"Andy's impact on my life and my approach to my work really can't be measured," Howard said. "The balance that he sustained between focused, creative effort and this overt, playful enjoyment that he got out of working hard with people that he liked, doing a show he loved, was something that I hope I'll always remember and emulate."
Howard played Opie Taylor, the red-headed son of Sheriff Andy Taylor, on "The Andy Griffith Show." The CBS TV show aired from 1960 to 1968, starting when Howard was 6 years old and ending when he was 14.
Tanya Jones, executive director of the Surry Arts Council, said Howard reached out to her and told her he wanted to "do something for Andy," adding that he knew Griffith loved his hometown. He emailed Jones after she had reached out to his father, actor Rance Howard, for help with the celebration that's held in the North Carolina town that inspired the fictional town of Mayberry.
Ron Howard hinted that what he learned on "The Andy Griffith Show" helped him with his future career, which includes an Academy Award for directing "A Beautiful Mind." Griffith, he said, established an inclusive set that allowed him, at age 6, "to feel safe, comfortable enough to participate and then to be able to witness and learn so much about the collaborative process — the value of originality, the discipline of form and the bursts of individual inspiration that good moments and scenes are built on."
Rance Howard sent a statement praising Griffith's character to be read at the tribute.
"Andy was an excellent role model, the guardian of good taste and humor," wrote Rance Howard. "He loved to laugh out loud and long but his motto was, 'I don't want the public to laugh at us, I want them to laugh with us.'"
Griffith was recovering from a heart attack when Rance Howard's wife, Jean, died. Griffith flew with his wife, Cindi, to California so he could speak at the memorial service.
"That's the kind of friend Andy was," Rance Howard wrote. "Yes, he played an enormous role in our lives."
Ron Howard said he learned during the eight seasons "how much care had to go into making a program if it was going to be truly worthy of an audience's time.
"... He helped me to understand that high achievement and leadership require confidence, yes, hard work, absolutely. But it could be gained while still maintaining humility, humanity and a joyous appreciation for those around him. Like so many others, I'm going to miss you, Andy."
With his last words for the crowd, Howard mimicked Griffith, who was famous for telling the audience three words at the end of his shows: "I appreciate it."