February 2021

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February 2021 501lifemag.com | 1

2 | 501 LIFE February 2021

Providing advanced heart & vascular care

David Evans, M.D. | Leon Blue, M.D. | Bradley Hughes, M.D. Katherine Durham, M.D. | Eric Robinson, M.D. | Ethan Munzinger, M.D.

Phone: (501) 279-9393 | After Hours: (501) 268-4161 Mon - Fri | 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. 711 Santa Fe Dr. | Searcy

WE ARE ALWAYS HERE FOR YOU Our physicians encourage the community to continue to seek medical treatment when needed. Unity Health hospitals and clinics practice elevated safety for the health and well-being of patients and staff at all locations. It is safe to schedule regular appointments and seek emergency care.

We continue to fight for our community and will always be here for you. February 2021 501lifemag.com | 3



EDITOR Stefanie W. Brazile PUBLISHER Jeremy Higginbotham FOUNDERS Donna Spears and Sonja J. Keith ASSOCIATE EDITOR Levi Gilbert COPY EDITORS Jordan Hickey and Andrea Miller BRAND AMBASSADOR Donald Brazile ART DIRECTORS Jennifer Godwin and Nick Walker PHOTO DIRECTOR Mike Kemp FINANCE DIRECTOR Debbie Flowers ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Donna Spears

CONTRIBUTORS Donna Benton Don Bingham Kellie Bishop Don Brazile Brittany Gilbert Laurie Green Dwain Hebda Linda Henderson Vivian Hogue Kevin McCoy

Jennifer McCracken Mark McDonald Mark Oliver John Patton Susan Peterson Dr. Robert Reising Judy Riley Donna Lampkin Stephens Morgan Zimmerman


Still Loving Life... H

ave you ever wished that you had a magic time machine that would allow you to travel back and forth in time to experience events firsthand? Travel back with me to the beginning of February 2020. When you picked up 501 LIFE and looked at the cover of a couple kissing in front of an Arkansas moon, you could not have imagined that a pandemic would be part of the near future. If you had a time machine, you might be tempted to travel back to that day and stay there! It reminds me of childhood when magical thinking fueled my imagination. I'm not one who wishes to go back in time, but I am a person who chooses to be hopeful because there is still magic in the world, and it is not fueled by pixie dust, a wand or blowing out all your birthday candles. It is an unexpected change agent called love. Each February, we celebrate and express love and that theme is again reflected on our cover. Pictured is a young couple, excited to hold each other's hands, butterflies swarming in their stomachs. It's the kind of excitement we've all experienced and that, ultimately, moved some of us to the altar. I'm a firm believer in the verse "Love never fails." It hangs in my home and my heart. In my lifetime, I have witnessed so many thoughtful acts which inspire me to be kinder, to be stronger and to be a better person. This past year has been a heartbreaker, but it also allowed us to show how much we cared about other people. Those opportunities continue every day and it's never too late to show love. I believe the stories in this issue will remind you that all is not lost. We have stories about newlywed love, how parents love their children, the love of donating a heart, a love of basketball, a love for service, art, music, reading, and a 95-year-old's love for life. Step out of that time machine, grab a mug of something warm and Celebrate Greater Central Arkansas within the pages of 501 LIFE!

4 | 501 LIFE February 2021

Johnny Adams Jack Bell Don Bingham RaeLynn Callaway Glenn Crockett Kay Dalton Beth Franks Russ Hancock Spencer Hawks Mathilda Hatfield Roe Henderson Jerry Hiegel Mike Kemp Julie LaRue

Karl Lenser Monica Lieblong Lori Melton Kiera Oluokun Deanna Ott Pat Otto Jon Patrom Amy Reed Lori Ross Margaret Smith Jan Spann Kim Tyler Jennifer Whitehead

CONWAY COUNTY EDITORIAL BOARD Mary Clark Shelli Crowell Dr. Larry Davis Shawn Halbrook Alicia Hugen Alisha Koonce

Stephanie Lipsmeyer Stewart Nelson Kristi Strain Jim Taylor Morgan Zimmerman

WHITE COUNTY EDITORIAL BOARD Betsy Bailey Tara Cathey Cassandra Feltrop Phil Hays Natalie Horton

Matt LaForce Mike Parsons Brooke Pryor Carol Spears Kristi Thurmon

To subscribe or order back issues, visit 501lifemag.com. The subscription rate is $20 for one year (12 issues). Make the Jump Media, LLC 920 Locust Ave., Suite 104 Conway, AR 72034 501.327.1501 info@501lifemag.com

501 LIFE is published monthly by Make the Jump Media, LLC (920 Locust Ave, Suite 104, Conway, AR 72034, 501.327.1501) owned by Jeremy Higginbotham and Stefanie W. Brazile. The contents of 501 LIFE are copyrighted and materials presented may not be copied or reproduced in any manner without the written permission of the publishers. Articles should not be considered specific advice, as individual circumstances vary. Products and services advertised are not necessarily endorsed by 501 LIFE.

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 5


February 2021

Volume 13 Issue 10 4 8 9 10 12 14 16 18 20 22

Letter from the Editor Faulkner County news 2020 Arkansas Century Farms Loving LIFE Let the love light shine University news Love wins: Weddings during COVID Couple of the month: Emily Copley and Sam Nagher III Kid of the month: Owen Moran Stepping up to the test

By Mark McDonald


On the cover

Despite a challenging year, 501 LIFE still celebrates the many things we love about Central Arkansas. Photo of Harley Brazile and Victoria Fountain by Mike Kemp.

24 501 Basketball Team 32 For the love of recipes

By Don Bingham

34 Mother's love helps her stop smoking

By John Patton

36 Laundry room energy savings

By Beth Jimmerson

38 Fall in love with fitness

By Jenn McCracken

40 The ride of a lifetime: Floyd Brantley


By Dwain Hebda

42 New library in El Paso

By Judy Riley

44 Lean on me Nurse loves caring for vets

By Dwain Hebda

46 The beat goes on... 56-year love story

By Stefanie Brazile

48 For love of youth, A life devoted to expanding minds

By Stefanie Brazile


50 Going where the pages turn

By Vivian Lawson Hogue

52 Through eyes of faith Author Debra Myton: Bound by Faith

By Susan Peterson

54 Teaching kids love & self-acceptance

55 Show others they are loved

By Brittany Gilbert

56 Celebrating Athletic Excellence: Ken Kavanaugh

By Dr. Robert Reising

58 Pulaski County School Choice program

By Jessica Duff

59 Promises to keep (married couples only)

By Donald Brazile

60 Pet of the month: Daisy 61 Art Alley - 501 travel destination

By Kellie Bishop

By Linda Henderson

64 Bolivian musicians home with UCA, CSO 66 Person of the month: Suzanne Loerch 6 | 501 LIFE February 2021


501 LIFE would like to thank our advertising partners for their continued support and encourage our readers to support these businesses:

Covering 11 Counties

in Greater Central Arkansas! Get “LIFE” at home! For a limited time, 501 LIFE is offering a special subscription rate for new subscribers: have the magazine delivered to your home for only $20 for one year, $40 for two years.

C Conway Corp., 37

While the magazine is distributed to more than 700 locations in Central Arkansas, copies go fast. Home delivery guarantees readers they won’t miss a single issue.

Conway Regional Health System, 67 Conway Regional Rehab, 19


Visit 501LIFEmag.com or call 501.327.1501 to subscribe.

DJM Orthodontics, 41 Downtown Conway, 39



Edward Jones, 51

F First Security Bank, 68 First Service Bank, 13 and Cooling, 24

H Hartman Animal Hospital, 60 Harwood, Ott & Fisher, PA, 23 Heritage Living Center, 5 Hiegel Supply, 38

M MSC Eye Associates, 21 Methodist Family Health, 53

O P Patterson Eye Care, 49 Pulaski County Special School District, 55

S Salem Place, 47 Sissy’s Log Cabin, 15 Shelter Insurance, 49 St. Joseph School, 43 Superior Health & Rehab, 2

U Unity Health, 3 University of Arkansas Community College Morrilton, 8 University of Central Arkansas, 35


Writers’ Room

Freyaldenhoven Heating

Ott Insurance, 33


Levi Gilbert has worked with 501 LIFE since it was founded in 2008. Initially, helping with sports features and launching 501 Football, he was named an associate editor. The UCA graduate plays an essential role in determining both the 501 Football and 501 Basketball Teams, as well as working on the magazine’s online publications. Gilbert lives in Greenbrier with his wife, Brittany, and their three children. He also serves as the play-by-play commentator for Wampus Cat football and as a learning consultant for Acxiom Corporation.

Born in Montana and raised on a poultry farm in Northwest Arkansas, Judy Riley moved to White County in 1980. She holds degrees from the University of Arkansas and what is now Texas A&M University in Commerce. She retired as a full professor for the U of A Cooperative Extension Service, where she served as a county extension agent in Miller and White Counties. She currently helps her husband, Tom, with a hay production and beef cattle farm. Riley is involved in her local El Paso community and serves as board member for the Arkansas 4-H Foundation, White County Community Foundation and White County Farm Bureau Board.

Mark Oliver is an awardwinning sports broadcaster. His voice has been heard across many platforms ­— spanning television, radio, print and online media throughout the U.S. While attending the University of Central Arkansas, Oliver discovered a new passion: sports broadcasting. After graduating with bachelor’s degrees in broadcast journalism and writing, Oliver became the play-by-play voice of Fountain Lake football, where his unique, energetic style earned him the 2017 Sully Award for the best broadcast play call in Arkansas. February 2021 501lifemag.com | 7


Faulkner County students may apply for leadership training Our community is faced with many of the challenges that accompany the aspects of a growing area. The Conway Area Youth Leadership Institute (CAYLI) addresses those aspects and exposes our county’s youth to opportunities for community involvement and improvement. CAYLI is a school-year program for high school juniors and seniors and consists of a retreat and seven monthly sessions, which includes human services, education, media/ technology, healthcare, work world/economy, government/court system and environment/ agriculture. A community service project is a vital part of the curriculum. Applications for the 2021-22 class will open this month. For more information, visit uca.edu/ outreach/youthleadership or email Dr. Shaneil Ealy at sealy@uca.edu.

Conway Corp employees honored/promoted

Margaret Smith

Brian Eggert

Justin Moore

Kody Miller


argaret Smith has been promoted to Marketing Project Coordinator/ Event Specialist at Conway Corp. In her new role, Smith will coordinate external and internal marketing projects and events, as well as assist in the development and implementation of the company’s brand strategy and related marketing efforts. Smith was hired as a cashier for the company in June, 2016, and worked in that role until November, 2018, when she was promoted to administrative assistant in the Marketing Department.

Employee honors Conway Corp is dedicated to exceeding customers’ expectations and recognizes employees annually for their individual dedication to the mission. They recently honored three employees for exemplary work performance.

Brian Eggert won the Tower of Excellence Award. This award recognizes an employee who has made a significant impact through outstanding dedication and exceptional job performance. Justin Moore received the Customer Service Award and was nominated by an employee who said, “When COVID-19 first hit, Justin stepped up and went on call for more than six weeks to make sure our business customers received the same care during COVID as they did pre-COVID.”

Kody Miller received the Safety Leadership Award.

Diesel Technology

Heavy Equipment Operator Training

Construction Technology

coming soon



New Credit and Non-Credit Programs Available at UACCM in 2021

GET A MOVE ON Become a mover, shaker, or a building maker

8 | 501 LIFE February 2021

 Hands-on training in small class sizes  Valued credentials for the workforce  Financial aid and scholarship options


Eight farms in the 501 become

Arkansas Century Farms In December, Gov. Asa Hutchinson joined Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward in inducting 30 additional farms into the Arkansas Century Farm Program. The program recognizes farms of 10 or more acres owned by the same family for at least 100 years. The Century Farm program was established in 2012 to highlight the contributions of the families to the agriculture industry and to Arkansas. Agriculture is Arkansas’ largest industry, annually contributing more than $21 billion to the state’s economy and providing more than 269,000 jobs, one of every six jobs in the state. Arkansas consistently ranks in the top 25 nationally in the production of more than 15 agricultural commodities. “Year after year, decade after decade, and in the face of many challenges, Century Farm families go out and put everything on the line to earn a living and produce our food, our fabrics, our timber,” Hutchinson said. “Farm families are great for our economy, and they also are part of the fabric of our state. They imbue our state with the same common sense and solid values that are the bedrock of their family farm. For the good of Arkansas, I hope their children and grandchildren choose to continue the family farm, and that someday, Arkansas will create a "Two-Century Farm Family program.” There are currently 494 farms recognized as Arkansas Century Farms. The 30 newly inducted Century Farms are located in 23 counties and eight of those are within the 11-county readership of 501 LIFE.

Faulkner County — Bradford Family Farm (Est. 1919)

Faulkner County — Hoggard-Stevenson Union Valley Farm (Est. 1878)

Cleburne County — Brownfield Farm (Est. 1920)

Perry County — Long-McGehee Farm (Est. 1882)

White County — Martin Cattle Company (Est.1920)

White County — Hughes and Hughes Farm (Est. 1908)

Not pictured: Conway County — FloRa Farms LLC (Est. 1894), Perry County — Fowler Farm (Est. 1860)

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 9


Love and 501 LIFE 501 readers are loving LIFE and sharing their moments and special occasions with others. Headed out on a special trip? Have a special occasion or get-together coming up? Pack a copy of 501 LIFE in your suitcase, snap a photo at your destination and send it to us for publication in a future issue! Photos can be submitted by email to info@501lifemag.com or by mail to Reader Photos, c/o 501 LIFE, 920 Locust Ave., Suite 104, Conway, AR, 72034. Please include the names of those in the photograph, and their hometowns, along with contact information. Sorry, photos will not be returned by mail but can be picked up at the 501 LIFE office.

PJ and Danni Wolford were “Loving LIFE” when they stayed home for Christmas instead of traveling as usual. The couple says they are like peas and carrots!

How much lovelier can it get than Scott and Courtney Love of Wooster and their 11 brand new labradoodle pups -- Honey, Rudy, Hershee, Bonnie Bell, Oakley, Paige, Jasper, Finlee, Doc, Bella and Otis!

10 | 501 LIFE February 2021

Roy and Joyce Jones of Greenbrier are "Loving LIFE" as they prepare to celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary next month.

Maumelle couple Branon Harrison and Meaghan Beasley enjoy a slice of the good LIFE at Razorback Pizza.

Keith and Kaye Todd will be “Loving LIFE” when they celebrate their 45th anniversary on Valentine's Day in Searcy.

Garrison Winter and Sarah Morris were “Loving LIFE” in Downtown Conway on a sunny day. They plan to tie the knot on June 4.


Standard poodle Charlie Brown of Conway was “Loving LIFE” while visiting Trader Joe’s in Little Rock to buy some last-minute Christmas gifts with his parents, Kent and Mitzi Brown.

The East End School District office staff were “Loving LIFE” in Bigelow. Alice Zulpo (from left), Lori Edgin, Gina Russenberger and Jacque Kristofik.

These young adults were “Loving LIFE” and their jobs at the Goode’s Cash Saver in Clinton. Brittiny Hughes (from left), Trey Mattison and Tamara Nunn. Harps Food Stores staff in Perryville were “Loving LIFE” during a quick break. Manager Teresa Grayson (from left), assistant manager Richard Martin, Abby Strange, Jennifer Powell, Anthony Clark, Raylen Wardell and Michelle Parks.

Eliesha and Jakob Wolverton of Conway were “Loving LIFE” and enjoying quality family time as they challenged each other to a game of jumbo-sized Jenga at Flashback Pinball Arcade.

The staff at Woodland Heights Baptist Church were “Loving LIFE” during the Christmas season. Steve Lasiter (from left), Daniel Dykes, Greg Childress, Larry White and J.D. Cariker.

Conway Christian's Josh Tibbs was “Loving LIFE” when he signed to run cross country for Ouachita Baptist University with his family: Stephanie (from left) and Michael Tibbs, and sister Ally.

Vilonia Senior Center friends were “Loving LIFE” and enjoying a visit. Lynda Wallace (from left), Nell Waddell and Virginia Northington. Friends were “Loving LIFE” at the Senior Center in Fairfield Bay. Loretta (from left) and Carl Wiley, Robin and Bill Jones, Lisa Phillips, Terry Clemons, David Neely, Ken and Pam Hickman

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 11


Let the love light shine By Becky Bell

This year, former Conway Mayor David Kinley

got something extra special for Christmas from the people who live near an old homestead he owns. The rustic shotgun home is right next door to Keith and Gretchen Rooney's house, and they look after it for Kinley because it is 25 miles outside of Conway. This year, with Kinley suffering from acute myeloid leukemia, they wanted to do something to make him smile for the holidays. With his permission, the Rooneys and three young neighbors - twins Allie and Emmie Wilson and their sister, Rylie - decorated the house on 30 Mill Bridge Road with more than 1,000 lights. Those lights made the house glow unlike anything deer or passerby had ever seen. “I just appreciate good neighbors,” Kinley said. “It is easy to take for granted the values of neighbors and friendships, but this was the epitome of good neighbors.” The Rooneys both work in education. Keith as the transportation director and bus mechanic at Quitman School District and Gretchen is a kindergarten teacher at Guy-Perkins Elementary. “We just wanted to do something so everyone could see it with everything going on right now,” Keith said. “We were trying to make them happy and give them something nice to look at with all this COVID stuff going on right now.” Keith said his brother told him the homestead was built in 1889 and Gretchen agreed it is the kind of place that needs to remain, even if that means eventually getting a historical marker from the state. Putting up the lights was a way to thank Kinley for buying the property and keeping it safe.

And another reason why they did it was just because ’tis the season to make Christmas wishes come true. “My husband does love Christmas, and Christmas is all about the littles," Gretchen said. "When we were putting the lights up, we knew that little children would go by the home with a twinkle in their eye. And we are giving value to the place so that people will want to preserve it. Time marches on and what is important to the past is important to the future.” Kinley said preserving the place is important to him too. When his grandchildren were little, the old homeplace served as a spot for them to hunt deer in the woods, fish in the stocked pond and ride their horses. Because his health has declined over the years and the grandchildren have grown, he no longer has the horses. But he wants to continue having a place to drive to and remember the memories, and he's thankful the Rooneys keep watch over it. Although he's had some health concerns - he had a cornea transplant in July of last year and is now undergoing his third round of chemotherapy - he doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He said he's grateful. “Well you know, you don’t have to look around very far to find something to be thankful for,” he said. “So many people are worse off than I am. To me the silver lining to my dark cloud is that I get to do my chemotherapy right here in Conway.” One thing Keith knows is that Kinley was a very popular mayor during his terms between 1987 and 1998 in Conway and that they both share love for the old homeplace that contains and is surrounded by so much history. “He’s a gentleman that takes delight in the world around him and wants to keep it as nice as it can be."

Former Conway Mayor David Kinley and his wife, Sandra. 12 | 501 LIFE February 2021

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 13


CBC moves date for 2nd Annual Gala Central Baptist College has announced a new

date for its 2nd Annual Scholarship Gala. Initially planned for Feb. 20, the event will now take place at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 5, at the Conway Expo Center. The black-tie optional event will be catered by CBC Dining Services under the direction of chef Jill McCollum. The night will be a celebration of patriotism and faith and will feature keynote speaker, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Brian Birdwell. Proceeds from the event benefit the Scholarship Fund which supports institutionally funded scholarships. “Due to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 global health pandemic and with vaccine implementation currently underway, we felt it was best to postpone this event until late spring,” said CBC President Terry Kimbrow. “It is important to us to be able to host an in-person event, and to hold the event when our supporters will feel more comfortable coming together to celebrate Christian higher education.”

Because of an anonymous $400,000 matching gift, all sponsorships, individual ticket sales and contributions will be matched dollar-for-dollar, according to Amy Reed, director of development. “Never has there been a time when we need individuals, churches and businesses to come alongside the college and support the transformational life changes that education can provide,” said Kimbrow. “I cannot wait to celebrate with many others the red, white, and blue, and to celebrate the amazing blessings bestowed upon us by God. Birdwell is dynamic and inspirational; his story is one of faith and miracles, as is the story of Central Baptist College.” Event sponsorships begin at $2,000. Single tickets are on sale for $100 each. For more information, to purchase tickets, or to make a donation, visit cbc.edu/gala or contact Reed, at areed@cbc.edu or 501-205-8934. Lt. Col. (Ret.) Brian Birdwell

UCA’s MBA program named to Princeton Review list of

Best Business Schools

The University of Central Arkansas' Master in Business Administration (MBA) program was recently recognized as one of the best 244 programs in the country by "The Princeton Review."

The University of Central Arkansas’

Master in Business Administration program was named to “The Princeton Review’s” Best Business Schools list of Best On-Campus MBA programs. The list recognized the top 244 oncampus MBA programs around the country and was based on survey data from more than 17,800 students and school administrators. “What makes our Best Business Schools list unique is that we factor in data from our surveys of students attending the 14 | 501 LIFE February 2021

schools about their campus and classroom experiences,” said Rob Franek, editor-inchief of “The Princeton Review.” Student respondents identified cost, diversity, high academic standards, job prospects upon graduation, and accessible, knowledgeable faculty as attributes that separated the UCA MBA program from others. “It has been our goal over the last few years to grow our program and provide a high-quality, affordable and flexible graduate program that our students could

use to advance their careers,” said Mark McMurtrey, Ph.D., director of the program. “Our continued inclusion in this ranking shows our students find value in our program and the concentrations we offer.” The UCA MBA program has more than 150 students — up from 89 in 2016 — and offers concentrations in finance, health care administration and information management, as well as an option to embed a graduate certificate in data analytics. It is accredited through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.



February 2021 501lifemag.com | 15


One casualty of the pandemic was postponed or scaled-down ceremonies. In fact, according to the website The Knot, 35 percent of couples who sent invitations for a 2020 wedding postponed it until 2021 or later. The couples profiled below faced the stress head-on with the help of their wedding planners. Flexibility on the part of their family, friends and vendors eased the pressure and they were thrilled to make the ultimate commitment to the love of their life in 2020.

Mr. and Mrs. Garrett Pender Photo by B.Matthews Photo • Wedding Planner: Jessika McCuin Weddings Floral arrangements: Magnolia Belle Floral


hen Jessica Sanchez accepted the proposal of Garrett Pender, they set a March 28, 2020, wedding date. They both lived in Little Rock and planned a grand wedding weekend with nearly 200 guests. “This was going to be a great opportunity for Garrett to meet the majority of my family for the first time,” Jessica said. “COVID-19 hit and we had to reassess our plans. We put love first and decided to have an intimate wedding Sept. 12, 2020.” Initially, the change was hard for the excited couple to accept because some of their closest friends and family members would not be able to attend. “But at the end of the day, we knew that everyone who was not there wished us well,” the new bride said. “We focused on the importance of why we wanted to get married, and we finally became one and our day was centered on love.” Because of the experience, Mrs. Pender has changed her mind about large weddings. “It was perfect! Now I am a lover of small, intimate weddings!” She said that she could not have made all of the changes without the support of her wedding planner and vendor team who were “gracious and supportive.” Jessica chose to have the ceremony and reception outside to allow for social distancing. Prior to seating guests, the ushers screened them and encouraged them to wear masks when distancing was not an option. Guests sat by household and were spaced apart, and extra hand sanitizers and masks were available on their tables. The meal was changed from a buffet to plated dining, and plexiglass shields were used at the bar to protect the bartenders. “Following the guidelines removed most of the stressors from planning a COVID-19 style wedding,” she said. 16 | 501 LIFE February 2021

Mr. and Mrs. Bryce Biggerstaff

Photo by Christopher Nolan Photography • Planner: Jessika McCuin Weddings Floral: Tanarah Luxe Flora


ari Ray from Cabot planned to marry Bryce Biggerstaff from Sherwood on April 18, 2020, but COVID-19 altered their plans. “We made the decision a little over a month before our original date to postpone to later in the year,” she said. “We were definitely heartbroken about having to change our wedding date. It’s something we never anticipated happening.” On their original date, they spent the day together, and with their dogs, and enjoyed the beautiful Arkansas weather and “counted their blessings!” They married on Aug. 22 at Cold Springs in Paron (Saline County.) “It was the most perfect day with our family and friends,” the newlywed said. “When everything was said and done, with the help of Jessika McCuin Weddings, Tanarah Luxe Floral and other vendors, we had the wedding day that we always dreamed of. “We were so blessed with the most understanding vendors who happily rescheduled. Jessika and her team helped us to follow COVID-19 protocols to make our wedding day as safe as possible for our guests.”

Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Kane

Photo by Sterling Imageworks • Planner: Jessika McCuin Weddings • Floral: Tanarah Luxe Floral


achel Hildebrand of Little Rock and Matthew Kane of Conway planned a spring wedding for late April 2020, at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. They invited 300 guests and looked forward to a rehearsal dinner at the Capital Hotel and a reception at the Country Club in Little Rock. A dream honeymoon trip was planned to Croatia and Istanbul. A month before, they decided to reschedule for Aug. 1, initially with the same guest list and venues; however, in June, they pared down the guest list and made alternate arrangements. “Looking back, the changes did not matter,” Rachel said. “At the time, though, the necessity of constantly reworking plans, which had been in place for nearly a year, was nerve racking.” The happy couple married at the Country Club of Little Rock with a family-only ceremony and reception. A rehearsal dinner was held the night before at the home of the groom’s mother. They honeymooned in Aspen, Colo. They followed all the requirements of the indoor venue directive, had 6-foot spacing between the ceremony chairs and reception dinner tables, and allowed “only formality dances.” Guests were served a plated dinner and had seating assignments with fellow family groups.

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 17

NEIGHBORS couple of the month Conway

Emily Copley and Sam Nagher III (Mike Kemp photo)


Emily Copley

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science in Speech from UCA – Go Bears!


PARENTS: Conway residents (and recent retirees) Greg and Connie

Sam Nagher III

COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Recently became active through

NATIVE OF: Redford, Mich.

grilling and pool boy.

CHURCH ACTIVITIES: Member of First United Methodist

EDUCATION: Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan.


JOB: Financial adviser for Edward Jones in Conway.

a great sous chef.

PARENTS: Sam Nagher Jr. of Canton, Mich., and the late Karen Nagher.


JOB: Senior project management engineer for ArcBest Technologies in Fort Smith. Copley .

The Call to see how we can help with the foster care system in our area. Church.

HOBBIES/SPECIAL INTERESTS: Hiking, cooking, reading,

singing/acting and traveling.


extrovert, easy to laugh at myself, fan of gallows humor and a realist.

WHAT IS ONE THING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU? My grandfather, Milton Davis, named Toad Suck

Square in Conway.



togethers next to our pool or (pre-COVID-19) traveling to see friends or places I’ve never seen before.

membership chair for Conway Morning Rotary.

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO? Always keep improving and


challenging your beliefs.

attend First United Methodist Church.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT LIVING IN THE 501? Family! I have lived out of state for close to 10 years


- in Upstate New York, Dallas, L.A. and Reno - and am so glad to be able to call on everyone in my immediate family and take them leftovers. Or, more likely, as I am the youngest of three, eating theirs. We also bought a home across the street from my aunt and uncle, which has been especially important over this past year. I truly feel saddened for people who are isolated right now. Today’s circumstances make me feel even more grateful for my close-knit (and close by) family.

18 | 501 LIFE February 2021

I would say I am generally handy and love to help people. I love to laugh and have a good time. I overthink things sometimes, but that isn’t always a bad thing in my experience.



and/or some sort of woodworking project. WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO? Everything works out in the long run.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT LIVING IN THE 501? I love the smalltown feel of the 501. Running into people around town, pre-COVID-19, was very enjoyable for me. I look forward to spending time Downtown and gathering at some of our local hangouts again.

WHEN/HOW WE MET: We met during a week-long wedding cruise. We were both there as friends of the bride and groom. Emily had been roommates with the bride in college. Sam was an undergrad friend of the groom. THE PROPOSAL: Emily and her college friend Whitney had been planning a bucket-list trip to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. I (Sam) was asked to join the trip and decided if I was going to do this, it was the perfect place to plan the proposal. This was my first-ever major hiking trip. I think it’s fair to say that shows the lengths I was willing to go to for the perfect proposal location. Emily’s sister, Amanda Mulhearn, suggested I get the coordinates engraved on the ring, which I thought was perfect and got it done before the trip. It took us five days to get to the top. Fortunately, the three of us made it, and I was able to propose at the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. Also, Emily said, “Yes!” WEDDING BELLS: The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs on June 1, 2018. CHILDREN: No kids currently. Three beautiful nephews and a mess of a niece. PETS: Annie Pie, our dog, is a native of Ozark (Franklin County). FAMILY ACTIVITIES ENJOYED TOGETHER: We love any excuse to

host a cookout next to our pool. Sam and I love playing cards and board games, as well as finding a dorky sci-fi series to delve into at night.

The proposal atop Mount Kilimanjaro.

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 19

NEIGHBORS kid of the month Conway

Mike Kemp photo

St. Joseph's Owen Moran loves sharing his

sounds of success By Stefanie Brazile

AGE: Seven. CITY: Conway. SCHOOL: First grade, St. Joseph Elementary. FAVORITE SUBJECT: Reading. FAMILY: Haley and Scott Moran (mom and dad); Ben Moran (brother). MOST CHERISHED POSSESSION: Star Wars figures that belonged to his dad. FAVORITE MEAL: Chic-Fil-A nuggets and fries. FAVORITE ACTIVITIES: He loves going to the park and playing with his dog, Milo. WHAT HE DOES WITH PARENTS: He enjoys watching The Mandalorian with Dad and having dance parties with Mom. FAVORITE GAME: Star Wars Monopoly. FAVORITE MOVIE: Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom. 20 | 501 LIFE February 2021


wen Moran is an active first grader who loves Star Wars and going to the park with his family and dog, Milo. He has met Gov. Asa Hutchinson and enjoys playing with his fellow Cub Scouts. Owen also has Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). CAS is a motor speech disorder that makes it challenging to speak. The rare disorder affects one to two children out of 1,000 and is twice as prevalent in boys. “We suspected that something was not quite right when he was 18-months-old,” Scott Moran said. “At that time, our focus was more on sounds and less on words. Owen struggled with long vowel sounds and he also was unable to make the same sound twice.” Their pediatrician told them that boys were late talkers and discouraged any worry. They brought it up again at his two-year check-up and were referred to a Speech-Language Pathologist that was knowledgeable about apraxia. Wendy Lyon at Kidsource Therapy in Little Rock quickly diagnosed him and began intensive speech therapy. “The progress was almost immediate,” Moran said. “If any other parents are reading this and have similar concerns about their child, then my biggest piece of advice is to trust your gut. If you as a parent feel like something isn’t quite right, then don’t take the first answer given to you. Early intervention is the key to success in overcoming CAS.” Trouble communicating affected Owen socially and he lacked confidence. He would sit quietly among his peers. So, his parents decided to enroll him in a smaller school. Two years ago, Owen began attending pre-K at St. Joseph School. “This fall has been the year that he has begun to come out of his shell and play with his classmates,” his father said. “We hoped he would grow socially and excel academically. Those hopes have turned into reality and we are so thankful for the teachers and staff at St. Joseph. Everyone has embraced Owen, opening their arms and hearts to him.” Elementary School Principal Courtney Pope enjoys having Owen as a student. “The Moran’s are a precious family. They truly show the impact of being an advocate for your child and the success that will follow.” Each September, the family participates in the Arkansas Walk for Apraxia at Laurel Park in Conway (pre-COVID-19). Typically, the governor attends and helps celebrate the apraxia stars. The fundraising event raises awareness and connects kids and families for support. “Apraxia is a marathon and not a sprint,” Moran said. “When your child is unable to speak, at times it seems like a hopeless journey. Our purpose in this journey is to help give others hope, to show them that apraxia can be overcome.”

Owen and Scott Moran attend the 2019 `Walk for Apraxia’ at Laurel Park in Conway. Families from the region gather to raise awareness, support one another and honor the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Stars, like Owen. They also met a Star Wars First Order Tie Fighter Pilot. The group hopes to meet again in September, after hosting a virtual event in 2020.

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 21


Stepping up to the test Mark McDonald participates in Moderna Phase 3 trials

I have felt an obligation–

Mark McDonald Mark McDonald, a Methodist minister, has served churches in Northwest Arkansas, Booneville, Jacksonville and Conway. His family settled in Faulkner County in the 1840s. He attended Hendrix College, where he serves as a trustee. He and his wife have six children all living in Central Arkansas.

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actually a duty–to keep up with information to make the best possible decisions for my family and faith group. From the beginning of the pandemic, I watched the news daily, followed the governor’s press conferences and checked numerous websites to stay current. When I saw a news story about stage three trials for the Moderna vaccine, I wanted to know more. I registered my interest online and received an interview call within a few weeks. I had questions about safety, process, timelines and more. I learned that it was a “double-blind” trial, so I would not learn whether I had the vaccine or a placebo. Little did I know, that would be the most uncomfortable part of this trial. I was scheduled for tests to determine whether my health

qualified for participation and completed an extensive questionnaire. I had read what I could find online about clinical trials and thought I knew what to expect. After the exam, I had a COVID-19 test and got ready to leave. Then, they told me that I could get my first vaccine that day because the study was allowed to move faster than expected. While I was confident that the trial was safe, that caught me off guard. Then I understood the name “Operation Warp Speed.” I had the first vaccine and sat in observation for an hour. I enjoyed reading through the provided materials which included instructions should I need to visit an ER, a special number for questions or concerns, and more information about the process and expectations. After about an hour

with no reactions, I figured I had gotten the placebo. My arm wasn’t even sore like it usually was with a flu shot. I celebrated with a nice lunch and then drove home, poking my arm to see if there was any soreness. “Must have been a placebo,” I thought. That night, I had an upset stomach most of the night. My temperature never went up any significant amount, but my arm was sore the next day. Within 18 hours, I was back to normal and hopeful that I was safe from the virus. I had daily check-ins via an App, along with weekly calls and follow-up office visits scheduled. My questions mounted: “Was it real or a placebo?” Just in case, I followed the “three W’s” -- I wore my mask, washed my hands and watched my distance. My second shot visit was like the first, but without the

reading materials. I shared about my upset stomach and soreness, and one of the nurses said she had not heard of anyone who had an upset stomach. That made me doubt even more if I had received the actual vaccine and I tried to remember what I ate for lunch that day. It all seemed to be going too easy to be the real vaccine. After the second shot, my symptoms were again delayed until that evening. I had a slight fever, more soreness, and general achiness and fatigue for about 24 hours. I got back to normal, completed my daily questionnaire through their app, and answered weekly phone calls to check-in. And I continued to observe the “three W’s.”

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I’ve run into several people I know who were part of the study, too. The discussion always followed the same script: “What was it like for you?” and, “Do you think you got the real thing?” One person said she had a fever and almost went to the ER because of her symptoms. But she also returned to normal after 48 hours and wondered if she received the real vaccine or if her symptoms were from something else. Being in a double-blind study turns out to cause a roller coaster of questions and emotions. Some have thanked me for my willingness to risk my life, but I never felt that way. I’ve just learned to live with uncertainty, which is what we’ve all had to learn! It has made me keenly aware of the risks every single one of us is taking, and how important it is for everyone to rise to our obligation -- our duty -- to watch out for each other. I have known dozens of people who have had to isolate and a few who tested positive. I’ve lost one friend and another colleague, and I’ve visited with dozens who have struggled deeply because of this pandemic. Being part of a trial seems relatively easy compared to what some have gone through ... whether I got the real vaccine or a placebo. Don’t be afraid of a shot that is based on years of research based on SARS and mRNA, especially since those of us who were in the study went through much of the same uncertainty as those who didn’t join the study. Be safe, my friends.

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501 LIFE is proud to present the 501 Basketball Team for 2020-21. The team boasts 34 honorees representing the best studentathletes Greater Central Arkansas has to offer both on and off the court. We will present 18 players this month and 16 players next month.

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Players were nominated by their coaches and selected by the 501 staff, and the nominations were weighted equally between on-the-court and off-the-court attributes. Sponsors for this year’s team are Conway Regional Health System and First Security Bank. In this issue, we introduce half of the students and our March issue will introduce the other half of this outstanding group.

Meet the 2020-21 501 Basketball Team Brooklyn Adcock (Mount Vernon-Enola), Kayla Akers (Morrilton), Madelyn Atkins (Beebe), Audrey Beck (Wonderview), Wesley Booker (Mount Vernon-Enola), Ashley Brown (Searcy), Luke Bruich (St. Joseph), Chloe Buie (Bigelow), Jacob Cantrell (Quitman), Chloe Clardy (Conway), Matti Clements (Harding Academy), Cooper Ellis (Conway Christian), Devin Foster (Morrilton), McKenzie Greeson (Sacred Heart), Kylie Griffin (Greenbrier), Lilly Hill (St. Joseph), Taylor Hooten (Quitman), Kyler Jones (Bigelow), Molly Madar (Cabot), Artavia Malone (Guy-Perkins), Gram Middleton (Vilonia), Lauren Patterson (Vilonia), Westin Pickell (Mayflower), Darvis Rasberry (Maumelle), Ellie Riddle (Heber Springs), Brayden Roberts (Cabot), Caleb Squires (Wonderview), Gabe Strickland (Guy-Perkins), Kamiah Turner (Mayflower), Bryce Webb (Greenbrier), Jayden Williams (Conway), Josie Williams (Conway Christian), Logan Worthington (Beebe) and Kaeden Wright (Nemo Vista). “We are so excited for this year’s 501 Basketball Team,” said Levi Gilbert, associate editor. “We’ve got a great mix of upper and underclassmen, and there are a few state champions in there, too. We can’t wait to share these students’ stories throughout the winter.” Photos by Mike Kemp February 2021 501lifemag.com | 25

Josie Williams, Conway Christian The Conway Christian Lady Eagles made a giant leap last season, going from a four-win team the year before to a state quarterfinals appearance. Josie Williams was a big reason for the sudden leap. After averaging 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals per game as a freshman, Williams is already on the precipice of 1,000 career points. “She makes us go,” Head Coach Trey Lynch said. “We will look to her to create the bulk of our offense. As a sophomore, we expect her to take on a big leadership role. Last year, she helped change the vibe of the team.” “Josie is an absolute competitor,” Lynch wrote in his nomination. “She is a playmaking guard that can score in multiple ways and create shots for

teammates. She has a relentless motor that helps her generate offense from her defense and thrive in transition. “She has an innate way of making her competitiveness rub off on her teammates. She is an extremely hard worker who spends hours in the gym and encourages her teammates to grow with her.” Williams started playing organized basketball when she was 6, but had been playing in the driveway since she could walk. “My older brother inspired me to play because I wanted to beat him,” she said. Williams boasts a 4.0 GPA and plays softball and golf. She has earned all-state the last two seasons in golf. She also participates in Future Business Leaders of America and Drama Club.

Westin Pickell, Mayflower WESTIN SPONSORED BY


The Mayflower Eagles have tipped off the 202021 season on the right foot, rolling out numerous wins. For senior Westin Pickell, the best is still yet to come. “Honestly, just my whole high school career has been amazing,” Pickell said. “I’ve made great friends and memories in the past three years. So far, we are playing very good basketball. We just need to keep getting better and continue winning.” Pickell was selected to this year’s 501 Basketball Team. “Westin is a solid fundamentals player with a high basketball IQ,” Head Coach Brent Stallings wrote in his nomination. “He has length and height. He’s capable of shooting the 3, scoring inside and scoring off the dribble. He plays solid defense and is a good

rebounder. “Westin is a leader off the court as much as he is on the court. He is involved in student government (senior class officer), a member of the Student Council and Beta Club, a good student ready to help his classmates and treats everyone with respect. Pickell started every game for the Eagles last season as a junior, averaging 9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game. The Eagles made it all the way to the 3A semifinals. “I expect Westin to have a breakout year on both ends of the floor,” Stallings said. “He has worked extremely hard to get stronger and improve his game.” Pickell also plays baseball at Mayflower High School.

Chloe Buie, Bigelow


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Chloe Buie and the Bigelow Panthers have unfinished business in 2021. After making it to the 2A quarterfinals last season, the goal is clear for Buie and her teammates. And she’s not afraid to work for it. “I am looking forward to playing anyone who can make me and my teammates better,” Buie said. “Whether that is playing the best teams in our division or larger division teams, just as long as they give us a challenge and we learn from it. I want to be remembered as the player that never gave up and worked their butt off on and off the court.” Buie was selected to this year’s by Head Coach Jeff Gifford. “She is the most positive person I know,”

Gifford said. “She is level-headed and plays through emotions. She really does it all well. She is just at strong going left as she is right. She sees the court well. She is our calm when the pressure hits. “She is just a person you like to be around. Players and adults migrate to her personality. She is someone who goes out of her way to help others and does so with a smile on her face.” In addition to basketball, Buie also competes in softball, track and golf. She serves as student council vice president, is VP of her class, participates in Beta Club, Future Business Leaders of America, Family, Career and Community Leaders of America and National Honor Society.

Cooper Ellis, Conway Christian Conway Christian guard Cooper Ellis and the Eagles set a New Year’s resolution to work hard and win games in 2021. “We have a lot of room for improvement,” Ellis said. “The most important thing we can do is play as a team. Despite our record, we have had a ton of bright moments this year, and we have a lot of potential as a team.” A member of last year’s district champion junior high Eagles squad, Ellis understands what it takes to win and hopes to transition that success to the senior high team this season. “I like to think of myself as a floor general,” Ellis said. “In practice, I encourage my teammates as much as I can. Encouragement, especially in games,

can be a big thing. Right now, our goal is to go into each game and give 100-percent effort. If we push ourselves to our limits and try our best, it’s a good day for us.” Ellis was nominated by Head Coach Justin Kramer. “As a teammate, Cooper has become more vocal,” Kramer wrote in his nomination. “He is a natural leader on the court with his talent, so when he encourages or tells someone good job, they listen to him and they continue to improve.” Off the court, Ellis plays AAU basketball and runs track for Conway Christian. In his free time, the sophomore attends Woodland Heights Baptist Church and enjoys video games and experiencing the outdoors.

Kamiah Turner, Mayflower Following Mayflower’s best finish in school history last year, the Lady Eagles have quickly gained respect and attention throughout the 501. With a new season underway, the senior-laden Lady Eagles are determined to make school history yet again in 2021. “Winning our first state tournament game last year is easily my favorite basketball memory,” Mayflower senior Kamiah Hendrix-Turner said. “It was our first state tournament win in school history, and it was a huge milestone for our program.” Hendrix-Turner was nominated by her head coach, Coty Storms. “Everybody loves Kamiah,” Storms wrote in his nomination. “She always has a smile on her face, and she is a big presence on the inside for us. She has

great footwork, averages a double-double and can take over a game at any moment. She’s a leader on the court with a very high basketball IQ.” “COVID-19 has impacted our team greatly this season,” Hendrix-Turner said. “We’ve had players quarantine, and we’ve had to cancel games. We haven’t had a game yet where we’ve had our full team, and it puts a lot of stress not knowing when your next game or practice will be. Those of us who have been able to play have really had to step up this year.” Off the court, Hendrix-Turner plays softball and is a member of Beta Club, Future Business Leaders of America, National Honor Society and Student Council. In her free time, she enjoys music, television and working out.



Kyler Jones, Bigelow Bigelow is already setting big goals for this year. With several wins under their belt, the Panthers are confidently looking forward. “Last year, we had no seniors on our team,” senior point guard/shooting guard Kyler Jones said. “Even though that put us at a disadvantage, we also benefited knowing that we still had another year to play together. This season, our goal is to lead our team to the state tournament. We’ve only had one team in school history to make a deep run, and I personally want to be part of the reason that we get there.” Jones was nominated by his head coach, Craig Neumeier. “Kyler is a good leader on and off the floor,” Neumeier said. “He’s one of the most reliable kids that we have.”

Last year’s Most Improved Player for Bigelow, Jones drives his team’s success this season through unrivaled leadership on and off the court. “I grew up watching LeBron James,” Jones said. “He has so much respect for the game and is always the biggest leader on his team. I want to bring leadership to my game just as much as he does. If someone is having a rough time shooting, then I’m their emotional pick-up person.” Off the court, Jones plays golf and baseball, maintains a 4.0 GPA and is a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In his free time, Jones serves as a member of the Houston Baptist Church youth group and enjoys hunting.


February 2021 501lifemag.com | 27

Luke Bruich, St. Joseph Coming into his senior season, St. Joseph guard Luke Bruich has one goal in mind for his Bulldogs — just win. “I want to do all I can to help our team win,” Bruich said. “We have not made it to the state tournament since I have been on the team, and that’s the main goal I have. First, we’re focused on winning our conference so that we have a good seed in the district tournament.” “Luke’s best qualities are his court vision, passing, shooting and leadership,” Head Coach Brent Bruich wrote in his nomination. “He always has his teammates’ backs. This year, I expect him to be a leader on and off the court for us and to be a huge contributor in points, assists and steals.”

For Bruich, the uncertainty of playing during a pandemic adds extra difficulty to his team’s game plan. “This season is a lot different than those of the past,” Bruich said. “It is hard with not knowing if our games will be canceled or who will be quarantined.” Off the court, Bruich is an all-state golfer with a state championship ring from his sophomore season. In his free time, he enjoys hunting and fishing. In the classroom, Bruich is helping lay the groundwork for St. Joseph’s recently formed Young Men’s Leadership Academy to give back to the community. “Luke is helpful and has a big heart,” Brent Bruich wrote. “He does service projects for the team, school and church community.”

Brooklyn Adcock, Mt. Vernon-Enola With its sights set on avenging last year’s early exit in the Class 1A state tournament, Mt. VernonEnola has relied on strong defense to become one of the toughest teams in the 501 this season. “We’ve always strived to be the best defensive team that we can be, knowing that our offense will work out based on our defensive strategies,” senior guard Brooklyn Adcock said. “Brooklyn is the vocal leader of our defense,” Mt. Vernon-Enola head coach Adam Carlton wrote in his nomination. “She is also one of our best outside shooters and is always encouraging our younger players. She helps pick them up when they are down.” According to Adcock, the catalyst to Mt. Vernon-Enola’s success this season has been

positivity on and off the court. “I’m always reminding my teammates to keep their head up on their bad days because no matter what you’re going through, whether it’s basketball or life in general, it’s never as bad as it could be,” Adcock said. “God has a plan and he is in control.” Adcock often recalls those who helped shape her into the athlete and individual she is today. “My older brother, Logan, inspired me to play basketball when I was in second grade,” Adcock said. “Additionally, my mother inspires me to be the best version of myself. She is the strongest person I know. I am also thankful for my coach, my school, my community and my church for shaping me into the person I am today.”

Devin Foster, Morrilton


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Morrilton point guard Devin Foster took last year’s second-round state tournament loss personally. This year, the scrappy senior is laserfocused on personal growth and helping his team make an impact in his final year with the Devil Dogs. “This year, my goal is to be a better leader,” Foster said. “I want to take that next step—to not only get all-conference and all-state, but to show college coaches that I can lead, score and do whatever it takes to help a team at the next level.” “Devin is our team leader,” Morrilton head coach Keith Zackery wrote in his nomination. “He is vocal, possesses great communication skills and has a good skillset to go along with his leadership abilities.” This season, the Devil Dogs have thrived

on strong bench play and defense to show that they can be competitive against the toughest of competition. “Morrilton is playing to win and isn’t just playing around,” Foster said. “We’re looking at district, regionals and state this year.” Most impressive for the Devil Dogs this season was delivering conference rival Dardanelle’s first loss of the season—a moment Foster believes has sparked his team’s confidence further. “[That] was a great statement game to show our conference and that we are here not only to compete, but to dominate,” Foster said. “If [our] guys continue to grow and buy in to what we’re doing, then I think we can get past the second route of the state tournament this year.”

Lilly Hill, St. Joseph Early in her senior season, things aren’t going the way Lilly Hill had wanted, but the St. Joseph Lady Bulldogs are keeping their heads high. “As long as we play as a team and never give up, I think we will have a great rest of the season,” Hill said The power forward was nominated by her head coach and mother, Kay Lynn Hill. “Whether it is on the court or in the classroom, Lilly improves the performances of others with her dedication, passion and talent,” Hill wrote. “Though quiet in nature, when she’s in the game, you can see the playing level of the court rise to keep up with her hustle.” As a sophomore, Hill earned the defensive player of the year, and was named co-MVP as a junior.

“Lilly has continued to make great strides in improving her overall game by becoming an offensive threat that leads our team in scoring, rebounds, blocks and a 78 percent from the free-throw line,” Coach Hill wrote. She is closing in on scoring 1,000 points in her high school career. “I want to be remembered as someone who is humble and respectful on the court, but also as someone who is a hard worker and never quits. You decide how good you are going to be.” She carries a 4.07 GPA and also laces-up for soccer. Other activities include National Honor Society, Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, Interact Club and Safety Council.

Wesley Booker, Mt. Vernon-Enola After tearing his ACL prior to the start of his senior season, Mount Vernon-Enola Warhawks senior guard Wesley Booker was forced to find a new way to lead his team this season. “My main goal is just to get back to the athleticism I was at before,” Booker said. “I am still trusting in God and I know that He will have me back out on that court better than ever.” “Wes is a great kid with a very high moral compass,” Mt. Vernon-Enola head coach Joshua Zarlingo wrote in his nomination. “He is a very humble human that works his butt off to be good and enjoys helping anyone in need. He is a great role model.” Despite his injury, however, Booker says that the

Warhawks’ goals remain unchanged. “Our team goal is to make it back to the state tournament like we have every other year and to be holding that championship trophy up at the end of the year,” Booker said. “I am confident that we have the pieces to do what all of us want to do and that's win that last game.” This season, Booker continues to serve as a strong encourager from the bench. “I’m trying to show them that it takes sacrifice and willpower for us to be great,” Booker said. “I always tell them that if they really want to be as good as they can be, then they have to trust God and be willing to do whatever it takes.”

Kayla Akers, Morrilton Nothing was going to keep Kayla Akers from her senior season — not injuries and not COVID-19. “During my athletic career, I’ve torn my ACL and meniscus in both knees,” Akers said. “Although it set me back, I still pushed through to try and be the best that I can. When you put your mind to it and believe in yourself, you are capable of more than you know.” The spirit that enabled her to endure all the rehabilitation to get back onto the court sets her apart. “She is so positive,” Head Coach Carin McNabb wrote in her nomination. “Her willingness to keep rehabbing through the injuries and to keep working to get back on the court is such a great quality. I can’t say enough good things about Kayla. She is a great

motivator and positive role model.” Akers said, “This season has been different because a lot of our games are getting cancelled, and we have not been able to play as much as we would have if COVID-19 was not around.” After her high school days wrap up, Akers plans to attend University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton to get her associate’s degree and then transfer to University of Central Arkansas to pursue a career in the medical field. “Outside of athletics, my mother really inspires me because of all she does for me and my family,” Akers said. “I want to be remembered as someone who worked hard and was always positive.”


February 2021 501lifemag.com | 29

McKenzie Greeson, Sacred Heart A hot start to the season has Sacred Heart firmly entrenched in the Class 1A postseason discussion this year. Led by senior guard McKenzie Greeson, the Lady Rebels boast a well-rounded game plan that can challenge any opponent they face. “McKenzie does so much for our basketball team,” Sacred Heart head coach Kyle Duvall wrote in his nomination. “She has been a team captain since ninth grade and is one of the hardest-working kids I have coached. She is determined to do everything she can to help the team reach its goals this season.” A talented senior, Greeson shines not only in her ability to score and defend, but also in her ability to grow those around her.

“McKenzie is a great overall player and a great teammate,” Duvall wrote. “She is the type of player who gets everyone involved and someone her teammates love to be on the floor with. She is a great leader and always puts the team first. She is a role model for the younger kids to look up to. She strives to be the best she can be at anything she does and works extremely hard to achieve her goals.” Off the court, the senior gives just as much attention to her academics as she does her athletics. “McKenzie is so unselfish and is always so positive,” Duvall wrote. “She is always there to help her classmates in any way she can. She is dependable and responsible and works extremely hard in the classroom.”

Logan Worthington, Beebe After helping lead Beebe to the state tournament for the first time in six years, Badgers senior guard Logan Worthington is ready to prove that last year’s success was no fluke. “Making state is my favorite basketball memory,” Worthington said. “My goal this season is to average 15-or-more points and get all-conference. Our team goals are to end the season with a winning record and get another playoff berth.” “A lot of what Logan does on the court doesn’t show up in the scorebook,” Marshall wrote in his nomination. “He is our energy guy and brings a lot of enthusiasm with it. He plays with a high motor on both ends of

the floor, is willing to do whatever is asked of him and is a team-first guy.” According to Worthington, Beebe’s success this season hinges on strong leadership on and off the court. “I’m a vocal leader and I lead by example,” Worthington said. “I’m the first to show up and one of the last to leave. I try to do right in everything I do on the court and show my teammates the right way to do things.” “Logan leads the Badgers by not being afraid to make a play, whether it be taking a big three-point shot to tie the game or mixing it up in the paint to get a rebound,” Badgers play-by-play announcer Shane Smith said. “He is a great example for the younger players as far as what and who a leader should be.”

Artavia Malone, Guy-Perkins When it comes to love for the game of basketball, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone with more passion for the sport than GuyPerkins senior Artavia Malone. “I’ve been playing basketball since the second grade,” Malone said. “My personal goal each season is to better than I was the last season. That goal is even more personal this season because it is my last season playing high school basketball.” “Artavia’s best qualities on the court are her scoring, energy and hustle,” Guy-Perkins head coach Keane Guiden wrote in his nomination. “Her competitiveness, leadership and willingness to push her teammates to be their best makes her a good teammate and I expect her to continue to grow, lead and encourage 30 | 501 LIFE February 2021

her teammates in a positive manner this season.” In a pandemic-shortened senior season, Malone managed to find a silver lining. “Due to so much uncertainty this year with COVID-19, I’ve just been looking forward to getting to play in general,” Malone said. “This season, I’ve learned to not take a single moment for granted.” Malone hopes that her story will inspire others to cherish the opportunities that life gives them. “When my playing days are over, I want to be remembered as a competitor—someone who always came to compete and never gave up, on or off the court,” Malone said. “An old coach always told me that only two percent of athletes go pro. Take the time to invest in yourself and take every opportunity you get.”

Darvis Rasberry, Maumelle After dropping a heartbreaker in the Class 5A state semifinals last year, Maumelle returns this season with a chip on its shoulder. Boasting more experience, more leadership and more hunger for a championship trophy, senior forward Darvis Rasberry and the Hornets are ready to take the 501 by storm. “Darvis is relentless,” Maumelle head coach Michael Shook wrote in his nomination. “He has a good shot and is a great rebounder. His post defense, passing and leadership are also some of his best qualities on the court.” With multiple impressive wins under its belt this season, Maumelle has quickly proven that it has what it takes to win a state championship. When crunch time comes, the coach has full confidence in his senior leader. “Darvis was an all-conference and all-state player

for us last year,” Shook wrote. “He’s a hard worker, is unselfish and coachable. This season, I expect him to be a leader for us and average a double double.” When he isn’t guiding the Hornets to victory on the court, the senior spends his free time giving back to the community he calls home. “Darvis is a hard worker with high character who gives back to his community in many ways,” Shook wrote. “He reads to elementary students, feeds the homeless, helps clean up our parks and has even done some work with the animal shelter. In the classroom, he’s an excellent student with a 4.2 GPA, helps others in class and encourages them to do their best.”

Madelyn Atkins, Beebe After breaking even with a 13-13 record last season, Beebe junior point guard Madelyn Atkins isn’t satisfied. This year, the athletic junior is taking charge in her team’s efforts to achieve new heights. “Madelyn’s best qualities on the court are that she pushes herself to play hard, which makes other around her play harder,” Beebe head coach Greg Richey wrote in his nomination. “She works hard to make others around her better.” Through experience, hard work and dedication to the game, Atkins sets the standard for success at Beebe and serves as a bright leader for a growing Lady Badgers program. “Madelyn has started on the senior high team for three years now,” Richey wrote. “Last year, she was our leading scorer. This season, I expect Madelyn

to be a team leader and a good example to younger players.” This season, the Lady Badgers plan to compete for a high seed in the Class 5A Central conference. Atkins’ on-the-court prowess has already garnered attention from many coaches at the next level. “Madelyn has been offered to play at some Division II colleges and NAIA schools,” Richey wrote. “She has also had a lot of interest from Division I schools.” The junior’s capabilities off the court are just as impressive. Well-liked by her peers, Atkins is always eager to lend a helping hand to those in need. “Off the court, Madelyn is friendly, outgoing, and respectful of others,” Richey wrote. “She is also willing to help others in the classroom.”

Gabe Strickland, Guy-Perkins After putting last year’s lopsided season in the rearview mirror, Guy-Perkins reemerged as one of the hottest teams in the 501 this season. “This season, I feel that I have matured not only as an athlete, but as an individual as well,” junior forward Gabe Strickland said. “Losing was very difficult for me, but now I see it as an opportunity for growth. My personal goals this year are to not only be All-Conference and All-State, but to also lead my team deep into the state tournament.” “Gabe’s best qualities on the court are his scoring, rebounding, energy and hustle,” GuyPerkins head coach Keane Guiden wrote in his nomination. “He gets along with his teammates, he’s competitive and he does whatever it takes to win.” Strickland grew up watching all-time greats

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson and considers Anthony Davis and DeMar DeRozan his current basketball role models. “I started playing because it seemed fun, and I quickly fell in love with the game,” Strickland said. “My favorite basketball memory was winning the peewee basketball championship in sixth grade. That moment gave me the drive to win that I still carry today.” Strickland’s winning mentality fuels both his team’s success and his drive to make those around him better. “I try to lead my team by being encouraging and doing my best to lead by example,” Strickland said. “I encourage younger athletes to work hard, to try to add something new to your game and to always do your best.”

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 31


By Don Bingham

Everyone has their favorite recipes

and cookbooks – and so do we! Many of the recipes are handed down from generation to generation and are cherished memories of timeless traditions and good foods.

During my wife Nancy’s recovery from major surgery, a friend, Diane Booth, brought us an entire meal of some wonderful dishes for our encouragement. I asked her about the recipes and she recounted the story of a wedding shower given for her and her husband, Gates, before they were married. The shower was given in 1973 by Gretchen Taylor and Mary Flanagin Pharr at the Taylor home. Each guest brought a collection of recipe cards that Diane has treasured and used for 40-plus years. Fifty guests attended and some of the recipes from the shower are included with this article, notably the cornbread. One of the popular wedding showers during that time period was the “lingerie shower.” Diane’s mom, Kay Dean, was opposed to that type of shower and insisted on the recipe shower instead! Diane said, “Lingerie has come and gone, but these timeless recipes remain loved and used to this day!” What a priceless ministry this can be! Diane Booth (Photo by Mike Kemp) 32 | 501 LIFE February 2021

One of our daughters, Jessica Faulkner, created a binder of laminated favorite family recipes as a recent Christmas gift for each family member. Each page contains the “how-to” of dishes handed down, dishes from childhood years, and those recipes we do not wish to be lost with time. This recipe book contains over 80 of our family’s favorites. Whether it’s a wedding shower or families wanting to perpetuate a certain culinary feast, what a great way to express love – an expression that, indeed, “keeps on giving.” We have a drawer in our kitchen that is stuffed with recipes; we have floorto-ceiling bookshelves of hundreds of cookbooks, and Nancy and

I have separate files of stacks of recipes from years of cooking. Perhaps this could be the year of further organization of all these treasures! You might consider giving that soon-to-be-married loved one a “recipe shower.” There are many ways to express our love for life through a recipe! Thanks to companies such as Shutterfly, the “technically challenged” can produce their own hardbound collection with a little time and energy. Take a few minutes to peruse that overstuffed drawer, or file box, of magazine clippings and enjoy the delight of cooking! Thanks, Diane, for sharing some of these cherished family favorites!

Sylvia Meriwether’s Cornbread 1 cup cornmeal 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 4 tablespoons sugar 1 cup buttermilk

Stir dry ingredients together. Beat one egg with buttermilk. Add to dry ingredients just before putting in oven as they will rise in bowl if done too far in advance. In each small muffin tin, put a little hunk of shortening (Crisco) or bacon grease. Heat pans in 450-degree oven until grease is smoking. Fill pans about / full with batter. Bake 20 minutes. Cornbread recipe may be doubled and placed in a 10-inch iron skillet and baked in 450-degree oven until done.

Spaghetti Sauce 1 lb. Italian sausage 1 1/2 cups onion, chopped 1 (12 ounce) can tomato paste 5 (15 ounce) cans of tomato sauce (or crushed tomatoes) 1 cup water (or less) 4 cloves garlic, chopped small 4 bay leaves 2 tablespoons sugar 4 teaspoons basil 2 teaspoons oregano 4 tablespoons parsley 2 teaspoons salt

Brown the meat and onion and drain. Add the rest of the ingredients to the crock pot. Simmer on low for 4 hours, or more.

Rice Casserole 1 can beef consommé 1 can water 1 stick butter 1/2 teaspoon salt

Bring to a boil and pour over: 1 cup raw rice 3/4 teaspoon cumin 1 tablespoon onion flakes Bake, covered, 1 hour at 350. by Pat Finkbeiner Thessing

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 33


A mother's love leads to healthier tomorrows “My son was too important for me to start smoking again.”

By John Patton

Kicking the habit is personal for Anni

Fuenmayor, a certified tobacco treatment specialist at Conway Regional Health System. Growing up, smoking tobacco was a family tradition for Anni’s household until it caused a tragedy. “I grew up in a household of heavy smokers. Sadly, my mother passed away from cancer,” she said. “After she passed away, I still could not quit. Later, when I realized I was pregnant with my son, Agustin, that’s when I began to wake up and realize I needed to make a change.” She began with nicotine patches but soon decided she did not need the nicotine at all. “Knowing that I was expecting was enough motivation for me,” Fuenmayor explained, “I quit cold turkey. I relapsed a couple of times after he was born, but I never went back to being a hard smoker. My son was too important for me to start smoking again.” After she quit smoking, she decided to enter the health care field, where she is helping make tobacco cessation an integral part of the care provided at Conway Regional. Physicians rely on her work and that of her fellow tobacco treatment specialists to provide the detailed information and support that patients need to quit. A native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, Fuenmayor came to the University of Central Arkansas through an international student scholarship program 16 years 34 | 501 LIFE February 2021

ago. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UCA in nutrition and is a certified lifestyle coach in the Conway Regional Wellness and Diabetes Education Department. She completed her tobacco treatment training through a Little Rockbased program funded by MD Anderson. Recognizing a need within the community, Conway Regional’s Tobacco Cessation Program emphasizes 30-minute, one-on-one consultations. The most important factor, Fuenmayor said, is to make sure the plan for quitting tobacco matches the mental and physical needs of the person by knowing “where they are coming from.” “Consultations with my clients are personal to me. I can relate to the struggles they are facing. Often, a patient will ask, ‘Have you ever smoked?’ When someone says no, sometimes the client begins to shut down,” Fuenmayor said. “Because I can explain my own triggers and cravings and talk about my cessation journey, it makes it easier for me to relate to what the patient is going through. I believe it helps them with their journey, knowing they are not alone.” She added, “Most of the adult patients that have come through our program have smoked since they were children. That’s how I grew up as well. It was a cultural thing. I didn’t know any differently.” As a native Spanish speaker, Fuenmayor can provide care to the Hispanic community as well. She has translated

Photo by Mike Kemp

tobacco cessation information into Spanish and can identify with the cultural barriers to quitting that face many Latinos. “When I speak to Latinos in Spanish, I can see the relief on their faces,” she said.

Meeting the Needs

“When a patient goes through our program, I always try and present the information in a way that is approachable and relatable,” Fuenmayor said. “If quitting tobacco was easy, everyone would do it. To quit nicotine, it is important to understand that it is both an addiction and a habit.” The Conway Regional program focuses on tobacco and nicotine, while also addressing vaping and the use of smokeless tobacco. “Because of vaping and JUUL, smoking rates are climbing in both middle-school and high-school adolescents,” she said. The surgeon general found that while more research is needed, evidence from several longitudinal studies suggests that e-cigarette use is “strongly associated” with the use of other tobacco products among youth and young adults, including conventional cigarettes. While studies continue to investigate the long-term effects of vaping, Fuenmayor added, “It has been shown that some vaping products have metals that will harm the cilia of your lungs (hair-like fibers in the lungs that eradicate viruses and infection).”

Tools of Cessation

One of her tools is a SmokerLyzer, a device that calculates the amount of carbon monoxide in a person’s lungs. For pregnant women, it can also calculate the amount of carbon monoxide that is being passed on to the baby. “Showing the numbers can really have a big impact,” Fuenmayor said. “Education can help with motivation.” “We write down every cigarette the patient is smoking, what time of day, and why they are smoking. The main goal is to break the habit of smoking when the patient experiences a trigger,” she said. Determining what triggers tobacco use is the key to controlling it. The first step is a mental health check. “We tend to find ways to decrease our anxiety, and for smokers, the nicotine can reach your brain in 10 seconds,” she said. “It is important to recognize if a situation has high stress for you and try to switch your coping habit.” Fuenmayor stresses the importance of changing routines. For instance, if someone regularly smokes on the front porch while drinking a morning coffee, the change could be as simple as moving to the living room and watching the news while drinking their morning coffee. To learn more about tobacco cessation at Conway Regional, call 501-450-2244.

Anni Fuenmayor, tobacco treatment specialist, helps a patient use a SmokerLyzer device that calculates the amount of carbon monoxide in a person’s lungs.

On UCA Day of Giving, your gift directly impacts our students. From the expansion of academic programs to the addition of new facilities, UCA is growing – and your gift makes it possible. On March 11, let’s grow together.


UCA.EDU/DAYOFGIVING February 2021 501lifemag.com | 35



Loads of Love Conway Corp shares seven ways to save money in the laundry room

Laundry is one of life’s unavoidable chores — and

Beth Jimmerson A long-time Conway resident, Beth McCullough Jimmerson is the manager for marketing and communications for Conway Corp. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas. She can be reached at beth.jimmerson@ conwaycorp.com.

36 | 501 LIFE February 2021

it’s a chore that most people do weekly, if not daily. This means that washer and dryer energy usage, coupled with the amount of water used for laundry, can have a direct impact on your utility bills. A typical family of four in the United States averages 300 loads of laundry annually, which accounts for 15 to 40 percent of a household’s water consumption and more than 130,000 watts of energy. Washers and dryers don’t have to be costly to operate. If you’re in the market for a new washer and dryer, new efficient options are available that will save you money over the long term. But there are plenty of ways to reduce your home’s energy consumption – some that won’t cost you a thing. Since most of us do at least a few loads of laundry each week, it’s worth taking a few easy steps to reduce energy use and save money.

WASH WITH COLD WATER Using warm water instead of hot can cut a load’s energy use in half, and using cold water will save even more. On the hot setting, 90 percent of the

energy a washing machine consumes is spent heating water and only 10 percent is used to run the motor. Most clothing can be properly washed on the cold setting, especially when you use cold-water detergents. Washing your clothes in cold water can save the average family more than $60 a year.

WASH FULL LOADS Your washer will use about the same amount of energy no matter the size of the load, so fill it up. If you need to do a smaller load, be sure to choose the appropriate size setting on your washing machine. The same goes for dryer energy usage. Dry only full loads and dry two or more loads in a row to take advantage of retained heat from the previous drying cycle.

USE DRYER BALLS Wool or rubber dryer balls will help separate your clothes and get more air to them, cutting drying time. They can also reduce static so you don’t need dryer sheets. The wool balls will also help absorb some moisture, further cutting drying time.




Regular cleaning of the lint filter will make your dryer run more efficiently and can prevent fires. Clean the dryer lint filter after every use. Check the outdoor dryer exhaust vent frequently to make sure it’s clean and that the flapper opens and closes freely. If you use dryer sheets, scrub the filter once a month with a toothbrush to remove film buildup that can reduce air circulation.

Even if the drying cycle is longer, you’ll use less energy and be less likely to overdry your clothes using a lower heat setting on the dryer. It also helps to dry towels and heavier cottons separately from lighterweight clothes. Use your dryer’s cool-down cycle to allow clothes to finish drying with the heat remaining in the dryer.

To save even more, consider a home energy audit. Conway Corp’s Energy Smart program offers free residential energy audits to help customers identify how much energy a home consumes and what measures may be taken to make that home more energy efficient. Annually, homes that have received a free audit from Energy Smart save more than $150,000 combined in utility costs.

GET OUTSIDE Line drying is, of course, the most energy-efficient alternative for drying clothes. If you don’t have adequate outdoor space or live in an apartment, place a dryer rack by an open, sunny window.

USE THE MOISTURE SENSOR Many new clothes dryers come designed with a moisture sensor, which automatically shuts off the machine when clothes are dry. This will save energy and reduce wear and tear on your clothes caused by over-drying.

To schedule your free audit or to learn more energy-saving tips, call 450-6000 or visit ConwayCorp.com/ EnergySmart.

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 37


Fall in love

Fitness with

By Jenn McCracken


hen it comes to fitness, the old saying “love at first sight” very rarely rings true. In fact, finding a routine, location, exercises, etc. that work for you takes time. Loving fitness is a journey that evolves over time, so be patient. In fact, many factors must be taken into consideration in order to make this new relationship work. These can include finding the right gym, exercise routine, trainer, etc. I believe if you follow these three steps, you’ll be well on your way to a lifetime of happiness with your new relationship to fitness.

Go on “dates”

Very rarely do you find that you’ll stick with the first fitness class you try. Give several fish in the sea (or classes at the gym) a try in order to find the one that is right for you. Same is true for gyms and personal trainers. Just because you didn’t enjoy one fitness center doesn’t mean you won’t like another. Most gyms will give you a free pass to try them out, so take advantage of this and get a feel for what it would be like if you became a member. Also, ask plenty of questions and do your research to learn all the things they have to offer. Being exposed to a variety of different classes and equipment is crucial in finding your niche.

Look good, feel good

The first advice I give to someone who wants to become active is to go shopping for a pair of shoes that are made for their specific type of foot. The 501 is packed with small businesses who are extremely knowledgeable in helping you find the right shoe for your foot. In addition to this, invest in quality gear 38 | 501 LIFE February 2021

Wellness Programs Director, Asst. to the Athletic Director at Hendrix College

that is specific to your needs and the types of activities you will be doing. For instance, bulky sweatpants are not conducive to a spin class. Buy a pair of leggings or biking shorts so that you are comfortable and can get the most out of your exercise. You don’t have to buy the most expensive pieces out there, but investing in quality pieces will make all the difference in your journey to falling in love with getting fit.

Hire a professional

Personal trainers, instructors, and other fitness professionals are trained specifically to help individuals meet their goals. It can be intimidating walking in to a space for the first time and being clueless on where and how to start. Hiring someone knowledgeable in a specific area of fitness will relieve the stress of having to figure out this journey on your own. Also, having the encouragement and accountability of an outside source will help you stay positive on the days you may feel less than inferior. If you haven’t found the love of your fitness life yet, don’t give up on trying! Instead, start by loving yourself enough to invest in your health and happiness. You are worth it!



February 2021 501lifemag.com | 39


The ride of a lifetime

For 95 years, WWII vet, cyclist, family-man has made the most of every moment T

he wise philosopher Anonymous once said, “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.” Floyd Brantley, 95, is one of those rare individuals who has been long on both counts. Blessed with good health and an even better family, the joys of his years have always outweighed the sorrows. “I try to be an optimist as much as I can,” he said. “As my son once said, ‘Dad, thank you for showing me the cup is half full, instead of half empty.’” Few could blame Brantley if he had a bitter streak. Born humbly and raised in small-town Texas, his parents divorced in an era when there was much more of a stigma attached to such things. He also lost his older brother at Guadalcanal during World War II, an event that inspired his own military service. As he likes to tell, the 40 | 501 LIFE February 2021

draft board gave him an out, but youthful exuberance took over. “I got the notice from the draft board, there was a note at the bottom of the letter,” he once told an interviewer. “It said, ‘Mr. Brantley, we will defer you till you finish high school at the end of the year.’ I cut the bottom off and went in and showed my mother. I said, ‘Mother, I am going to have to go in the service.’” Brantley entered the U.S. Navy at 18 and served as a pharmacist mate second class while stationed in the Solomon Islands. Between patching up the wounded and taking in the local flavor, he felt profoundly homesick. “You never know, until you’re in another country, how great America is,” he said. “In war, of course, you see people in other countries, and they’re all like, ‘Take me to America! Take me to America!’ Many men

have been overseas and have seen hardship. Going home to America, many men got off the ship, off the airplane and they kissed the ground to be back in this great country for what they’ve gone through. “There’s no other country like it. One thing we really need to do is teach more patriotism in school. That’s very important, God and country and the family and their importance. It’s at the top of the list.” Returning to Texas after the war, he confessed to his mother the missing part of his draft letter and promised to make it up to her by finishing his education. Which he did, graduating from Lufkin High School in 1947, the first in his family to earn a high school diploma. Brantley studied business at Stephen F. Austin College and then transferred to Baylor University, where he majored in business and education. With one year to

By Dwain Hebda Photo by Mike Kemp

go, the Korean War broke out and Brantley, then in the Naval Reserves, was called up as a medic. He switched branches from Navy to Air Force through the campus ROTC and was soon to be called to Korea as a transportation officer. But first, fate held another, more lasting enlistment for him. One night, as he ushered at church, the lovely Elizabeth “Beth” Pearson walked in and Brantley saw his future. He asked her for three dates at once, knowing she would be in demand and sensing he would soon be called away. She accepted and they married after the war. The Brantley’s were a love affair for the ages, surviving job changes, relocations and even his stint as a statewide cook in the Air Force Reserves during the Vietnam War. Together they would raise two children, welcome grandchildren and great-grandchildren and remain devoted to one another for 67 years until Beth’s death in March 2020. “Whatever you say, be sure to mention the wonderful wife I’ve had,” Brantley said. “She’s given me strength, she’s a wonderful woman and was a wonderful person. She encouraged me; she was an encourager to everyone.” Brantley taught in the Texas public schools for a spell but struggled to make ends meet on a teacher’s salary. So, he became a textbook salesman for Simon & Schuster, which brought the family to Arkansas, first to Little Rock and then to Arkadelphia for the small-town atmosphere. He and Beth moved to Conway in 2014. Today, Brantley is as spry as someone half his age, still driving, still doing his exercises and still indulging his lifelong love of cycling. He completed the Big Dam Bridge 20-mile route in 2014 and in 2015 and rode his bicycle ahead of the World War II float in America’s Parade in New York City. “I was invited to New York to ride in the parade. I’d never been there,” he said. “I rode down Fifth Avenue and policemen would come and ride with me. I was 90 at the time. I went through the viewing stand, where the judge was. They couldn’t believe what that old man did out there on that bicycle.” From the Texas plains to the streets of Gotham, life has been something for Brantley that’s nothing short of grace. Even living through a pandemic doesn’t dim the spark in his voice or the sparkle in his eye. “It’s been a great life. God has blessed me,” he said of his near century on Earth. “There’s always going to be a lot of heartaches and pains in life; this is something that we just have to accept and do the best we can to overcome it. I became a Christian when I was 16 and I trust the Lord. “I’ve gone through a lot. I’ve seen hardship. I’ve seen happiness. It’s amazing to me, the things that I’ve gone through. Life itself is a miracle.”

WWII veteran Floyd Brantley, now 95, road the Big Dam Bridge race at age 92.

Floyd and his wife, Beth, as they celebrated a wedding anniversary. Beth passed away in March, 2020, after 67 years of marriage.

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 41


Rising up

El Paso raises $235,000, converts bank to library By Judy Riley


ow is a library more than books and periodicals? When a community commits personal time and resources to create its own library, that’s how. In the heart of rural central Arkansas near the crossroads of Highways 5 and 64, lies a community with a treasure – its own library. It’s called a community library because the residents renovated an 1894 structure with grit and determination. What was originally built as a bank now houses the El Paso Community Library, a branch of the White County Library System. Evidence of the bank is still there. The vault has become a children’s reading room. Over time, the brick structure housed various entities: a general store, a movie house and a meeting room. Although some owners attempted to maintain the building, it fell into disrepair. That changed in 2009 when the most recent owners, Steve and Elaine Corum, donated the building to the El Paso Parks and Playground Association. Their wish was that it would become a library. The nonprofit group began renovation in the spring of 2010. A total of $150,000 in external funding, $50,000 in local funding and an estimated $35,000 in donated skills by professionals in the area completed the project in 2016. This process of

Submitted photos

42 | 501 LIFE February 2021

renovation is a study of what a small community can do with a class library, thanks to the generosity of the community.” The community’s involvement did not end when the building commitment and the time and resources to give. Many of the was complete. It has become a hub for the community. Librarian professional services needed were donated by locals. Architect Janet Blansett is the key to continued community involvement, Mandy Breckenridge prepared drawings of each detail. Soil according to local folks. A variety of extra services are available: scientist Wayne Richardson drew plans for the septic system. classes on knitting, computers, smart phones, even pumpkin Construction company owners Sonny Nealy and Wade Haynie decorating and wreath making. She did the dirt work for the septic system as instituted an artist of the month event, well as a French drain. Civil engineer Kyle where local artists display their works. She Breckenridge supervised installation of often says the library is a place where lives ceiling joists and dirt work. In fact, the only connect. It’s not uncommon for someone construction work not done by volunteers to call Janet with news of the needs of a was the plumbing and electrical work and community member and for her to relay the installation of a period-specific tin roof. the information to locals who will gladly This library is an anomaly in the help. “I cannot imagine a person more library world. The building is owned and suited to this job and this community than maintained by the nonprofit. Most of the Janet,” Marisue Jones said. monetary and physical support come from “When you walk through the beautiful the community. An annual chili supper and antique door at the El Paso Library, you pie auction generates an average $5,000 find a place where everyone is welcome per year, enough to pay for utilities and and wanted,” patron Patty Crabbe said. “It’s maintenance. When there is a special a place where laughter, compassion and need, like a bookshelf to house a computer service to others are dished out in equal monitor, the residents come together to measure.” The welcome mat is always out, find funding. and the coffee bar is complete with coffees, The partnership with the White County teas and snacks. Cindy Piper said that a visit Library System makes it possible. It pays to this library is like going home with family for a librarian, books, periodicals, movies, Mathew enjoys reading in a space that and friends. And Susan Robinson summed was formerly the bank vault. (Submitted and access through the Interlibrary photo) it up, saying she expects Mr. Rogers to walk Loan service to resources throughout through the door singing, “It’s a wonderful Arkansas and the nation. Three publicday in the neighborhood!” use computers help local citizens apply The renovation process and continued for jobs, do research and email family. According to local student success of the El Paso Library reminds us of the advice of Sam Will Reeves, it’s the perfect place to work on research papers. The Walton, played out in rural Arkansas. “We’re working together, library is open five days a week and helps patrons on a variety that’s the secret.” of subjects. Patron Myrna Richardson said, “We are not even an incorporated town with a tax base for support and we have a first-

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 43


Lean on Me

Noelle Bradley loves serving veterans Photos by Mike Kemp

Noelle Bradley was born to be a nurse. Ask anyone

Dwain Hebda An award-winning writer, editor and journalist, Dwain Hebda’s work is published in more than 35 publications. Contact him at dwain@ya-mule. com.

44 | 501 LIFE February 2021

who’s ever worked with her at the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Little Rock, from the cadre of nurses she leads as a nurse manager, to the patients she pitches in with at bedside. They’ll tell you of her calm demeanor in the midst of chaos, of her being a beacon of compassion in a patient’s most desperate moments, and of her selfless and seemingly bottomless well of commitment to her profession. Bradley, who leads the Medical ICU/COVID 19 Unit is appreciative of such praise, if not fully comfortable with it. It’s hard to take credit for something you’re absolutely convinced the Almighty created you to do, which is precisely how she sees herself. “I always wanted to do something in the medical profession,” she said. “When I was trying to specify a major at UCA, I just prayed about it. I was like, ‘Lord, if this is what you want me to do, then open up this door and let it happen.’ I was accepted to the nursing program and got on the path. “Then, around the time I was going into college, my grandfather, who was a veteran, had some pretty

significant health issues. That put the VA on my radar. They had an internship available that allowed me to get my feet wet and see what the VA was, an amazing place with staff that truly loved caring for the veterans. The mission of taking care of America’s heroes really resonated with me.” During her 13 years as a nurse, 11 of them at bedside, Bradley has carried forth that mission with every ounce of strength and expertise she possesses. In 2017, she decided to move into an assistant nurse management position to serve her fellow nurses as steadfastly as she had her patients. “People have a misconception that you’re just doing [nursing] for the money,” she said. “Anyone who’s doing it for that, they’re not going to survive because it requires so much heart. And that’s probably the best part about where I’m at. The staff that I have are such compassionate and wonderful people that love, so deeply, the patients they’re caring for. “We don’t just take care of the patients; we’re also taking care of their families and we’re also taking care

“Literally, I believe God has put me in this place for a reason.” - Noelle Bradley, MSN, RN, CNL

of each other. We see people through some of the best times of their lives, but we also have to stand by in some of the worst times. That’s where that emotional toll really takes hold.” Last year, Bradley was promoted to her current role mere months before COVID-19 changed the world forever, with health care workers at the very center of the storm. What was already a taxing job became even more so, especially as time went on and the public at large became more attuned to the new normal. For frontline workers, the pressure was unrelenting. “When the pandemic started, everyone was like, ‘health care heroes,’ and talking about our health care providers. It was on everybody’s minds,” she said. “Over the summer, people kind of lost that. We were in that forgotten place.” Bradley focused on her team’s mental and physical health daily, offering unconditional support and a standing open-door policy. For many, it was just what they needed to battle on, but in one case it simply wasn’t enough to save a team member from suicide. “I can’t speak directly about the staff member, but I can tell you that after that happened, things became really real to me. I knew that we were all still struggling,” she said. “That experience made me even more intentional about checking in, about seeing if someone is struggling with irritability or call-ins or there’s just behaviors that are changing. I had to be more attuned to that with everyone.” Knowing how most nurses deliver excellent care to everyone but

themselves, Bradley has also become resolute in making sure her team takes opportunities to rejuvenate and, when necessary, seeks support. “There’s resources available, but it’s being able to know how to utilize those resources. A lot of times, you have to seek out the literature,” she said. “I do a lot of reading about the best way to combat compassion fatigue. That’s a real issue that we’re struggling with, especially in the face of a pandemic. “[The organization is] also really trying to make sure that if we are able to give people time away, we give them time away and not call them to come in. They have to have that mental break, where they can step away and recharge. If we’re not taking care of ourselves, that’s where we’re going to have more depression or anxiety or fatigue.” Bradley not only preaches these coping mechanisms, she models the behavior herself to set a good example and to maintain her own well-being. The job never gets easier, but it’s a path she’s never regretted. Ask her if she’d do it all over again and, before the question is even out of your mouth, she gives a firm, “Yes.” “Literally, I believe God has put me in this place for a reason,” she said. “Maybe we haven’t seen that full reasoning yet, but every single step of my career has led me to this point and I would not work with a different group of people. I told my staff that the reason I am where I am is because of them. It’s a wonderful group of people that I adore and I would do anything for them.” February 2021 501lifemag.com | 45


The beat goes on... 56-year love story continues 30 years after transplant By Stefanie Brazile

Frank and Jan Duncan on their wedding day. They are still in love 56 years later.

Frank and Jan Duncan are still tender towards one another after

56 years of marriage, but that’s because she suggested that he have a change of heart. After suffering a massive heart attack at age 49 and again at 56, the Guy resident was fighting for his life at the veteran’s hospital in Little Rock. He had served the Army for 17 years and nine months until a medical discharge. As the doctor’s wrung their hands, Jan told them that she had heard about heart transplants. In 1988, the innovative surgery was not available at the VA in Arkansas. Fortunately, it was offered to veterans in Salt Lake City, Utah, but Frank was not strong enough to fly commercially and was too sick to travel by car. “There were so many days I didn’t think he’d make it,” Jan said. “Chaplain Smith from the Little Rock VA was particularly encouraging in our endeavor. He was instrumental in starting the process.” Family and friends were praying for a miracle and it came six-months later after many trips back and forth to the hospital. In early August, a military medical evac plane flew the couple to 46 | 501 LIFE February 2021

the City of the Saints. When his name was added to the national transplant waiting list on Aug. 17, Frank was too sick to leave the hospital. Miraculously, only four days later, he received a donor heart from a 14-year-old girl. His was only the 177th heart transplant in the nation and physicians hoped it would extend his life by five years, according to Jan. He has lived more than three decades. “Words simply cannot express our gratitude for the wonderful blessing of Frank’s heart transplant,” Jan said. “We are so grateful to God, the doctors and staff, Chaplain Smith, and to the donor’s family whom we never got to meet. We did write a letter that the nurse coordinator gave to them expressing our gratitude — seems so insufficient for such a gift.” The recovery process was lengthy and could have gone south if not for providence guiding Frank’s hand. He remained in Utah for five months because his body kept rejecting the new heart. Treatment options were so new that doctors utilized experimental treatments with different patients. Frank would hand-pick his treatment from a box with three options; when he reached in and chose a piece of paper, what was written worked and he got to

come home to his wife, his daughter (Tina Duncan Griffin) and son (Keith). “They mean a great deal to me,” the veteran said. “Jan’s always been with me and encouraged me. She is my right hand — she’s just wonderful!” Since the transplant nearly 33 years ago, the couple enjoys four grandchildren, and he fulfilled a lifelong dream of hunting in Alaska. He also loves deer and duck hunting and drives his tractor and bush hog. “I can’t do it as fast as I could in the past, but I do whatever I want,” he said. “I never think about it. I don’t sit in the house all the time because I am not helpless. One friend who had a transplant didn’t do anything, and he only lived the five years.” Frank deals with kidney problems, recurrent skin cancers because of medicine he must take and brittle bones. But at 81, his philosophy is to live life to the fullest because “everything is in God’s hands. Don’t be scared — just relax — nothing to fear. The doctors are great, and it’s not hopeless.” The couple is still sweet on one another, and it’s all because he had a change of heart.

TOP LEFT: The Duncan's son and family: Addison (from left), Melissa, Keith and Lauren Duncan. TOP RIGHT: The Duncan's daughter and family: Tina (from left), Brittany, Frank and Frankie Griffin. BOTTOM LEFT: Frank and Jan pose in their "Change of Heart" t-shirts.

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 47


For love of youth,

Gill devotes life to expanding minds By Stefanie Brazile Photo by Mike Kemp

For nearly four decades, a Mayflower woman has devoted

her life to helping minority youth reach their full potential and the investment has paid dividends. In 1985, Berthenia Gill founded Youth Advocates and Resources Network, Inc. (YARN) in Mayflower because she had moved back to the community and saw many kids who needed to dream bigger. “Some of them had never been outside Faulkner County,” Mrs. Gill said. Three years earlier, she and her husband, U.S. Army Master Sergeant (Ret.) Alvin Gill, returned to her hometown. He was raised in Lollie Bottoms and she was raised by her grandmother who had a profound influence on her life as a school teacher, missionary and farmer. “She could do them all well,” Mrs. Gill said. “I’ve been to just about every church meeting, local, state and national, with her. I’ve also been to Africa, Jerusalem and on a mission trip to Mexico.” Growing up in the home of a community-minded woman inspired Mrs. Gill to mentor children and youth. “We began dreaming in 1982 and I talked to my pastor at Palarm Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. James Mackey.” The minister fully supported her vision and in March of '85, the church hosted a career fair that included firemen, FBI agents, county and state police officers, leaders from manufacturing companies,

48 | 501 LIFE February 2021

small businesses,Southwestern Bell, Entergy and Arkla Gas. More than 65 children and parents attended. “After it was over, children and parents asked me to do it again,” Mrs. Gill said. “They didn’t have to beg me very long, because I saw that the need was great.” Career fairs and Black History Month educational series were only part of her concept. In 1994, she decided to expose her proteges to famous places beyond Faulkner County by planning a three-day bus trip. “We went to Washington D.C. and the White House, museums, the FBI building, the capitol and many senators' and representatives’ offices, the `germ bank’ in Maryland, Wellesley College and into Virginia.” The leader kept growing her nonprofit and formed a board of directors. Bruce Brown has been involved for 20 years and serves on the Board. “YARN has offered our children the opportunity to take part in many activities that they would otherwise not have,” Brown said. “I think back to the first tour I went on. It was awesome to be able to go and share in the experience that lives on in my memory to this day and will never be forgotten.” On the trips, two kids (ages 12-21) are paired with an adult. Participants are required to pay a $50 non-refundable deposit to hold their place, but otherwise, the trips are paid for by grants, donations and event proceeds.

Valerie Camper was a YARN youth participant and continues her involvement. With 30 years of friendship under her belt, Camper speaks of Mrs. Gill as a humble leader with a gift for training kids. “As a youth, God used YARN in a mighty way to help provide another solid educational and spiritual foundation in my life,” Camper said. “YARN has poured into kids for years and I thank God for being a fortunate recipient of its blessings.” Another youth participant who continues to be a supporter of the program is Foshanta Garr, a Senior Auditor for Windstream. “When you’re going on the trips, you learn how to be away from your parents and how to behave in a respectful, well-mannered way,” Garr said. Students who get to travel are required to be involved in their community and church throughout the year. “We went to the same church and she always had youth events and career programs going on. I learned about Black History month at church because I wasn’t going to learn about it at school, and she made the trips educational for us.” The second trip Garr made changed the course of her life. “As a senior, I was trying to determine where to go to college. I had planned to go to UCLA, but after visiting Washington, D.C. with YARN, I chose Howard University because I fell in love with Howard and everything it had to offer.” After graduating Cum Laude, she lived and worked as an accountant in and around D.C. for 23 years before moving back to Mayflower in 2014. Through events coordinated by Mrs. Gill, Garr and her peers met President Bill Clinton and his family at least three times, along with Rodney Slater who was the nation’s Secretary of Transportation under Clinton. When you visit with Mrs. Gill, her

gracious presence fills the room. She credits many other community members who aided the program, including Ann King, Maria Hoskins and Elaine Goode. A recent “graduate” of the program is Patrick Randall, deputy court clerk of civil/ small claims in Faulkner County District Court. “Mrs. Gill has made a tremendous impact on my life,” Randall said. “Her passion for wanting to see the best out of people is well known and she cares deeply for everyone she meets. I’ve been on numerous trips and seminars and have learned something every single time. My favorite trip was the one we took to Louisville, Ky. If it wasn’t for YARN and Mrs. Gill playing a part in my upbringing, I would not be the successful young man that I am today.” Educational trips have been planned annually since 1994, except for two years which includes 2020. The trip for 42 children and adults has been put on hold until COVID-19 bans lift. Through the years, buses of youth from Mayflower, Morrilton, Menifee and Pulaski County have traveled to places like the Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Atlanta, Ga.; the Ark in Kentucky; Birmingham, Ala.; the museum in Macon, Ga., where submarines and war boats are displayed; to St. Jude and the MLK Museum in Memphis, Tenn.; Cape Canaveral and Disney World in Florida. At the National Baptist Congress of Education, some students had the chance to sing in a choir of 10,000 children. “The kids have had tremendous opportunities,” Mrs. Gill said. “Of all the trips, there were always one or two who were encouraged by what they saw.” And that’s all the motivation she needs to continue investing time every day so kids can have a brighter future. The special lady finds her reward in seeing them prosper.

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Top: Berthenia Gill (from left) has organized career fairs, workshops and trips for minority youth since 1985. Also pictured are recent participant Patrick Randall, and Board Members Ann King and Rev. James Mackey. Bottom: On one trip, Mrs. Gill took students to The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

2505 Donaghey, Ste 102 • Conway, AR



February 2021 501lifemag.com | 49



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Going where the pages turn Comedian Groucho Marx believed television was very educational. Paraphrased, he said, “Every time somebody turns one on, I go into another room and read a book.”

It seems a fact that the oldest-known

story that can be called a “book” was “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, a history of a Sumerian king. Amazingly, it’s still available in hardback, paperback and e-books! It won’t be on a best-seller list, nor will you find someone curled up with a copy and a cup of hot chocolate. The first book published in America was “The Whole Booke of Psalmes,” printed in 1640. The Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower and other ships brought their own 1599 Geneva Bible with them. They frowned upon England’s King James version as they were escaping from the king and his Church of England. So it was that parents and teachers taught their children morals and reading using the only book they all possessed. I preface with this history because my own turnof-the-20th-century parents used secular school readers that presented similar moral teachings of those earlier days. My father had a wide interest in reading subjects. There are things to keep in mind when referring to his tastes in reading. Born in 1900, his large family lived in a small 1800s log cabin on a subsistence 50 | 501 LIFE February 2021

farm in a heavily wooded Arkansas community. “Outlanders” would call them “hillbillies,” but that was a compliment as it was of Scot origin with the “billy” a Scot term for “friend.” My dad was the only child of ten siblings to attend and complete high school and graduate/postgraduate college (University of Arkansas), drawing on his interest and personal experience in botany, biology, and geology. He later earned his Master’s degree and stopped short of a doctorate. My mother, also from the hills, had many artistic abilities and excelled in English and Latin, the latter subjects she taught upon graduating from high school. I have several textbooks that belonged to each, almost all published before 1912. Those of my father included “Gray’s Manual of Botany (1950);” “Tom Brown’s School Days;” a complete set of the McGuffey Readers; Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter;” several large volumes pertaining to wildflowers, soil, grasses, birds, trees; and a complete set of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1901. Are you yawning yet? Most people would not consider them pastime reading as he did. My mother’s books with her youthfully

written name within, are “Harvey’s English Grammar;” “School Arithmetic;” “Little Women;” and “New English Literature,” published in Britain. Many readers with grandparents or great- grandparents of this era may remember that they could “do numbers in their heads.” I always snickered when Mother would “cipher” in her head and say “nought” (for “zero), and multiplication might be “Twotums (two times) 54 is 108.” One book from which she taught high-schoolers was “Washington’s Farewell Address and Webster’s First Bunker Hill Oration.” Imagine yourself, your children or grandchildren studying that. But this was when patriotism was strong and education was sought and highly valued. Writer Ray Bradbury said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” Because of their book-reading, almost all of our family enjoyed reading from early ages. I recall the “Fun with Dick and Jane” reading series, even though it taught one to three words per page. I was a bit more ahead in my reading, but I enjoyed the watercolor illustrations. At home I had (and still have) the similar series, “My Little Red

Story Book,” with children Tom, Betty and Susan, and “Bedtime Stories,” a collection of traditional stories. I made sure to read to my own children, usually on the couch with one on each side. Around 1975 I became involved in my dad’s new project. At the age of 72 he had been encouraged to write a book about his life growing up in the hills until about 1925. Many years away from computers, keyboards and emails, I toiled on his drafts on a heavy, gray metal typewriter, the keys of which sounded like a jackhammer. As he finished pages, he would mail them to me. I was also the appointed in-house proofer and editor, as Dad’s typing was only a little better than his handwriting. I couldn’t give all my usual time to the children, so my son, age 3, decided to put a kernel of pretty, fall-colored ornamental corn in his tiny nose. Thus there was a sudden ten-mile interruptive trip to my pediatrician brother who magically made it disappear. By the age of 77, Dad’s book, “By Gum, I Made It!” was published and he began the War Eagle rounds and other venues selling it. He lived another 27 years and enjoyed more memories. It was through his book that I began encouraging people to write journals or at least do some family tree information to offer their children or other relatives. There is surprisingly so much to write about ourselves, our families and ancestors that no one will ever know unless we tell them in more than a verbal manner. Let them know to whom you and they belong as far back as you know. Tell some funny stories; hand down recipes; tell what you remember about an early home, neighborhood or event. These were the days when you perhaps began “Lovin’ Life!” I urge all moms, dads, grandparents, whoever, to read to children, even newborns who may only initially notice the lulling rhythm of words and voice inflections. You just MAY help them live happily ever after!

Marvin and Margaret Lawson used these classic books (which date back to the early 1900s) to teach their children. The writer’s father also used books about wildflowers to teach about native plants.

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 51


Authors in the 501: Pulaski County

Through eyes of faith Debra Myton

always had a calling to help others. When Debra experienced a Susan Peterson health crisis 16 years ago, she Susan Peterson holds a PhD knew that sharing in education and taught at her story would the University of Central Arkansas and Slippery Rock not only be University in Pennsylvania. cathartic for her She retired in 2004 and but would assist now spends her time doing others facing artwork (painting and pottery). She is interested health issues. in literacy and is a member “Bound by Faith: of the Arkansas Literacy The Story of an Association. Ovarian Cancer Survivor” speaks to the power of faith and how she learned to cope with her life-altering diagnosis. While growing up in Brinkley, Debra was an honors student who enjoyed most subjects. She considered accounting, pharmacy and other professions. She 52 | 501 LIFE February 2021

kept her options open and earned three degrees from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville: an associate degree in office management, a bachelor’s in business education and a bachelor’s in marketing. Soon after graduation, she married Clausey Myton. She finally decided on education as her career path and taught in southeast Arkansas while earning her degree in administration and supervision from Delta State University. The couple had two daughters in quick succession, Nia and Jamaica. The young family enjoyed making trips to visit Clausey’s family in Jamaica, London and Canada. Everything was fine — until it wasn’t. Following the birth of their second daughter, Debra took a position as a counselor in the Little Rock School District. It was during an annual exam with a new OB-GYN that Debra was told that she had an enlarged ovary. Follow-up tests indicated ovarian cancer. Debra was stunned because she had been health conscious and didn’t really feel ill. She ate right, exercised and had regular medical checkups. “I was more

concerned with my cholesterol level,” she said. “Cancer wasn’t even on my radar.” After a hysterectomy and months of grueling chemotherapy treatments, one day she was brushing her hair and noticed it falling out. Rather than anguish over it, she adopted the attitude that “it must be working.” And that was the day she decided to begin journaling. The publication of Debra’s book was as much an accident as it was intended. Several years after returning to work, she was in the school library when a book caught her eye. It was “Divas Unchained” by Nioka Smith. The author’s name was familiar since Debra vividly remembered a talented young girl with the unusual name of Nioka who was in her class in Helena. Debra got in touch with Nioka to congratulate her on many achievements, including founding J. Kenkade Publishing Company, an all-inclusive self-publishing company specializing in personal life stories and Christian-themed works. Debra mentioned that she had documented her difficulties and how faith had helped her. It

was a perfect match for the new publishing company. Assisting her through the process was Lauren McDaniel, another former student from Little Rock. Finally, her book became a reality in 2018.

When Debra first received her diagnosis, her daughters were 2 and 5 years old. Today they are 18 and 21. “My faith never wavered,” she said. “I always felt God would let me be there for them.” It is this journey of faith and survival that is documented in her book. According to the book jacket, “Bound by Faith” is Debra’s guide on how to handle any illness that a man or woman may face in life. “This personal cancer story will make you laugh, cry, but overall, will empower you by faith.” Debra continues to inspire and assist others through her work as a counselor in the Little Rock School District. She also enjoys talking to groups and sharing her personal story. She and Clausey, who is also an educator, look forward to resuming their travels.

“Bound by Faith” can be purchased online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online sites.

Debra, NIa, Jamaica and Clausey Myton

Coronavirus Also Affects Minds That’s why we are available anytime from anywhere, offering all our services in the safest possible manner – Telehealth for: • Outpatient and school-based counseling • Kaleidoscope Grief Center group support • Methodist Behavioral Hospital physician services, family therapy, visitation through Arkansas Division of Child and Family Services, and court appearances • In-person psychiatric testing with plexiglass screen and PPE

Call 877-778-1197 info@MethodistFamily.org February 2021 501lifemag.com | 53

501 KIDS




n a world full of technology and social media, children are under more pressure to “keep up” than ever before. Our children are seeing the world through the eyes of others. Most of us heard news stories, learned lessons, and obtained information from our parents or other trusted adults. However, children now often know much more than we would like for them to because they have the internet at their fingertips. Whether the information they hear is accurate or not, they believe it because it is on the internet and delivered to them by people or sources that they consider reliable. Just as children believe most information they read on the internet, they also see pictures on websites and social media outlets that they believe to be reality. They fail to see the filters and editing that create the perfect images of people they admire. This leads to insecurity and disappointment because they feel they should be keeping up with how others look or behave. When they cannot reach the unrealistic expectations they see on their screens, they can become depressed, anxious, and/ or angry. The lack of self-love that children can experience has the potential to lead to other problems both personally and socially. We have all heard parents speak to each other about self-care. You can’t pour from an empty cup. This same principle applies to our children and their self-esteem, but is often lost in today’s world without us even realizing it. For children to recognize value in others, they must respect and value themselves. Instead of focusing on things, achievements, or ways to be better than someone else, it is important for our children to respect and appreciate who they are at their core. While it seems odd to teach pride, it is the key to teaching children about love. Bullies are often people who lack selfesteem and empathy, so they crave control of others. Those who are secure within themselves have no reason to belittle others in order to boost themselves because they already recognize their own value. Therefore, though they seem mean, bullies are often the most depressed children. Teaching your child self-love will help avoid these destructive behaviors. There are several ways to teach children about self-love. Teach them about who you are and your family’s culture. Your family is the basis for who your child is and will be. At the same time, encourage your child to be true to their own self. They are valuable for their own uniqueness. Identify differences among family members, friends, classmates, teammates, etc., and then discuss how the diversity among the people in your circle is valuable. Provide your child with books and movies that are inclusive. Avoiding stereotyping will help your child see value in others. Finally, avoid correlating things or money with personal value. A person’s worth is not determined by their possessions. While these may seem like common-sense things, it is difficult for us as adults to always exemplify these behaviors for our children. They learn from observing us, so it is crucial that we examine our own behavior and make modifications as needed. By changing our own behavior, we can teach our children to value themselves and to learn that what is normal for a person is ok and unique to each one of us. Instilling these values will help combat the low self-esteem and selfdestructive thoughts that can occur from social media and the outside world. We all want what is best for our children, and that begins with teaching them to love themselves so they can love others as well. 54 | 501 LIFE February 2021

Brittany Gilbert Brittany Gilbert is a former FACS teacher at Maumelle High School. She and her husband, Levi, have three children and live in Conway. Brittany can be reached at b.gilbert37@gmail. com.

Show others they are loved Growing up,

Valentine’s Day was one of my favorite holidays. I went to public schools and loved all of the homemade treats we got to enjoy at the class party. It didn’t matter if it was handmade or storebought, Valentine’s cards made everyone feel so special. The most important thing was feeling loved. I’m keeping this in mind as I help my kids celebrate this holiday in a very different way. Here are a few ideas to consider to help your kids show love to those around you.

Create themed gift bags for friends At the beginning of the pandemic last year, I safely went to Dollar Tree and grabbed many supplies. Twenty dollars

goes a long way at Dollar Tree! We then created craft bags for our friends and other kids in our community. The items in the bag had no rhyme or reason, they were simply craft items that kids could use to be imaginative and creative. The response was more than I could’ve hoped for, which was simply to bless and occupy kids while stuck at home. For your kids, you could do a craft bag or something different like a baking bag. You could buy a boxed cake or cookie mixes and encourage them to create something special as a family. There are so many possibilities with this idea. The purpose is to show your friends that you love them and are thinking about them during this season.

Random acts of kindness This idea never gets old. Stress can be felt all over the community — from families to small businesses to the healthcare industry and more. A simple act of kindness can restore faith, hope, and

501 KIDS

can lift the spirits of someone struggling. During this month of love, consider completing an act of kindness every day. Create a calendar and fill it in with ideas for every day. It can be as small as writing notes for friends, family or strangers who are stuck at home. Nursing homes are full of people who would love to have cards and letters from people outside the facility, letting them know they’re loved and valued. Other acts of kindness would be paying for the person behind you in the coffee line or buying small gift cards from a local bakery and dropping them off in people’s mailboxes. If your act of kindness can support a small business, at the same time, that’s a huge bonus. When you’re in a hard season, something that can help is focusing on others. As parents, our kids will look to us in how to handle the hard times in life. Show them the joy of blessing others isn’t just for the Christmas season. Don’t be afraid to keep it simple; remember the purpose is to show people they are loved.

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 55

Pulaski County: Ken Kavanaugh Dr. Robert Reising Dr. Robert Reising retired from the University of Central Arkansas in 2013 after holding a variety of teaching, coaching and administrative posts during more than a halfcentury in education. His doctoral dissertation at Duke treated literature and sports.

One of the nation’s most spectacular pass receivers ever, Ken Kavanaugh, was more than simply an outstanding football player. He was a multi-sport luminary who, in addition to meritoriously serving America in wartime, enriched the nation’s sports landscape for more than half a century. Arkansas has produced few athletes with a greater claim on respect, national as well as state. Ken was born in Little Rock on Nov. 23, 1916, the youngest of three children. His father was a railroad machinist and his mother a homemaker whose brother founded the popular Schmand Candy Co. Like his brother and sister, in his first years Ken knew only middle-class American values, honed on Depressionera deprivations. Hard work, courage, and confidence burgeoned into lifetime strengths. Those strengths impressed area sports fans. By high school, he had emerged as a gifted performer in virtually every athletic endeavor he attempted. He earned a host of honors, including selection to AllState basketball and football teams before graduating from Little Rock Central High in 1936. Immediately, he continued his award-winning career at Louisiana State University (LSU). On the diamond, he excelled as a high-average batter with “pop” in his bat. The exceptional speed obvious in his track achievements provided a third plus. His play at first base was likewise eye-catching, his agility and quick hands teaming with his 6-foot 3-inch frame to equip him with ideal defensive skills. In football, his physical assets also served him handsomely. In Little Rock and Baton Rouge, he played on defense as well as offense. And weighing over 200 pounds, Ken outmuscled, as well as outjumped and outran, many an opponent. Yet for him, pass catching was also “a thinking man’s game,” and he scored more than a few touchdowns by setting up and faking out opponents. At LSU, because varsity athletics permitted no freshmen, he compressed one of the most storied Tiger careers into just three years. In 1937, he earned second team All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) honors on a 9 and 2 Sugar Bowl team, graduated to first team All-SEC the following fall, and reached unqualified national excellence in his final campaign. In 1939, he repeated his SEC honors of the preceding year while adding SEC Co-Most Valuable Player (MVP), Consensus All-American, the Knute Rockne Memorial Award, the

56 | 501 LIFE February 2021

Touchdown Club’s “Lineman of the Year” Award, the Blue-Gray Classic’s MVP, and (although not a back) seventh place in the Heisman Trophy voting. Unfortunately, months passed before he learned he had gone “high” in professional football’s draft. Acting immediately, however, was baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals executive Branch Rickey, later famous for breaking major league baseball’s color line by signing Jackie Robinson. Convinced baseball held Ken’s future, he lured him into signing a contract and assigned him to Kilgore in a Class C Texas league. Deep into a successful season, however, Ken learned of his National Football League (NFL) drafting, immediately negotiated his Kilgore release, and after performing in the College (football) All-Star Game, joined the Chicago Bears for a salary paying him “better than anyone else in the league.” Clearly, he was a precious two-sport commodity commanding the league’s most lucrative reimbursement. He starred for eight NFL seasons, cushioned around three years (1942-44) of action-packed, commendation-winning service as a World War II bomber pilot in Europe. He helped the Bears win 72 percent of their games and NFL championships in 1940, 1941, and 1946, scoring a touchdown in each of the three title wins. He twice led the league in yards-perpass reception, once before and once after the war, and he twice led the league in touchdown receptions, once with a team-record 13, a number enwrapping another team record, a touchdown reception in seven consecutive games. His 50 touchdown receptions allow him another Chicago first, just one short of the NFL record. Retirement from the playing field in 1950 was followed, first, by coaching stints with the Bears and at Boston College and Villanova and, then, by 45 years of coaching and scouting for the NFL’s New York Giants. Ken became “a revered member of the Giants’ family … [for whom] he made many important contributions … over the years,” said John Mara, team president and CEO, after the 2007 death of the bomber “pilot … [with] nerves of steel.” Another “revered member of the Giants’ family” was a fellow scout, African American Rosie Brown, the team’s Hall of Fame tackle with whom Ken had “an inseparable bond.” The special friendship receives insightful attention in “The Humility of Greatness,” Ken Jr.’s tribute to his father. Also illuminated in the biography are the inspiring feats of a man deserving limitless respect in Pulaski County and the 501.

Ann Porter waving to the love of her life on the day Ken earned his wings and graduated from Advanced Flight School at Kelly Field.

The 1957 New York Giants coaching staff Vince Lombardi (front left), John Del Isola, Tom Landry (back left), Jim Lee Howell and Ken Kavanaugh.

The Kavanaugh family gathered the day after the Giants won the ’91 Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla. Ann (from left), Ken Jr., Ken and Kristy.

Ken in 2000 with his Super Bowl rings and Outstanding Lineman of the Year trophy . February 2021 501lifemag.com | 57


PCSSD accepts any student through

School Choice Program By Jessica Duff


hy should you choose the Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD)? At PCSSD, we believe every student has a purpose in life and we strive to help all students achieve their full potential. PCSSD is where purpose comes alive, and everyday we’re ensuring equity and excellence for every student. Enrollment is now open for both NEW and RETURNING students for the 2021-2022 school year. In addition to registration, the district is once again participating in the Arkansas School Choice program which enables a student in kindergarten through grade 12 to attend a school in a nonresident district. Applications for School Choice opened January 4 and continue to May 1. PCSSD is considered one of the largest districts in the state. It serves 27 schools and spans more than 800 square miles, including schools in Maumelle, Little Rock and Sherwood. Those 27 schools include 16 elementary, five middle, five high school campuses and — new for the 2021-2022 school year — an online K-12 school. PCSSD’s mission is to provide equity and excellence for all students through rigorous college and career readiness instructional strategies. The schools offer expansive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs that give students an advantage in today’s economy. For those students with a more artistic drive, the Fine Arts department includes a wide variety of both Visual and Performing Art classes, providing students the opportunity to be in a visual art and music class every year while at PCSSD. Here are five reasons to consider PCSSD:

Preparing students for life The district works diligently with every child to ensure they are prepared for life beyond the classroom. PCSSD has nearly 1,000 certified teachers including more than 75 nationally board-certified teachers who help students learn in a comfortable, safe environment.

Cultivating future leaders Every student possesses the potential to become a great leader. Each school within the district works to guide students on a path of success. Whether it’s finding his or her niche in the classroom, on the court, in choir or any other program offered. 58 | 501 LIFE February 2021

Strengthening public schools In order to become a cohesive educational institution for future leaders, it is necessary to strengthen the public school system in Central Arkansas. PCSSD employs strong teachers and requires a rigorous curriculum, cultivating a sense of equity and excellence.

Strengthening our communities By strengthening our public schools, our communities are impacted as well. A strong community centers around a sense of equity, inclusion and support.

Driving innovation in the classroom Every school strongly supports the drive for innovation. Whether it’s Wi-Fi on buses or virtual classrooms, PCSSD is giving our students access to the technologies that are shaping the world. New to PCSSD in the 2021-2022 school year will be an online-only learning program called DRIVEN Virtual Academy (DVA). It will serve students in homeschool or homebound situations due to health or socialemotional issues. DVA will also serve students whose families must travel often or are involved in extracurricular activities and desire a more flexible option through online or accelerated learning. Blended learning and extended, in-person tutoring opportunities will add other resources to support students and families. DVA students may participate in PCSSD extracurricular activities upon meeting academic requirements. Applications will be accepted through May 1. If you have specific questions related to registration and school choice within PCSSD, please contact the Office of Equity and Pupil Services at 501-234-2021.


Promises to Keep (For married couples) “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.” —Robert Frost

Many years ago, Robert Frost quoted these

lines from one of his poems while speaking to a university audience. Afterward, a man asked the poet what he meant by “promises to keep?” Frost responded that he had promises to keep to those who had gone before, to those of his day, to those who were to follow, to his wife, to himself and God. I’m sure the man either walked away feeling a little sorry for poor Mr. Frost, burdened-down with so many promised commitments, or, hopefully, he realized the truth of Frost’s statement — we all have promises to keep. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I would like to say to the married couples, in a Valentine’s kind of way, to remember the promises you’ve made. As Frost says so convincingly, the “woods” of pleasure, ease, satisfaction, childrearing, indifference, sickness, riches, setbacks, careers and self-centeredness “are lovely, dark and deep,” nonetheless, we’ve made promises. We have work to do, obligations to fulfill, sacred vows to keep. Real men keep their word and strong women keep their promises. If you don’t give heed to Frost’s wisdom of years, you’ll find yourself walking down lover’s lane holding your own hand. There are more than 50 shades of marriage, but the two major ones are the candy-heart “Valentine’s Day” kind and the “long-lived” kind. The candy-heart kind of love is crazy and delicious. It transcends ordinary life with its routines. It’s not surprising that we crave it and give it a place of honor. It produces high spirits,

it puts a valentine skip in our walk, we often learn of it in books, movies and internet dating websites. The second kind of love is what I reverently call “long-lived.” This is when the “loving” feelings begin to take root. It’s like the Valentine’s Day variety but better, deeper, broader and higher! At this stage, you finally arrive at the “core” of what it means to love and live with another person. Allow me if you will, to speak from experience for a moment. After raising two children with my darling-most, I have come to believe the words of poets and songwriters: “She’s everything to me, she’s my world, she’s all the world to me.” The first kind of love moves us to the altar, where we make promises to each other. Whereas the second kind of love enables us to keep our promises. In Spousonomics 101, there isn’t any set formula or method. You learn to love by loving. Love stories never get old and one couples’ romance is always different from the next, all with a sweet tale of its own. People have searched the world over for something better than holy matrimony and didn’t find it because it’s not there. Marriage is sacred and life-enhancing, but at its core, its two promise-keepers walking hand in hand into their unforeseeable tomorrows. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep.”

Guest contributor

Donald Brazile recently moved to Conway from Texas. His writings have appeared in the Lectionary Homiletics Journal, Open Windows (a Lifeway devotional publication) and the Texarkana Community Journal.

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 59


A tail of love After losing a beloved Jack Russell

“Saving one dog won’t change the world, but for that dog the world will change forever, and your world will change for the better!” --Tana Mills

60 | 501 LIFE February 2021

Terrier four years ago, Tana and Allen Mills were hesitant to open their heart and home again, but one night as she scrolled through Facebook posts, a sweet furry face caught her eye. “My heart melted and my eyes leaked a little bit,” Tana said. “I just knew this girl was supposed to be with me. My husband and I had decided to wait until after the holidays to adopt, but I went ahead and inquired about her.” Donna Clawson is the president of Friends of Faulkner County Animal Shelter and she posts available pets on Facebook and works with potential families. When Tana contacted her about the Jack Russel Terrier mix in November, Donna let her know that Daisy would be available after being spayed in a couple of weeks. Allen is a registered nurse who works the nightshift at Conway Regional Medical Center and when he arrived home, his wife was more than excited to tell him about Daisy. An ironic twist was that the pet they had lost looked similar and her name was Sadie. “Just rearrange the letters and they are the same!” Tana said. The first time Daisy came to their home, Tana sat in the floor to greet her. “She sat right in my lap,” the personal

trainer said. “I laughed and completely knew she was my girl! She was trying to get a cat toy from my hand the whole time we talked to Donna.” “Dai” is now her nickname and she is very smart and wants to please. Chasing Allen around the backyard is one of her favorite activities, just as it was for Sadie. “When she chased Allen, we both laughed and shook our heads at the striking resemblance.” The pup has adapted to her new home and enjoys playing with her feline brothers named Buddy and Bear. While Buddy enjoys her energy, Bear has not embraced the antics of his younger sister as of press time. It’s probably because she enjoys chewing on squeaky toys. The light-colored terrier also loves sunning in the backyard and walking her parents every day. Their favorite trek is the trails at Cadron Settlement Park. “Daisy has changed our life in many good ways,” Tana said. “She sleeps with us (my husband was against it at first … haha!), is always with me around the house and she goes everywhere with me. You always have a walking partner, play buddy or just a snuggle at the right time with a dog like Dai. It’s pretty sweet!” The Mills recommend pet adoption to anyone looking for a furry companion. “Adoption just makes you feel good!” she said.


Take a 501 trip to


February is always the hardest month for me to find a subject for "Traveling in the 501." The reason? The weather can be cold and wet. I prefer to spend most of February streaming movies or sitting on the couch next to the roaring fire in the woodburning stove. But, occasionally, a road trip is a good alternative to being a February couch potato. So, may I suggest taking a visit to Searcy to enjoy the Art Alley. It is a great place for social distancing and very family-friendly.

Linda Henderson Jim and Linda Henderson are lifelong residents of the 501. They travel the 501 and other areas of Arkansas. Jim drives and hauls equipment. Linda takes photographs of Arkansas. During their travels, they have gained appreciation and love for The Natural State. They have found the 501 has so much to offer for fun and beauty to photograph.

Daisy loves spending her days on trails, trips and taking time with her brothers Buddy and Bear.

Art continued on Page 62 February 2021 501lifemag.com | 61

Art continued from Page 61

ART ALLEY 62 | 501 LIFE February 2021

The alley is west of the courthouse between Arch Avenue and Race Street in downtown Searcy. As part of the Think Art Project, the alley is painted with multiple mini murals that change regularly. Its walls are constantly being repainted and recreated for the public to admire. Artists are from Searcy and the surrounding area, and a waitlist has more than 100 people wishing to display their work on the walls. Many of the murals reflect our society and current upheavals in our world, but most of the pieces found in the alley are happy and contain amazing bits of colorful art. The alley's old architecture and misshaped bricks make a wonderful exhibit spot for the murals. The old buildings and ever-changing art create a wonderful quaint atmosphere. At night, the alley is lit with old-fashioned light bulbs hanging from the top of the surrounding twostory buildings. Art Alley is a great destination for a February road trip. Admission is free, and the alley is open 24/7, regardless of the cold weather. It is only a short walk, parking is close, and Searcy's downtown has many things to enjoy. Children will like the colorful displays and the larger-than-life cartoon characters, while adults will appreciate the social commentary and talent of the artists. Bring your camera because many backdrops are photo-worthy. Plan plenty of time to wander up and down the alley, as there is so much to see and enjoy.

February 2021 501lifemag.com | 63


Bolivian musicians find home with UCA, CSO

Students participate in "Meet the Instruments" at ArtsFest 2019

By Donna Lampkin Stephens


he University of Central Arkansas Department of Music and the Conway Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has long welcomed international students, but there’s something special about the current group from Bolivia. Izzy Getzov, associate professor and director of orchestras at UCA and music director for the CSO, said the current roster includes about 12 from all over the South American country — cellists, violinists, oboists, percussionists, flutists and pianists. “That’s down from a high of 15, but a lot of them couldn’t come after their embassy was closed,” Getzov said. “They wanted to come. Students have been working and trying to 64 | 501 LIFE February 2021

get here for years. They are eager and good students.” Lorraine Duso Kitts, professor of double reeds at UCA, also praised the Bolivians. “They bring their talent and kindheartedness,” she said. “I haven’t met a Bolivian student that was rude or disrespectful. They’ve raised the bar in our department. Theirs is truly a culture of brotherhood and sisterhood.” Getzov said some of those students took a leap of faith to pursue their dreams in the 501. “It took guts for them to get on the plane and come here,” he said. “These kids want to be here. Kids on the other side of the world are risking their lives to be here.” Other countries represented in the UCA/

CSO community include Mexico, Taiwan, China, Lithuania and Russia. Getzov said the Bolivian pipeline opened wider in 2016 following the long-time efforts of retired UCA professor Kay Kraeft. “There were always one or two Bolivian students around, but never like it is now,” Getzov said. “In 2016 she brought me to Bolivia and passed the torch. We went around to all the cities, held auditions, spread the word — and they started to come.” Because there are no accredited degree-granting music programs in their country, most of the Bolivians start in UCA’s undergraduate program. Getzov said many come here with degrees in other fields, but had always wanted to pursue one in music. After 12 years as a pianist in Bolivia’s

Young adults from Bolivia are happy to receive musical training at UCA and to perform with the Conway Symphony Orchestra. They include flutist Adriana Manzano (from left), Juan Mario Moreno (violin), Alex Segales (piano), Carolina Segales (piano), Mateo Palez (percussion) and Cesar Blas (oboe) and Sara Vaca (cello).

National Conservatory, Cesar Blas, now 23, came to UCA in spring 2018 to study piano performance. After graduating in December 2021, he said he would pursue a master’s degree in oboe at UCA. “Bolivian musicians look for opportunities,” he said. He has found opportunities and more in the 501. He plays oboe with the CSO. “It’s a pleasure to play there,” he said. “It’s a great experience to be part of a major orchestra.” Sara Vaca-Anaya graduated in December 2020, with a double major in music performance and psychology. She came to UCA out of high school on a symphony scholarship and has played cello with the CSO for five years. “I knew nothing about UCA nor Arkansas before coming,” she said. “I am extremely lucky because I ended up in a place with a cello professor (Stephen Feldman) that was just perfect for me and with great faculty and staff in general.” Blas said he knew most of the current group of his countrymen before arriving in Conway. He returned home for the summer in 2018 and ‘19, but his plans for 2020 — including an invitation to join concerts outside of Bolivia — were, like those of so many others, interrupted by the pandemic. “As soon as classes moved completely online in March, I had to decide whether to go back to Bolivia and take the risk to not be able to come back or to stay here,” he said. “I talked with Dr. (Neil) Rutman (professor of the piano), my mentor, and he said, ‘We’ll make it possible for you to stay here.’ “I’m so grateful to all the UCA faculty and President (Houston) Davis and all the people in Conway. They were just amazing. They all helped us. We didn’t miss food; we

didn’t have problems paying for rent. All of us are incredibly grateful for all these amazing people. It’s something we didn’t plan.” Getzov said a few years ago, the Conway Symphony Guild created the Mary Mosley CSO Guild Student Assistance Fund that enabled such help. The funds were needed, as staying in Conway during the pandemic meant losing paid summer gigs at home for the international students. They aren’t allowed to work off-campus. Blas also tested positive for COVID and spent a few weeks in quarantine. “I was lucky because I was completely asymptomatic,” said Blas, whose roommates also tested positive. “It was perfectly fine. People were constantly bringing us food and taking care of us.” Vaca-Anaya said while she knew nothing about Arkansas before arriving, she had been pleasantly surprised to find a place that was “extremely welcoming and kind to me.” “In UCA, besides the great academic environment provided by most faculty, I learned a lot just from its overall

environment,” she said. “Professors and staff, in general, are very willing to help, and they show that they care about you. Over the years, that kind of environment slowly showed me how meaningful it is to be in a place where people do their job but are also welcoming and kind.” For Blas, the most challenging part of this pandemic year has been the loss of rehearsal opportunities. “Snow Fine Arts (Center) was closed, for obvious reasons, but fortunately, UCA is always thinking about us, and Dr. Rutman got us an electronic keyboard for our apartment, so we have an instrument,” Blas said. “But it’s not the same.” What have their 501 experiences meant to Blas and Vaca-Anaya? “I come from a developing country, so it’s wonderful to meet high-level musicians, and being in touch with a different culture,” Blas said. “And this is the U.S., so you have the opportunity to hang out with people from different parts of the world, something that’s not usual for my country. Gaining knowledge and experience, making new friends — and of course, the people here are wonderful. I honestly didn’t expect that. I didn’t think it was going to be that nice. People here are so friendly and so mindful. “And the development as a musician with high-level artists like Dr. Rutman and all the faculty here — it’s an amazing opportunity.” Said Vaca-Anaya: “I feel like the environment and example that surrounded me in UCA provided me with the most important lessons: to be a more well-rounded person. To me, it does not only matter what you do but how you do it, and my years at UCA helped me upgrade the ‘how’. That can be one of the biggest takeaways that I can point out that will help and influence my future for good.” February 2021 501lifemag.com | 65

NEIGHBORS person of the month



Photo by Mike Kemp




General Manager of the Conway Symphony Orchestra (CSO), started in January.


Music’s power over us is mysterious and timeless. It inspires us to open our hearts and minds to new ways of thinking. Music gives us paths to reach out to one another and understand and encourage each other. Throughout history, composers and their music have been integral voices of the communities they lived and worked in. I want to help the Conway Symphony be an essential voice of our community.


people to the CSO so that they can experience the amazing things the symphony is doing! I also hope to bring in new sources of sponsorship to help the organization expand every aspect of its audience.


I train and compete in AKC and NADAC agility with my All-American dog, Charlotte. We also do scent work and tricks, and love to get out and hike all around Arkansas.

CHURCH ACTIVITIES: I’ve been a cantor at Christ the King

Catholic Church since 2013.


I am married to Stephen Feldman, ‘cellist and professor in the UCA Music Department. We have 2 children in their early twenties, Ezra and Anna.


66 | 501 LIFE February 2021

Doctoral studies in voice performance at SUNY Stony Brook; Master of Music (voice) from the Cincinnati Conservatory; BFA in voice performance from SUNY Purchase; Other education: Montessori Elementary Teaching Certification and Level one Kodaly Teacher training for early childhood music.

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