An attorney and Goldsboro native was recently recognized by Gov. Roy Cooper with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of the most prestigious awards presented by the governor of North Carolina.

T. Diane Surgeon, a Goldsboro High School graduate now living and practicing in Lumberton, received the award in March.

Surgeon owns and operates the Elder Law Center-Surgeon Law Firm, and has served as a guardian ad litem attorney in Lumberton since 2006, where she provides representation for abused, neglected and dependent children in the juvenile court system.

Surgeon said she did not expect to receive the honor, which was presented to her during the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority eastern regional leadership conference in Norfolk, Virginia.

Surgeon is the sorority's eastern regional director. She was surprised when the event she was in charge of took a twist.

"I was just thrilled to death," she said. "I couldn't believe it. I was in charge, but all of a sudden somebody was being called to the stage, and I was like, what is going on?"

Dr. Alice Garrett, herself a recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, presented Surgeon with the honor on behalf of Cooper.

Surgeon is also a business owner outside of the legal realm. In January 2006, she established ComForCare Senior Services, a home care agency, which caters to elderly people, children and people with disabilities.

She is also the founder of Elite Adult Day Care Center in Lumberton, which provides therapeutic health care designed to help elderly people and people with disabilities maintain their independence and keep them living in their homes.

Upon graduation from the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill, Surgeon began her legal career at Lumbee River Legal Services in Robeson County with a community lawyer fellowship, through which she established the Southeastern Family Violence Center.

After nearly nine years at legal services, she became a trial attorney with the Robeson County Public Defender's Office, where she practiced nearly 17 years.

Surgeon is a Legacy, Founders' Society Centennial Visionary, Diamond Life Member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. She joined the sorority at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte in 1974 and has served as a local, state, regional and national officer. In October 2012,

Surgeon was appointed by the Sorority's International President Dr. Mary Breaux Wright as the national director of elder care.

Surgeon's work with elder care was a large part of what earned her the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, she said.

"An emphasis of mine recently has been my work with the senior community," she said.

"After they've worked and contributed, the elderly population is deserving of love and support from the community at this point in their lives where they may be more vulnerable, and in need of some love and attention. I'm proud to be able to provide that."