Your Neighbor: Meet Maria Perkins

Published 12:05 am Thursday, July 13, 2023

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By Mandy Haggerson

For the Clemmons Courier

Maria Perkins grew up in an Ohio suburb as the youngest of three siblings.

“I realized from a young age that horses and animals were my world,” Perkins said. “I know my parents hoped that I would one day outgrow my love for horses because of the cost to care for them.

“I was allowed to begin riding at the age of five years old. I owned my first horse, Royal Lady, at 16 years old, and I still have her granddaughter, Dixie, who is 30 years old. I also now have her son, Lenny.”

With a passion for animals, Perkins thought she would pursue a degree in animal sciences, referred to at the time as animal production, at Pennsylvania State University.

“I was eager to do something with my love for animals and leave Ohio for new adventures,” Perkins said. “I also participated in equestrian studies, which was a lot of fun.

“Horses would be donated to the program so that we could study the best practices for the horses, like footing, stabling, and training riders. I got to ride horses that I would never have had the opportunity anywhere else, which was quite the experience.”

Perkins continued to ride competitively following her graduation in 1988.

“After I graduated, I went into toxicology research which is where a lot of people who love animals end up, unfortunately,” Perkins said. “When you have these skills with animals, it’s a necessary evil at this point.

“After about two years, I followed my boss down to North Carolina to accept a position for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company as a contractor.”

Perkins assisted with their approval process for low-calorie options through the U.S. Food and Administration. Once those efforts were finalized, she moved on to working on testing for various cigarette flavors and other projects.

“I moved more to the testing and data management side,” Perkins said. “It was nice to move away from doing the animal work.”

During that time, she met her husband, Britt. Their common love for animals was evident from their first encounter.

“I had bought a condominium in Tanglewood Farms,” Perkins said. “I was with one of my very dear friends, Betsy, because we were out walking my first dog that I had rescued locally. We were stopped by this fancy car with a sullen-looking guy in the backseat with his parents. They had asked us a bunch of questions about the area, and he never said a word. I didn’t think anything of it until months later that same guy was out walking his dog. It was Britt. And we got to talking because his dog had such unique markings that resembled almost a spider monkey.

“He asked me out through a handwritten note and the rest was history. I never thought there was anyone else out there that loved animals more than me until I met him.”

Britt and Maria decided to expand their family from furry children to humans. After working at Reynolds for seven years, Perkins chose to stay at home full-time with her children, Will, 26, and Sarah, 24.

“Once they became old enough for elementary school, I decided to go in and work as an assistant at Pinebrook Elementary,” Perkins said. “For a bit, I even contemplated going into teaching. However, I realized the amount of schooling I would have to complete to do so seemed tedious. After working in the kids’ schools for a while, I chose to go back into research at PMG. I stayed on there for a while until going to work in research at Wake Forest Baptist until they merged with Atrium in March 2022.”

During that time, Perkins had two grown children that had graduated from North Carolina State University and Princeton University.

“I was always so grateful I was able to stay home with the kids when they were younger,” Perkins said. “Seeing them find their interests and going after their dreams is so rewarding. I never imagined I would have children, and I’m so glad that we were blessed with them after being so focused on the animals for so long. Some of our best friendships were formed through our children’s friends’ parents.”

Aside from visiting her children, Perkins spends much of her time visiting with her parents, who now live in Bermuda Village.

“They moved from Charlotte recently, and I get to see them often, which is wonderful,” Perkins said. “With Britt’s mom passing recently, I was able to care for her too. It is a gentle reminder of how precious life and time is.”

When Perkins isn’t spending time with her human family members, she cares for her furry ones. With eight dogs, two cats and two horses, there is never a dull moment in their house.

“They all bring us so much joy,” Perkins said. “They are good for the soul. And it’s funny because I never thought I would be the one that made sure we didn’t have too many animals in our house. But each and every one of them have added so much to our family.”