Originally published Jan. 18, 2006

It could be the setup for a wacky sitcom: Arkansas music teacher and Wisconsin funeral director, both fervent fans of an old TV show, meet online in a chat room, then decide to make a life together in his small town.

Marsha Scheuermann's friends and family thought she was the wacky one when she told them she was moving to Clear Lake, Wis., to be with her future husband, Dave Scheuermann.

"Then they met him, and said, `You guys are made for each other.' "

Why? The obvious answer is that both are "crazy fans," in Dave's words, of "The Andy Griffith Show." Their devotion is so complete that they've fashioned their home as an exact replica of Andy's TV dwelling, from the big front porch right down to the Blue Willow china in the hutch and vintage school supplies in Opie's room.

The deeper answer is the couple's shared values and nostalgia for the idealized small-town way of life that the show celebrates. Their home 40 miles northeast of Hudson is their haven, a respite from the rush and rudeness of modern life. And now that the house is completed, they plan to share their little piece of Mayberry with others by operating it as the Taylor Home Inn (www.taylorhomeinn.com).

If you're thinking that there can't possibly be enough hard-core Andy Griffith fans to keep an inn in business, you might be surprised. The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club (www.mayberry.com), which hosts the chat room that brought the Scheuermanns together, boasts more than 1,000 chapters and 20,000 members worldwide.

Jim Clark, the club's Nashville-based founder, is already planning a visit to the Scheuermanns' home later this year. "I can't wait to get up there and see it," he said. "I've seen pictures of their place. Obviously, they've gone to great pains to get the small details exactly right."

Dave Scheuermann made sure of that. He designed the house himself using a computer design program, a foam-core model that he built and "a little Andy" figure that he used to measure 6-foot dimensions on a smaller scale. He spent more than a year getting the plans just right.

It wasn't easy. For starters, Andy's TV "home" never really existed. The exterior scenes were shot on a California studio back lot originally built for "Gone With the Wind." The interior scenes were taped on TV studio sets, not in real rooms with four walls.

"It was a challenge to fit the interior into the footprint of the exterior," Dave said. "I had to stretch a couple of walls." The house has more square footage than Andy's, including a separate innkeeper's quarters, as required by state law. And, like many 21st-century nesters, the Scheuermanns weren't content with a '50s kitchen. "We upgraded it a little," Dave said. "It's Andy's house with a facelift."

Still, the dwelling feels vaguely familiar, even if you aren't intimately acquainted with the show. It could be your childhood home, or maybe your Grandma's house. Although built in 2003, it has a definite `50s vibe, from the old-fashioned radio to the vintage magazines on the coffee table. The mantel clock above the stone fireplace has stopped, a metaphor for the bygone ambience of its setting.

In fact, when Marsha hosted a holiday gathering for some teacher friends, one of them said, "I feel like I'm in 1957," which, to Marsha, was a high compliment. "Exactly!" she said. "That's what we want."

The home has modern conveniences, but they aren't immediately visible. The computer is behind a door that, on the show, led to Andy's entry. There's a TV, but it's discreetly located upstairs in a room stocked with videos and DVDs of you-know-what.

How did the Scheuermanns develop their obsession with all things Andy? Marsha never even saw the show during its original `60s run. But in 1979, she watched some reruns and got caught up in the characters and the setting, which reminded her of her childhood in the Ozarks hamlet of Calico Rock, Ark. "I grew up in Mayberry. Andy looked like my dad, and Opie was within a month of my age."

Dave also felt that nostalgic connection even though his own hometown, Burnsville, was nothing like Mayberry. "It's like going to a small town every time you watch ... the friendliness ... the slower pace."

But finding like-minded Andy-philes was difficult - until the Internet came along. When the fan club launched its chat room in 1997, Dave and Marsha were part of a core group that decided to meet at Mayberry Days, the annual festival held in Griffith's real hometown, Mount Airy, N.C.

"All of us were thrilled to know that there were people out there who were as into it as we were," Marsha recalled. "It was a magnet for all of us." Once she met Dave in person, "it was like at first sight."

After their 2001 wedding, which featured the "Mayberry March," the couple decided to build an Andy-inspired house where friends and members of their blended family could visit them. (Dave has three children and Marsha has one.) "As a funeral director, I can't take off and go for a two-week vacation," Dave said.

Some of their fellow fans have already visited to critique their efforts. Don and Joyce Kernan of LaSalle, Ind., gave it a thumbs-up. The Kernans didn't even need the address to find the house, according to Don. "My wife said, `There it is. No doubt about it.' The entire house is true to the show."

To amplify the total Andy experience, the Scheuermanns plan to turn their basement into a replica of the Mayberry courthouse, complete with jail cell. They study old episodes for fresh details.

"We watch it almost every time it comes on," Marsha said. "We can quote it line for line and still laugh, even though we've seen it 100 times."

Only now they watch with a slightly different perspective, she added. "It's like they're standing in our house."

Kim Palmer - 612-673-4784