April 2023

Page 1


Jeremy L. Higginbotham


Stefanie W. Brazile


Donna Spears, Sonja Keith and Tracy Ferrell


Donald Brazile


Paulette Higginbotham





180 editions later...

Happy birthday to 501 LIFE Magazine! In April we celebrate 15 years of continuous monthly publications. Woohoo! My co-owner, Jeremy Higginbotham, and I are so proud! This issue features a story from each volume, dating back to May 2008 when Donna Spears, Sonja Keith and Tracy Ferrell published the first issue and dubbed it “the people’s magazine.”

In the months leading up to that issue, they met with dozens of people for ideas and guidance; developed stories; identified writers, designers and photographers; and secured advertisers. The women put it all on the line and wrote in the first editorial: “For several months, a special group of men and women have shared our dream to produce and distribute an upscale publication that celebrates Central Arkansas … in your hands is the result of our efforts.”

After 12 years of fulfilling that mission to the 11 counties in the 501, Donna and Sonja were ready to live at a slower pace. They had given heart and soul to 501 LIFE Magazine. In October 2020, Jeremy and I purchased it from them and have given heart and soul since, along with our wonderful spouses Paulette Higginbotham and Donald Brazile. Fortunately, Donna continues with us in Advertising Sales, and we chose to feature her as April’s “Person of the Month.”

The future of 501 LIFE Magazine is bright! Each month, every magazine we print is intentionally picked up by consumers. Monthly digital readership exceeds 48,000, and our social media footprint reaches 18,000 followers. In addition, our stories are highlighted on two TV programs each month, including KARK News 4 in Little Rock and Conway Corp’s “Here & There.”

To celebrate this important milestone of “Loving LIFE,” we looked through all 15 volumes and selected one story from each to revisit. From Kris Allen's journey on American Idol to the Vilonia tornado, we share memories that touched lives throughout Central Arkansas.

We appreciate our expert writers, photographers, copy editors, digital support and administrative team. All of us appreciate the excellent businesses and organizations that advertise with us! And we’re grateful to the three women who pursued a dream to develop a publication dedicated to “Celebrating Greater Central Arkansas” each month.

Here's to the next 180 editions of 501 LIFE!


4 | 501 LIFE April 2023
EDITORS Andrea Lively and Andrea Miller
DIRECTOR Debbie Flowers Mary Clark Shelli Crowell Dr. Larry Davis Shawn Halbrook Alicia Hugen Alisha Koonce Stephanie Lipsmeyer Stewart Nelson Kristi Strain Jim Taylor Morgan Zimmerman 501 LIFE is published by Make the Jump Media, LLC (920 Locust Ave. Ste. 104, Conway, AR 72034, 501.327.1501) and is owned by Jeremy Higginbotham and Stefanie 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. Advertisements are not necessarily endorsed by 501 LIFE. Betsy Bailey Amy Burton Tara Cathey Cassandra Feltrop Phil Hays Natalie Horton Matt LaForce Mike Parsons Brooke Pryor Judy Riley Carol Spears Kristi Thurmon CONTRIBUTORS Beth Jimmerson Mark McDonald Susan Peterson Dr. Robert Reising Judy Riley Carol Rolf Donna L. Stephens Rita Thomas Morgan Zimmerman Becky Bell Don Bingham Jessica Duff Lori Dunn Laurie Green Dwain Hebda Linda Henderson Vivian Lawson Hogue Tammy Keith Johnny Adams Jack Bell Don Bingham Jessica Brown RaeLynn Callaway Glenn Crockett Beth Franks Russ Hancock Spencer Hawks Mathilda Hatfield Roe Henderson Jerry Hiegel Mike Kemp Julie LaRue Karl Lenser Monica Lieblong Lori Melton Deanna Ott Pat Otto Jon Patrom Amy Reed Lori Ross Margaret Smith Jan Spann Kim Tyler Suzann Waggoner Jennifer Whitehead Kay Wood FAULKNER CO. EDITORIAL BOARD CONWAY CO. EDITORIAL BOARD WHITE CO. EDITORIAL BOARD &
6 | 501 LIFE April 2023 Volume 15 Issue 12 48
60 4 Letter from the Editor & Publisher 8 Upcoming events 9 Arkansas Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic By
10 Loving LIFE photos 12 The Tiny Toads are coming to town! 14 ‘FaulknerCounty150’ anniversary celebration By
18 Welcome Back TrotterSaving the Tadpole Trot
20 Faulkner County Player of the Year By
22 SPECIAL FEATURE: Celebrating 501 LIFE A Look Back at 15 Volumes 24 VOLUME I: Downtown Conway By Lori
30 VOLUME II: Kris Allen - Arkansas Idol By Levi
34 VOLUME III: Couple of the Month: Donnie and Amy Reed 38 VOLUME IV: Jacqueline’s Journey for Justice By Donna
40 VOLUME V: Always eager for Easter By: Don
44 VOLUME VI: Family business keeps the 501 on the move 46 Freyaldenhoven - Champions of comfort 47 First Service Bank - A foundation of service 48 VOLUME VII: Vilonia Tornado Recovery By
54 VOLUME VIII: UACCM Workforce Training Center By
56 VOLUME IX: Kid (and now) Youth of the Month Joshua Trantina By
60 VOLUME X: Tribute to Don Potter By Donna
64 VOLUME XI: Conway Men’s Chorus By Stefanie
66 VOLUME XII: Community at heart of Unity Health By
68 VOLUME XIII: First Security Bank Updates Sensory Trail By
70 VOLUME XIV: First Missionary Baptist celebrates 178 years By Stefanie Brazile 72 VOLUME XV: Pet of the Month: Cedric Boomer Diggory By Stefanie Brazile 74 A look back at my 501 LIFE By Vivian Lawson Hogue 76 Picture it...Linda Henderson’s 15 favorite stories and photos in 501 88 Conway Corp’s “Here and There” ProgramA perfect fit for 501 LIFE By Crystal Kemp 90 Athletic Excellence: Van Buren County's Logan Williams By Dr. Robert Reising 92 Author of the Month: Darcy Pattison By Susan
Peterson 94 Be a part of the PCSSD team By Jessica Duff 96 Person of the Month: Donna Spears By
April 2023
Tammy Keith
Stefanie Brazile
Lampkin Stephens
Stefanie Brazile
Stefanie Brazile
Dwain Hebda

501 LIFE would like to thank our advertising partners.


the Writers’ Room

Levi Gilbert has been with 501 LIFE since it was founded. The UCA graduate helps coordinate both the 501 Football and Basketball Teams, as well as working on the magazine’s online publications. Levi lives in Greenbrier with his wife, Brittany, and their three children. He also serves as the play-by-play TV announcer for Wampus Cat athletics on Conway Corp and as a learning consultant for Acxiom.

Vivian Lawson Hogue is a Conway native, local historian, and even resides in a 112-year-old historic house in the city. She graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a degree in art education. A retired teacher, she worked in the Conway School District for 23 years. She can be reached at vhogue@ conwaycorp.net.

Linda Hoggard Henderson

A resident of Central Arkansas for most of her life, Linda shares her love of photography and traveling Arkansas. A graduate of UCA and retired from the Conway Human Development Center, she and her husband, Jim, have a son, John Mark. Linda may be reached at lindahenderson@ conwaycorp.net.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 7
Catch 501 LIFE on KARK News at Noon and Conway Corp each month!
AR NETEX, 95 Bledsoe Chiropractic, 33, 75 Conway Corp, 29 Conway Regional Health System, 53, 99 Conway Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, 74 Conway Symphony Orchestra, 71 Custom Glass, 37 Downtown Conway, 26-27 DJM Orthodontics, 58 Edward Jones, 93 Explore Springdale, 69 First Community Bank, 81, 96 First Security Bank, 21, 100 First Service Bank, 13 Freyaldenhoven Heating and Cooling, 46, 89 Hartman Animal Hospital, 72 Harwood, Ott & Fisher, PA, 91 Heirloom Arms, 15 Heritage Living Center, 5 _____________________________________ Ironhorse Marketplace, 89 Jennifer Cunningham Conway School Board, 59 Julie's Sweet Shoppe, 71 _____________________________________ Kilwins Little Rock, 43 _____________________________________ MSC Eye Associates, 43 _____________________________________ Ott Insurance, 51 Pulaski County Special School District, 94 _____________________________________ Rise Above Alcohol & Drugs, 83 Rock Pond Pros, 25 Rosewood Cremation & Funeral, 87 Salem Place, 17 Shelter Insurance, 71 Shelia Franklin, Conway School Board, 63 St. Joseph School, 57 Superior Health & Rehab, 2 _____________________________________ Toad Suck Daze Run, 19 _____________________________________ Unity Health, 3, 67 University of Arkansas Community College Morrilton, 55 University of Central Arkansas, 39 Velda LuedersColdwell Banker, 8, 34 Did you know you could have our 11-county publication delivered to you? For only $20 a year, home delivery ensures you never miss an issue! Visit 501LIFEmag.com or call 501.327.1501 to subscribe.

brought to you by:

Barkus on Main

A Mardi Gras Parade of Pet Proportions

April 16 • 12 - 5 p.m. • Little Rock

Art Jam 2023

April 22 • 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. • Greenbrier

Where’s the paw-ty? At Barkus on Main! This family-friendly event in downtown Little Rock is free. Parade begins at 2:30 p.m. Everyone and their dog will be there. Event will offer food, vendors and fun for everyone. Located in the Creative Corridor between the 300-700 Blocks of Main St. Don’t fur-get to register your pooch for the parade at barkusonmain.com.

Casino Royale

April 20 • 6 p.m. • Conway

Don't miss this jam-packed day of fun featuring live music, local art, school exhibits, hands-on activities and demonstrations in beautiful Matthews Park, 25 Ivy St. This year's theme is "Peace, Love & Art" to coincide with Earth Day! Proceeds from Art Jam benefit a scholarship fund for students pursuing the arts. Visit “Art Jam 2023” on Facebook.

Patti LuPone

April 27 • 7:30 p.m. • Little Rock

Test your luck at a table game, take a chance with the wine pull, enjoy great eats and signature drinks and dance the night away with DJ Quinn Beacham. The fundraiser benefits the United Way of Central Arkansas and will be held at The Brick Room, 1020 Front St., Conway. Cocktail/casino party attire. Ages 21 and older can purchase advance tickets at uwcark.org.

Lupone brings her new tour Don't Monkey With Broadway to the Center for Humanities and Arts at Pulaski Technical College. The three-time Tony Award winner performs indelible interpretations of classic Broadway show tunes by the likes of Stephen Schwartz, Charles Strouse, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. Tickets on sale now at uaptc.universitytickets.com.

Strawberry Festival

April 29 & 30 • Cabot

The Strawberry Festival supports the Cabot Junior Auxiliary and is focused on family fun and helps to promote business and farmers locally and around the state. The festival features live entertainment, carnival rides, kids' area, food trucks, vendors, a 5K race and strawberries from across the state!

Giving everyone a reason to smile

Free dental clinic for underserved Arkansans coming back to Conway

Terry Fiddler is looking for volunteers.

The 75-year-old retired Conway dentist is leading the efforts once again to bring a two-day free dental clinic to Conway for underserved Arkansans. Fiddler serves as executive director of the Arkansas Mission of Mercy (ArMOM), which will offer the clinic April 14-15 at the Conway Expo Center.

“We have not offered this clinic since COVID,” Fiddler said. “The last clinic was in 2019 in Springdale. That year, we served 2,300 patients and provided $1.4 million of free dentistry. We really have no idea what we will see at this year’s clinic.

“It’s like starting over,” Fiddler said, noting the clinic was first held in 2006. “We really need help … volunteers. Since COVID, people have gotten out of the habit of volunteering.”

The free dental clinic will offer extractions, cleaning and restorative care for both adults and children. Fiddler said the following are needed: 160 dentists, 200-plus dental assistants, 150 dental hygienists, 40 nurses, four physicians, three registered pharmacists and 500 lay volunteers. “We’re hoping to serve 1,500 to 1,600 people, but we really don’t know what to expect. We need to be sure we have the help we need to serve whoever comes.

“We always have people come from Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma and Mississippi. This is God’s work,” Fiddler said.

The clinic will open at 3 a.m. April 14 and 15, which is earlier than in years past. The clinic is first-come, first served. There are no identification or insurance requirements. “We need to know their name and medical history so we can treat them,” Fiddler said. “The only requirement is that they have teeth. We don’t do dentures.

“We will begin to bring people in at that time and assign them a number,” Fiddler said. “Then they go back to their car and wait until their number is called. We begin seeing patients at 6:30 a.m. and continue until 4 p.m.

“I always tell people, ‘You are getting free treatment, but this is not cut-rate dentistry. It’s the best money can buy,’” he said.

“The city of Conway has been good to us,” Fiddler said, noting personnel from the police and fire departments are on hand, as well as medical personnel from Conway Regional Medical Center, the University of Central Arkansas, UAMS and Harding University.

“Hotels and other businesses welcome us,” he said. “The people in Conway want us here. I try to buy everything locally. It takes about $250,000 to run the clinic. We rent the medical equipment; that’s about $100,000. We offer snacks to the patients, and we feed our volunteers.”

Interpreters for Hispanic, Marshalles (Ebon) and hearingimpaired patients are offered.

Lea Ann Moore of Conway is a dental hygienist who has participated in all but one clinic since its inception. “I oversee the hygienists,” she said. “I’m still working. I am off on Fridays but usually take a half-day off on the Thursday before it begins on Friday, but I have a good boss and I don’t have to take vacation time.

“It’s super rewarding to be able to give back,” she said. “We’re hopeful people will volunteer. We’re looking for another great clinic.”

To volunteer or for more information, visit arkansasdentistry.org/armom.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 9
Conway Pediatric Dental Group staff members look forward to volunteering their expertise at ArMOM. Allison (from left), Dr. Stefanie Meek, Hannah and Kasey.

This month, we take a look back at a "Loving LIFE" photo from each of our 15 volumes (501 LIFE Magazine volumes begin each May and run through the following April.)

Want to be featured in our next 15 years? Pack a copy of 501 LIFE with you on your next trip, snap a photo at your destination and send it to us for publication in a future issue!

Photos can be submitted by email to stefanie@501lifemag.com.

VOLUME ONE: Elliot (from left) and Katie Kemp at Magic Kingdom on a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida in 2008. VOLUME FIVE: Shelly Cantrell of Conway (from left), Virginia Carden of Bigelow, Carla Robertson of Conway, Paula McElroy of Morrilton, Mona Crawford of Conway and Sandra Jones of Plumerville were “Loving LIFE” at the John Lennon Wall, a memorial in Prague. VOLUME TWO: Vilonia Middle School students were "Loving LIFE" in August 2009 on their trip to Washington, D.C. VOLUME SIX: Dirk and Beverly Sutterfield were “Loving LIFE” as they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in Hawaii. “Thanks to Joe, from the island of Fiji, who posed with us at the Polynesian Cultural Center,” wrote Bev in January 2014. VOLUME FOUR: Stuart Schichtl (from left), Cheryl Prince and Mickey Prince were “Loving LIFE” when they took the October 2011 501 LIFE under water in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. VOLUME THREE: Cory Garrett (from left), Ashton Greenfield, Hunter Greenfield and Melody Woodard were “Loving LIFE” on a Branson family vacation in October 2010.
April 2023 501lifemag.com | 11
VOLUME 7: Jascha (from left) and LeAnn Tribett along with Rebekkah and Corey Moline of Conway were “Loving LIFE” in New York City while holding the 501 Favorites Edition. VOLUME 10: Kimberly (from left) and Makayla Green, mother and daughter, were “Loving LIFE” with the 501 Bucket List Edition during a spring break trip to Paris in 2017 . “It was on my daughter’s bucket list, and this magazine seemed fitting for the occasion!” wrote Kimberly. VOLUME 13: Jordan Roberts (from left), Tyler King and Brady Trafford were “Loving LIFE” on their exploration of the Ark Encounter, which is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high. They were traveling with their grandparents, John and Paula Trafford from Morrilton. VOLUME 8: To kick off 2016, 501 LIFE contributors Callie and Jaison Sterling were shown “Loving LIFE” when they made a stop at the Golden Gate Bridge. VOLUME 9: Doug Isanhart (back), a faculty member at the University of Central Arkansas College of Business, was “Loving LIFE” on a trip to Saint-Louis, Senegal. “I serve as a volunteer for the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program administered via Winrock International in Little Rock,” Doug wrote in August 2016. VOLUME 11: In March 2019, Esther KershnerMitchell was “Loving LIFE” while visiting her son and granddaughters in Cairo, Egypt. “Here I am riding a camel and representing 501 LIFE Magazine in front of the Great Pyramid in Giza, Egypt,” she wrote. VOLUME 12 Representatives of the Conway Running Club were “Loving LIFE” in our June 2019 issue on a trip to Ireland, in front of the Cliffs of Moher. VOLUME 14: Tommy and daughter Kayle Browning were "Loving LIFE" before a parade in her honor in Greenbrier. She left for Tokyo in late July of 2020 and brought home the silver in Olympic trap shooting. VOLUME 15: Stewart Nelson and Carol Way Hefner of Morrilton were “Loving LIFE” on their honeymoon trip to Grand Teton National Park.


Just in time for the annual Toad Suck Daze festival in May, a new chorus of tiny toads has hopped into Conway.

On March 3, the Tiny Toads were unveiled. The 10 bronze toads were fashioned by creative artist Calvin Stinger of Beebe (White County) and will be installed this summer at historic sites in the downtown area. Each unique design corresponds with its new home.

The statues range from 5 by 9 inches to 12 by 8 inches. Stinger’s clever designs are sure to bring a smile to your face. Readers will recognize another of his incredible bronze creations as the “Whimsical Toad” who sits on a bench at Toad Suck Square at the corner of Oak and Front streets. It was installed in 2021 and is a popular site for souvenir photos.

Those interested in seeing the miniature characters should pick up a free, colorful guidebook at the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce. The toads will be installed at the following locations: the Grummer Massey Building, the Halter Building, the Frauenthal & Schwarz Building, the depot, the jail, Goad (Brothers) Café, Farmers State Bank, Smith Ford, East Side Community and the Drag Café.

The idea for the Tiny Toads came from James Walden and Kyle Kelly, who were part of Conway’s Planning & Development Department. The project was funded through the Department of Arkansas Heritage, Main Street Arkansas’s Historic Public Art Grant program, with the goal of encouraging an artistic Conway through the creation, acquisition and display of communitycentered art. This project was a collaboration between the City of Conway’s Public Art Board and the Conway Downtown Partnership. All organizations have issued a 100% guarantee that visitors won’t get warts!

12 | 501 LIFE April 2023
Photos by Kurt Jones


Public invited to county celebration beginning April 12

The citizens of Faulkner County will mark 150 years since the county was formed with a week of celebrations beginning April 12 and culminating with an open house at the Faulkner County Museum on April 15.

“We are excited to invite our fellow Faulkner County residents to join us in celebrating ‘FaulknerCounty150,’ our beloved County’s 150th anniversary,” said County Judge Allen Dodson. “From humble beginnings in 1873, Faulkner County has risen to truly become one of the best places in America to live. Join us for the anniversary events during the week of April 12, as we reflect, celebrate and resolve to continue Faulkner County’s remarkable progress!”

Faulkner County was formed from portions of Conway and Pulaski counties on April 12, 1873. Named after Colonel Sandy Faulkner, the composer of the famous fiddle tune, “The Arkansas Traveler,” Faulkner was the

69th county established in Arkansas. Shortly after it was formed, Conway Station, which would eventually become the City of Conway, was designated as the county seat. The property for the courthouse was donated by Colonel Asa P. Robison.

The celebratory occasion has been titled “FaulknerCounty150” and is being coordinated by Museum Executive Director Lynita Langley Ware. The museum, which is located in what was originally the Faulkner County Jailhouse and later the Faulkner County Library, was founded in 1992 and opened to the public in 1997. “When the building [currently the museum] was originally opened as the jailhouse, the jailor and his family lived on the ground floor and the prisoners were upstairs on the second floor," said Ware. The museum has been in operation in the building as a non-profit organization for more than 30 years and houses educational exhibits and artifacts detailing the history of the county.

14 | 501 LIFE April 2023
Continued on page 16

On April 12, Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry and Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson will read proclamations on the courthouse lawn commemorating the county’s formation. During the celebration, a time capsule will be buried on the grounds to be opened in the year 2173, 150 years later to the day. This event is open to the public, and Centennial bank will provide burgers.

On April 13, the Faulkner County Historical Society will host their annual meeting at the Public Library. The theme is the history of Toad Suck Ferry and will feature a panel discussion around the significance of the ferry. “It’s for people to share memories and stories about the ferry from when it was in operation back in the 1970s,” said Ware. The Historical Society will also award the Founders Scholarship at the event.

On April 14, the County Judge’s office will host a dedication ceremony for the ferry, which has been on display in Old Ferry Landing Park since 2020. “Prior to 1974 you could only cross the river near Toad Suck Park by ferry. Toad Suck would dry up seasonally, and it became difficult to navigate by boat,” Ware said.

Finally, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 15, the public and county organizations will gather for a

birthday celebration on the grounds of the Faulkner County Museum. “There will be live music, crafts, games for the kids, and of course, the museum will be open and the scale model railroad exhibit on the second floor will be running,” said Ware.

The event is free and open to the public. The Historical Society will host a “bean feed fundraiser” to benefit the Founders Scholarship. “They will have beans, cornbread and fixins available to purchase,” said Ware. The Greenbrier Arts Council and the Faulkner County Master Gardeners will be on hand with information and activities. Also, a new barn quilt will be added to the Faulkner County Quilt Trail.

The celebration will also include a time capsule that will be housed at the museum to be opened in 100 years. “We are collecting anything small that people think might interest the future citizens of Faulkner County. People are welcome to bring documents, memorabilia and other items of interest to the museum for consideration,” Ware said.

For more information about FaulknerCounty150, contact the Faulkner County Museum at 501.329.5918, by email at fcm@ conwaycorp.net, or visit 801 Locust Ave., Conway.

16 | 501 LIFE April 2023
City and county officials recently made a site visit to Toad Suck Ferry to discuss rebuilding the pilot house on the ferry and other refurbishment needs. Mark Ledbetter, Conway city councilman (from left); Allen Dodson, Faulkner County judge; Lynita LangleyWare, executive director of the Faulkner County Museum; Ree Walker, Chair of the Historical Society; and, Charles Loveless. Not pictured: Keller Johnson, Steve Wilson and Randy Higgins. Photo by Randy Higgins The Faulkner County Library, circa 1938. It was originally the county’s jail. The second courthouse, circa 1930. It was torn down after the current courthouse was completed in 1937.


Former participants dive in to save Tadpole Trot

Do tadpoles trot? They toadally do in Arkansas. The Tadpole Trot race, for children ages 3–10 years old, takes place every year during the Toad Suck Daze festival in Conway. Last year the trotting tadpoles almost made the endangered list when participation dropped to an all-time low, until one former tadpole trotter jumped into action.

This year Andrea Fournier, a Conway mom of three girls, hopped up to take charge of the event because it meant so much to her as a child.

“I’ve always loved this race because it helped welcome me to Conway. We moved here when I was six years old, in May. It was one of the first things I did,” Andrea said. “I didn’t know anybody. There were hundreds of kids out there, so I got to meet so many kids my age, and my mom met other parents. It was our first connection to Conway, and it welcomed us in a good way.”

Nostalgia isn’t the only reason Andrea jumped in to save the race. “I was able to win second place in my age division, and that gave me a real confidence boost.” That confidence jump-started an interest in athletics that eventually sent her to college on an athletic scholarship. The Tadpole Trot was the first athletic event of her young life, and Andrea wants kids today to have that same opportunity.

All three of Andrea’s daughters have participated in the event over the years. Bailey, 12, ran and won every year in her age division until she aged out. Harlee, 9, won her age division both years she ran. “Parker is my youngest. She’s 4. She ran last year and was just there for the fun,” she said.

Andrea’s goal is to revive interest in the Tadpole Trot, and to secure a future for it for generations. “My ultimate goal is to see that this event is around so I can watch my grandchildren run in it one day,” she said. “And I want that for other families.”

Knowing she was diving into the deep end, Andrea reached out for help. She first called on a friend from high school, Donna Scherrey, whose children go to St. Joseph School. She then recruited her former neighbor Laura

Harrell, whose children attend Conway Christian School. From there, another Conway Christian representative, Melody Dundee, jumped on board. Things really started hopping when Centennial Bank came on board as their financial sponsor. This provided the funding for packet materials, advertising, trophies for winners in each age division, and a Toad Suck T-shirt for every participant.

Andrea, a former P.E. teacher at Conway Public Schools, is uniquely positioned to connect with local P.E. teachers, making it easier to reach children and parents with information about the Tadpole Trot. With the biggest leap of their recruitment efforts still ahead of them, the Tadpole Trot has already signed 85 percent of last year’s participants, making their goal of 150 kids toadally reachable.

One of the biggest changes this year is moving the Tadpole Trot back to the John McConnell Stadium at Conway High School, and hosting it at 6 p.m. Friday, May 5. Each age and gender has its own division. For example, 3-year-old girls will race, then 3-year-old boys, followed by 4-year-olds and so on. The 3–6-year-olds run a 200-yard dash, which is half a lap around the track. The 7–10-year-olds run a 400-yard dash which is a full lap. “We want as many kids as possible to go home with trophies,” Andrea said. “The races go quickly, so we should be done somewhere around 6:45 p.m., and that leaves lots of time for the families to go into town and enjoy Toad Suck Daze.”

So, how fast can a tadpole trot? One won’t know how fast their tadpole can trot until their tadpole takes part in the Tadpole Trot.

Those aged 3-6 will run a half-track, 200-meter dash and those 7-10 years run the full track, 400-meter dash. For more information or if you have questions, contact Andrea at 479.264.5456. The QR code on the Toad Suck Daze Race advertisement on the following page will take you directly to the Event Registration Page.

ABOVE: Bailey (from left) and Harlee Fournier were proud of the trophies and ribbons they received at the 2018 Tadpole Trot. Both girls plan to participate again this year.


Four Conway women who participated in the annual Tadpole Trot when they were young are working to revive the race. Their children will participate again this year. Melody Dundee of Conway Christian School (from left), Andrea BaileyFournier of Conway Public Schools, Donna Scherrey of St. Joseph School and Laura Harrell of Conway Christian School.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 19

Faulkner County's Football Favorites

County Player of Year Nominees celebrated at Awards Ceremony

The Faulkner County Player of the Year Award ceremony took place on Feb. 10 at Herschel Hall in Greenbrier. This is the fourth season the award, sponsored by American Safeguard Insurance and First Security Bank, has been presented.

Former Arkansas Razorback and Washington Redskin

Jeff Goff was the keynote speaker for the ceremony and also announced the 2022 Player of the Year, Jamarion "Boogie" Carr of Conway.

Carr rushed for 1,157 yards and had over 1,400 yards of total offense as a senior. In his career, Boogie amassed over 3,600 yards of total offense and 32 touchdowns. He also received praise from Conway head coach Keith Fimple for his outlook, both on and off the field. “Boogie always has such a great attitude,” said Conway Head Coach Keith Fimple. “He never panics, he’s always encouraging, and he runs the last play just as hard as the first. For him, the sky is the limit. He will be the leader I know he can be.”

In addition to being named Faulkner County Player of the Year, Carr earned 7A All-State honors this season. Next year he plans on attending Ouachita Baptist University and continue playing football. “Being selected the Faulkner County Player of the Year was really big for me. There are so many talented individuals in this area that deserved this award as well, and I’m just thankful that I was the one chosen,” Carr said. “The person I thank the most for my success in football would be my mom. I started playing in sixth grade, and no matter what she had going on she made every single game and was the loudest and proudest in the stands. Without that support I don’t think I would’ve gotten this far, because when I was down I always knew I could look over and find motivation from her.”

The other nominees were:

Jayden Duncan - Mayflower High School

Jayden has played football for seven years. He is a linebacker for Mayflower High School. He will be attending and playing football at Lyon College. Jayden enjoys gaming, baseball, ping pong, pool and anything active.

Cooper Johnson - Conway Christian School

Cooper has played football for five years. He is a running back, wide receiver and linebacker for Conway Christian School. Cooper plans to attend college and become a pilot, and will hopefully continue to play football. He enjoys sports, hanging out with friends and playing video games.

Carter McElhany - Greenbrier High School

Carter has played football for eight years. He is a receiver, safety and returner for Greenbrier High School. Carter plans on playing football in college and studying business. He enjoys sports and hanging out with friends.

Jack Vines - Vilonia High School

Jack has played football for 12 years. He is a receiver and safety for Vilonia High School. Jack is attending the University of Arkansas and studying sports analytics. He enjoys sports and hunting.

Each of the five nominees received a plaque, and Carr received a championship belt as well as a customized pullover.

20 | 501 LIFE April 2023
TOP: Matt Wilcox of First Security Bank (from left) presents the Faulkner County Football Player of the Year championship belt to Jamarion “Boogie” Carr. CENTER: Player of Year nominees were honored by having their team football jerseys on display at the annual Awards Banquet. BOTTOM: Banquet emcee, Christina Munoz Madsen announced nominees while guest speaker and NFL legend Jeff Goff presented them with their trophy.

The good news of 501 LIFE would not be possible without the thousands of supporters who have shared their knowledge, their time and, most importantly, their stories with us since our first edition was published in May 2008.

We are beyond grateful to you all and hope you will join us on the following pages as we celebrate a story chosen from each volume in our 15 years of 501 LIFE.

22 | 501 LIFE April 2023
April 2023 501lifemag.com | 23


First cover story of 501 LIFE revisited and efforts of downtown revitalization continue

The premiere edition of 501 LIFE Magazine was welcomed by businesses throughout Central Arkansas in May 2008, but no one was more excited than Main Street Conway. The first cover featured a nighttime photo of Front Street with the headline “Revitalized! New energy, excitement in Downtown Conway.”

Inside, two articles and several pages of photos highlighted the passion that two Conway Downtown Partnership (CDP) leaders had for revitalizing the area that was once the center of commerce. But 15 years ago, then Board Chairman George Covington and Director T.J. Johnston were working tirelessly to entice businesses back downtown. Between 2001 and 2008, $1.75 million in public funds and about $40 million in private investments were secured, and the heart of the community was revived.

Current CDP Executive Director Kim Williams still embraces Covington’s belief that downtown is the heart of

the community. "It's about quality of place," Williams said. “A healthy downtown helps make a healthy city, and both of those things help quality of life in the area.”

CDP Board Chair Pete Tanguay agrees with Williams. "And when the heart is healthy, the body is healthy," he said.

CDP was formed in 2001 by a group of citizens from the business and civic community who were determined to keep downtown from heading in the wrong direction. The nonprofit is part of Main Street Arkansas and Main Street USA. One of the partnership’s first initiatives was to create a master plan for the city’s urban core, and in 2002, Conway 2015: A Vision for Success was formally adopted by the city. The plan detailed critical ingredients needed to bring about change and provide a mixed-use, 24/7 environment.

24 | 501 LIFE April 2023
DOWNTOWN LEADERSHIP, THEN AND NOW LEFT: Conway Downtown Partnership Board Chairman George Covington ( from left) and Executive Director T. J. Johnston stand at the corner of Oak and Chestnut streets in 2008. RIGHT: Current Conway Downtown Partnership Board Chairman Pete Tanguay and Executive Director Kim Williams at the same location. Photos by Mike Kemp

"The city has been using that as a blueprint since," Williams said. In the past 15 years, the amount of development downtown has almost quadrupled. Private investments have made a huge difference to downtown with old buildings being renovated for a second life. Williams also named sidewalk improvements, landscaping and period lighting as changes that enhance downtown locations.

"Each time they work on a street and make improvements, we see private investments pour in," she said. "We are close to $90 million in public and private investments.”

Williams is starting her 14th year as executive director of CDP. Her dedication to improving downtown has been recognized by her peers across the state. Williams was named Main Street's Executive Director of the Year for 2022 at the Arkansas Municipal League Winter Conference, a biannual event. "I am still reeling from that," she said.

A goal mentioned in the May 2008 article was a growing interest in apartments downtown. A multi-story apartment building has been built, and several loft apartments were developed. Additionally, new restaurants in the area keep people downtown in the evening and create a more vibrant atmosphere.

In 2022, public and private investment downtown amounted to more than $20 million. This year, the focus will continue on growing and raising awareness about assets, investments and experiences, Williams said.

• $14 million invested by the private sector, consisting of renovations, new construction and property acquisitions.

• $6 million invested by the public, including Martin Luther King Jr. Square and the completion of Court Street reconstruction.

• 16 new businesses that accounted for more than 150 new jobs downtown.

• 8 downtown revitalization grants helped generate more than $450,000 in investments.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 25
In 2022, the Conway Downtown Partnership made numerous contributions to the economic impact of downtown:
Continued on page 29

Spring has arrived in downtown Conway! There are numerous things to anticipate, including our yearly Spring into Downtown Open House on Saturday, April 1. New spring lines for home and décor, clothing and other items will be ready for you in our downtown shops. You'll go crazy for the new spring and summer menu items coming to our downtown eateries! We also look forward to the grand opening of Rogue Roundabout, our newest downtown restaurant and home to our first microbrewery!

Spring into Downtown Open House Weekend

Saturday, April 1 • 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Conway Art Walk

Friday, April 7 • 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Dueling Pianos Show live at Kings Live Music

Saturday, April 8 • 8:30 p.m.

Bell Urban Farm Spring Plant Sale

Sunday, April 16 • 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Toad Suck Daze Festival

May 5-7

26 | 501 LIFE April 2023
A message from Kim Williams Executive Director, Conway Downtown Partnership
April 2023 501lifemag.com | 27

The first cover of 501 LIFE Magazine featured downtown Conway and an article about efforts to revive the declining center of town. In the past 15 years, the heart of the community has been revived and is rich with opportunities to explore, make memories and try new things. The beautiful and cozy downtown offers specialty shops, apartment and loft living options, restaurants, murals and new parks, office spaces and evening entertainment options.

Top photo: A sign greets visitors to Historic Downtown Conway; Middle section, from left: The Kris Allen Stage at Simon Park; the Veterans Memorial on the grounds of the Faulkner County Courthouse; the 54-foot-tall Christmas Tree in Rogers Plaza marks the start of the Illuminate festival, which runs through Christmas; the 501 LIFE Magazine regional office on the corner of Locust Ave. and North St.

Tanguay and Williams said that other organizations working toward the same goal have been a tremendous benefit, including the City of Conway, Conway Corporation, Conway Visitors Bureau, Conway Development Corp and Conway Area Chamber of Commerce. "We have so much momentum aligned with these organizations. It would not be half as effective if we did not work together," Tanguay said.

The future is bright for downtown Conway, Williams said. She and Tanguay said the slogan "Your Place is Here” is more than words for them. It's a passion for helping residents and businesses find their place and succeed.

CDP and its sister organizations plan to address more parking and living options. The group also dreams of bringing the Grand Theatre to fruition and expanding public and private art installations. All of the different pieces will help make downtown Conway the best it can be. "It helps set the table," Williams said. "We can put one plate down but then add pieces that make the table even better. It's got to be the combination of everything," she said. For more information, visit downtownconway.org.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 29
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“Whimsical Toad” was unveiled in 2021 at the southeast corner of Oak and Front streets. The interactive sculpture created by artist Calvin Stinger was made possible through a $10,000 grant from Main Street Arkansas’s Public Art Grant in collaboration with the Conway Public Art Board and the Conway Downtown Partnership.


The second year of 501 LIFE became the headquarters to celebrate superstar Kris Allen

The April 2009 issue completed 501 LIFE’s first year of publication and it was also the first time Kris Allen’s name appeared in 501 LIFE, but it was far from the last time.

My journey with 501 LIFE started a few months after the magazine launched its first issue in May 2008. While I was mostly focused on sports at the start, one of my early contributions was getting coverage on the Kris Allen American Idol story before it really exploded.

In 2008, my wife, Brittany, and I were still newlyweds and had gotten plugged into New Life Church in Conway. Brittany and Kris were both on the worship team, so we had common connections.

One night in late 2008, we were eating dinner in Conway with another New Life couple, Abe and Sierra Smith, and in walks Kris with a few other people. One of them came over to our table to talk to Abe. He pointed over to Kris and said, “You see that guy over there. He’s going to Hollywood Week.”

Soon after, I pitched running a story on Kris for the April 2009 issue, which was themed on faith. While there would be many more features in the months to come, the first feature on Kris focused on the first aspect of him that I had first known – Kris the worship leader. I had never met him before Idol, but I knew about Kris the worship leader through my wife.

“My earliest memories of Kris were from Chi Alpha at UCA in 2006 and 2007, and a little later at New Life Church,” Brittany said. “The first thing that stood out was his talent. Often the best moments were with just him and his guitar.

“He would arrange songs I had known my whole life in ways I’d never heard, and then he would sing them with his whole heart in the most genuine way. He also had a posture that lingered in moments that others may have rushed through. I loved being in those moments where you could tell he had taken a lot of care in the way he paired songs and then sat in a moment for reflection.”

By the time the article ran in March 2009, Allen had made his way through Hollywood Week and survived the Top 36 semifinals to become a Top 13 finalist.

“I wasn’t surprised that he made it, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to go,” Brittany said. “I was a little protective even though I didn’t know him personally. I wanted to keep him for our community and our church. I expected him to bring his brilliance and his simple style, but I wasn’t sure how much of a say he would have in his performances or how produced it would be by American Idol. I was sure hoping the world would get to see what I had seen so far.”

I have the great privilege of doing play-by-play of Conway High sports broadcasts for Conway Corp. Now, this seems like a totally unrelated tangent, but I promise you, it’s not. It is connected, strangely, to Kris Allen.

I had someone recently ask me how I got connected to Jeff Matthews, which is ultimately how I have the Conway Corp play-by-play role now, and my answer was simple—I met Jeff through Kris Allen. Or, the Kris Allen watch parties, to be precise. After Kris became a Top 13 finalist, the watch parties really blew up, and that’s where the Jeff connection comes in.

The Conway community began to coalesce behind Kris, and a real organized local effort began to form in the Kris Allen Kick Awesome Task Force and planned watch parties were one of the concrete efforts that were birthed. The watch parties needed emcees, and who better to do that than local radio hosts that were helping lead the charge in awareness for Kris on their shows. Jeff Matthews, who at the time was a co-host of The Morning Rush with Jeff & Lisa on B98.5, was one of the official emcees.

“We would get calls at the start of each season of a reality show with listeners telling us that so and so from such and such was going to be on a particular show,” said Matthews, who now serves as Manager of Video Production & Local Programming at Conway Corp. “It usually never amounted to anything. Obviously, with Kris and American Idol, it did. At the watch parties, people would show up and kept showing up. It was absolutely an honor to play a part in those events. It was communal. That’s really what it was like. It was like the home team was playing for a state championship. Except this was an individual, who lived in downtown Conway on an international stage, and he was making us more and more proud each week. I was able to see that on those faces that attended the watch parties each week and it was a real thrill.”

30 | 501 LIFE April 2023
Continued on page 32

‘I have realized over the last couple years that being from Arkansas is not like being from most states. There is a pride that comes from being an Arkansan. We proudly root for the people from our state in achieving whatever it is that they want to achieve. If I had to separate myself from my situation, I would imagine that’s what the people of Central Arkansas feel when they look at my time on Idol in 2009 or what they feel when they come to a show. And that pride is felt.

I feel eternally grateful for this community and the support and love it has shown me.’

- Kris Allen, 2023

Week after week, the Conway community gathered to support and vote for Kris.

“The ‘Kris Allen Kick Awesome Task Force’ seemed to grow overnight, from a small handful who met at the 501 LIFE office to a large group of volunteers who represented different segments of the community,” said Sonja Keith, one of the founding owners of 501 LIFE who was pivotal in the organizational effort. “We were eager to give of our time and resources to achieve a common goal—help a talented young musician from Arkansas pursue his dream. The group’s enthusiasm spread, and fans showed their support in various ways, from buying Kris Allen T-shirts to attending public watch parties, which attracted a couple thousand attendees of all ages. It was incredible!”

“It was at level 10 out of 10 every single week,” Brittany said. “Because you felt like you had to be all the way in order to help him get there—like it depended on us. It was neat watching everyone come together. Everyone really wanted to support him and help him win. It was bananas, in a way. It’s obvious we didn’t have kids then because there’s no way we would’ve had the energy that those watch parties required.

“Of course, every single week watching Kris create magic on stage was so cool. I remember the feeling after each amazing performance. What he did with those songs, I don’t really think another contestant had ever done that before. Some of his arrangements are now my new favorite versions of those songs. He raised the bar.”

When Kris earned his way into the Top 3 and came back to Central Arkansas for Homecoming Week, the whole world got a glimpse into how much Arkansas loved and supported him. Over the years since his Idol win, Kris has found ways to give love back.

“I was lucky enough to emcee the Alchemy Songwriting Competition for Blackbird Academy of the Arts in Conway on a few occasions that Kris was instrumental in,” Matthews said. “It helped me see how much Kris understood the importance of using his influence for good—even after the world had moved on from 2009—he was able to still remember the people and places that were influential to him. What I love about Kris is that from my perspective, what you see is what you get. He’s genuine, and I think that shows.”

Kris, the 501 has your back. Then and always.

501 LIFE helped start the Kris Allen Kick Awesome Task Force, a group that organized six official watch parties held at UCA and New Life Church in Conway. “It is doubtful that anyone had any idea that the Task Force and watch parties would take on a life of its own when we started with just six people gathered around the conference table at the 501 office,” wrote Sonja Keith in the June 2009 501 LIFE. The Volume 2 issue featured this special four-page Kick Awesome pullout poster of Kris Allen.

32 | 501 LIFE April 2023



In 2010, our Couple of the Month was Amy and Donnie Reed, then of Conway. They had married in 1990 and were raising two daughters. They enjoyed working out and being involved in their community at Second Baptist Church. Since the article published, they completed bachelor’s degrees in 2015. Today, the girls are grown, and Amy and Donnie recently moved to the “forever home” they built in Bigelow.

Continued on page 36

34 | 501 LIFE April 2023
Photo by Mike Kemp


EDUCATION: A Bachelor of Science in organizational management from Central Baptist College (CBC)

JOB: Cintas.

COMMUNITY/CHURCH ACTIVITIES: Young Married Small Group co-leader, Deacon and member of Second Baptist Church.


HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF: Loyal and a great listener.

WHAT IS ONE THING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU: I was a pretty salty basketball player in high school.

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO: I tell our smallgroup guys, “Chase after God, chase after your wife, and everything will work itself out.”


EDUCATION: I hold a Bachelor of Science in leadership and ministry from CBC. JOB: CBC.

CHILDREN: Our daughter Hope is married to Caleb, and they have a son, Reed. They are expecting our granddaughter in July. Our daughter Faith is engaged and will marry this month.

COMMUNITY/CHURCH ACTIVITIES: Lions Club member and a board member, 501 LIFE Magazine Editorial Board, Young Married Small Group co-leader and member of Second Baptist Church.

HOBBIES/SPECIAL INTERESTS: I love to read when I get a chance. I thought when the girls were gone, Donnie and I would have a ton of time for hobbies. I think we are busier than ever.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF: A people person. I get my energy from being around people and listening to their stories. I’m also a HUGE HUGGER!

WHAT IS ONE THING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU: I didn’t receive my bachelor’s degree until I was 49 years old. You are never too old to learn.

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO: I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget the way you made them feel. I want to be remembered as a person who loved well.


We married on June 22, 1990, at Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Smith. This coming June, we will celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary. In 1990, we committed to God and to each other that we would fight for our marriage and wouldn’t give up on one another. Has it been hard? Yes. Has it been worth it? Absolutely! I once heard that a “perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.” That is so true. We LOVE each other, and we also LIKE each other. I think that’s important. Donnie is my favorite person on the planet. There is no one else I’d rather be with.

In the last 15 years, a lot has changed. We both graduated with our bachelor’s degrees through the PACE program at CBC in 2015. Our girls graduated from Conway High (2012 and 2013) and went on to graduate from college. I changed jobs and now work as the Director of Development at CBC. Hope married Caleb in 2016. They had our first grandson, Reed, in August of 2021. They are expecting our first granddaughter in July of this year. Our daughter Faith will marry William Young this month. We bought 5 acres and just built our forever home in Bigelow and recently moved in. Lots of changes, but lots of blessings as well.

36 | 501 LIFE April 2023
Caleb Carter (from left), Hope and Reed Carter, Amy Reed, Donnie Reed and Faith Reed. The fur baby is Bucket. Autumn Dixon Thurman photo.


Faulkner County’s most experienced, full-service glass company is pleased to announce the completion of their all-new showroom in Conway. Owners Greg and Cheryl Jumper invite customers to stop by and see it for themselves at 1099 Fendley Drive. “Our new, state-of-the-art showroom is a bigger and better showroom than any you will see in Arkansas,” Greg said.

One of the last “Mom-and-Pop"-style glass companies in the 501, the proud team at Custom Glass brings more than 135 years of combined experience to their projects. They provide professional and personalized service on automotive, residential and commercial glass and specialize in custom mirrors and shower enclosures. The company’s mirrors are laser-measured, custom-cut, and finished with a pencil-polished edge. They offer expert auto glass installation, with in-house ADAS camera recalibration.

Greg started in the glass business in 1997 and founded Custom Glass of Conway in 2000. Cheryl grew up in the glass business thanks to her father Farrell Williams. He owned Williams Glass and Mirror for three decades in Downtown Conway.

Cheryl was pursuing a career in teaching when her father passed in 2014. Greg reached out to her to join his company and share her expertise in the glass business with his customers. Cheryl never dreamed of getting back into the glass business after her father died, but Greg’s persistence paid off. Not only would Cheryl join Custom Glass of Conway, but she would also one day become his wife — a decision Cheryl is very happy she made.

“I’m just so proud of him,” Cheryl said. “I’ve watched him grow this business from five to 14 employees. Over the past 23 years, he has built a successful and respected business. He builds new products for customers and is a very hard worker.”

The Jumpers want their customers to know they are lifetime residents of Central Arkansas. They are strong in their Christian faith and believe in putting family first. The couple has six children, ranging from toddler to college-age, and one granddaughter.

Cheryl said her husband has the biggest heart of any man she has ever known and is always pushing to succeed, growing his company and adding services and products his customers will enjoy. There are many customers who choose Custom Glass for their glass needs, and Greg is there for them no matter what time of day it is. “He gets up early, and he works late,” Cheryl said. She also loves how her husband loves her family and honors her glass-business background. “He shows love for my father and helps keep his memory strong,” Cheryl said.

The Jumpers invite you to learn more about their company at customglass501.com and find out for yourself why Custom Glass of Conway has a 4.9 star rating from dozens of online customer reviews. Greg is ready to help you with all your custom glass needs!



501 LIFE Magazine shined a light on Jacqueline Bettis in 2012 because of her bravery and determination to fight for those with disabilities. More than a decade later, we discovered, despite great obstacles, Jacqueline continues to be an advocate for others.

38 | 501 LIFE April 2023
Photo by Anthony Reyes

To go along with her many accomplishments, Jacqueline Bettis of Little Rock continues to face down obstacles, as she’s done all of her life.

Bettis has cerebral palsy, a neurological condition in which oxygen is cut off from the brain before, during or after birth, resulting in a stroke, and is a spastic quadriplegic. She has limited use of her arms and legs and uses a wheelchair.

Now 37, she is a 2008 graduate of the University of Central Arkansas with a degree in psychology and was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Arkansas in 2009. She graduated with a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling from the University of Arkansas in 2019.

“Life isn’t always easy, but you’ve got to roll with the punches,” she told an old friend for a 2012 501 LIFE article. “When we fight for justice, we face challenges. Challenges lead to perseverance, and perseverance brings forth change.”

Having served governor’s appointments to the Arkansas Independent Living Council and the Arkansas State Rehabilitation Council, in March she personally delivered letters to the governor’s office with hopes of affecting future disability and Medicaid reform.

But she’s been through a lot over the last few years.

Her father, Victor Bettis, died of dementia and ALS in 2020. She moved back to Little Rock from Northwest Arkansas the following year and had a recurrence of cancer after five years of remission.

“Doctors prepared me and my family for the fact that I was not going to survive the surgery, but I survived,” she said.

There have also been some recent highs. Her emotional support animal, Lucky, a Chihuahua-terrier mix, placed fourth in her group in America’s Favorite Pet Competition and landed a spot in the Praise My Pet 2023 calendar. Bettis’ artwork was featured in Art & Soul, a fundraiser for Easter Seals Arkansas. She has also been hired as a substitute teacher.

Her platform for the Ms. Wheelchair Arkansas contest was “I am ABLE to Abide By Life’s Endeavors.”

“We all face life’s challenges,” she said in 2012. “Some are the same and some are different. Life isn’t about the challenges we face, it’s how we choose to face life challenges that truly marks an imprint on who we are as people and truly makes a difference in the lives of others.”

During her reign, she appeared in a national documentary film, “Defining Beauty,” and spoke in nursing homes, elementary schools, churches and on college campuses to advocate for equality, justice and unity for everyone, including people with disabilities.

At 10, she sang at Carnegie Hall in New York City with the Rockefeller Elementary show choir as part of the National Children’s Choir. She graduated from Little Rock Hall High School.

She enjoys going to the theater and concerts, watching movies and comedy, reading, drinking coffee, eating Mexican food, shopping, bowling, playing bingo and spending time with her family, friends and dog.

“I spend time with people I love, and I write and paint and continue to advocate and help people as much as my heart can stand it,” she said.


Need to knock out some hours before fall semester? Summer sessions are a great way to focus on a few classes – so you can finish on time (or early!). Financial aid and housing are also available.

Registration is open now, so plan your schedule today.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 39

EASTER always eager for

A decade since his first 501 LIFE article about the holiday, Don Bingham still loves the thrill of Easter Celebration

Photos by Makenzie Evans

40 | 501 LIFE April 2023

Easter has always been a perfect time to celebrate! Growing up, celebrations included Easter Sunrise Service with its beautiful Easter music, like the Easter portions of Handel's Messiah, followed by Sunday lunch and then, finally, the Easter egg hunt!

The centerpiece of the Easter Week will be the focus on the church services and personal quieter moments around the Biblical account of the Easter story, and the meaningful times of reflection of the cross, all culminating in "He Is Risen–He is Risen, indeed."

Just like I wrote in 2013, the centerpiece of our family lunch table will be THE HAM! And it's still almost law to have Coconut Cake on the menu. The adult children and their families will bring all the sides! This year's ham has been simplified, and the results are just as spectacular and cost-effective for a crowd as it was in years past.

The Easter Feast for us always includes a magnificent coconut cake. I get the honor of cooking the coconut cake. One must be seated, and in reverence and respect for all things sweet, decadent and rich, to enjoy this Easter monument.

May we encourage you all to attend several services of your choice during this intensely, beautiful week. All services lead toward the triumphant hope we have in Christ's resurrection, ascension and promise of return.

Schedule that family gathering around the time-honored dishes of Easter: stuffed eggs, salads, carrots, and HAM! And as Charles Wesley wrote in the 1739 hymn “Christ the Lord Has Risen Today”:

Raise your songs and triumphs high. Alleluia!

Sing ye heavens and earth reply, Alleluia!

Recipes continued on page 43

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 41
‘Exactly 10 years ago, I was delighted to write my very first column about the Easter traditions I share with my family. A decade later, we still celebrate many of the same traditions, and even introduced a few new ones!’
Don's Coconut Cake with Katherine's Icing as featured in the March 2013 issue. Photo by Mike Kemp

‘When I think of Easter growing up, it consisted of a sunrise service at our church, with breakfast to follow, the church service with its beautiful music and then home for a wonderful feast for lunch! And, oh yes, it was of utmost importance that we all were dressed in our finest for Easter Sunday. I have no doubt that I could go directly to our garage and find photo after photo of each of us decked out in our white sports coat and pink carnation. In those days, it would have been rude to be minus a boutonniere for the men and a corsage for the ladies on Easter.’

- Excerpt from Don's 2013 Article

Easter Celebration Ham

1 10-12 pound smoked and spiral-cut ham

1 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup of regular yellow mustard

Mix the brown sugar and mustard together and set aside. Place thawed ham on a foil-lined baking sheet and cook in a 325 oven for about two hours. After baking for 1 1/2 hours, remove from the oven and spread with the mixture of brown sugar and mustard to form a glaze over the outside of the whole ham. Return to the oven for an additional half-hour, completing the total cooking time of two hours. Garnish ham platter with fresh orange slices, grapes and parsley.

Coconut Cake

4 cups all-purpose flour • 4 cups granulated sugar

2 cups sweet milk • 1 1/2 cups corn oil

2 tsp. vanilla • 4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt • 6 eggs

Shredded coconut for topping

Mix ingredients together and pour into 3-4 prepared 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until lightly golden and done in the center.

After the layers have cooled, ice each one with Kathryn’s Icing (recipe below). Sprinkle coconut between layers along with icing as you stack them, then ice the stacked layers and top all over with sprinkled coconut. Variation: Fruit filling or coconut juice may be added between layers.

Kathryn’s Icing:

1 cup granulated sugar • 1/3 cup water

1 cup marshmallow cream • 3 egg whites

Boil sugar and water until strings form. Add about 1 cup marshmallow cream and dissolve. Beat egg whites until stiff, then gradually combine both mixtures. Beat until stiff.


1 pound asparagus

Cut off the tough ends of the stalks. Peel the stalks 3/4 way from end of stalk to just under the tip. (Save peel and ends for soup.) Bring a large frying pan of water to boil. Add a handful of asparagus and cook 3 to 7 minutes until desired doneness — a little crunchy. As each quantity is done, run cold water over to stop the cooking. Serve cold, in vinaigrette, or reheat by tossing quickly in melted butter in a skillet. Serves 4.

Company Carrots

1/4 cup margarine • 1 small onion, minced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour • 1/4 tsp. white pepper

1 tsp. seasoned salt • 2 cups milk

4 cups cooked carrots, drained

6 slices American cheese

Cook onion in margarine until soft. Stir in flour, mix, add salt and pepper. Stir in milk, bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes until thick. In a 2-quart casserole, layer carrots and 3 slices of cheese; repeat; pour sauce over all. Top with buttered bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Serves 4-6.

Don Bingham

Recognized throughout the state as an accomplished chef, he has authored cookbooks, presented television programs and planned elaborate events. He was the administrator of the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion for a decade and his wife, Nancy, was the First Lady’s Assistant. They have five children and 12 grandchildren.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 43

In June 2013, 501 LIFE highlighted family-owned businesses that led the way in Central Arkansas. From auto dealerships to banks, furniture sales to pharmacies, their names alone had earned trust throughout the 501.

For our look back at Volume 6, we revisit two of those businesses, Freyaldenhoven Heating & Cooling and First Service Bank, for an update on how they remain committed to the same principles that were promoted in decades past and, still today, keep 501 on the move. Continued

44 | 501 LIFE April 2023
page 46

family continues to be Central Arkansas CHAMPIONS OF COMFORT

The June 2013 cover featured the young owners of Freyaldenhoven Heating and Cooling. That summer edition highlighted several businesses throughout the 501, from auto dealerships to banks, that had one thing in common — they were family owned and operated.

Ten years later, cousins John and Scott Freyaldenhoven continue to carry on the family tradition of a strong work ethic and “doing the right thing,” just as their late fathers — Buck and Bob — did when they went into business. The brothers began working together in 1970 as a small business in Bob’s garage. Two years later, the business moved into its first building on Siebenmorgen Road, and Freyaldenhoven Heating and Cooling was born.

Because of growth, the business moved to a larger facility on Front Street in 1989 in downtown Conway, and 10 years later, the founders proudly transferred ownership and day-to-day operations to their sons, John and Scott.

In the article that was published a decade ago, John and Scott pointed out the benefits of being in business with family members. “The key is our heritage and work ethic from our fathers and grandfathers,” Scott said, adding that he and John have trust in one another’s abilities. “Our basic goal is to do the right thing and take care of our customers.”

During a recent interview, he echoed that sentiment.

“I believe it comes down to our motto of ‘quality is our specialty’ and ‘do the right thing.’ If you start and end your day with the concept of doing the right thing in everything

you do, an inevitable by-product will be trust.”

John agreed. “We learned these core values from our fathers, and it continues to be a cornerstone in the foundation of Freyaldenhoven and who we are,” he said. The trust that Freyaldenhoven has built has resulted in expansion from Faulkner County to now servicing all of Central Arkansas.

As the business continues to grow, Scott and John have goals for their staff. “We plan to maintain our growth in leadership and continue to be the leader in the technologies of our industry and have an established training program for inexperienced individuals wanting to start a career in our industry or just improve their skill set,” Scott said.

“Being able to provide people the tools and training to be successful in a career in the HVAC industry helps everyone — the individual, the company and our customers,” John added. “We value our community and neighbors and are thankful they choose us to trust with their comfort needs in homes and businesses.”

That trust is evident when you look at the wall of awards Freyaldenhoven Heating and Cooling has received over the years. They have 10 awards from publications that were voted on by readers and have received 12 awards from Trane.

“People should know our family business has never been driven to be the biggest,” Scott said. “We just want to be the best, and taking care of our customers is the most important part of that.”

46 | 501 LIFE April 2023

First Service family builds their legacy on a FOUNDATION OF SERVICE

As we celebrate Volume 6 of 501 LIFE, we look back to June 2013 when First Service Bank had recently celebrated 50 years in business.

To mark their golden anniversary, they published a book titled "Franklin Cents" and distributed it by hand to 3,000 first-graders. In addition, staff members volunteered personal time to read the book in classrooms across the region. The fully illustrated book was the story of a boy working hard, saving money and learning financial lessons.

In the past decade, President and CEO Tom Grumbles decided a significant focus of First Service Bank (FSB) would be patriotism and supporting the needs of as many veterans in Central Arkansas as possible.

"We're more than the bank with a big American flag. It's part of who we are and what we stand for," said Jon Patrom, vice president of marketing. "Our owner and employees believe that we live in the greatest country in the history of the world. We believe in our military and want to help them."

In 2020, the bank founded the Operation Red, White, and Brave (ORWB) Foundation. The bank recognizes veterans' sacrifices and is working to give back to those who have proudly served.

The ORWB Foundation raises money through donations and fundraising events. They learn about veterans' needs through a simple online application with only eight questions. After verifying the need and if funds are available, they purchase needed supplies, and bank employees like to volunteer and help make requests a reality. The form can be accessed at firstservicebank.com/orwb.

The bank has committed to matching all donations to the foundation dollar for dollar.

"If you know of veterans, military personnel or their families who have a need or if they have a special wish, please send them to us. We would love the opportunity to help them," said Foundation Board Chairwoman Rebecca Barnard.

"It is an honor to help the men and women who have served our country to protect the freedoms we hold so dear."

In its first year, ORWB raised $80,000 and worked with Habitat for Humanity to build a house for a veteran in Little Rock. Since then, ORWB has expanded its mission to provide help to more veterans. For example, bank employees recently built a wheelchair ramp for a veteran fighting cancer. Additionally, they have installed several flag poles at homes. Last year, ORWB also made a $1,600 donation to South Side Bee Branch High School to allow students and volunteers to place more wreaths on veterans' graves in Van Buren and Faulkner counties.

"We will work to fulfill as many requests as we can," Barnard said.

The Foundation will host a special gala on June 15 at Herschel Hall in Greenbrier. They are seeking sponsors, and the public can purchase tickets and attend. Additionally, a golf tournament will be held on Sept. 11 at the Maumelle Country Club. Donations can be made at any FSB branch.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 47
ABOVE: First Service Bank staff, including Rebecca Grumbles Barnard, chair of the ORWB Foundation (center) works to build a ramp for a veteran outside his home. BELOW: First Service Bank staff members are proud of the completed ramp. The Operation Red, White, & Brave Foundation has received several requests to place a flag pole and American flag in front of veterans' homes.

On April 27, 2014, a deadly tornado struck Central Arkansas. The June edition of 501 LIFE included first-hand accounts of the destruction of our cities and the determination of our communities to rebuild. To commemorate this once-in-a-generation storm, Tammy Keith visits with citizens from the city of Vilonia to share their triumph over tragedy.

48 | 501 LIFE April 2023
This image of tornado damage in Vilonia was taken by freelance photographer Angie Davis, who labeled the photo “This is Hope, We Will Rebuild." Davis shared her account of the tornado in the June 2014 edition.


Business, Government and Community Leaders ensured success after storm

Someone driving through Vilonia will see an active small town with new homes and thriving businesses, manicured ballfields and well-kept schools. What they don’t know is how much residents had to lose to get there.

Vilonia still had scars from a deadly 2011 tornado when an even-stronger storm ripped through the city on April 27, 2014, and killed eight residents. The twister that hit Vilonia that Sunday evening also destroyed the district’s $13 million intermediate school that was three months away from opening; leveled homes, blowing memories miles away, and decimated the heart of Vilonia’s downtown, knocking out 70-80 percent of businesses, said then-Mayor James Firestone, who is now a City Council member.

“Almost all our businesses are gone. How do you recover from that?” he asked at the time, as he surveyed the surreal scene.

Today, he knows the answer.

“We dug in, packed up, picked up, pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps,” Firestone said. Not that they didn’t need and want help.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, Army National Guard, Vilonia Disaster Relief Alliance, fire, law enforcement, churches, and multiple organizations aided Vilonia. “FEMA made low-interest loans. The cleanup was a big deal,” Firestone said.

Rebuilding didn’t happen overnight, though.

“For several years, we were stagnant, no growth to speak of. We were hurting and still cleaning up. By 2018, we were starting to come back,” Firestone said.

Harps grocery store rebuilt where a strip mall was destroyed; Vilonia United Methodist Church was torn down and rebuilt; ballfields were repaired with FEMA

money; sidewalks and lights were installed downtown. “It was neighbors helping neighbors. When we went out and did the survey of damage, people were on their own cleaning, helping each other,” he said. There were 167 structures declared a “total loss.”

Kieth McCord, owner of Kieth’s Texaco, barely stopped to take a breath after the tornado that gutted his business. The next day, he put portable garages on the remaining slab and provided oil changes and fixed flats for residents and first responders who had driven over nails among the debris.

“We needed him, and Kieth came to the rescue,” Firestone said. “People like that just dug in and said, ‘We’re not going to give up; we think we’re going to make it.’”

McCord said it took two years to build his business back, but it’s “bigger and better.” With the tornado came opportunity, too. “We have new things and new buildings and a clean slate to build from. Being a small town, for sure people get together when it’s time. When things get bad, people help each other. People would help clean up, or bring water. It’s just one more obstacle in life. You just jump over it and keep on trucking.”

Tommy Bates, who owns Vilonia Therapy Services, lost the home his family was renting, his truck and their new business. Theirs was one of 55 of 56 homes in Parkwood Meadows that was destroyed. At the time, Bates said he felt lucky, because two of his neighbors lost their lives, including 31-year-old Master Sgt. Daniel Wassom II. His widow donated their lot to the city to create a park, and it’s dedicated to Wassom and the other seven victims: Jamye Collins, 50; Jeffrey Hunter, 22; Dennis Lavergne, 52; Glenna Lavergne, 53; David Mallory, 57; Cameron Smith,

Bates and his wife, Susan, rebuilt their business at its original location on Main Street, and it is thriving, he said.

8; and Tyler Smith, 7. Tammy Keith, who was a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette zoned editions, interviews then-Vilonia mayor and current city councilman James Firestone as they stand in the decimated Parkwood Meadows subdivision after the deadly April 2014 tornado.
Continued on page 53
Photo by Eilish Palmer.

In her 2014 article, Donna Lampkin Stephens discussed the readiness of Conway Regional Health System to serve those injured. Pick-ups and SUVs as well as ambulances and helicopters, brought in scores of injured people during the Sunday overnight hours, said Lori Ross, chief development officer and corporate director of marketing/foundation for the Conway Regional Health System. “We saw about 100 people in about four hours that night,” Ross explained. Conway Regional passed the grueling test with flying colors. Days after this initial chaos, comfort dogs were brought in for the ER staff’s needs.

A tornado that ripped through Vilonia destroyed the $13 million Vilonia intermediate school that was nearing completion. Nabholz Construction rebuilt it from the slab up, and it opened a year later as Frank Mitchell Intermediate School. A safe room has since been built on the campus, too. Photo by Mike Kemp

“Where we are today is proof of God’s faith, and we’re very grateful for the support of the community,” he said. Bates said the hard-hit neighborhoods stayed bare and school enrollment sagged for a time, but he saw the pieces start to fall in place about 2 ½ years ago. “I still hope and believe the best is yet to come,” he said.

Cathy Riggins, assistant superintendent for the school district, remembers finding out the intermediate school under construction had been hit.

“I think the first thing I was so grateful for was that it wasn’t a school day that students were in attendance,” she said. “I didn’t know the magnitude till I was able to go to the site. My heart just sank. I’d never seen anything like that in my lifetime.”

Nothing could be salvaged, so construction started over. Riggins said that allowed contractors to improve the design, and FEMA provided a $1 million grant for a safe room on the campus.

“One of the things that changed since that last tornado, … we can probably get all our students in our district and ABC (Arkansas Better Chance Preschool) students in a safe room within 15 minutes. We have a plan in place,” she said. “We’ve learned not to live in a culture of fear but to be aware and prepare ahead of time.”

Andy Pennington, principal of the 665-student Frank Mitchell Intermediate School, said it’s more than a building.

“I think if anything, the school is just a symbol of the community’s resilience and unwillingness to stop everything for something that is out of our control. We’re not going to let a tornado stop us. The school in essence is showing, ‘You can knock us down, but we’re still going to be here and we’re going to come back.’”

Riggins said Vilonia is “coming back,” and she gave credit

to Vilonia Mayor Preston Scroggin for seeking grants to beautify downtown.

Scroggin, who is in his fifth year as mayor, also had his life uprooted by the tornado. “Our entire farming operation got destroyed — 128 head of cattle, all our equipment, 13 barns,” he said. His home was gone, too. “It was leveled, taken to the slab.” He built back in the same spot. “I look at my personal life and the town of Vilonia — it’s been an amazing rebound. God’s hand’s been upon us all. Our farm is back bigger and better than before,” Scroggin said.

He praised Firestone, the City Council at the time and the city employees.

“We just have an amazing group of business leaders, an amazing group of residents and an amazing staff, and they just weren’t going to let a tornado whip them. [The city] is cleaned up now, and you can’t really tell. Time heals all wounds,” he said. “I’m really proud of where our little town is.”

The population of Vilonia is estimated at 4,450, according to Metroplan Interim Director Casey Covington. “It’s one of the fastest-growing cities since 2020,” he said. Scroggin said Vilonia has room for more — 200 subdivision lots are coming online next year.

Firestone said Vilonia residents are loyal. “That’s what really impressed me most. People have roots here. We built a storm shelter; I’m not moving. We’ve had two tornadoes; unfortunately, they were three years apart. … There are things we have to deal with because of Mother Nature. I’ve had people say, ‘Well, I’d move.” I say, ‘Why?’ To me, it’s the place, the people — that says it all. We care about our neighbors; we care about our people; we care about our city. That’s what makes Vilonia a special place.”

And you can’t keep a good town down.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 53 Conway Regional Health System is a proud partner of 501 Life! Congratulations on 15 years!


Eight years after announcement of UACCM Workforce Training Center, facility named after advocate Dr. Larry Davis

Participating in the ribbon-cutting at the new Workforce Training Center on April 26, 2018: UACCM Board of Visitors member Joe Canady, Morrilton Mayor Allen Lipsmeyer, Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce Chair Shawn Halbrook, UACCM Foundation Board Chair Scott McKennon, UACCM Chancellor Dr. Larry Davis, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, University of Arkansas System President Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, UACCM Board of Visitors Chair Doug Brandon, Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerry Smith, Sen. Jane English, Conway County Economic Development Corporation Board Chair Rich Moellers, Conway County Judge Jimmy Hart and former UACCM Board of Visitors Chair Raye Pearce. (Austin DuVall photo courtesy of UACCM)

54 | 501 LIFE April 2023
Campaign committee members and major gift contributors gathered along with members of the UACCM Foundation Board and UACCM Board of Visitors for a dedication of the Workforce Training Center property in 2015. Carlene and Dr. Larry Davis, who will soon be named Chancellor Emeritus of UACCM. Dylan Watters graduated from UACCM in 2018 with an associates degree in industrial maintenance. Welding is a popular certification offered at the Workforce Training Center. By Stefanie Brazile

As we look back to August 2015, the 501 remembers an announcement from Conway County that was a game changer for those seeking certification in fields such as heating/air conditioning repair, welding, diesel driving or mechanics.

From the outset, University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton Chancellor Dr. Larry Davis championed the cause and broadcast the need for vocational-technical training. In 2015, the magazine announced that fundraising had begun for the Workforce Training Center. Only three years later, tours began at the 54,000-square-foot facility, which stands on 17.5 acres.

Also in 2018, Davis wrote a column for 501 LIFE about attitudes he had encountered about vocational-technical education being a “less than” option for students. The former college math professor and experienced chancellor wrote, “Parents will remark that they want nothing ‘less than’ a college education for their high-school age kids, while not considering that college technical programs fall into that category. The retirement of baby boomers is creating, and will continue to create, an unprecedented demand for skilled workers. Most people going to college want a return on their investment and the ability to get a job when they graduate, and college technical programs provide both.”

In the article, Davis got personal. He shared that his father was an auto mechanic in Oklahoma who made a good living for his family and eventually owned his business. Further, his wife’s father was a supervisor/ lineman for an electrical cooperative in Arkansas and was highly respected and sought after in his field.

Davis also traced the history of UACCM. “We have gone through multiple changes as an institution,” he said. “We were one of the first vocational-technical schools in Arkansas, transitioned to a technical college, then a college, then joined the UA system of colleges. Trying to find a balance between technical programs and collegetransfer programs has been challenging at times.”

In spring 2018, the college opened the Workforce Training Center, which was made possible by combining an EDA grant with a bond issue, along with almost $3 million in private funds donated by individuals, businesses and industry. Fast forward to 2023, and the center has hit its stride. The facility houses classrooms, lab space in four high-demand, high-wage programs (Auto Service Technology, Welding, HVAC, and Industrial Maintenance and Mechanics Technology), a conference

room, and Tyson Training Hall. Tyson Training Hall is an open-floor, 5,000-square-foot space with a 16-foot overhead door for easy access to bring in large equipment for training purposes. The center is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver-rated building.

A few other features of the training center are:

• 54 welding booths located both indoors and outdoors to mimic actual working conditions

• 11 auto lifts with center room for additional vehicles

• HVAC outdoor garden area housing approximately 30 units donated by industry partners

• Three industrial mechanics and maintenance labs for classroom and hands-on learning to take place simultaneously

• Facilities are accessible to businesses/industry for training purposes outside of UACCM offerings

Lisa Willenberg took the helm as chancellor when Davis retired in 2019. In February, UACCM announced that they will officially name the facility the Dr. Larry D. Davis Workforce Training Center to honor Davis, who served as UACCM’s chancellor from September 2010 to January 2019.

“The Dr. Larry D. Davis Workforce Training Center recognizes Davis’ personal vision and foresight for the construction of the [facility], benefitting not only UACCM students, but the entire state of Arkansas,” a press release issued by the college said.

The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees approved the recognition for Davis during its Jan. 25-26 meeting. “Anyone who has visited that facility [knows] it’s a huge asset for the campus, the area and the state,” said Morril Harriman, vice chairman of the board.

Willenberg said the naming was an appropriate choice to honor the legacy of Davis due to his noteworthy contributions and the progress the college has enjoyed because of the facility. “Dr. Davis was instrumental in bringing the building to fruition, and it has become a model for workforce training,” Willenberg said. “We get so much use out of that facility.”

This spring, the college will host a dedication ceremony to recognize the new facility name and to bestow the title Chancellor Emeritus on Davis.

WWW.UACCM.EDU | 501-977-2000 Get an affordable, quality education close to home § General education credits for seamless transfer to a university § Hands-on training leading to high-demand, high-wage jobs Underground Directional Drilling FORWARD THINKING
Photo by Mike Kemp Joshua Trantina loves to hunt ducks and has a new friend to help. Gup is an 18-month-old black lab who hunted for the first time this year.



2016 Kid of the Month now a junior in high school

In December 2016, 501 LIFE readers were introduced to Joshua Trantina, an 11-year-old fifth grader at St. Joseph School. The bright lad was described as a “gentle giant, a rough, tough boy who loves sports, hunting, fishing and farming. At the same time, he is a godly young man with a servant’s heart and compassion for others.”

Six years later, the middle schooler grinning out from that issue’s pages has developed into a young man of 17 who just this year transferred from St. Joseph’s to Bigelow, a change that felt like a homecoming.

“For me, the change of schools wasn’t as tough because I already had an established friend group in Bigelow. I grew up playing [youth] sports over there before I started playing for St. Joe,” he said.

It’s been a year of highlights for Trantina, not the least of which was being a member of the school’s 2023 Class 2A state title-winning basketball team.

“I’ve been playing basketball my whole life, since second grade,” he said. “I sat out my tenth-grade year and then I transferred schools and joined back and played again. I usually sit the bench most of the game, being honest. But when I do get in, I’m usually a post player.

“This was my first experience at the state tournament. When we got to the championship, to me and to all the other kids on the team, it really just felt like it was another game. We went out there and kind of just canceled out the noise in the crowd and just played like we usually do and didn’t worry about the atmosphere around us.”

For all of the changes Trantina has experienced of late, there are that many more things that have remained exactly the same. He’s still deeply invested in the family farm operations and beams with pride over their being named 2018 Perry County Farm Family of the Year. He credits farming for the lessons that will serve him for the rest of his life.

Continued on page 58

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 57

“First of all, farming teaches you to pay attention; you always keep your head in the game,” he said. “And as far as getting it done, like, if you aren’t working to get it done, you’re not making your money.

“For us as hay farmers, or when I help my cousins with row crops, if we’re not planting or we’re not cutting, we’re just behind on making money.”

Trantina is also an avid outdoorsman, another passion that has survived since his youth. His ingrained love for hunting and fishing with his family and friends has led him into competitive trap shooting, an activity he enjoys and is pretty good at. But he’s also quick to point busting clays pales when compared to the real thing.

“The best I’ve ever shot was in practice and that was a 49 out of 50,” he said. “In a tournament, I placed fifth overall at an FFA shoot once. Other than that, just about every time the big tournament comes around, it’s time for us to go turkey hunting in Kansas so I always miss it.”

The most important thing that has endured throughout his growing up has been his commitment to his faith and the love of his family. When asked who has served as his greatest role model, Trantina doesn’t even hesitate.

“My biggest role model would be my father,” he said. “He’s taught me everything I know sportswise. He was my coach when I was younger. He teaches me everything I need to know about farming and business. He’s just a guy I look up to, the hardest-working man I know.”

With a year of high school to go, Trantina is asyet undecided on what lies after graduation. One day it’s college, the next day it’s sticking around home and running the family’s other business, Toad Suck One-Stop. His advice for younger kids looking to make the most of their high school years is simple.

“Just have fun and do everything you can,” he said. “Just enjoy being young, because when you get older and you go to work it’s going to get old. Enjoy what you have and make the most of it.”

58 | 501 LIFE April 2023

Joshua Trantina's love for the outdoors began at a young age. The precocious 11-year-old answered the below questions about himself as 501 LIFE’s Kid of the Month in the December 2016 edition.

AGE: 11.

CITY: Bigelow.

SCHOOL: Fifth grade, St. Joseph School in Conway.


FAMILY: Parents, Jason and Christy Trantina; siblings, Ethan and Shannon.

FAVORITE MEAL OR SNACK: Mr. Crowder’s chicken Parmesan and meatball subs.


MOM ON JASON: Joshua is our gentle giant. He’s a rough, tough boy who loves sports, hunting, fishing and farming. At the same time, he is a godly young man with a servant’s heart and compassion for others.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 59


More than six months after his death, one of Conway’s favorite adopted sons continues to be remembered by the community he loved.

Don Potter, 85, who died in September, was affectionately known as “the godfather” of the Conway running community. A 1992 inductee into the Arkansas Roadrunners Hall of Fame, he was a founding member of the Conway Running Club, serving as its first president, and the founding director of Chase Race & Paws, a two-mile “people race” and a one-mile race for owners and their dogs (or other leashed pets), which honors the memory of his son, Chase Potter. He was also a co-founder of the Conway Kids Triathlon, serving on its board as well as that of the Toad Suck 5K/10K. Potter finished the Boston Marathon five times.

Potter was involved in many community activities, such as Toastmasters, Kiwanis of Conway, K-Life, Key Club, Young Life and Excel Upward. A member of Four Winds Church, he participated in mission trips to Mexico. From 2006-13, he also served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). He was also involved in helping other local organizations such as Bethlehem House and Soul Food Café, and he could be found every year “happily ringing the Christmas bell” for the Salvation Army.

Potter won the Leadership Award from the Faulkner County Leadership Institute in 2015.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me he made them feel very important,” Potter’s wife, Cathy, said of his legacy. “He was always in the moment and always focused on the person he was talking to.”

Since his death, Potter has been honored with the Conway Chamber of Commerce Lloyd Westbrook Good Neighbor Award, Conway Kiwanian of the Year award and a memorial parking spot at the Conway Regional Health and Fitness Center (the meeting place for regular Conway Running Club runs) that features his name, a running shoe with wings and his jovial reminder to “move your parts.” Cathy Potter said the paint color on the shoe was, fittingly, Behr Paint’s “100 mph Red.”

“Everybody would meet and they’d be in their little group, but not Don,” she said. “He’d go to every group and hug them and talk to them, then he’d blow his whistle and everybody would start. Everybody ran the same route, just not at the same pace. He thought everybody should meet at the fitness center and start together. He thought the more the running community was together, the more running would grow.”

Potter was an encourager during those runs. “He invited people to come run, and he made them feel like they could do it, and feel included,” Cathy said. “He connected with everybody and connected them with somebody else.”

60 | 501 LIFE April 2023
“The godfather” of Conway running groups spent his life showing an entire community that every journey is best taken together.
Continued on page 62

Editor’s Note: Volume 10 featured an article about the origins of Chase Race and Paws, which is an annual event that was held last month. Chase Race and Paws had its beginning March 11, 2006, as an event to celebrate the brief life of Donald Lee Chase Potter, 1991-2005. Chase’s parents, the late Don and the late Cheryl Potter, searched for a way to perpetually continue the legacy of their 13-year-old son who loved animals and suffered from a traumatic brain injury. Since Chase was a runner like his parents, they focused on creating a running event that could include pets.

“In addition to being the most unique race in the state of Arkansas, there will be a Pet Parade of Adoptable Dogs, and a free pet costume contest,” said founder Don Potter in that article. The man who was always on the move passed away in September 2022. Donna Lampkin Stephens sat down with his widow, Cathy, to learn how his legacy continues.

Photo by Mike Kemp

Amanda Castillo, member experience manager for the Conway Regional Health and Fitness Center and a longtime runner and member of the Conway Running Club, said she could talk endlessly about her friend.

“To know Don Potter was to love him,” she said. “Simply put, if you knew Don Potter, he touched your life and impacted you in some way. Conway Regional Health and Fitness Center is honored to have this constant reminder of Don’s smile, charisma, energy and love of fitness in our parking lot.”

In Potter’s nomination for the Good Neighbor Award, Pete Tanguay of Conway wrote: “Don had a heart for people of all walks of life and had a magical way of identifying with and caring for people. When you talked with him, you knew he was listening and thinking about how he could make a difference in your life. Even into his 80s, he seemed to remember all the important details of every conversation he had.

“Don is a legend, someone whom I, and many other people, miss every day. He certainly had an impact on making our community a better place for many.”

The shirts for the 18th edition of the Chase Race & Paws run on March 11 featured the phrase, “Live Like Potter”. Photos of Potter and posters of his sayings were also prominent. Over the years, the race has benefitted Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Friends of the Conway Animal Shelter, Haven House and Compass Academy.

“He always wanted the Chase Race to be bigger and better,” Cathy said. “He went around to all the grade school track programs and invited them to come, and he had sponsors, so he had tons of kids running, and everybody got a shirt for free. He just wanted it to be a great race and a community event.”

The Potters’ love story started with a blind date in 2006. “I was at the gym and asked a friend of mine if he knew any

good guys,” Cathy remembered. “He said, ‘Yes; my wife runs with a good guy,’ so I gave him my number and he gave it to his wife, who gave it to Don. So I guess we did kind of meet through running.”

When the pair was married on April 26, 2008, that friend officiated the ceremony.

Cathy, who had been a runner in high school, started running again after meeting Don. “I’d go to races with him and hold his coat, then I thought, ‘This is crazy. I could be running, too,’” she said. She remembered weekends when she’d be off on Saturday and wanted to stay up late on Friday night. “But Don would say, ‘No, I’ve got to get up and run long on Saturday,’” she recalled. “After I started running, I understood.”

She recalled her husband’s legendary discipline. “He was going to run every morning,” she said. “That was very important to him. Even when he got sick and couldn’t run, he walked every morning. He would have friends come over and walk with him.”

She said she learned many things from her husband over the years. “I’m definitely an introvert, but I’m trying to get out there and talk to people and do for people like he did,” she said. “I met so many friends when I married him. Before, I was one who went to work and came home, but he just opened up my whole world.”

And she heard him talk often about how much he loved Conway. “He knew the mayor, he knew the police chief, he knew everybody,” she said. “It was a giving community. When he’d ask for donations, people would give. He loved Conway. We didn’t have to stay here; we didn’t have children here, but we weren’t going to go anywhere.

“I just thought he would live to be 100.”

A lot of others in the 501 did, too. And they’re forever sorry he didn’t.

LEFT: Jennifer McGill presents the Conway Chamber of Commerce Lloyd Westbrook Good Neighbor Award to Cathy Potter to honor her late husband, Don Potter. Photo by Lee Hogan RIGHT: A collection of images from the Conway Regional Health and Fitness Center unveiling of a mural on Don Potter's parking space. Local artist, Katie Wilson,was commissioned to paint Don's beloved spot. Known for saying, "move your parts," to encourage everyone to move daily, Don started each morning with a run from the Health & Fitness Center. A video produced by Waid Rainey for Conway Regional Health System was created to celebrate the event and was hosted by Don's close friends Pete Tanguay, Claudia Courtway, Alan Lucas, MD, Brandie Martin, MD and Tim Gorman. To watch the video, scan the QR Code on the following page.
April 2023 501lifemag.com | 63 Scan this QR Code to watch the video "A Tribute To Don Potter."


25 years after their inception, the Conway Men's Chorus still fulfilling their motto “...let all men sing.”

In 2018, the Conway Men’s Chorus celebrated 20 years of singing together and were featured in 501 LIFE Magazine. This coming September, the volunteer group will begin their 25th year of fulfilling their motto: “So that music never dies, let all men sing.”

The creator of the men’s chorus was Tom Courtway. He hoped to have 100 voices singing on stage, lifting the community’s spirits with the gift of song. While that has not yet happened, over a period of 25 years, 330 men have sung in at least one of their 46, free concerts.

“The successful Men’s Chorus accepts men of all ages, beliefs, musical abilities and talents,” said Mike McCullars, who has been the board president since 2009. McCullars, Phil Boudreaux and Jim Lane were charter members in the fall of 1998, have sung in every concert and are on the chorus’ board. All three plan to sing in the May concert as well. They have performed more than 250 songs with the choir.

“Sadly, about a year ago after our spring concert, the place where all of our music was stored – Conway Printing – had a massive fire destroying everything,” McCullars said. “We lost more than 15,000 pieces of music but are slowly rebuilding our library thanks to generous donations of music by a couple of other choirs in the area. Several donors and businesses have also contributed. Still, there is so much music to be replaced and gained. Donations for that purpose are greatly appreciated.”

The chorus continues under the leadership of Jordan

Bennett, who has been the music director since 2018. Paul Bradley has been the piano accompanist since 2006. The choir meets each Monday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Woodland Heights Baptist Church.

This past December, the chorus collaborated with the Conway Symphony Orchestra at their Christmas concert, performing five songs. “Both groups received lots of positive comments and we hope to do it again,” McCullars said. The Men’s Chorus held an additional concert later that month and sang to an audience of at least 450 people.

McCullars hopes to reach pre-COVID-19 audience levels, when each concert had 600 to 700 people in attendance. He invites all readers to attend the 2023 Spring Pops Concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, at Reynolds Performance Hall on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with free admission and parking.

The concert will include The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” the beautiful “Be Still, My Soul,” the inspiring “Shine On Me,” the soulful “Tell My Father,” and the stirring “Music in the Air,” along with several other popular selections. Before singing the national anthem, the chorus will recognize veterans in the audience.

If you would like to help replace lost music “so that all men can continue to sing,” donations to the nonprofit group can be made online at conwaymenschorus.org/#support.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 65


During the 12th year of 501 LIFE Magazine, an outstanding nurse at Unity Health – White County Medical Center in Searcy earned statewide recognition. In 2018, Jasper Fultz was honored with an Arkansas Business Health Care Heroes award.

Fultz has worked for Unity Health for more than 38 years and has reached Level III Trauma status and is the trauma coordinator. In 2019, he was appointed to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing (ASBN) by then-Gov. Asa Hutchinson. “It has been a very humbling experience to serve on the board,” he said.

His career in nursing began in the U.S. Army. After serving in Hawaii and Texas, he returned to his home state. “When I went into health care, I wanted to be in a position to help people,” Fultz said. In 2008, the ASBN named him Arkansas’s Most Caring Caregiver. Upon receiving the award, he was given a key to his home city of Augusta (Woodruff County), and they named Sept. 16, 2008, “Jasper Day.”

Four years later, Fultz was recognized as the AR SAVES Nurse Facilitator of the Year. He has served on the American Red Cross board as disaster relief chair, on the United Way board and is a founding board member for Jacob’s Place Homeless Mission in Searcy.

Fultz loves making a difference for patients who come to Unity Health for care. Since the article was published, the healthcare system has experienced expansion. In March, they opened Unity Health – Jacksonville, completed an expansion of the Pyeatt Family Cancer Center and transformed the Unity Health Child Development Center.

Costing $36 million, phase one plans at Unity Health –Jacksonville are complete. The hospital features a 13-bed emergency department, five inpatient/observation beds, a 24-bed behavioral health unit and imaging services including MRI, CT, X-ray and 3D mammograms. Other services include inpatient cardiopulmonary, on-site labs and a full in-house pharmacy. Plans are in place to continue renovating the space to include operating rooms and additional inpatient care beds.

“Unity Health brings quality and stability in healthcare to the Jacksonville community with our state-of-the-art facility and standard for expertise and compassionate care,” said President/CEO Mark Amox.

“Phase one is an important step toward meeting the healthcare needs of the Jacksonville community,” said Kevin Burton, Hospital Administrator for Unity Health – Jacksonville. “Bringing emergency care and diagnostic capabilities … provides the community with the necessary local healthcare they need.”

Near the end of 2022, expansion was completed at the Pyeatt Family Cancer Center. The expansion more than doubles the clinic’s number of therapy chairs, offers more

restrooms and improves the overall experience for patients undergoing cancer treatment.

Unity Health Child Development Center also received a major transformation. Offering childcare for associates’ children through 12 years of age, the center is approximately 15,600 square feet, and the dining room is a designated safe room that will shelter children and associates from threatening weather.

The award-winning nurse was proud that all Unity Health System staff were recognized as a leading healthcare experience organization last fall. PRC awarded Unity Health with a Healthcare Leadership Award during its annual award event that took place at the PRC Healthcare

Jasper Fultz won an AR Business Health Care Heroes award in July 2019. Recently, Fultz had been appointed to a four-year term on the Arkansas State Board of Nursing by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Below rendering is of Unity Health's renovated hospital in Jacksonville which provides an emergency department, radiology and imaging services, behavioral health services, and observation and acute inpatient rooms.

‘Unity Health brings quality and stability in healthcare to the Jacksonville community with our state-of-the-art facility and standard for expertise and compassionate care’

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 67


First Security Bank adds instruments at Laurel Park to remember employee

In December 2020, 501 LIFE shared an article about a bank being in harmony with its community. In the fall of 2020, First Security Bank Conway hosted a ceremony and dedicated phase one of the Jerry Cooper Sensory Play Trail at Laurel Park.

Named for long-time employee Jerry Cooper, the musical sensory play trail will ultimately feature nine outdoor instruments that are wheelchair accessible and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. The project is sponsored by First Security Bank Conway employees, and additional funds were contributed by a long list of donors.

Cooper, who died in 2019, worked as a First Security bank courier for 20 years. He volunteered at Faulkner County Day School/Milestones and the Conway Human Development Center (CHDC). He served as past president of the CHDC Volunteer Council and Friends of Faulkner County Day School. He also served two terms on the Faulkner County Day School Board of Directors.

“Jerry had a big heart for handicapped children,” said Johnny Adams, president of First Security Bank Conway. “He was highly respected by his co-workers and will always be remembered for his kind heart and dedication to serve others.”

The three-phase project has a total price of $40,000. In the past two years, phase two was completed and three more instruments were added.

Bank employees continually work to raise money to

purchase and install more of these colorful, durable instruments so that a total of nine will be ready for park guests to enjoy. “Hopefully we will be able to complete the final three instruments by the first of 2024. We’d love to do it this year,” said Stefanie Vann, marketing director for First Security Bank Conway. “Jerry Cooper was a huge part of First Security Bank,” Vann said. “He was so loved and respected by not only his co-workers but the community as well. Jerry’s passion for helping kids with disabilities and his love of music made this the perfect way to honor him.”

The fully accessible musical instruments are constructed of durable, easily cared-for materials, making them ideal for public outdoor spaces. “First Security Bank employees are proud to be able to provide such an amazing trail for the community to enjoy for years to come,” Vann said.

Musical instruments in outdoor community spaces engage people of all ages, cultures and abilities. The three installed in the fall of 2020 were Little Tikes CommercialConcerto Vibes, Concerto Spin Cabasas and the Tuned Drums. Three instruments have been added in phase two. Created by Freenotes Harmony, the instruments are named The Griffin, Pagoda Bells and Vibrant Flowers.

Donations to the Sensory Play Trail can be made to the attention of Stefanie Vann, First Security Bank, 1390 Old Morrilton Hwy., Conway, AR 72032. After the project is complete, an on-site donor board will be updated to include all donors.

68 | 501 LIFE April 2023
Bradley Claassen teaches his son, Reed, how to use the instruments. Photo by Mike Kemp
April 2023 501lifemag.com | 69
TOP LEFT: During the October 2020 dedication of the Jerry Cooper Sensory Play Trail at Laurel Park, two $500 donations were made to non-profit agencies by First Security Bank Conway. Receiving for Milestones Services Inc. was Teresa Little (from left), Joanie Cooper, Johnny Adams, president of FSB Conway, and LaQuetta GarlingtonSeals, volunteer program coordinator of the Conway Human Development Center. TOP RIGHT: Olivia Claassen enjoys making music at the Jerry Cooper Sensory Play Trail at Laurel Park. BOTTOM RIGHT: Three instruments were installed as part of phase one of the Jerry Cooper Sensory Play Trail.

the faith sustains

LEFT: Deacon Wyamon Stokes (from left), Deacon Paul Williams, Sister Renee Hubbard and Sister Almeta Smith are leaders and longtime members of First Missionary Baptist Church in Little Rock. CENTER: The church was founded in April 1845 by the Rev. Wilson N. Brown, who enslaved. At that time, the site was near the city limits. In 1983, it was added to the National Registry of Historic Places. RIGHT: Paul Williams, chairman of the board of deacons (from left) with the pastor of First Missionary Baptist, Rev. Cameron Mitchell. Photo by Mike Kemp

IInApril 2022, the cover of our magazine featured First Missionary Baptist Church in Little Rock as they celebrated 177 years of service as the oldest African American church in the capital city and one of the oldest in Arkansas.

“The strength of our church is our faith in God,” said Renee Hubbard, a trustee and member since 1961.

The congregation’s history traces back to the Rev. Wilson N. Brown, who was enslaved when he founded the church in April 1845 and ministered to many other enslaved people over the years.

Brown had to preach three times each Sunday to accommodate everyone who wanted to learn about God, so a brush arbor was added to the original building, along with an additional 15 feet.

On April 23, First Missionary Baptist will celebrate 178 years of ministry. When the article was published last year, church leaders shared their vision. “My dream is expansion, growth, and development so that we can have a greater impact on our community,” Hubbard said. “I believe that we are a hidden gem and treasure in Little Rock. I hope that as many people as possible will find out who we are. We embrace the past, but we are moving toward our future. It’s going to be grand. We want to do everything we can to bring people to Christ.”

Paul Williams is the chairman of the Board of Deacons and has been a member since 1983. He loves his church. “The people are still holding on. I admonish them, ‘Let’s stay prayerful and continue to look to God. He has brought us through, and he will continue to bring us through.'”

Both Hubbard and Williams describe a loving, friendly and family-oriented membership. Around the time that the article was published, members voted to merge with



another Little Rock congregation and Rev. Cameron Mitchell became their pastor.

Before the vote, Williams said. “Instead of a lot of churches splitting, we need to come together. Both churches are really enthused about it, and they would come to our historic building. The congregation is a group of people that has always stood by one another with a strong faith and a Christian background.”

The building opened in 1882, and a large Bible was moved over from the former building. Dating to the preCivil War era, the antique book was the focus of a $3,500 grant the church received in 2022 from the Black History Commission of Arkansas. “It helped pay for a conservator to do as much repair as possible,” said Hubbard, who wrote the grant.

Now properly preserved, the Bible has been placed in a mahogany case that is approximately four feet tall. It will be dedicated at the upcoming celebration service. Other historic pieces are the pipe organ that was dedicated in 1915, and a podium that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke from in 1963 at the church’s 118th anniversary.

As a 62-year member, Hubbard believes the church’s past assures a successful future. “Living by faith is everything to the congregation,” she said. “Without faith, you can’t do any works. Without works, your faith is dead. When you think back to the beginning with Rev. Brown, when it came to having money, they had zilch so we know that God was helping them. We trust and believe in God so much so that we can accomplish the things God wants us to in the coming years.”

The public is invited to worship within the historic walls at 10 a.m. April 23 and to return at 2 p.m. for the Bible dedication and 178th celebration.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 71 Reynolds Performance Hall*, UCA Campus • Conway April 22 | 7:30 pm *CHANGE OF VENUE Luminous! Luminous! Soprano, UCA CAHSS Artist-in-Residence , Kristin Lewis UCA students free with ID Tickets (501) 450-3265 or conwaysymphony.org Roe Henderson 1416 Prince St. Conway, AR 72034 501-327-3888 (Call or Text) RHenderson@ShelterInsurance.com We’re your Shield. We’re your Shelter. ShelterInsurance.com AUTO • HOME • LIFE ® May all the blessings of Easter fill your heart and your home!


Checking in with Arkansas Hiking Ambassador - Cedric Boomer Diggory

Last summer, we featured one of Arkansas’s Hiking Ambassadors — a four-legged cutie named Cedric Boomer Diggory. Boomer and his devoted owner are passionate about exploring trails and sharing those experiences on his Instagram at hotdiggorydog.

“My understanding is that it’s a program run through Arkansas Tourism, and they choose people, mostly, who do a good job at showcasing the state in the areas of arts, food, hiking and other areas. Boomer was the only dog ambassador last year,” owner Lizzie Heatherington said. “He received some ambassador swag.”

Heatherington is a native upstate New Yorker who chose the Dachshund because her downtown Little Rock apartment would best accommodate a smaller breed. At the time we introduced Boomer to readers, the pair had hiked the challenging side of Pinnacle Mountain more than 30 times and listed other favorite hikes as Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area in Pulaski County; Petit Jean State Park in Conway County; Lake Catherine State Park in Hot Spring County; and Mount Nebo in Yell County.

Since we last checked on Boomer, he and Heatherington went to Maine and completed his longest trek — a 10-mile hike over three mountains. They also celebrated Christmas in New York. “He’s such a good little hiker,” she said.

Boomer continues to fill his time off the trails with training. He’s learning to perform tricks, which is good mental stimulation, according to his trainer. Heatherington said he has learned how to jump through a hoop, run

through a tunnel and to climb up on things on command.

“He is so active, but he is the sweetest dog who wants cuddles and scratches. He also wants to be the center of attention,” Heatherington said. While humans love to shower him with attention, one of his feline brothers resents it.

“At home, his complete nemesis is Finney, and they are in a battle for the couch in my office and who will get to watch me work,” she said with a laugh. Fortunately, Boomer gets along well and likes to nap with his other cat brother, named Albus.

Heatherington enjoys walking Boomer downtown and eating at restaurants with dog-friendly patios. An easily recognizable breed, the wiener dog makes people smile. And he is frequently recognized from his posts. In February, the pair attended the SoMa Mardis Gras parade. “Everyone wanted to throw him beads and put them on. He was very loving and very into it,” Heatherington said.

On March 5, Boomer turned 5, and many of his dog pals and their humans came over to celebrate. “We grilled and he got a little steak, and I bought doggie cupcakes that he shared with his friends,” Heatherington said.

As the weather warms, the pair are taking on a new challenge. As the Arkansas state parks system celebrates 100 years, Heatherington and her golden boy have set a goal to visit all 52 parks this year. Their progress can be followed on his Instagram page, or you might be lucky enough to meet everyone’s four-legged friend on a trail.

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Petit Jean State Park The top of Sugarloaf Mountain Boomer hangs-out in Little Rock's River Park with friend Waffles. Even hiking ambassadors can get tuckered out after a day on the trails. Pinnacle Mountain State Park Downtown Little Rock Pinnacle Mountain State Park


A look back at my 501 LIFE

Let me tell you about my 501 LIFE Magazine past. If we only address the “501” part of the title, it would not have had that distinction before 1947. Area code 501 was initiated as one of the original 86 North American Numbering Plan areas assigned on Jan. 1, 1947, as recommended by the telephone industry. Natives recall it only being used for long-distance calls by dialing or operator assistance. All of Arkansas used the 501 area code (AC) until 1997, when AC 870 was split from AC 501. In 2002, AC 479 was created for the northwestern corridor, and AC 870 remained from the north clockwise to the southeast.

Our town was still rather quiet at that time, but it would not remain so for much longer. The population hovered around 29,000 and clusters of large or exclusive subdivisions were few. Most businesses were located downtown. The first two “big box” stores would eventually reveal who were the admired, stubborn survivors.

Local people owned and operated the local newspaper, and residents planned their daily habits around reading it. The old post office remained in place, but the train depot was gone. Massey Hardware was still the place to buy guns, knives and kitchen supplies. Garden seeds were sold by the small scoop and cost a few cents. Since Massey’s existed all of my life, I assumed it would continue. Silly me.

In 1996, our former Old Conway Preservation Society was planning a Christmas tour. For this, I volunteered to write a pamphlet listing and describing historic homes to be shown. Someone suggested it might be helpful publicity in the paper, so I took one of the articles to Publisher Mike Hengel. He said to come back in two hours and we would talk. I went back and he simply asked how many more I could write and how often. I didn’t even know I could do that one! But I said, “Perhaps a few,” because at the time I was still teaching.

74 | 501 LIFE April 2023 On-site Physician • Certified Rehab RNs Physical Therapy • Occupational Therapy Speech Therapy • Average Stay 10-14 Days The only certified acute inpatient rehabilitation hospital in Faulkner County One Step Closer to Home One Step Closer to Home 501-932-3558

This soon-biweekly venture ended after six years, during which I enjoyed writing 103 full-page articles with photographs. The paper was not yet online in 1996. I wasn’t either! I typed and printed my columns and took them to the office myself. In 1997, “online” became reality. In recent years, all of these were deleted from the newspaper’s online archives.

I missed writing during a seven-year hiatus. One evening, I attended a fire department meeting to which I had been invited. While waiting for it to start, Sonja Keith, a former co-owner and the editor of 501 LIFE Magazine, approached me for a chat. We spoke of my former columns, and she asked if I would be interested in writing for the magazine. I certainly would be — with an exclamation point!

My first column was published in May 2012. During my writing years, I have learned a few things. (1) Always proof multiple times and consider suggestions by innocent bystanders. (2) It is painful to delete a paragraph that is dear to me to satisfy a word count. (3) Writing a column for a flowery April issue while a February snow is expected invades the brain’s personal time zone. (4) Some words don’t have usable synonyms. (5) Never type and simultaneously reach for your coffee without noticing it is yesterday’s cold, nasty brew containing an insect fatality.

Most of my columns are nostalgic or historical. Readers ask how I remember things from so long ago. First of all, I am “vintage” myself, but it helps that my parents were born in 1900. Their memories contained stories from their parents born in the 1870s. I also cherish written family stories, which people rarely record anymore regardless of not having to write by hand.

If all five Lawson siblings were living today, our ages would range from 80 to 96. How could I possibly miss gaining knowledge from several generations? Thankfully, I also paid attention! Presently, not many are interested in keeping the links in the chain of ancestry. When all of those who are gone who could plug in answers to questions, that’s when family origins, traits and health histories will become valuable but unavailable.

Now under the co-ownership of Editor Stefanie Brazile and Publisher/Art Director Jeremy Higginbotham, 501 LIFE Magazine gives its readers a broad reach of subjects. They include chances to learn about those who have

achieved despite struggles, utilized God-given talents, bravely followed opportunities, successfully gambled on a business idea, or determined an honorable career. Contributors have an outlet for expression, knowledge and experience to share, and best of all, enjoyment of connecting with readers through emails, phone calls or chats in the grocery aisles amongst the potatoes.

In discussions while standing amid the reds and the russets, a reader will sometimes mention how an article reminded them of someone with a talent for waterwitching, genealogy, or raising chickens. It could be coverage of ordinary people with surprising backgrounds, accomplishments or experiences. We’re still in the Ozark foothills, you know!

Yes, I could say more, but I am nearing that excessive word count that might require me to “throw the baby out with the bath water.” That ancient phrase from the 1500s refers to those earlier-mentioned discarded paragraphs that may be dear to me, but must become dearly departed.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 75
A column written by Vivian Hogue appears in the 1997 Log Cabin Democrat about historic homes in Conway.

picture it...

Photos and story by Linda Henderson

I wrote my first story for 501 LIFE Magazine in 2014, and since that time, I have written close to 100 stories about Arkansas’s architecture, landscapes, people and historical places. My roots run very deep in the 501. My family has made Central Arkansas our home for seven generations. It has been a joy to spend time traversing the counties of the 501, finding beautiful places and things to photograph.

So this month, I am celebrating 501 LIFE Magazine’s 15th birthday by looking back and sharing 15 of my favorite stories.

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Old Guardians

Published September 2015

I am an old barn lover. While traveling the 501, more than once I have found myself stopping along the side of the country road, grabbing my camera and wading a water-filled ditch just to capture an old barn in perfect light. We have found barns of all shapes, sizes and states of disrepair. The walls always seem to be decorated with dust and cobwebs. Sometimes, there are remains of old red paint flecking from the walls.

A Canvas of Wood and Iron

Published March 2015

If you travel the 501, you will occasionally come upon an old iron bridge. A few of these historical bridges have been restored and are still in use. A few are in a sad state of decay and are no longer safe for travel. If you are looking for a way to bring Arkansas history to life, take a tour of some of these 501 bridges.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 77

Drops of Sunshine

Published June 2015

Sunflowers grow really well in the 501. Our climate and long growing season is perfect for these giant beauties. They have been the subject for many artists of all kinds. Sunflowers attract both those that use paint and those that use a camera.

The most famous of these works of art are likely Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.”

The big, beautiful flower is becoming an important agricultural crop in Arkansas for its oils and seeds.

Go Chase Waterfalls

Published March 2017

Spring in Arkansas is the perfect time for waterfall chasing, it is the start of “waterfall season” in Arkansas. Few things are as beautiful as water flowing over a rocky overcropping.

Waterfalls are aweinspiring. Many outdoor enthusiasts are fascinated with them and will chase their flowing water.

Waterfalls are the hidden gems of backcountry exploring. Most of the waterfalls in the 501 are dependent upon rainfall for there to be good waterflow.

County Fair Time in the 501

Published September 2018

Across the 501 each year, county fairs will open their gates and invite everyone to enjoy an American tradition. The practice of yearly exhibiting the equipment, animals, sports and recreation associated with agriculture and animal husbandry has taken place for many years in cities and small towns across America. Even though many living in the 501 no longer participate in farming, county fairs are still a part of our history and heritage. County fairs are a place where people can gather to gawk at cows, steers, chickens, turkeys, sheep, pigs, rabbits, lambs, goats and donkeys, enjoy midway rides of all sorts and eat virtually anything on a stick.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 79

Heritage Art in the 501

Published published 2019

My taste in art runs on the folksy and homey side. So when I started noticing painted quilt squares on buildings throughout the 501, I was in love! I was so pleased to find that Arkansas, including two counties in the 501, now has quilt trails. A quilt trail is made up of painted quilt squares that are found at various locations along a designed route. They may be painted on wood or metal and hung on buildings. Many of these lovely examples of art are inspired by the early settlers’ quilt patterns when quilts were a necessary household item. Others are inspired by the painter’s family history, occupation, interest and even hobbies.

Poetry Motionin

Published October 2022

Arkansas has become the winter home for a flock of trumpeter swans. Swans do not naturally winter in Arkansas. Normally they nest in the Arctic and migrate for the winter in either the Chesapeake area or in California, but since 1991, a flock of swans has found Heber Springs the perfect spot for their winter home.

Snow Lick Mountain Schoolhouse Stories

Published August 2015

One-room schools have become a thing of the past, but a few remain to remind us of days gone by. As we traveled the 501, I saw many old buildings that I suspect may have been one-room schoolhouses, but I have found no history or evidence that supports my suspicions. I do, however, have knowledge of one abandoned schoolhouse, the Snow Lick Mountain School in Van Buren County. Our family owns the property that the old building stands on. School was held on Snow Lick Mountain from 1850 to 1950, according to the early school history of Van Buren County. The first Snow Lick School was taught under a brush arbor, and later a frame building with a dirt floor and hewn logs for benches was built on top of the mountain. Sometime around 1930, the standing schoolhouse was built.

Continued on page 82

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Traveling the 501 Backcountry in a Jeep

Published August 2017

The 501 has some of the absolute best dirt roads and trails. They are perfect for exploring and enjoying an adventure. There are hundreds of miles of designated off-road trails in both the Ozark National Forest and the Ouachita National Forest. Jim and I enjoy spending time in our little red Jeep (aka Old School). There is nothing like a ride down a country lane or a climb up a trail to turn your day into a stress-free time.

Loving LIFE in the High Country of the 501

Published May 2017

Although our mountains in the 501 are not as high as those found in the Rockies or the Smokies, there are many places to be found with a high elevation. One of those high-country spots is Flatside Pinnacle, a mountain in the Ouachita Mountain Range. The range is found on the most western edge of the 501 area and runs from central western Arkansas to southeastern Oklahoma.

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Continued on page 84

The Unseen Light of the 501

Published September 2021

I have an interest in unusual forms of photography like infrared photography. Infrared images are easily recognized by their radiant white trees and jet-black skies or by an unreal color cast. Plants and trees reflect infrared light, making them appear to glow, while water and skies reflect extraordinarily little infrared light. The sky and water will appear very dark in an infrared photo; clouds, however, do absorb infrared light, so they appear very white.

Exploring and Enjoying Petit Jean State


Published October 2017

Each season brings its own unique beauty to Petit Jean State Park. Winter is beautiful after the leaves have fallen and the views of the rocks and cliffs are wide open. Snow on the mountain brings a magical white cover to the park. I enjoy the spring wildflowers and the cascading water of Cedar Falls as it falls into the creek and canyon.

Stargazing in the 501

Published February 2018

One of my greatest joys in life is getting out in the night and gazing at the night sky. I love seeing meteor showers, planets, the Milky Way and the North Star and identifying the constellations. I still have much to learn about astronomy but do enjoy observing God’s nighttime creations.

Traveling the Rail

Published January 2019

Occasionally, historical trains will traverse our state. That was the case when Union Pacific’s steam locomotives, No. 844 and Big Boy 4014, came through the 501. They were quite beautiful sights as they passed with white steam billowing out of the smokestacks.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 85

My Very Favorite Story

Reflections on the Great American Total Eclipse

Published December 2017

It happened on Aug. 21, 2017. I had been preparing for this event since 2012. We were able to be on the blue line of totality to photograph and view the entire event at the longest duration of the moon covering the sun. If you missed the event or were not able to enjoy the eclipse in totality, do not worry. Another total solar eclipse will occur on April 8, 2024. Central Arkansas will experience 100 percent totality and more than four minutes of total darkness.

‘I hope you have enjoyed a visit down memory lane. There have been many changes in recent days in my life, and I will not be producing an article every month for 501 Life Magazine. I will not put my camera down or stop spinning a tale. Jim and I will be traveling and working on crossing off places from my ever-growing bucket list. We are planning visits to national parks and other scenic destinations. Not to worry, I will be sharing our adventures and pictures from time to time.’

86 | 501 LIFE April 2023

Celebrating Life in a New and Meaningful Way.

Owners Richard and Genia Neal do not take this confidence lightly and are committed to help you through this process so you can focus on celebrating life.

Richard is a fourth-generation funeral director and started Rosewood almost 20 years ago. The couple owns and operates both the Conway and Morrilton locations, which serve Central Arkansas and the River Valley. “Being locally owned is important because you have people on staff who truly care about your situation. We make those personal connections and value your business,” says Genia.

Richard's vast experience with the funeral business gave him the knowledge that, often, funerals become family reunions. His vision was to provide not only a place for burial and cremation, but also a space where families and friends could gather together and share memories in a comfortable and welcoming environment.

As a result, Rosewood offers an onsite space dedicated just for that purpose: Red Cup Celebration Event Center, which can host family reunions or any other gathering filled with food, fellowship, and even fun. A Red Cup Celebration is the perfect way to honor old memories while creating new ones with the people you care about.

Even the most basic of services with Rosewood Cremation and Funeral includes free access to this facility for two hours following the service. Inside, guests will discover a modern comfortable atmosphere with round table seating for up to 225 as well as a dedicated food and drink bar. One amenity that really stands our for guests is the 8 foot x 12 foot video wall, which is used to feature pictures and videos. The video wall also includes a premium sound system, stage and accent mood lighting “Our focus is on gathering your family and friends in a meaningful and memorable way. We encourage families to take a little extra time to create an event to be treasured,” said Richard.

Services offered to families also extend beyond the service itself. Rosewood Cremation & Funeral helps with hotel booking, catering, floral, and even provides assistance with notary and insurance filing.

Families praise Rosewood Red Cup Celebrations for breaking from the traditional and providing a unique, fresh approach to celebrating a loved one’s life in an uplifting atmosphere.

Rosewood Cremation & Funeral understands the trust families place in them when making difficult decisions after the loss of a loved one.
Locations in Conway & Morrilton 501.550.9265 • rosewoodcremation.com
Rosewood Cremation & Funeral is honored to offer families services beyond the traditional.


Conway Corp's good news program is perfect fit for 501 LIFE

In 2022, 501 Editor Stefanie Brazile began making a monthly visit to the Conway Corp Channel 5 Studio to spotlight the most recent issue of 501 LIFE on the Conway Corp local origination show “Here and There.”

“Here and There” first aired in July 2016 and was hosted by Whitney Long and produced by Ryan Tucker. Currently the show is hosted by Video Production and Local Programming Manager Jeff Matthews and produced by Production Coordinators Wayne Bailey, Ashtyn Brown and Javan Massey.

“The goal of the show is to spotlight life in Conway. With so many interesting people and stories in our community, we think we have just scratched the surface of what makes life in Conway what it is,” Matthews said.

One of Conway Corp’s six core values is community, and the people and quality of life in Conway has been a focus of our company since our founding in 1929. A unique way Conway Corp is able to connect with the community is through Channel 5 and programs like “Here & There”.

“I appreciate the opportunity to introduce five or six Faulkner County stories to viewers each month,” Brazile said. “Jeff makes the interview process easy and Wayne, Ashtyn and Javan are also excellent professionals to work with.

“Our goals align with Conway Corp’s ‘Here & There’ program in that we want to connect people by communicating what is going on in our community that is noteworthy and positive.”

Channel 5 is the city’s source for local community programming and provides unique content exclusively for Conway Corp customers. On Channel 5, you’ll find programming from community events and the Conway City Council plus locally produced programming like Channel 5 Sports, Breathe, Mr. Foy’s Easel, Gavin & Gordy and more.

“Our partnership with 501 LIFE is a natural for being able to share even more of the things happening in our community. It has been a great fit,” Matthews added.

88 | 501 LIFE April 2023
Jeff Matthews and Stefanie Brazile during a segment of “Here and There.”
April 2023 501lifemag.com | 89

celebrating athletic excellence

Van Buren County - Logan Williams

In 2007, he was the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s High School Baseball Player of the Year. His gargantuan statistics had included an .842 batting average, 78 runs-batted in, and an 11-0 winning pitching record, with a 0.42 and run average. Four years later, he earned the Auburn Smith Award as his Arkansas university’s most outstanding athlete, having gained All-American baseball honors for the second consecutive year with a .355 batting average, 14 home runs and 67 runs-batted-in.

Seldom has a native son displayed greater brilliance on the Natural State’s high school and university diamonds than Logan Dale Williams, born in a Conway hospital on March 11, 1989, to parents residing in nearby Damascus. Now retired, his father, Dr. Alvin “Doc” Williams, was a veterinarian and long-time faculty member at Arkansas Tech University; his mother, Jackie, is a mathematics teacher at Greenbrier High School. Under their watchful eyes, their only child grew up playing sports and earned three letters in high school basketball, yet his passion was always baseball.

“Doc” and Jackie lovingly guided him through the 12 grades of South Side Bee Branch public education, insisting that his increasing participation in the “National Pastime” not deter him from his academic responsibilities. Their priorities became his. Logan graduated with an academically rich transcript, as well as with baseball experiences that defy believability.

In the fall of 2003, as he prepared to enter the ninth grade, Logan found himself surrounded by classmates and upperclassmen possessing extraordinary baseball potential and commitment. Neither he nor they, however, sensed they were to become a part of Arkansas baseball history. In the four springs that followed, in addition to numerous victories over nonconference foes — some large schools, few small — the South Side Bee Branch High School baseball team earned four consecutive conference, district and regional championships from 2004 through 2007. In 2005 and 2007, they reached the state finals. In the latter, the Hornets finally gained what they wanted most: the school’s first

Arkansas 1-A State Baseball Championship. Players and fans were ecstatic; for days, celebrations and gaiety were the norms throughout the county.

Led by Logan, the Hornets had won the prize that every other Arkansas 1-A team coveted. Yet their season claimed other distinctions, too. When records from the three preceding seasons were coupled with their 2007 wins and losses, a spectacular four-year win-loss record emerged, the finest ever recorded by an Arkansas high school baseball team — a phenomenal 126 wins and 8 losses. Unofficially, that lofty mark also catapulted the Hornets to one of the three best four-year win-loss records ever compiled in American high school baseball. Tiny South Side had won a place in the nation’s record books.

Numerous college and university baseball programs rushed to recruit the versatile youngster whose high school team had won more than 90 percent of their games during his stay. Almost all of them offered full or partial scholarships. Finally, Logan selected the University of Mississippi (UM) in the prestigious Southeastern Conference and enrolled the following fall.

Designated to redshirt (i.e., simply to practice and watch) in his freshman season, he was rushed into service around the mid-point when injuries depleted the varsity roster. He performed well, particularly against his native state’s two best-known institutions. He belted his first UM home run against Arkansas State University, and a few days later, his second against the University of Arkansas.

His second season also had outstanding days, but injuries kept him from consistent play. He soon decided that he would fare better elsewhere and elected to return to Arkansas for the completion of his degree and his baseball eligibility.

Southern Arkansas University (SAU) proved ideal for the 6-foot, 210-pound scholar/athlete. His acceptable UM grades allowed a smooth transition into SAU’s undergraduate business program, whose B.S. degree he completed in December of 2011 with a 3.25 grade point average.

His baseball numbers were just as impressive, and even more robust in his first season on campus than in his second. Alan Gum — later the successful head coach at the University of Central Arkansas — guided the Muleriders to a championship and Logan to All-American credentials that included a .379 batting average, 14 home runs, and 81 runs-batted-in. Baseball honors galore accompanied the sizable infielder across the stage on graduation day.

No professional baseball contract awaited him, however. Years earlier, scouts had learned of Logan’s left eye problems. Dating back to a 2006 baseball accident and despite contact lenses and several surgeries, his injury had been traumatic and disabling: His left eye lacked more than 50 percent of its vision.

Eager to accept a position in business, Logan finally yielded to pleas from astute friends to “try education!” He did and thus launched seven years of success in teaching, coaching and administrative posts in South Side Bee Branch and Center Ridge’s Nemo Vista, 16 miles away. He also found time for the completion of necessary certifications and a master’s degree in educational leadership. Clearly, he was handsomely qualified for the Nemo Vista School District superintendency that he accepted in 2019.

The man who labels himself “a small-town guy“ married in December of 2014, and Hannah and he are now the proud parents of three daughters: Gracie, Layna and Wren. Modest Logan will be slow to mention his baseball feats to the trio, but the 501 will long remember the pride and respect those feats helped bring to Van Buren County.

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This month we are revisiting author Darcy Pattison. She is a local children’s book author who was one of the first to be featured in this column, which debuted in the spring of 2017.

Pattison is the real deal. By 2017, she had published about 30 books. Today, that number has more than doubled. She is also a publisher, a blogger, a lecturer and a leader of a writer’s revision retreat. Her books have been published in 10 languages.

Science and nature have always interested her. She grew up in the mountains of New Mexico, where she observed various critters and investigated their habitats. Exploration, research and continual learning are what she still enjoys most. She says if she hadn’t been a writer, she would have been an astronaut.

In her Moments in Science series, she discusses such topics as pollen, erosion and fever. Her Extraordinary Animal series showcases pumas, frogs and albatrosses. And then she has a series to help students become better

writers and thinkers. “The Nantucket Sea Monster,” for example, touches on fake news and freedom of the press.

Her books are not only entertaining, but informative. Critics praise her writing style and the way she can take an abstract concept and turn it into an understandable narrative. She is committed to writing books that are relevant and to helping others who are interested in writing and publishing.

During the COVID shut down, Pattison took advantage of having time to explore several new interests. She enrolled in an online poetry course taught by Renee LaTulippe. The result is a new book published in lyrical text that will be released this month titled “I Am the Thirsty Desert.”

Another skill she honed is designing pop-up books. No doubt her talent as a former award-winning quilter contributed to her success in making patterns and precise designs. And although she publishes her own books, she had to turn to a specialty publisher to produce this new upcoming series.

The “Author of the Month” feature debuted in 501 LIFE in 2017. One of the writer’s first interviews was with Darcy Pattison, who had published about 30 books. In the past six years, that number has doubled. Let’s catch up with her here: Photo by Mike Kemp

Over the years, she has continued to garner numerous honors and awards from educational associations and other organizations. “Diego, the Galápagos Giant Tortoise” recently received a Kirkus star review. The book “A Little Bit of Dinosaur,” which was written with Pattison’s sister Elleen Hutcheson, received the Arkansas Library Association’s Arkansiana Award for its contribution to Arkansas heritage and culture. Hutcheson teaches biology in Cave Springs. Pattison was pleased and surprised to learn that on a children's reading app, the book had received more than 1.5 million reads.

Pattison and her husband, Dwight, live in North Little Rock. Dwight can now claim he lives with a "cover girl," since his wife appeared on the cover of the December 2022 Indie Author Magazine. They enjoy traveling and spending time with their four children and five grandchildren. Last year, Pattison somehow found the time to participate in a biking trip in Poland, where her favorite spot was the Hobbiton movie set.

Learn more about Pattison, find a compilation of her archived works or purchase a book at MimsHouseBooks.com. Her newest blog is for people who are interested in self-publishing and can be found at IndieKidsBooks.com.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 93
Award-winning science writer Darcy Pattison presents a superbloom from the desert's point-of-view. Strong lyrical text takes on the persona of the desert as it watches seeds it has cradled become flowering plants.


The Pulaski County Special School District is committed to providing a quality and equitable education to all students, and this includes finding highly qualified and committed staff. In addition to teachers and substitutes, PCSSD is always hiring for support staff positions, including bus drivers, student nutrition staff, paraprofessionals, office staff and more.

“PCSSD is unique,” said Shawn Burgess, deputy superintendent of Human Resources. “Because of our geographic location, we must meet the needs of four district communities: Maumelle, Mills, Robinson and Sylvan Hills. And I think we do a good job of meeting everyone, students and staff alike, where they are in an effort to serve them for the needs that they have.”

There are current job openings in the Maumelle feeder for custodians, paraprofessionals, teachers, bus drivers and more. All job openings and the application can be found at pcssd.org under the Careers section. Applications are reviewed by hiring managers before

setting up interviews with an interview committee. If a person rises to the top, then they are recommended to the school board for approval.

“PCSSD is a student-focused district,” said Burgess. “We put students first in every decision we make. Our ideal candidate, no matter the position, must love kids. I have learned that we can teach someone the professional skills of a job, but we can’t teach them to have a passion for kids.”

For new teachers, PCSSD also offers a mentoring program by pairing them with a veteran teacher and hosting regular check-in sessions.

“Novice teachers get a mentor in their first three years,” said Burgess. “These mentors help support them during the learning curve of having your own classroom. We pair them at the new teacher orientation and have regular touchpoints during the year to make sure the new teachers are being supported as they settle in.”

PCSSD is also working with current support staff in our schools who are interested in becoming teachers.

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Pulaski County Special School District spans more than 600 square miles in Central Arkansas and requires highly skilled and passionate personnel to adapt educational policies and personalization to 26 schools. Every school is accredited by the Arkansas State Board of Education. PCSSD has served schools across Pulaski County since July 1927.

PCSSD is committed to creating a nationally recognized school district that assures that all students achieve at their maximum potential through collaborative, supportive and continuous efforts of all stakeholders.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 95






There are jobs you take because you have to, and there are jobs you take because they’re next on the company ladder. And for a lucky few, there are passion projects that come along that don’t feel like a job at all, even though they demand as much of your time and skill as any other.

Donna Merritt Spears is one of those lucky ones who got to do something for a living that came straight from the heart. As a founder of 501 LIFE Magazine, she was one of the three driving forces behind a monthly magazine that 15 years later is still considered a hallmark in the communities it reaches throughout Central Arkansas.

“I remember when we started the magazine, I left the Log Cabin Democrat newspaper after 28-plus years and walked down the street,” she said. “Our office was located in downtown Conway. We were in a little area probably about a 10-by-12 room with three computers and a printer. In less than two years we moved into a 2,000 sq. ft. building to accommodate the fast growth.

“It was 2008, so it wasn’t the best year to start a business. We had a few people tell us, ‘Oh you guys do not need to do this at all. This is a horrible time.’ But we just felt like it was the right thing to do and we were all very much in prayer about it. We had more people encouraging us and willing to support our efforts to bring the community a much-needed publication to show off the great life we experience in the 501 area.”

The magazine grew out of another venture, Women’s Inc., which Spears, advertising director at the Log Cabin started. As that venture grew, Spears began to entertain the idea of building something of her own instead of working for someone else. She called a friend, Sonja Keith, who was the former editor at the Log Cabin and had many years of experience as a writer. Sonja was well thought of in the community and certainly a professional that could make things happen.

“‘Hey, I have this idea,’” she said, recalling the pitch she made to Keith. “We went back and forth about whether we should do it or not, because I was looking more at the retirement side of my career and spending time with my family: Justin, Dena, Madi, Wesley and Weston Spears. I’ve always had the drive to be my own boss, and I’m very much a self-starter. I don’t need someone to tell me to get up and go to work every day. I inherited the work ethic from my parents (the late Bill and Betty Merritt) who always insisted there was no such thing as a free lunch.”

Spears also contacted Tracy Ferrell, who became one of the three initial owners. Ferrell had worked with Spears at the Log Cabin and was a hometown lady who was loved by many. “Her customer service and advertising skills were instrumental in growing the magazine early on,” Spears said.

Continued on page 98

‘There is no single person more instrumental to my career than Donna Spears. I have known and worked with her for more than 25 years. That experience may have brought me some gray hairs but it has also brought me knowledge, skills and accomplishments I would not have without her. Since the day I met Donna, she has been a sheer force of energy who meets each challenge with positivity and gumption — and has a lifetime of succes because of it.

You would be hard pressed to walk into any store, restaurant, or empty field and not run into someone in Faulkner County that doesn't call Donna a friend or family. She is a blessing to our communities and to our publication.

On behalf our family, our business and all of Central Arkansas, thank you for making 501 LIFE the best life.

April 2023 501lifemag.com | 97
Photos by Makenzie Evans

Part of the success formula from the very beginning was listening to what the community wanted, something the new venture codified with the creation of a board of business owners, advertisers, community leaders, friends, and family to provide feedback on editorial matters, a tradition that continues to this day.

“We’d have meetings where we sat down and listened to them,” she said. “We got their support as well as being our eyes and ears in the community. Everyone was so good about calling us and saying, ‘You really need to do a story about this,’ or ‘There’s a new business you might be interested in contacting.’ There were a lot of people who wanted to be a part of it, and we were blessed by that.”

Spears and Keith would hand over the reins to the magazine in 2020 to current owners Stefanie Brazile and Jeremy Higginbotham, who said the mentorship and advice offered by the duo has been instrumental to the publication’s smooth transition.

Spears also keeps her hand in the advertising side, and her continued presence has provided a welcome sounding board for the new leadership.

“Jeremy and I have benefited from Donna’s knowledge and expertise,” said Brazile, editor. “Donna is a knowledgeable professional with an easy laugh. She has worked and raised her family in the 501 and either knows or is related to just about everyone. We are fortunate that she is part of our team.”

As for the longevity of the publication itself, Spears said it comes down to community spirit and pride of place. “People still like to have that nice glossy magazine in their hands,” she said. “No matter how many are printed each month, very few times are there returns. People like to have it because it’s good news, even though we have had some sad stories from time to time. We just love telling the stories of everyday life in the 501.

“The magazine is in good hands now. I think people look at it and enjoy taking it with them wherever they go because 501 LIFE says, ‘This is who I am, this is the positive atmosphere I live in, this is my community.’ No matter where I go, people still say, ‘Oh, I’ve got a great story for you,’ or ‘How do I get my child in there?’ I think it’s just a good news thing that people like having in their hands and they like to keep. That’s what I’m most proud of, how it became the people’s magazine.”

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Donna Spears stands with the first and most recent copies of 501 LIFE, published 15 years apart.

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