministry degree from Gardner-Webb University. “One of the main things that I enjoy about being a pastor is the ability to watch people grow and to be a part of this process. I have seen children in the congregation born, I have watched them go through school and graduate, and go to college,” he said. “For some of them, I have even had the opportunity to officiate at their wedding and then watch them become parents. Being able to be part of the lives of the members is very special.”
Regina also earned her master’s degree and works as a third grade learning specialist at Carolina Day School. At Tried Stone, she works as the church’s assistant choir director — it has performed at Mountain Heritage Day off and on since 1980 — and with the women’s ministry, the outreach ministry and small groups. She knew what she was in for when her husband switched professions. “My grandfather was a pastor and my uncles are pastors, and I’ve spent my entire life in the church,” she said.
Last winter, the church partnered with WCU’s School of Nursing and Buncombe County Health and Human Services to host a COVID-19 clinic to encourage the primarily African American congregation to get vaccinated. The successful event was just the kind of community action event the Blounts relish. “We had people who came who later sent letters thanking us for opening up the church. We even had a gentleman who donated some books for our library. It was a good experience,” Alfred said.
The Blounts’ community activism isn’t new, but a continuation of who they were as Catamounts more than 30 years ago. As students, they actively participated at Cullowhee Baptist Church and remain close friends of its former pastor Joe Yelton and his wife, who became the Blounts’ adoptive parents, Regina said. “We’re still connected to them now. He helped officiate our wedding and their daughter was one of our flower girls.”
They also were active with the Baptist Student Union, the Organization of Ebony Students and what was known then as the Western Carolina University Inspirational Choir, the university’s gospel choir, where for four years, Regina sang soprano and Alfred tenor. Alfred was a member of the business fraternity. They also both lived in Scott Hall, which is the source of playful disagreement about how it brought them together. “We had a science class together, we were in the gospel choir together and we lived in the same dorm,” said Regina.
Alfred confirms their mutual science class, but takes the story in a different direction. “Freshman year, my room assignment got messed up and I ended up living on the first floor of Scott with the basketball players,” he said. “She lived upstairs in Scott and we’d see each other in the lobby. The real story is, I was doing my laundry in the basement and she had never seen a man fold his own clothes, and she fell in love with me that day.”
Whatever the truth about how it happened, it worked. The Blounts have three grown children. Victoria ’17 is working on her master’s degree in divinity at Duke Divinity School. Stephen earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Mars Hill University, and DeOnna is a graduate of North Carolina Central University, who plans to attend nursing school.
The Blounts credit their church family with helping them successfully manage the art of raising children and working full time in a business that demands much of their time. “We have a really strong support system, and we know that some people in ministry don’t have strong support systems, and some by choice, because not everybody wants to be connected,” Regina said. “But for us, it’s been important that we had somebody that we could connect with and we don’t take that for granted. You always hear the phrase it takes a village, and it really does. We know we couldn’t have done what we did, just the two of us, because there were times when both of us were busy, busy, busy, and we had people who really, really helped us.”
They credit WCU with helping them find the path that built their life. “Our friends were white, Black and Native American,” Regina said. “We’re still connected to some of these people today. They’re our friends for life.”