May 2023

Page 1

It's a super season


Jeremy L. Higginbotham


Stefanie W. Brazile


Donna Spears, Sonja Keith and Tracy Ferrell


Donald Brazile


Paulette Higginbotham


Donna Spears


Levi Gilbert


Mike Kemp


Andrea Lively and Andrea Miller


Debbie Flowers


Becky Bell

Don Bingham

Jessica Duff

Lori Dunn

Laurie Green

Dwain Hebda

Linda Henderson

Vivian Lawson Hogue

Tammy Keith

All those rainy days we endured in March and April are paying off. Central Arkansas is covered in colorful blooms and lovely shades of green as we move into a traditionally busy month for celebrating Moms and attending end-of-year school ceremonies. Even though we are excited to mark these special moments, our hearts go out to our neighbors who are rebuilding their lives after the destructive tornadoes that hit March 31.

This is our 501Der Women annual edition, and we’re sharing stories about ladies of all ages who are passionate about their work and projects. From a young cowgirl in Hattieville to the Women's All Pro Tour golf tournament in Conway, we have stories that will impress and inspire you.

I’m grateful to the women on our cover who work each day to make others’ lives better. Dr. Grace Raja is a hematologist and oncologist, Susannah Marshall is the Commissioner of the Arkansas State Bank Department and Susie Everett founded a ministry in Benton that is changing the path of women’s lives.

We’ve also talked with more than a dozen other women who work hard to excel in their professions. One of those is Mary Lackie, who traveled to Pakistan to promote higher education and workforce development. The principal at Our Lady of the Holy Souls School in Little Rock uses chickens to teach her students lessons about behavior and pecking orders—be sure to meet Principal Amber Bagby and “Chick Norris” in this month’s pet feature! You’ll also enjoy photos of lovely flower bouquets that are grown in Pulaski County and then sold at farmers’ markets and other venues. Our region is rich with natural gems and industrious people!

Speaking of gems, if you have a recipe box, pull it out and see if you recognize the penmanship of a lady who was special in your life. These fading treasures are the focus of Chef Don Bingham’s Entertaining feature. He even gives tips to preserve their handwriting.

This month we celebrate many 501Der Women. They are all around us, sans superhero attire, but take a moment and you’ll see their superpowers!

Beth Jimmerson

Mark McDonald

Susan Peterson

Dr. Robert Reising

Judy Riley

Carol Rolf

Donna L. Stephens

Rita Thomas

Morgan Zimmerman


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


Mary Clark

Shelli Crowell

Dr. Larry Davis

Shawn Halbrook

Alicia Hugen

Alisha Koonce

Stephanie Lipsmeyer

Stewart Nelson

Kristi Strain

Jim Taylor Morgan Zimmerman


Betsy Bailey

Amy Burton

Tara Cathey

Cassandra Feltrop

Phil Hays

Natalie Horton

Matt LaForce

Mike Parsons

Brooke Pryor

Judy Riley

Carol Spears

Kristi Thurmon

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.

4 | 501 LIFE May 2023
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.
of 501 LIFE
6 | 501 LIFE May 2023 Volume 16 Issue 1
2023 48 24 98 62 88
4 Letter from the Editor 8 Upcoming Events 9 Methodist Health dedicates Spiritual Life Center 10 Loving LIFE photos 12 Faulkner County celebrates 150 years 14 Conway heroes make special visit to hospice patient By Rev. Mark McDonald 16 Youth of the Month: Skylar Bradford By Carol Rolf 18 A salute to our seniors By Jason Young 20 Entertaining: Love messages from mom By Don Bingham 24 Couple of of the Month: Drs. Grace & Vijay Raha 26 Daffodil Daze Art Contest Winners 29 SPECIAL SECTION Celebrating 501Der Women 32 Women’s All-Pro Tour golf tourney planned By Donna Lampkin Stephens 40 Cut flower farming in Saline County By Judy Riley 50 Educator travels to Pakistan for higher education By Carol
56 Author of of the Month: Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach By Susan
60 Superhero sendoff for First Security’s Margaret Smith 62 Susie Everett founds “Women Equipped” ministry to help improve lives By Stefanie Brazile 66 Faulkner County Master Gardeners By Carol Rolf 72 Kid of of the Month: Katie Williams By Becky Bell 74 Slugbugs, sugar cups & parent shame By Laurie Green 76 Pet of of the Month: Chicken Coop at Our Lady of Holy Souls By Dwain Hebda 78 Find Art at the new Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts By Stefanie Brazile & Paulette Higginbotham 82 Managing Type 2 diabetes 84 Central Baptist College ‘Fearless Faith’ Gala 86 Jason White unveils Morrilton mural By Morgan Zimmerman 86 Athletic Excellence: White County’s Butch Gardner By Dr. Robert Reising 92 UACCM ‘Moment In Time’ Gala 94 AC tune up with Conway Corp 96 My family of Wonder Women By Vivian Lawson Hogue 98 Person of of the Month: Susannah T. Marshall
On the cover: Dr. Grace Raja (from left), Susannah Marshall and Susie Everett represent 501Der Women from Central Arkansas. Photo by Makenzie Evans
L. Peterson
May 2023 | 7 welcome to the Writers’ Room Catch 501 LIFE on KARK News at Noon and Conway Corp each month!
Rolf graduated from Little Rock Central High School, where she was editor of the newspaper, and from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism. She has worked for state and local newspapers. Carol edits a newsletter for Newcomers’ Club of Conway and is state public relations chairman for the Arkansas State Society Daughters of the American Revolution.
an award-winning writer who spent most of her career as a newspaper reporter and in public relations. Now a freelance writer, she enjoys writing anything from human interest features to news stories. She received her graduate degree in public administration from SAU. Becky and her Papillon, Queenie Belle, live in Magnolia. Susan Peterson holds a Ph.D. in secondary education and taught at UCA and Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. This former reading and language arts teacher loves sharing information about local authors, hoping their stories will inspire others. Now retired, she spends her time painting, making pottery and playing pickleball. 501 LIFE would like to thank our advertising partners. For only $20 a year, you can have our 11-county publication delivered right to your door. Visit or call 501.327.1501 to subscribe. Don't miss your chance on this super offer! SEARCHING FOR GOOD NEWS? It's 501 LIFE to the rescue! Arvest Bank, 35 Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, 57 Bare Skin Studio, 46 Bledsoe Chiropractic, 61 Centennial Bank, 36 Choate Law Firm, 59 Conway Corp, 95 Conway Diversity Advisory Council, 53 Conway Institute of Music, 81 Conway Regional Health System, 37, 99 Conway Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, 77 Denture + Implant Solutions, 85 Downtown Conway, 70-71 DJM Orthodontics, 27 Edward Jones, 83 Explore Springdale, 75 First Community Bank, 69 First Security Bank, 55, 100 First Service Bank, 13 Freyaldenhoven Heating and Cooling, 15, 38,39 Greenbrier Public Schools, 48 Hartman Animal Hospital, 76 Harwood, Ott & Fisher, PA, 87 Heritage Living Center, 5 Jacksonville Parks and Rec, 64 K2K Salon & Spa, 65 Karen Ferguson Team, 47 Kilwins Little Rock, 33 Luxury Pool & Spa, 30 MSC Eye Associates, 97 Ott Insurance, 26, 31 Pulaski County Special School District, 73 Rise Above Alcohol & Drugs, 19 Salem Place, 23, 44-45 Shaw & Elenbaas, 43 Shelter Insurance, 97 Sissy’s Log Cabin, 28 South Conway County School District, 54 Southern Lawn Service, 67 Superior Health & Rehab, 2 Toad Suck Daze Run, 33 Unity Health, 3, 49, 91 University of Arkansas Community College Morrilton, 93 University of Central Arkansas, 51 Velda LuedersColdwell Banker, 8, 25

Toad Suck Daze

May 5-7 • Conway

Comedian Craig Shoemaker

May 13 • Hot Springs

This family-friendly festival has something for all ages: concerts, shopping, carnival rides, children’s activities, and of course, the World Championship Toad Races starring our amphibious friends. There is no cost to enter the festival. The Tadpole Trot for kids will be held May 5. The 5K/10K Toad Suck Daze Run and Tour de Toad and Iron Toad are planned for May 6. Visit

Strawberry Jam

May 6 • Bald Knob

In its 43rd year, the festival features food, arts and craft vendors and music. Gate will open at 8 a.m. and music will begin at noon and run until midnight. $40 armbands can be purchased with cash at the gate. Bands include Travis McCready, DeFrance, ShotGunBillies, Eureka Strings, Chucky Waggs & Co., Gib Ponder & Friends, Stagefright and Campfire Jam. Visit Strawberry Jam on Facebook for more.

Two-time Emmy Award winner and Comedian of the Year Craig Shoemaker comes to Hot Springs for two shows in one night. His career in show business has spanned three decades. He’s known for his relatable standup and iconic baritone-voiced character The Lovemaster, which made the all-time Top 10 list on XM Radio as Most Popular. Purchase tickets at and search for Craig Shoemaker in Hot Springs.

“My Fair Lady”

May 19-21• Little Rock

The musical tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a young Cockney flower seller, and Henry Higgins, a linguistics professor who is determined to transform her into his idea of a “proper lady.” But who is really being transformed? Boasting such classic songs as “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “The Rain in Spain,” and “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” the new production takes the stage at the Robinson Center. Tickets are $37 to $83. Visit or call 501.244.8800.

Tour de Rock

June 3 • Little Rock

Now in its 20th year, Tour de Rock attracts more than 1,000 cyclists — all to help cancer patients in Arkansas. Along with 25-, 50-, 62- and 100-mile routes, riders will enjoy an afterparty from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Heifer International Pavilion, complete with great food, a beer garden and music. To date, the race has raised more than $2 million in support of CARTI. Register at

Building Hope

Methodist Family Health dedicates Mike Millar Spiritual Life Center

Methodist Family Health, the state’s only complete continuum of care for children and families who are abandoned, abused, neglected and struggling with psychiatric, behavioral, emotional and spiritual issues, dedicated its newest facility, the Mike Millar Spiritual Life Center, at 2002 S. Fillmore St. in Little Rock on Feb. 28.

Methodist Family Health (MFH) Foundation raised $4.2 million to construct the Mike Millar Spiritual Life Center, which is named in memory of Mike Millar, a lifelong United Methodist from Searcy. He served on both MFH’s operations and foundation boards of directors. Her was a prominent attorney, philanthropist and volunteer who died in 2020.

The chapel of the center is named in memory of Elaine and Bishop Kenneth Hicks, also longtime supporters of MFH and the Arkansas children and families they serve.

Construction of this facility began in October 2021 and was completed in January 2023. In October 2020, the Mabee Foundation awarded a challenge grant of $950,000 to MFH Foundation for the construction of the Mike Millar Spiritual Life Center. This challenge grant stipulated that the foundation raise the total project cost of $4,256,175 by Oct. 13, 2021. The challenge was met in July 2021, and a total $4,259,671.72 has been raised.

In addition to the Elaine and Bishop Kenneth Hicks Chapel, this center will include a multipurpose space, a welcome center for the campus, and administrative space for Methodist Children’s Home administrators. This center also will include an outdoor labyrinth, new landscaping and enhanced parking to complement the building, and the facility will provide space for community partners to meet for neighborhood association meetings and community education.

May 2023 | 9
Above: Aerial view of the Methodist Family Health's new Mike Millar Spiritual Life Center. Right: Ritter Arnold (from left) and Mike Millar when Millar was told that the new Spiritual Life Center would be named in his honor. He passed shortly afterward.


10 | 501 LIFE May 2023
Kathy Felkins and daughter Blair Greene were "Loving LIFE" while punting through the Botanic Gardens on the Avon River in Christchurch, New Zealand. Also pictured is one of the punters, who photobombed the photo! Denae Zigtema of Conway was “Loving LIFE” and enjoying high tea at the at the Londoner Hotel on a visit to the UK. Dr. Amanda Bledsoe and staff were “Loving LIFE” at the Conway clinic. The Mt. Olive Baptist Church Senior Saints from Guy were “Loving LIFE” when they visited Petit Jean Mountain. They toured the Antique Car Museum and had lunch at Mather Lodge. Members of the Conway Newcomers' Club and Friends were “Loving LIFE” on a cruise to the Caribbean in January. The gals in green were “Loving LIFE” in Conway on St. Patrick’s Day at First Security Bank Downtown. Members of Conway’s AquaKids swim club were “Loving LIFE” when they hosted a pancake fundraiser at Stoby’s. AquaKids began in 1961 when Bob Courtway joined the faculty of Hendrix College and encouraged the popular new sport. Learn more about joining at

Above: Attendees were “Loving LIFE” at “Transformed.” Donna Evans (from left, back row), Robin Sprague, Danette Blackwell, Marsha Stephens, Lynn Pearson, Zinnia Clanton and Sheri Bradford in front.

Left: Renewal Ranch’s Special Events Coordinator Kelli Brawley (from left) and keynote speaker Kendis Chenoweth were “Loving LIFE” at the event. Center: Mallory Reed (from left) and her mom, Miranda Mathis-Davis, of Kindred Mercantile hosted one of several vendor booths for pre-event shopping.

May 2023 | 11 Headed out on a special trip? Have a special occasion or get-together coming up? Pack a copy of 501 LIFE in your suitcase, snap a photo at your destination and send it to us for publication in a future issue! Photos can be submitted by email to
Kayla Sutton (from left), Megan Worbington, Kayla Ammons, Brandy Webb (all from Conway) and Jennifer Basenberg (from Morrilton) were “Loving LIFE” on Ammons' Boots & Besties Bachelorette Trip to Nashville, Tenn., in early March. Maegan (from left), August and Asher Dyson were “Loving LIFE” when they experience the Grand Canyon in the snow on their spring break vacation.

Faulkner turns 150!

Event alive with fanfare, music and filling of time capsule

Patriotic music welcomed several hundred guests to the Faulkner County Courthouse steps on the evening of April 12 for a ceremony marking the county’s 150th birthday.

The courthouse was draped in red, white and blue and Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson was the master of ceremonies. He had invited about three dozen leaders to speak briefly and to place items into a time capsule that has been buried on the courthouse’s grounds and will be opened in 150 years. The mayors of Conway, Greenbrier, Guy, Mayflower, Wooster and Vilonia were present with unique offerings from their communities. A 15th anniversary edition of 501 LIFE Magazine was included in the time capsule. Additionally, former County Judge Jim Baker spoke to the enthusiastic crowd.

Other leaders who were invited represented businesses, nonprofit organizations, law enforcement, media and service organizations. The Vilonia and Greenbrier High School Band members sat together and played a military medley, which included the national anthem.

Several citizens had been asked to bring antique tractors, trucks, fire trucks and a Model A car to line the street beside the courthouse and take citizens mentally back in time. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and it was a pleasant, sunny day.

The event was the first of several that ran through Saturday, April 15, to celebrate the county’s birthday in a grand fashion. Other events centered around the Toadsuck Ferry refurbishment, and the party culminated on Saturday with tours of the museum, booths, food and an opportunity to contribute to a second time capsule at the Faulkner County Museum.

12 | 501 LIFE May 2023
Photos by Makenzie Evans

A small world filled with big hearts

Conway police officers, firefighters and a U.S. Marshal make time for an old friend

On April 13, the Conway Fire Department, Police Department and bomb squad were called to Salem Place Nursing and Rehabilitation, and they were promptly escorted to the room of Dale Gibbs. This visit wasn’t a 911 call, however. It’s just one of the heartfelt occasions that happen in our community.

Gibbs, a 68-year-old resident of Salem Place for the last year, is under the care of Gentiva Hospice whose staff coordinated a surprise visit from his heroes. Dawna Gunther, an RN with the hospice, shared that Dale had a few favorite things: Diet Coke, McDonald’s hamburgers, fire trucks and ice cream. Staff members try to enrich the lives of patients and the first responders were happy to pay a visit to Dale, hoping he could climb onto the fire truck for a photo.

He wasn’t feeling up to going outside and was resting in his room, which is adorned with pictures and models of fire trucks. But the police officers, firefighters and U.S. Marshal went inside to see him. They introduced themselves and shared some gifts to further his decor. They also presented Dale with an honorary badge.

Then the firefighters stepped forward, and the 501 got a whole lot smaller.

As everyone watched for Dale’s response, two firefighters took a breath and said, “That’s Dale!” They immediately recognized him, calling him by name when they came to his side.

Dale had been visiting the Central Station about once a month for at least 18 years, dropping by to meet new firefighters. He was especially known for spending a few hours during Toad Suck Daze, and as they compared stories, they figured out he had regularly visited at least one other station. One of the firefighters quoted Dale as saying, “I don’t want much, but I’d take a Coke if you got it.”

After spending time visiting with Dale, the first responders, fellow residents, nursing home and hospice staff shared ice cream bars, conversation and banter about whom Dale admired the most. Dale brought many people together that day and made many remember why we chose to live in the 501. It’s a small world filled with so many wonderful people — like Dale Gibbs.

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A visit from his heroes—First responders pay a visit to Dale Gibbs, a Salem Place Nursing Home and Gentiva Hospice patient. Photos by Mike Kemp
May 2023 | 15
Firefighters and law enforcement officers in Conway were asked to visit a Gentiva Hospice patient at Salem Place Nursing Home because he idolizes them. Many other residents and staff enjoyed meeting the local heroes. Photo by Bart Bradford


Historic preservation might not be on the curriculum at South Side Bee Branch High School, but Skylar Bradford would surely score an A+ if it were.

Due to his research, and with help from the community, the South Side Bee Branch School Historic District has been placed on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places. Additionally, the high school’s sign was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Both honors became effective Dec. 7, 2022, through the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, a part of the Arkansas Department of Heritage.

Skylar, who will be 18 this month, has attended South Side Bee Branch schools all his life. “It’s my family’s school,” he said. “My Mamaw graduated from here in 1969 and my Dad in 1992. I’ll graduate in May. It’s a special place to us and to the community.”

The high school was established in 1929. There are buildings on campus that were built by the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency that employed millions of jobseekers to carry out public works projects. The WPA operated from May 1935 to June 1943.

Skylar said the idea to get the school recognized by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program occurred to him last year.

“It was my idea,” he said, smiling. “South Side hosted the state 2A baseball/softball tournament last May. As a volunteer, one of my jobs was to drive a golf cart and shuttle people back and forth. We would drive past Old Main and the white rocks that make up the South Side High School sign, and people would comment on what a beautiful campus we have.

“We do have a beautiful campus with old rock buildings that have a lot of history,” Skylar said. “So I talked to my Dad and to the school administrators, and they were all on board. Then I got in touch with Ralph Wilcox at the Arkansas Heritage Department, and he helped me … told me what I needed to do to apply for the recognition.”

Skylar said he interviewed people in the community, as well as former students; he also researched historical records. That research led to four of the buildings being included in the South Side Bee Branch Historic District and listed on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places — the “Old Gym,” constructed in 1936, and “Old Main,” constructed in 1941, both by the WPA; the “Lunchroom,” built in 1966 and in continuous service; and the “Old Third-Grade Building,” constructed in 1948, moved onto the South Side campus from Fort Roots in North Little Rock, also in continuous service. It is the oldest elementary building on campus.

Additionally, his research led to the high school sign being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The sign was constructed in 1937 by the National Youth Administration, a division of the WPA, and consists of approximately 5-foot-tall by 4-foot-wide field stones held together by mortar and painted white. It is repainted as needed. A cement marker was placed at the south end of

the sign that reads, “NYW/2713-Y-10/1937.”

Skylar said, “It’s a good deal to preserve the school’s history. I am glad I was able to help. South Side is a special place. It is the heart of our community. I like to compare it to Mayberry, a place where everyone knows everybody and no one is afraid to lend a helping hand.”

Kelly Leonard, the high school principal, called Skylar “an amazing person.”

She shares some comments from several teachers: “Skylar has been described as a mover and a shaker, as an old soul wise beyond his years.” Another teacher said, “Skylar has a keen sense of community that is not commonly found in someone his age. He appreciates the history of our area and the various friends and family connections that developed South Side School into the place it is today. Heritage is of utmost importance to him, and he feels a calling to preserve the memories and artifacts of the past.”

The senior serves as president of the Student Council and a member of Beta Club, FFA, FBLA, yearbook staff and the livestock show team. He lives in Damascus on the family farm with his father, Bart Bradford. His grandparents, Barbara Fowler Bradford and Jerry Bradford, also live on the farm. His mother, Chasity Bradford, lives in Greenbrier. His sister, Madisyn Barton, is in fourth grade at South Side Bee Branch.

This is not the first time Skylar has been involved in helping preserve the past. In 2020, he did the research that led to the Bradford Family Farm being recognized as an Arkansas Century Farm. He was also instrumental in getting the Fowler Cemetery in Damascus listed in the Arkansas Register of Historic Places in 2020.

May 2023 | 17
Speakers at the historic marker unveiling ceremony were Ralph Wilcox of the Arkansas Heritage Department (in white shirt, from left), Skylar Bradford, Cody Hiland, chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, and Brenda Linn with the South Side Alumni Association.

A salute to our seniors

Congratulations on being part of the 12th graduating class from Maumelle High School! As you join the ranks of over 2,700 Hornet alumni, I am proud to be a part of your journey and excited to see where life takes you from here.

This year, I encourage you to embrace the spirit of service and continue to give back to your community, even as you move into the next chapter of your life. Remember that you are more than the labels society may place upon you and strive to be "indefinable" in the best sense of the word.

As you move forward, never forget the most important titles you hold — father, mother, spouse, friend — and let these roles guide you as you define your own story. Your words and actions have the power to build up or tear down, so choose them carefully.

I am honored to have been a part of your journey here at Maumelle High, and I know you will make us proud in all that you do. l wish you well. I wish you the best life has to offer and continued blessings. Congratulations again, and go, Hornets!


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.

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Save those hand-written recipes!

messages frommom love

t's the time for the vintage song "M is for the many things she gave me," with the spelling of "M-O-T-H-E-R"!

The trendy list of Mom's things we all have been given is headed by the timeless hand-downs of RECIPES. On a recent visit to the local gift shop, I saw a display featuring a collection of various styles of binders, albums and cards to store these recipe treasures. We have our family recipes stored in a colorful 8 X 10 binder, created by our daughter Jessica Faulkner. These are the most-used recipes we want to save and pass on to future generations, but they do not include the recipes in file folders, the junk drawer, the journals, and our "his-and-her" collections that are spread

There is something so special about the handwritten ones—the recipes on the back of an envelope or an index card, written by our moms or grandmothers. They are full of nostalgia, inspiring sweet memories of family and

One of our treasures is a small cutting board, with hand-painted lemons and the handwritten recipe of Mom's favorite “go-to” cookies—the Lemon IceBox Cookie. At some point in the past, my mom painted and printed this recipe and used the old "decoupage" technique of preserving it for us. Even now, the recipes that were handwritten on cutting boards are a favorite craft means of recipe preservation, as shown on Pinterest.

Now that the official time for spring cleaning has arrived, we have enjoyed going through the boxes of our handwritten recipes; I've included some of these for your reading and cooking enjoyment. With Mother's Day activities approaching, the recipes for Baked Oatmeal and Baked French Toast with Praline Topping are two great dishes to prepare ahead of time for Mom's Sunday morning breakfast treat. We’ve also included the Brownie Cake; don't let this one fall through the cracks. It's so simple but unforgettable, and a regular request of our family. It's done in a pie pan and cut into squares–so rich and delicious!

Happy Mother's Day to all our readers. Enjoy organizing those handwritten treasures!

Recipes continued on page 22

May 2023 | 21
Above: Eloise Stowe (from left), Judy Roach and Sue Dablock of Conway share hand-written recipes that were passed down to them by special women in their lives. Right: A popular way to preserve handwriting is to have the recipe carved on a cutting board like this one created by Urban Timbers in Downtown Conway. Photos by Mike Kemp

Baked Oatmeal

2 cups dry oatmeal (not quick oats; old fashioned)

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup butter

1 beaten egg

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

3/4 cup milk (or 1 cup, depending on dryness)

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup nuts (optional)

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1/2 cup fresh apples, chopped (optional)

Mix thoroughly. Refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Don't overbake. Pour warm half-and-half over dish before serving.

Brownie Cake

Blend ingredients

1 stick butter, melted

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour, all-purpose

Then add to mixture:

2 eggs, beaten

Then add:

2 Tbsp. cocoa

2 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup pecans

Blend mixture on low heat. Bake in a lightly greased pie pan at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Baked French Toast

1 loaf French bread, cut into 20 slices

8 large eggs

2 cups half-and-half

1 cup milk

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Dash of salt

Praline Topping (recipe below)

Maple syrup

Arrange sliced bread in a 9 X 13-inch baking dish. Mix the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and pour over the bread. Refrigerate overnight. Make Praline Topping and put on bread. Bake for 40 minutes at 350.

Praline Topping

1/2 pound softened butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup pecans

2 Tbsp. corn syrup

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Mix all ingredients and pour over top of bread before baking.

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Grace Raja, MD, & Vijay Raja, MD



EDUCATION: I have a Bachelor of Science from the University of California-Los Angeles and completed my medical degree at UT Southwestern in Dallas.

JOB: CARTI Cancer Center

CHILDREN: We have three children who are 6, 7 and 9 years old.

COMMUNITY/CHURCH ACTIVITIES: We love being a part of the amazing work being done at the Arkansas Foodbank.

HOBBIES/SPECIAL INTERESTS: Attending children’s activities, riding my Peloton and shopping at Ted Baker.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF: I hope people see me as a warm, generous, humble hard-working human!

A FACT MOST DON’T KNOW: I’m constantly listening to EDM (electronic dance music)!

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THE 501: I love the people here in Arkansas the most!

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO: Stay positive, work hard and be kind!


EDUCATION: I have a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.; I completed my medical degree at Tulane University in New Orleans, La.; and, I have an M.B.A. from the University of TexasDallas.

JOB: Arkansas Heart Hospital

COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: My wife and I are involved with the Arkansas Foodbank.

HOBBIES/SPECIAL INTERESTS: All sports, my children, wife and family.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF: I am hard-working, passionate and caring.

A FACT MOST DON’T KNOW: I didn’t speak English until I was 5 years old. I was born in the U.S. but raised by my grandparents in India until then. I yearned to fit into my new surroundings and quickly forgot my first language.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THE 501: There isn’t a day that goes by without a friendly greeting — what a joy to live where people are genuinely happy to see one another!

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO: “We’re all just rough drafts of the people we’re still becoming.” — Bob Goff

Grace Raja, MD, is a Hematology/Oncology Specialist at CARTI Cancer Center in Little Rock and Conway and a CARTI Foundation Board Member. This month we featured her on the cover as one of the 501Der Women. We spoke with Raja about her career in healthcare.

My love for oncology began early in my residency when I cared for oncology patients in the medicine wards. Patients diagnosed with cancer have a unique outlook on life. It humbles me to see patients with terminal illnesses remain positive, patient and kind throughout their diagnoses. I also really enjoy seeing families rally together around their loved ones. In addition, I like to read and am a lifelong student, which is also a good fit for oncology due to the ever-changing landscape of new treatments.

It is a privilege to care for oncology patients. It puts my life and troubles into perspective, helps me stay grounded and not "sweat the small stuff." It sometimes can bite me, though, because what may be big problems for my loved ones, I do not consider it as "life or death!" It can be difficult at times to "leave work at work," but I am grateful for my family and partners at CARTI, who help me stay positive.

The best part of my job is giving good news to my patients! I have trained and studied to do it for the better part of my life. However, I am humbled by being with my patients when they receive bad news, and a special part of my job is walking alongside them during a difficult part of their lives.

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Vijay and I first met when I "pimped" (medical slang for INTENSE questioning) him in front of our entire residency program during a lunch conference fondly referred to as “Potpourri” at Parkland Hospital. He was a lowly intern, and I was a second-year resident. We were then friends for years until one day he got the courage to ask me to a drug-rep dinner! We have been inseparable since that first date in 2010. Our wedding took place at The Adolphus Hotel in Dallas on Nov. 18, 2012. We had a Hindu/Catholic ceremony with various traditions, including Vijay riding on a horse down Main Street in downtown Dallas. We came to Little Rock when Vijay landed a dream job with Arkansas Heart Hospital. I was lucky enough to find my dream job at CARTI eight months after we moved here. We are the best of friends, and we make each other laugh and lift each other up when we have had tough days in the hospital. Each year, it becomes more and more apparent that we were meant for each other.

May 2023 | 25

Creativity in full bloom

Winners of 2023 Faulkner County Daffodil Daze Art Contest announced


The 2023 Daffodil Daze Art Contest Reception was held April 18 to honor winners. Family members, friends and educators gathered at the Conway Regional Foundation offices at the Frauenthal House for the ceremony. A lovely reception was provided by Anne Cadle, the special events manager for the hospital’s foundation.

The Daffodil Daze committee and 501 LIFE Magazine partnered with Conway Regional Health System and First Security Bank to present the annual contest that was open to all Faulkner County kindergarten through 12th-grade students. Entries were submitted on 8.5-by-11-inch paper in any art medium, including photos. Contest entries were judged by Jeff Young, professor of art education at the University of Central Arkansas. This year, Dr. Young

enlisted the assistance of two students Sara Wojtarowicz and Savannah Calhoun, both working toward completing a B.A. in art with emphasis in art education.

Contest age divisions were: elementary (kindergarten through fourth grade), middle school (fifth through eighth grade), and junior high/high school (ninth through 12th grade). Winners received gift bags, provided by Stefanie Vann Holt of First Security Bank and Target gift cards from Charles Finkenbinder, who is Conway's city attorney.

The art contest Chairperson was Paulette Higginbotham, with 501 LIFE Magazine. Donna Evans spoke on behalf of the Daffodil Daze Committee and their work beautifying Faulkner County parks and trails. The awards were announced by Stefanie Brazile, editor of 501 LIFE.

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May 2023 | 27
High School Division: 2nd Josie Keylor, Home School Student 1st Camilla Spresian, Greenbrier High School MIddle School Division: 3rd Hailey Benish, Eastside Elementary of Greenbrier 2nd Sarah Smith, Frank Mitchell Intermediate of Vilonia 1st Marlee Barrios, Eastside Elementary of Greenbrier Not pictured: Honorable Mention Kate Maxwell, Eastside Elementary of Greenbrier; Kaleb Angeline, Eastside Elementary of Greenbrier Elementary School Division: 3rd Laikyn Green, Eastside Elementary of Greenbrier 2nd Lana Davis, Eastside Elementary of Greenbrier 1st Arushi Huq, Ellen Smith Elementary of Conway Not pictured: Honorable Mention Zoey Bryan, Eastside Elementary of Greenbrier; Zoni Watford, Wooster Elementary of Greenbrier; Serenity Phillips, Mayflower Elementary Photos by Mike Kemp

Lynda Carter played Wonder Woman on TV in the late 1970s. At 5-feet 11-inches tall, the former Miss World USA righted wrongs one hour at a time for five successful years. Leap forward to 2017 when “Wonder Woman” the movie opened and made $38.2 million on opening day! It was the biggest single-day gross for a woman-directed film. Lead actress Gal Gadot received rave reviews for her charismatic performance of the iconic figure who is both gentle and powerful.

Audiences are still in love with Wonder Woman and we bring you the “501Der Women” of Central Arkansas. This section is packed with ladies who are righting the world one task at a time. What an asset each of them is to this region! We know you will enjoy meeting the spectacular women in this special section.

May 2023 | 29

Andrea Lawson

General Manager of Luxury Pool & Spa

After dipping her toes in the water, Andrea Lawson dove head first into the family business, Luxury Pool & Spa.

Her husband, Jeremy Lawson, and his brother, Shane, co-own the business, but she always helped out when she could. “I have always admired what they do and found the swimming pool industry very fascinating,” Andrea Lawson said. However, she continued to work in other industries. “We have been blessed that our company has continued to grow and that the timing was right for me to join full time.”

As someone who loves family togetherness and the outdoors — hiking in the 501 is one of her favorite pastimes — the pool and spa industry is a perfect fit.

“Pools and spas bring people together,” Lawson said. “After the projects are complete, it is always a joy when a customer sends a picture of his or her family spending quality time together in the pool or spa.”

Lawson’s family also includes her mom, who, along with her faith in God, has helped her reach her goals, she said. “She is my best friend, my rock, the one I can always count on to push me, motivate me and be there for me when I need something,” Lawson said. “My oldest son is a huge inspiration to me. He was born with bilateral progressive sensorineural hearing loss and received cochlear implants at the ages of 3 and 5. Not only has he had to overcome the challenges of being deaf, but he has had to overcome serious illnesses and many other ailments. He has always shown a tenacity like none other. He is a hard worker, never complains and has an extremely kind heart. I am truly blessed to be his mama!”

Hard work is in the family’s genes. The business, which started in Russellville in 1976, opened a new location on April 1 on Stanford Road in Conway. “It has been a long process with a lot of hard work and dedication to complete the building,” Lawson said, adding that it was worth it. “Opening the doors on the day of the grand opening and seeing all our friends, customers, neighbors, and the community who came out to support us was truly humbling and extremely rewarding.”

Contact Andrea today at or 501.327.1772.

5 Stanford Road • Conway

Michelle Mallett Senior Manager at Ott Insurance

Michelle Mallett’s official title at Ott Insurance in Conway is hard to pin down because she’s filled so many roles over the past 27 years.

Co-owner Lonnie Cagle called her “a calming presence in this everchanging insurance world. She strives for excellence in every detail and lives out each of our core values daily, some of which include consistency, mutual trust and exceeding expectations.”

Co-owner Stanley Gordon Jr. said many titles fit Mallett and described her as “passionate, innovative, hard-working, honest, competitive, fearless, and I could go on and on. She treats every decision as a business owner would, from dealing with employees to making financial decisions for the company.” He settled on calling her the senior manager. Mallett just knows she loves her job, regardless of what title she’s given.

“As many colleagues in the insurance field say, you don’t choose insurance, it chooses you. This was correct in my case,” she said. Mallett has lived in Conway most of her life. “I began working part-time at Ott Land Title while attending UCA. Robert Ott, who owned Ott Land Title and Robert L. Ott Insurance at the time, allowed me to transfer over to the insurance side to fill a bookkeeping position.” She stayed because of her co-workers and the satisfaction her job brings.

“What I love about my job and my biggest accomplishments are not the ones that usually get noticed by awards or certificates. They are the behind-the-scenes victories. Being able to work with a client’s insurance carrier to reverse a claim denial, if possible, by providing the evidence necessary is always a victory for the clients we serve and rewarding for me. I must admit, I do a little happy dance,” she said.

Mallett said she thinks more young women should choose insurance as a career. “Being a woman in the insurance field has been a very positive experience for me. In addition to the 14 incredible women I work with, I have had so many influential insurance women that have supported, taught and demonstrated character that I will always carry with me.” Not that she’s going anywhere soon. It would be hard to operate the office without her. “To sum her up, she’s special,” Gordon said. Contact Michelle today at or 501.513.8146.

May 2023 | 31
831 Parkway Street • Conway


Golfers gather for fourth year in Conway for Women's All-Pro Tour

For the fourth consecutive year, women’s professional golf is coming to Conway.

With the theme of “Empowering Women to Dream Without Limits,” the Genesis of Conway Central Arkansas Open is part of the Women’s All-Pro Tour and will feature 108 professional and 36 collegiate golfers at Centennial Valley Golf and Athletic Club July 19-22. The event, which will include $55,000 in prize money, will also feature a collegiate/junior event on July 17 and a pro-am on July 18.

According to, the tournament is an official event on the Women’s All Pro Tour (WAPT), the official qualifier of the Epson Tour, which is a feeder to the LPGA and a life of professional golf. Each WAPT tournament

mirrors an LPGA tour week, with practice rounds, parties, clinics and pro-ams in addition to the 72-hole tournament. Fields typically include recent college graduates as well as conditional players on the Epson and LPGA tours.

Last year, the Conway event featured 100 golfers from 17 countries. “This year we will have 100 pro women players and 35 collegiate players,” said Tournament Director April Worley. Professional golfers from around the world will compete for $55,000 in prize money.

Pete Tanguay of Conway, founder and tournament chair, said the WAPT approached Centennial Valley several years ago with an opportunity to add an event there in 2020.

“Mike Smith, the golf pro, needed someone to run it and asked me,” Tanguay said. “I retired in 2018 and

Continued on page 34

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Photo by Mike Kemp Jill Enderlin (from left) and Lisa Roachell are vital volunteers to the tournament each year.
May 2023 | 33

Tanguay’s company, Rock Pond Pros, has been a presenting sponsor every year. The previous title sponsor, the Women’s Leadership Network, remains a beneficiary of the event.

“Proceeds support women’s initiatives in Central Arkansas throughout the year,” Tanguay said. “We are the underwriting sponsor for the Women’s Leadership Academy which started two years ago, and also support a number of other initiatives.”

The 501 area has been generous to provide sponsorships and volunteers for the event. “The business community is very giving, especially to causes that improve our community and make Conway a better place to live,” Tanguay said. “Being the only professional athletic event to ever be held in Faulkner County, there is excitement about seeing professional athletes from around the world compete here. Promotion of the tournament as an event that ‘Empowers Women to Dream Without Limits’ and extending this to include other women’s initiatives here in Conway throughout the year has also been a big draw.”

As tournament director, Worley looks forward to their arrival in July. “I love this event and seeing these ladies work towards their goals and dreams of getting closer to the LPGA. We have had several ladies who played in our tournament who are getting to play in the LPGA tournaments.”

Last year the tournament was voted “Top Tournament,” and Tanguay believes the community’s hospitality played a role in the honor.

“I think what sets us apart is the way our community supports the players’ dreams, gets personally involved with them beyond just watching them play golf and invites them into our homes,” Tanguay said. “Not all tournaments offer host housing for players. The Genesis of Conway Central Arkansas Open has provided housing for 100 percent of the players who have requested it over the past three years. Last year we housed 65 players in 50 homes.

“The host families that I have had before have enjoyed every minute of it,” Enderlin said, explaining that as players pursue their dream of an LPGA Tour card, they need to save as much money as possible, and player housing helps that effort. “Lisa and I started with maybe 35 or so the first year. Last year we housed 65, thanks to our great community and friends. This year it may be close to 80 or more.”

The week will include a gathering for all the host families and players.

“These women are low-maintenance and appreciative of everything they get,” Enderlin said. “The one thing I would want to stress is they aren’t kids — these are mature women, ages 20 to 30. They aren’t going to be up late partying. It’s their job.”

Roachell’s daughter, Summar, the most recent in a line of top-notch women golfers from Conway, played in the event the first two years, but she has since taken a teaching professional job at a country club in northwest Arkansas.

Tanguay said it was unlikely any local golfers would play in the event other than entries the WAPT offers as a gift.

This is the 12th of 13 events on the 2023 WAPT Tour. Tournaments are held in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas. The only other Arkansas stop is the Texarkana Children Charities Open at Texarkana Country Club (and Northridge Country Club in Texarkana, Texas) July 12-15.

“Lisa and I work hard on this, and we would love to have anyone on board to help us,” Enderlin said. “The money (the players) save (on housing) helps them to pay for their next tournament entry. I stay in touch with so many of them, I feel like they are our own daughters.

“We are Mama Jill and Mama Lisa here.”

For more information about attending the tournament or playing with a pro, visit

34 | 501 LIFE May 2023
‘I think what sets us apart is the way our community supports the players’ dreams, gets personally involved with them beyond just watching them play golf and invites them into our homes.’
— Pete Tanguay, founder and tournament chair

President/Chief Human Resources Officer at Centennial Bank

Looking back on all her accomplishments as Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Centennial Bank, Arlene Lovelace is proudest of her growth as a leader and role model for women in the 501.

Helping take a company from approximately 50 employees to nearly 3,000 doesn’t happen overnight. Through hard work and the tenacity to stand up for her vision to create a better world for women, Lovelace blazes her trail by saying no to the status quo.

“My mother taught me to be independent and led by example,” Lovelace said. “Learn to say ‘no’ when necessary. It is one of the most valuable lessons you’ll ever learn. As women, we tend to be conditioned to say everything but no.”

Through her work with Centennial Bank, Lovelace adds to the boom of female-led businesses in the community and is grateful for those who helped light the way to where she stands today.

“I’m beginning to see more women assume executive-level roles in industries that have traditionally been held by males,” Lovelace said. “A few others who set me on the path that I’m on today are Ernie Dodson, Golena J. Crump, Shirley Stewart, Jane Arthurs, Gloria Henderson, Leann West, Lynne Gardner Tull, Joy Greer and Lori Case Melton. They all saw something special in me and were willing to give me a chance.”

The future is bright for women in the 501 and that excites Lovelace. If she could give her younger self advice, she would say, “Be open to change. Things that aren’t flexible will eventually break under pressure. It’s okay to change your mind. Sometimes you have to redirect. Be kind because kindness goes a long way and remember to laugh.”

When she’s not giving back to the community she calls home, Lovelace embraces the many beautiful features the 501 has to offer.

“There’s so much to do, no matter your interests,” Lovelace said. “Music, food, theater, hiking, boating, fishing and the list goes on and on!” Contact Arlene Lovelace at or by calling 888.372.9788.

Member FDIC

Reagan Garber, DO

Chief Resident

Conway Regional Health System

Reagan Garber, MD, always knew that she’d devote her career to helping others. Surrounded by love and inspiration from those who know her best, she was given the tools necessary to change lives from an early age.

“My father, Tim Fix, worked in healthcare and played a big part in my life,” Garber said. “After he passed away when I was in college, I knew I needed to find a career that allowed me to use my passions to serve other people. My mother, Carla Hillis, has always been my biggest supporter and encourager through all stages of my life. To this day, she is a portrait of grace, love, support and selflessness and has always let me be who I am.”

After completing several eye-opening medical mission trips to Belize in high school and college, turning to medicine was a no-brainer. “Through those trips, I was able to see how if you meet people’s medical needs, you can open up countless other doors for them,” she said.

With a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from Kansas City University and a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Garber has forged an inspirational path to being named Chief Resident at Conway Regional Health System’s Family Residency Program.

“[Becoming Chief Resident is] a huge honor because it is voted on by the other residents,” Garber said. “It’s a huge form of respect as well as a huge responsibility.”

The sky’s the limit for Garber, who takes each day as a challenge for personal and professional growth. “I love this program,” Garber said. “I love what it stands for and I want to make it better, stronger.”

Along her journey, Garber has learned many lessons. “As a resident, I have been fortunate to learn from incredible female providers such as Dr. Sarah Robertson, Dr. Courtney Sick and Dr. Jamie Trapp as well as Dr. Darren Freeman and Dr. Clark Trapp. I have always looked up to Dr. Kristy Roberts as a mom and a physician. They have all invested in me and helped me grow to be the physician I strive to be.”

Garber and her husband, Terrin, a math teacher and head baseball coach at Mount Vernon-Enola, live in Greenbrier with their three-year-old daughter.

Make an appointment with Conway Regional at or 501.327.1325.

May 2023 | 37

Judy Freyaldenhoven

Judy Freyaldenhoven and her sister-in-law, Sharon, helped Freyaldenhoven Heating and Cooling head in the right direction when their husbands started the business more than 50 years ago.

Judy’s husband, the late Buck Freyaldenhoven, and his brother, Bob, started repairing air conditioners in 1970 for friends and family. In 1970 they opened their business in a garage on Siebenmorgen Road with just two trucks. Cellphones didn’t exist, so they had to be creative. “We answered the phone from our homes before portable phones or cellphones. We did have CB radios to transfer the calls,” Judy said.

The business grew rapidly and moved to its second location on Front Street, where it is today. Judy said she helped in the office some, but she loved working with children more than anything. She started working at the Mother’s Day Out program at First United Methodist Church in Conway and then at the church’s School for Little People, which was started and owned by Ann Lancaster and Connie Trent. “They really inspired me and taught me many things about working with children,” Judy said.

She also worked at another preschool, where she said her strength was “comforting and calming down the children. I loved reaching out to the shy ones.” She retired after 30 years in childcare, all the while raising her four children. She now has 11 “precious” grandchildren. Judy grew up in Conway, as did her mother and maternal grandfather. “After Mom married Dad, from Elkins, Ark., she insisted on living in Conway. I’m glad she did.”

Judy and her husband fished, hunted, camped and enjoyed the outdoors in the 501. Today, she is an avid Wampus Cat and Razorback fan and a member of Second Baptist Church. She also enjoys attending activities at St. Joseph Catholic Church. A 26-year breast cancer survivor, Judy stays active and participates in programs at Ola and John Hawks Senior Wellness and Activity Center. “I love to exercise,” she said.

Judy and Buck’s son, John, and Sharon and Bob’s son, Scott, own the heating and air business today “and are continuing to do a great job,” she said. But the business wouldn’t be where it is today without Judy and Sharon’s support in the early years.

Contact Freyaldenhoven Heating & Cooling today at 501.329.2951 or learn more at

1101 Front Street • Conway

Sharon Freyaldenhoven

Sharon Freyaldenhoven helped start not one, but two, iconic businesses in Conway. The family name is well known through Freyaldenhoven Heating and Cooling. The heating and air business was started by her late husband, Bob, and her late brother-in-law Buck.

“I consider my marriage and my [two] children my biggest accomplishments. Bob and I were married two months shy of 50 years when he died of cancer. He was not only my foundation, but the rock of the family and the business and is sorely missed.” When Bob and Buck Freyaldenhoven opened their business in 1970 in a garage and with two trucks, Sharon and her sister-inlaw Judy were integral to the operation. No one had heard of a cellphone or even a cordless phone in those days. The women answered their home phones and transferred calls via a CB radio.

In 1989, Sharon started Kicks Active Wear. Although she no longer owns it, “I’m proud that the business I began … is still one of the oldest retail businesses downtown and still operating and thriving,” she said.

In addition to enjoying five grandchildren and one great-grandchild, she is a published author of two children’s books, one of which won a national award. “I still write short stories and occasionally enter them in various contests just for fun,” she said. "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Don't be so afraid to try new things or to do the things you always secretly wanted to do. Dig out your shoes and dance! Pick up a mic and sing! Find a pen and write!

“I am a member of Rotary International. For many years I volunteered in the Miss America Scholarship program. When I first opened my business, I was active in Main Street Conway.”

She has advice for others wanting to start a business. “Anyone beginning their career should keep their standards high and never lower them, and never stop learning about their trade and looking for ways to improve themselves. I see more women taking active roles in city government and opening businesses. It is those steps forward that keep our city thriving. There are so many strong women everywhere I turn,” she said. And Sharon Freyaldenhoven is counted among them.

Contact Freyaldenhoven Heating & Cooling today at 501.329.2951 or learn more at

May 2023 | 39 1101
Front Street • Conway

Sewing the seeds of beauty

Cut flower farming popular in Saline County

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Judy Riley Photos by Tony Baker
May 2023 | 41

All for the love of the bloom, that is the crux of why Saline County flower farmers Elizabeth Kooiman and Garry Looney got into their respective businesses. For Kooiman, it was a lifelong love of flowers ramped up by a special flower request from her daughter. For Looney, it was a nostalgic connection to his mother and her flowers, specifically peonies. In both cases, it is passion turned into a business. According to Lady Bird Jonson, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” And these two success stories are full of hope, hard work and perseverance.

Elizabeth (Lizzy) grew up in a family of nature and flower lovers. She had grown flowers for friends and family since she married. Her uncle started Bradbury Christmas Tree Farm in the community of Sardis. Her flower enterprise is in a half-acre behind her home, located on her family’s original property. Then, as often happens in life, an event precipitated a new adventure.

When asked by her daughter to grow and arrange flowers for her wedding, she jumped at the chance. Determined to have fresh, fragrant flowers by the May wedding date, Elizabeth began researching what was best suited to that time of year. “I became intrigued that people had businesses doing what I loved. I had been a nurse at Arkansas Children’s Hospital for 25 years, my children were grown and had finished college. It was time to pursue this crazy dream of mine!”

So in the fall of 2019 at age 54, she felt she had no time to waste. She dove right in, took her first class from seasoned flower farmer Lisa Ziegler, retired from her career at the hospital in February and hoped to sell her first flowers in March! She took advantage of every avenue for learning: becoming a Master Gardener, talking to other flower farmers and reading everything she could.

Memories of Garry Looney’s mother, Sue, and her peony patch brought him to flower farming. “As a child, I remember her growing a peony in the flower bed behind the house. I still see an image of her at dawn, admiring the many buds on the variety Sarah Bernhardt, waiting for the fragrance of the bloom to become intense with the heat of the day.” As one would expect, his favorite flower is the peony. Because of mild Arkansas winters, he can grow

them in the field, planting some in pots in a hoop house to hasten their blooming.

Garry works full time as a contractor and home inspector and grows cut flowers as a hobby-turned-business. He first began giving his flowers away. “My wife told me that I could give them to any woman who was 20 years older than me. As I got older, it became a little harder to abide by my wife’s request.”

He grows (with knowledge) bells of Ireland, yarrow, mums and roses, as well as cool and warm season flowers. Garry sells wholesale through local florists, area farmer’s markets and, through social media, Steel Bridge Farms. Contact him directly at or by calling 501.590.5978.

Elizabeth starts rudbeckia, larkspur, yarrow, snapdragon, campanula and other cold hardy flowers in the fall. These flowers help bridge the gap between the early blooming bulb crops of tulips and daffodils to the warm-season crops of zinnias, cosmos and celosia. She calls this succession planting. As one crop is waning, there is a new crop ready to take its place. She adds, “Keeping up with planting, harvesting and selling is quite a feat!”

She sells mostly wholesale to florists and designers in Central Arkansas, as well as providing flowers to small local markets. She does sell retail through weekly subscriptions where flowers are delivered to individuals or businesses. DIY flower buckets are also available. She is quick to give credit to other flower farmers. They often back each other up to supply large events and weddings. She can be contacted through Instagram at the_poppy_patch, or directly at 501.993.4960.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of flower farmers in the 501. Information on local growers can be obtained through Randy Forst, extension educator for Consumer Horticulture, and Master Gardener coordinator at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, As spring flowers bloom and Mother’s Day approaches, enjoy locally grown cut flowers. The advice of Mark Twain rings true for us all, “Live simple, love well and take time to smell the flowers along the way.”

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Elizabeth “Lizzy” Kooiman is one of several cut flower farmers in the 501 who sell to florists, at farmers’ markets and through social media.
May 2023 | 43
Lizzy Kooiman and Sloane, her 5-year-old granddaughter, load flowers at her Mabelvale farm for an event in Hot Springs.

Cheri Gosser Owner of Bare Skin Studio

Ask any customer to describe their experience at Bare Skin Studio, and one of the first words you will hear is “comfort.” That’s thanks to entrepreneur and waxer Cheri Gosser, whose warm and kind personality immediately puts customers at ease. “I want my clients to have an easy, fun experience in the waxing studio and to know I am truly blessed to have them!” she said.

Cheri has worked in skin care for 29 years and opened her own company, Bare Skin Studio in Conway, last year. The new location offers a vibrant, inviting and relaxing atmosphere with full-service waxing options for both men and women. “Skin care is our priority,” explains Cheri. “I desire to help my clients achieve fresh glowing skin by removing unwanted hair with a hard wax.”

Hard wax is less painful than traditional soft wax and is gentler on the skin because it removes hair cleanly from the root. This also allows for sessions to be quick so customers can get back to their busy lives.

Cheri decided to run her very own studio because of the relationships she has made with clients in Central Arkansas. “I think this is what life is all about, relationships. I am amazed at all the nice and supportive people in this area. I have found a lot of people want to see me grow into a better me. This has created a desire to grow my business and plant my roots here. I listen to and care about each of their lives. If they need an ear or a prayer, I’m there,” says Cheri.

One relationship that she is especially thankful for is Nina Baker. Nina was her mentor and Cheri considers her a Proverbs 31 Woman. “I was truly honored to meet Nina and her husband,” she says. “She reminded me how kind people truly are!”

If you are looking to become one of those clients, Bare Skin Studio’s userfriendly booking site makes it simple to set up an appointment. Clients can easily choose their own appointment times and confidentially set up any waxing services needed.

Learn more and book your own appointment at or call 501.697.8993.

Courtway, Suite 14 • Conway




Owner of the Karen Ferguson Team, RE/MAX Elite

Anyone needing a real estate professional wants someone driven to serve the needs of their clients. REALTOR® Karen Ferguson, owner of the Karen Ferguson Team, RE/MAX Elite, is driven by her love and passion for helping people. Results are the by-product of her “go-getter” attitude, and friendships are developed from her desire to help others create a life they love in a space they will enjoy.

Being an award-winning REALTOR® does not happen without the drive to succeed, not just for herself, but for her clients. Karen is committed to excellence and makes her clients’ best interests a priority. Paired with 25 years of professional and educational experience in sales and marketing, this tech-savvy marketer with strong negotiation skills gets results. That is not lip service. Her track record backs it up.

In her first year as a REALTOR®, Karen achieved the Faulkner County Board of REALTORS “Rookie of Year” award and is currently in the top 10 of more than 300 real estate agents in Faulkner County, all while giving back to the community.

Karen is generous financially and volunteers hundreds of hours each year to local schools, small businesses, women’s leadership organizations, churches and area nonprofit organizations. “I am devoted to my clients and community and have a servant’s heart, so I don’t mind working long hours to help my clients and love volunteering at my church and with various community projects in my free time,” she said. Her service and leadership extends to The Ministry Center for the homeless, Harbor Home, for women who struggle with trauma and addiction, Hope Village for the homeless and veterans, the “Cook 4 Conway” project, the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce and more.

When she is not working in real estate or volunteering in the community, Karen enjoys spending time with her family camping or at the lake and shopping or dining at local restaurants. She is married to Robert Ferguson, has four bonus daughters and a puppy and cares for her disabled mother. She shares some advice that may help others. “It’s never too late to create a life that you love,” she said. And “don’t just focus on the destination. Slow down and enjoy the journey.”

Contact the Karen Ferguson Team, RE/MAX Elite, REALTOR®, today at 501.697.0042 or

May 2023 | 47
2450 Donaghey Ave. • Conway

Rebecca Crass

Fifth Grade Literacy Teacher, Springhill Elementary School

From the first time she worked with children, Rebecca Crass knew her calling was to become a teacher. “I love kids,” she said. “I love seeing a student who feels like they can’t learn realize that they can. I enjoy being creative and getting students excited about reading and writing by creating songs, silly costumes, games, or turning my classroom into a Parisian café, a ballpark or dust storm to introduce a novel.”

From helping start her district’s inclusion program to pursuing her master’s degree in reading, Rebecca has never shied away from putting in the work to make learning fun. “I decided to pursue my master’s degree in reading because I felt ill-equipped to help my students in the area a majority of them struggled with,” she said. “I became passionate about making a subject many students found hard or boring seem less intimidating and perhaps even fun!” For Rebecca, the rewards of her labor are endless. “My biggest accomplishments will always be my students,” she said. “I have former students who have become award-winning tattoo artists, personal chefs for the governor and students who have attended Harvard and Bryn Mawr College studying genetics! Receiving a graduation invitation, a thank-you note, an email or simply a sweet drawing are my greatest rewards. I once had a student write to me, ‘Mrs. Crass, you told me if I couldn’t believe in myself to take some of your belief in me, so I did!’ What greater reward is there than that?”

Reflecting on her career, Rebecca attributes her ambition and success to her biggest role model: her mother. “My mother was one of the strongest women I’ve ever known,” she said. “She believed in me and did whatever it took to make sure I could pursue my dream of going to college and becoming a teacher.”

With the right inspiration, Rebecca believes that women can reach their goals. “Don’t let anything keep you from achieving your dreams,” she said. “I am the first person in my family to obtain a college degree. Don’t simply get a job. Pursue your passion. You will never be fulfilled with a job, but you will be fulfilled by following your calling.”

Rebecca is married to Shaun Crass. She is the proud mom of seven children. Hunter, Hannah, Keely, Kayden, Ryder, Rydge and Rowen. She has one son-in-law, James Tucker, who is married to Keely. She recently welcomed her first granddaughter, Lily.

Contact Rebecca at 501.679.1030 or

Tanya McGary Nurse Educator at Unity Health

Tanya McGary, MSN, RN, CMSRN, serves at Unity Health in Searcy as a nurse educator, where she leads with her heart and shares her experience, knowledge and passion through educational programs for nurses.

McGary shared, “Nursing chose me—I didn’t choose it. During my own life-threatening medical emergency, I witnessed first-hand the positive impact nurses have on the well-being of patients. Nursing has given me the opportunity to care for people, which is why I love it so much.”

Over the past 32 years, her nursing experiences have ranged from various areas of care, including emergency, cardiac, medical-surgical and nursing education. She explained that her wide range of experience has provided her an extensive spectrum of specialties and an opportunity to deliver care to a diverse population. She is a certified, medical-surgical, registered nurse and has been recognized as one of the top 100 nurses in Arkansas.

McGary calls Searcy home and said it has been a great place to raise her family, build her career and enjoy lifelong friendships. She and her husband have been married 41 years, and they are parents to a son and daughter. Her daughter is a pharmacist and an exemplary woman of faith who is married to her best friend and is a bonus mom. Their son was a Conway police officer who was tragically killed in the line of duty in 2013.

“Through the grace of God, and the support of family, friends and our community, we have continued to live faith-centered lives, despite the tragedy in our family,” she explained.

McGary attributes much of her inspiration in life to the women she has been surrounded by, including her mother, sisters, motherin-law and daughter. She said, “These strong, Christian women were enthusiastic about their family, faith and life, which greatly influenced me personally and professionally. I believe as women, it is our responsibility to be good role models and ‘pay it forward’ by encouraging younger women to seek opportunities beyond their imaginations.”

McGary is proud to serve her family, community and Unity Health, which she believes fully embraces the mission of improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

Visit today to find a location near you.

May 2023 | 49

World exploration for local education

Conway woman traveled to Pakistan for a higher education project

Mary Bane Lackie, Ed.D., has lived in several foreign countries and places in the United States during her career in higher education.

“Travel is such a great education,” said Lackie, vice president for advancement at the University of Central Arkansas. “It teaches us that, at the end of the day, we all have more in common than not. People want to keep their families safe and provide for them. They want their children to be safe and happy.”

Lackie took a leave of absence from UCA in late November 2022 and spent a short time in Pakistan working with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) higher education project called the Higher Education System Strengthening Activity (HESSA).

“I was asked to speak as part of two panels at the International Summit on Higher Education and Workforce Development in the 21st Century,” she said. She spoke on a panel addressing aligning higher education to 21st century needs, presenting information on raising private funds to support higher education to supplement shrinking government funding. She also spoke on a panel addressing bridging career readiness gaps, talking about college advisory boards and how engaging with community leaders can guide a school’s curriculum, providing opportunities for student internships and future employment and cultivating donors to support academic programs.

This was not Lackie’s first trip to Pakistan. She lived and worked in Pakistan from 2010 to 2012, working on two USAID higher education projects. “This trip allowed me to reconnect with colleagues and friends,” she said.

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Photo by Mike Kemp Mary Bane Lackie, Ed.D., traveled to Pakistan in December as part of a U.S. Agency for International Development higher education project.

“People wonder why I love coming here, and many are nervous for me to travel here,” she said. “Bottom line is that the Pakistani people are some of the most kind, considerate, giving people I’ve ever been around, and I’ve been a lot of places. I feel safe here … anywhere you are in the world, Pakistan or Little Rock, you should think about your safety and security and adjust your behavior accordingly.”

Addressing the issue of security, Lackie recalled her first night in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2010. “We stayed at the Marriott Hotel … the same one that was bombed in 2008 by terrorists led by (Osama) bin Laden,” she said. “Of course, it had been rebuilt and had added security. That first night, I was a little nervous,” she said, smiling. “I went to bed and during the night I woke up to a noise … something hitting the windows. I got up, put on my glasses and went to the window. It was raining. I imagined the room was shaking. I slept in my chair the rest of the night.

“The next morning my driver picked me up and I asked about the night’s rainstorm,” she said. “He asked me, ‘Did you not feel the earthquake?’ “Turns out it was a 6.0 earthquake … that was my introduction to Pakistan.”

Lackie said a lot of security came with the projects in Islamabad.

“I was trained on what to do if I were kidnapped,” she said. “I set up a proof-of-life question that only I would know the answer to it, so that would prove I was alive.

“I learned to always have a ‘go bag’ in case I needed it,” she said. “And I know to always check my surroundings and not go into bad areas. I was not nervous. I traveled all over Pakistan … to Islamabad, which is the capital, and to Lahore and Karachi, which are two of the biggest cities in

the country. I traveled in the rural areas, too.”

Lackie said the food in Pakistan was fantastic. “It varies from location to location,” she said. “The Punjabi food is really spicy. We learned to eat it three times a day.

“I love the breads … roti, nan … and the fruit was amazing,” she said. “They grow the fruit there so everything is fresh … pomegranates, oranges, mangoes … there were 20 kinds of mangoes … I really miss the fruit,” she said, laughing.

Lackie was in Pakistan for just a week in 2022. “I absolutely would go back,” she said. “I’ve made lifelong friends with some of them.

Lackie has also worked overseas at Dubai Women’s College in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; at the American University of Armenia in Yerevan, Armenia; and at the American School of Warsaw in Warsaw, Poland.

Prior to coming to UCA, Lackie, who is also president of the UCA Foundation Inc., was vice chancellor for university advancement at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith as well as the executive director of the UAFS Foundation. Lackie has a doctorate of education in higher education from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, a master of arts degree in student professional services from Northwestern State University of Louisiana in Natchitoches, La., and a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from Arkansas Tech University.

Lackie was born in Conway but moved to Blytheville before she started first grade when her father took a civilian job at Blytheville Air Force Base; she is a graduate of Blytheville High School. She and her husband, Bill, have a blended family of four adult children and two grandchildren.

See photos of Lackie's trip to Pakistan on page 52


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.

May 2023 | 51
52 | 501 LIFE May 2023
1. Mary Lackie met with the president of Faisalabad University. 2. Photo with a friend. 3. Posing for pictures with the bride and Mary’s daughter, Claudia (far right). 4. Mary (second from left) stands with colleagues by a lake in Northern Pakistan. 5. Mary and colleagues at the Waga Border flag lowering ceremony. 6. Nasreen Gul (from left) and Mary in Lahore. 7. The daily flag lowering ceremony at Waga Border between Pakistan and India. 8. Receiving a plaque from a university. 9. Being greeted with flowers at Faisalabad University. 10. Mary and Bill Lackie in Islamabad. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

CITY OF CONWAY Diversity Advisory Council

Brought together by a common goal, individuals from different cultural backgrounds came together in 2020 to create a positive environment for dialogue and educational opportunities in the city of Conway. This group is known as Conway’s Diversity Advisory Council.

The Diversity Advisory Council was created by the City’s Diversity & Economic Development Coordinator, Shawanna Rodgers. “Shawanna saw the need for citizen engagement, the need for minority voices to be heard, and the need for the community to come together surrounding cultural differences,” said council board member, Danielle Henry.

Henry is a strong believer that inclusion of various cultures is vital to Conway’s continued success. “I would like to assist in helping different cultures not only feel seen but also let it be known that they have equal opportunities within our community,” she said.

For fellow council member Meg Hawkins, the mission of the group is personal. “I’m a diverse individual with a diverse family,” she said. “I’ve always had an interest in other cultures and I’ve always been passionate about Diversity, Belonging, Inclusion, and Equity (DBIE). I believe in everyone having a sense of belonging, no matter

what they look like, where they’re from, what they do, or how they identify; those things never mattered to me.”

Jackie Gault became a member of the council partly because she believes the economic impact of a diverse city benefits everyone. “We are the City of Colleges. I would like to see our college graduates stay in the city, start various businesses or even bring in new businesses here because the council has showcased the many cultures we have. Knowledge is power, and it is my mission to educate the community on what we offer. Conway is full of great places that do so much. If we are successful at bridging the gap through supporting one another, this council will bring even more business and citizens to our town.”

If you are interested in becoming involved in the Diversity Advisory Council, the group meets on the 3rd Thursday of every month. All meetings are open to the public and televised on Channel 22 and on the City of Conway's YouTube channel. The public is invited to all board meetings to learn about the events the group hosts.

Learn more about the council at

Unity in diversity
Meg Hawkins Jackie Gault Danielle Henry

Karey Smith

Director of Curriculum & Assessment South Conway County School District

From beginning the Professional Learning Community at Morrilton Intermediate School to creating partnerships between University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton and Morrilton High School, Karey Smith has shined brightly in her quest to bring new educational opportunities to youth in the 501. She is the South Conway County School District Director of Curriculum and Assessment and has made great strides in helping high school students obtain college and career credit.

“I like my job because I like the challenge of putting all the pieces together to help our teachers make the best pathways for our students to maximize their learning and achievement,” Smith said. “Now that I’m at the district level, I get the privilege of watching our students grow up and become themselves, from the elementary level to walking across the graduation stage.”

The colleague of a previous 501Der Woman, Lora Hendrix, Smith’s drive for innovation in education is more than just a passion project, it’s in her blood. “My mom and dad were both leaders in their fields and taught me the value of education and hard work,” Smith said. “My dad was the chief of police and my mom was an administrator at Heber Springs Middle School. She has been my rock and my role model for the last 10 years.”

The holder of a National Board Certification, the most respected professional certification available in education, Smith understands what it takes for women to grow into the best versions of themselves, personally and professionally. “Take initiative and don’t be okay with status quo,” Smith said. “Be positive, be kind and always find opportunities to get better.”

In her free time, Smith enjoys spending time with her family, while moonlighting as an EMT on weekends in Heber Springs when she can. “My family is my pride and joy,” Smith said. “My son, Jacob, is a fireman in Magnolia with my soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Carli, and my son, Caleb, is a chemical engineer in Batesville. I love all the hiking and outdoor activities the 501 has to offer. I attended UACCM last spring and received my EMT certification in June because I love to help others.” Karey can be reached by email at or at 501.354.9400 ext. 1012.

Maria Weyrens Assistant Vice President of Business Development/Hispanic Community Outreach, First Security Bank

First Security Bank Assistant Vice President Maria Weyrens has never worked a single day in her role at First Security. According to her, when you love what you do, each day becomes a new opportunity to help someone else fulfill their dreams.

“My job and my volunteer work have enabled me to interact and establish very strong relationships in our community,” Weyrens said. “I enjoy what I do because I get to interact with people and connect with the community on a daily basis. I get to meet new people and help them with their financial needs. It doesn’t feel like work.”

A Little Rock native for more than 23 years, Weyrens understands the needs of her fellow Arkansans. Learning their stories drove her to serve as a volunteer with multiple community service organizations. including Exalt Academy, Mama’s Unidas, Paloma Community Services, Opportunity Matters and Vestido Rojo. By giving back to the community she calls home, she has built key partnerships to facilitate personal and professional growth across the 501. “Volunteering is the right thing to do, and it strengthens our community,” Weyrens said. “Every one of these organizations has education in common. I feel that education is the key needed to achieve your goals.”

Driven to help others soar to new heights, Weyrens believes in the power of young women today. “Be patient,” Weyrens said. “Be bold. Don’t be afraid of change. Stay true to your values and look for the right job that will help you be a better version of yourself as the years go by. Whatever you are, be the best. Nothing is impossible.”

With a bright smile and a can-do attitude, Weyrens takes pride in advocating for the many citizens of the 501 and has not forgotten those who helped her become who she is today.

“There is not enough space to thank every woman who has helped me during my career,” Weyrens said. “My mother, Marcelina; my sister, Laura; my mother-in-law, Virginia; and my daughter, Cynthia, have helped me reach my life and career goals. I’ve had the opportunity to develop great relationships with many strong women. It truly is a joy for me. Together, we are making the 501 a better place to live.”

Contact Maria today at marí or 501-541-5443.

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Photo by Mike Kemp

Poetry has given Dasbach a unique view and powerful voice on life

Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach was just 6 years old when she came to the U.S. in 1993 with her family, Jewish refugees from Dnipro, Ukraine. Life there was difficult. Antisemitism was severe and Soviet-era corruption remained rampant. Educational opportunities were sorely limited, and the state often determined your future.

Seeking a better future for their family, her parents gave up everything they had and emigrated to the U.S., relocating to Rockville, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Julia credits her parents for developing her love of poetry. When she was growing up, poetry and music were a daily part of her life. Poems were often memorized and recited, and she loved hearing the powerful, musical cadence of poetry in Russian. Under her parents’ tutelage, she memorized poems by Pushkin and other well-known poets.

When she was in the third grade in Rockville, Maryland, Julia’s teacher taught a poetry unit, and Julia was enthralled. Still building her skills in English, she asked, “How can I do that?” Her teacher gave her a simple, oneword response – write.

And she did. Language, literature and poetry became Julia’s main focus as she continued her studies. She earned a B.A. in English from the University of Maryland, an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Oregon, and a Ph.D. in comparative literature and literary theory from the University of Pennsylvania.

Two years ago, she came to Hendrix College in Conway as a Murphy Visiting Fellow to teach poetry and settled with her family in Little Rock. She is the author of three poetry collections: “The Many Names for Mother” (2019), “Don't Touch the Bones” (2020), and “40 WEEKS” (2023), which was just released in April from YesYes Books. Getting her first book published was a challenge. She received more than 100 rejections. “We don’t talk enough about rejections,” she said. During the five years it took her to find a publisher for her first book, she wrote two more. Both were immediately accepted for publication.

A theme in much of her work is the many injustices that run deep in her heritage. She felt the weight of this grief throughout her life, but most acutely when she spent three weeks in Poland as part of the Auschwitz Jewish Center’s fellowship. She was six months pregnant with her son while walking through the many death sites and concentration camps.

While there, she witnessed what she had been studying all her life – the many horrors her grandparents and greatgrandparents endured. Her great-grandmother evacuated to the Ural Mountains while her great-grandfather remained in Kyiv. It is likely he died in Babyn Yar, the 1941 massacre of more than 33,000 Jews in the span of two days. Although she has searched, Julia has not been able to find his name in any archive that she has scoured. As she walked this terrain, she felt the connection between past, present and the future that her unborn son was being inscribed into.

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Though her work delves into the traumatic history of family and nations, her writing about motherhood has a theme of expectancy for both the mother and child. The changes that occur, the many surprises, a new awareness of the world. Her newest book, “40 WEEKS,” is an unusual love story written for and about her unborn daughter, drawing comparisons or inspiration from the various seeds, fruits and vegetables that the size of the baby is compared to in-utero.

Although new to the 501 area, Julia has made an impact on both her students and the community. She knows words can unite. She is the founder and host of Words Together, Worlds Apart, a virtual poetry reading series “born out of pandemic but meant to outlast it.”

Julia’s poem “Dear Ukraine” was recently used as a prompt for a participatory installation in the lobby of Hendrix’s Windgate Museum of Art. Visitors composed their own poetry about the war in Ukraine, and their work was printed on-site and hung in the lobby. The display was supported by the Hendrix-Murphy Foundation and ran through March. But the writings, which can be translated into Ukrainian, Russian and Polish, remain online at New poems are accepted on the site as well, and Julia invites readers to participate.

This spring, three of her poems were used as prompts for the Conway League of Artists Spring Show, where local artists used her poems to inspire their own works of art. She is a sought-after speaker, making appearances at Little

Rock’s Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), at Wednesday Night Poetry in Hot Springs (online during the height of COVID-19, and later in person), and most recently on April 29 at the Argenta Reading Series in North Little Rock.

Julia’s first two books have received awards. “The Many Names for Mother” was the winner of the Wick Poetry Prize and a finalist for the Jewish Book Award. “Don’t Touch the Bones” earned her the 2019 Idaho Poetry Prize. In addition to her poetry collections, Julia has been published in numerous magazines and periodicals.

Julia lives in Little Rock with her husband and two children, all of whom have inspired her work. Fortunately for Julia, but unfortunately for us in the 501, she recently accepted a tenure-track position at Denison University in Ohio starting this fall. We wish her all the best and are grateful to her for sharing her gifts with us, if only briefly.

As a writer, Julia knows the power of words. Through her work, she yearns to inform others, to help us remember, to encourage us to see a more beautiful world and be awed by life and its everyday surprises. Her books are available on Amazon and other online vendors, though she’d much rather you support local businesses and visit local bookstores to see if they can get her books. For more information about Julia, visit her website:

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Julia’s reads her poem “Dear Ukraine” which was recently used as a prompt for a participatory installation at Hendrix College’s Windgate Museum of Art. Visitors composed poetry about the war in Ukraine, and their work was printed on-site and hung in the lobby.

Penny Choate Agee

Attorney at Choate Law Firm

A self-made success story in the 501, attorney Penny Choate Agee takes great pride in assisting others in her community. Since beginning her own law firm, she hasn’t stopped growing her areas of practice to bring relief to as many Arkansans as possible.

“I love the practice of law, my clients, colleagues and the ability to make a difference,” Penny said. “My practice includes business litigation, real estate, probate, estate planning and complex divorce and custody matters serving all counties in Central Arkansas.”

A member of the Arkansas Bar Association, the Pulaski County Bar Association, the White County Bar Association and a past President of Arkansas Business & Professional Women, Penny is dedicated not only to helping her clients, but inspiring young women that they, too, can be leaders.

“My grandmother instilled a tremendous work ethic in me, sharing that others may be smarter, richer or prettier, but if you put in the work and dedication, you, too, can rise to the top,” she said. “You can do anything that you are willing to put in the work to achieve.”

Penny also serves on the White County Domestic Violence Prevention Board alongside a dedicated team of professionals who care deeply about making a difference in the lives of survivors of domestic abuse.

“This organization is important to me because it empowers survivors of domestic abuse to take control of their lives and rise above the acts of their abuser to become independent, successful citizens who can then pay it forward to others,” she said.

With a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a Juris Doctor from the William H. Bowen School of Law, Penny boasts the education and skill sets that Arkansans can trust in their time of need.

In addition to her law practice, Penny is an avid equestrian and frequently competes in reining competitions.

Contact Penny today at or 501.305.4442

515 S. Main St., Searcy

A superhero sendoff

First Security Bank Conway bids farewell to Margaret Smith

After 42 years of banking, Margaret Smith retired on March 31. Coworkers at First Security Bank Conway North hosted a party to celebrate her career. It was attended by colleagues from throughout Central Arkansas.

President and CEO Johnny Adams recognized Smith for 42 years of excellent work and service to customers. He presented her with an engraved award to mark the occasion.

Smith was named senior vice president of marketing by First Security in 2001. In 2016, she was honored by 501 LIFE Magazine as the Person of the Month. The following year, the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce named her an Outstanding Woman in Business.

“I can’t even count how many years I have worked with this wonderful lady,” said Donna Spears with 501 LIFE. “Besides being a professional that I had the honor to work with, we also formed a friendship that I will always cherish. Her accomplishments and giving back to the 501 community will forever be beneficial. First Security is a better bank today because of Margaret’s presence. She will be missed.”

Some of her community activities have included: Arkansas Regional Commission, board member; Renewal Ranch, ministry and marketing team; member of 501 LIFE’s Faulkner County Editorial Board; and the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, Women in Business committee. Smith is also very involved at New Hope Baptist Church.

During her retirement party, a second presentation was made by Renewal Ranch Executive Director James Loy. Renewal Ranch is a faithbased ministry for men who are overcoming addiction. Loy acknowledged that Smith was extremely instrumental in starting the program, which continues to be close to her heart. Then, he presented a plaque and announced that a new building will be named for her.

Smith and her husband, Doug, have two children. In retirement, they look forward to gardening, traveling and spending time together.

60 | 501 LIFE May 2023
Co-workers gather around Margaret Smith (center, in peach-colored sweater) to celebrate her successful career. She is retiring as senior vice president of marketing in Conway. First Security Bank Conway President and CEO Johnny Adams presents a gift of appreciation to Margaret Smith, who is retiring after 42 years in banking. Johnny Adams (from left), Laura and James Loy, Margaret Smith and Stefanie Vann.



CEO/Chiropractor at Bledsoe Chiropractic


From the moment she created a hospital out of Styrofoam at 8 years old, Dr. Amanda Bledsoe knew she was destined to be a doctor. Fast forward to today, where she runs her own chiropractic practice, helping patients just like her.

“I chose to work in this industry to help people,” Bledsoe said. “I was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 14. I now look for kids like me who need chiropractic help at an early age to help them grow and develop without pain for the future.”

Proud to serve as a strong role model for women in the 501, Bledsoe leads with confidence and poise. “One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a woman is the assumption that I’m not a doctor or the boss because I’m a woman,” she said. “Be kind to them, but assure them with confidence, ‘Oh yes, I am!’ Be bold, stand up with love and do your best with your God-given talents. It has been a great choice for me and has evolved over the 17 years I’ve been in practice. My kids have grown up seeing me hustle and work hard for others and for myself. They will know they can do it, too, if they want.”

According to Bledsoe, there’s no better time for young women in the 501 to embrace leadership and business ownership.

“I cannot imagine owning a business or even working as a woman in any other area,” she said. “We have it so great here with connections and networking for women. We have a collaborative business-friendly spirit in Central Arkansas that I haven’t seen in many other areas. You can be a wife, mother, career woman or even own your own business and be your own boss. You can have it all, if that’s what you want!”

Through grace and humility, Bledsoe is quick to recognize the driving force behind her success. “Faith is no doubt the glue that holds me and my business together,” she said. “It’s a team effort! We’re following doors God has opened for our life and He blesses us over and over again.”

Dr. Amanda Bledsoe lives in Little Rock with her husband, Adam, and two children, Audrey and Hunter.

Contact her today at or 501.504.6999, 775 Amity Road in Conway, or 501.725.5432, 9772 Maumelle Blvd. in North Little Rock.

Equipped for success

Susie Everett founds women's ministry teaching women how to improve their lives

Four years ago, Susie Everett was driving in Benton and felt inspired by God to establish a ministry that would teach women practical ways to improve their lives. Worried that she would not stay true to the inspiration, she called a friend to hold herself accountable. From that experience, the ministry Women Equipped launched.

Everett has a friend who oversees a similar program in Paragould for women at crisis points in their lives. It’s called Christian Women’s Job Corp, and Women Equipped shares similar curriculum goals but is personalized to the needs seen in Saline County. This ministry is guided

and accountable to the Women’s Missionary Union of the Southern Baptists.

“You need to be called to this,” Everett said. “It’s a really challenging and rewarding ministry.”

Initially, she contacted numerous friends in other denominations, and about 20 potential volunteers attended an interest meeting. From that encounter, four women, including Everett, committed to being Site Coordinators, several women offered to teach, some to help with meals, and others to become mentors.

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Continued on page 65 ON THE COVER
Leaders and students who are part of the Women Equipped ministry in Benton develop close friendships during the 12-week semester. Far right, seated: Susie Everett who is featured on the cover. Far right, standing: Cindy Haltom who is quoted in the article.

1. Mock interviews are held so students can practice professional interactions.

2. Computer classes grow their skillset.

3. Artwork encourages women during the 12-week course.

4. Frances Raley is quoted in the article.

5. Connie Brown (from left), Becky Fulcher and Susie Everett.

6. A nearby mural was designed and painted by the Advanced Graphic Design class at Benton High School. It reinforces the commitment to make a fresh start.

May 2023 | 63
1. 4. 2. 3. 5. 6.

Brylee Lawson

Event and Marketing Coordinator for Jacksonville Parks and Recreation

Brylee Lawson, event and marketing coordinator for Jacksonville Parks and Recreation, has what she calls her “dream job.” Put simply, she helps create fun for the city’s residents.

“Our department’s motto is ‘Something for Everyone,’ and we truly mean it. We have 18 annual events, and each one has something for the whole family to enjoy,” she said.

“I love working for Parks and Recreation, because I love Jacksonville. Our department gets to improve quality of life for our community through our events, sports and aquatic programs and our many parks. I also love that no two days are the same. I can be working in the office one day and building a hay maze the next!”

Lawson moved to Jacksonville four years ago with her husband, Charlie, who is an active-duty member of the Air Force. Even though she’s new to the area, Lawson said her husband and two best friends, Katie and Morgan, “have been an incredible support system and are always encouraging me to go after my goals.”

Lawson said she admires another go-getter, her supervisor, Megan Tharp, who also serves as an inspiration to her. “She’s a true role model, and her guidance has helped me become a better event and marketing coordinator,” Lawson said. She also credited the entire team for her success. “We have the best staff, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without their help. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to work alongside so many talented women.”

Lawson said she would tell her younger self not to be afraid of exploring new opportunities. “If I had let my fear get in the way, I would have never found my dream job,” she said. The most rewarding part of her position, Lawson maintained, is to see the families in the community spending quality time together, making memories and enjoying the city they call home.

“Event days are busy, but I always take a moment to stop and take notice of everyone having fun,” she said. That means she’s doing her job. Contact Brylee today at 501.982.4171 or

Developing the nonprofit as a legal 501(c)(3), writing curriculum, policies and procedures and finding a place to meet took about two years. Then they started seeking participants. The criteria are to be at least 18 and willing to attend classes for six hours each Tuesday and Wednesday for 12 weeks.

There is no monetary cost, but the time and emotional commitment are substantial. The first class opened in the fall of ’21, followed by a spring semester. The 202223 year also saw a fall and spring semester. A formal graduation ceremony was held after the fall semester, and the current group of ladies will graduate on May 4. The results have been life-changing for participants and leaders.

“The age of our students has ranged from 18 to 60 years old,” said Frances Raley, a board member who teaches a relationship class and coordinates the mentoring program. “Their backgrounds have varied, and their present circumstances are often hard, but they seek to better themselves. Women Equipped is about building relationships.”

Each student is also assigned a mentor. “They serve as another layer of influence,” Raley said. “Their charge is to listen and guide them in a loving and nonjudgmental way.”

The ladies, the leaders and the teachers are establishing friendships that will last long after the semester ends. “One of the greatest joys we’ve experienced is having many of our former students visit and stay in touch,” Raley said.

There are everyday needs that students have. “Women come through the doors of Women Equipped to find

a better path for their lives,” said Cindy Haltom, the educational site coordinator. “Most of our students seek healthy relationships, financial stability and Bible study.”

Those needs played a vital role in developing the curriculum. Classes that teach how to have healthy relationships, money management classes, computer skills and Bible study are a few courses offered. “We also invite guest speakers to give hope and inspire change in the lives of students,” Haltom said. “It is important to focus on each person’s strengths and build a firm foundation upon them. This philosophy creates a positive atmosphere of learning and growing in every aspect of their lives. I dream that students become all they dreamed about when they decided to walk through the doors.”

The ministry meets at the former Care Center, which fed people in need for more than 30 years. Many retired men with building skills donated their time to update the space. Students receive breakfast and lunch each day.

“I think this ministry is needed in every community,” Everett said. “I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of businesses, Sunday school classes and volunteers who provide meals. They are so generous!” One Women Equipped graduate told Everett that she didn’t have any dreams before choosing to attend three months of classes, and now she has a business venture.

Everett said the calling God placed on her life in 2019 has caused her to depend on Him much more and that He is developing her into a better leader. “It’s taught me to listen more, increased my compassion for their life’s situation and I have a new group of people to love. There’s a lot of blessing in the serving.”

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Watch her garden grow

Faulkner County Master Gardeners celebrate volunteers and plan annual sale

Faulkner County Master Gardeners have been helping the community bloom since 1996. Members of the group gathered March 8 for their general meeting and to celebrate their achievements of 2022. Krista Quinn of Conway, Faulkner County Cooperative Extension Service agent for agriculture and adviser for the local program, said the gardeners donated 14,696 community service hours and 6,582 continuing education hours last year.

“Those community service hours amount to a $440,145 value to the community,” said Quinn, noting there are currently 243 members of the group. “Fourteen new Master Gardeners trained in person in 2022. Local college students received $14,000 in scholarships thanks to this group.”

The Arkansas Master Gardener program is under the auspices of the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture.

According to the Master Gardeners website, the “Master Gardener” title applies to one who has successfully completed the 40-hour training class in Arkansas and is actively pursuing 40 project (community service) hours and 20 learning (continuing education) hours as part of their payback commitment the first year. To maintain the designation of “Master Gardener” in subsequent years, an individual must acquire 20 project hours and 20 learning hours per year.

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Continued on page 68
Diana Polcar, Faulkner County Master Gardener of the Year. Photo by Mike Kemp

Stacy Choate VP, Southern Lawn Service, LLC

Stacy Choate, inspired by her late mother, has always been passionate about landscaping. “My mother was a Master Gardener and a lifelong banker, so I grew up learning about plants and landscaping and the right way to do things,” she said. “I grew up in West Memphis, but I love living in Conway, a community that thrives and continues to grow.”

Ten years ago, Stacy and her husband, Jeff, launched their landscaping business with one truck and trailer and some basic mowing equipment. They started by working out of their garage and dining room and now have more than 30 employees who run several crews to keep up with their commercial lawn care and landscaping. “Our people make the difference,” Stacy said. “I am so proud of what our team accomplishes each and every day.”

Southern Lawn Services LLC provides commercial landscape maintenance services, landscape design and installation, drainage solutions and bulk landscape retail sales. Building relationships with their customers is at the heart of their business. “We don’t just want to work for our customers. We are dedicated to developing longterm business relationships.”

For Stacy, husband Jeff is her “rock” for his leadership at home and in business. “He works hard … to ensure we are all successful and helps maintain a good work/life balance,” she said. The Choate’s children, Madeline Choate, 24, Mason Choate, 22, and Nathan Cox, 18, all worked for the company at some point, contributing to the company’s growth while gaining some valuable life skills. “One of the greatest things about doing this business is we have spent so much quality time with our children,” Stacy said.

Outside the demands of the landscaping business, Stacy is the board secretary for Lisa’s Closet, a nonprofit that provides new shoes to children in need within the Vilonia School District. Lisa, the nonprofit’s namesake, worked as a paraprofessional for the district’s primary school before she died in 2021. Lisa was Stacy’s best friend, and the nonprofit holds a special place in her heart. Stacy understands the importance of family, friends and community, something she also learned from her mom, her hero. “My mom was the strongest woman I knew … every day, I do my very best to make her proud.”

Contact Stacy today at 501.514.3463 or

2022 Faulkner County Master Gardener Award-Winners

Quinn said the group maintains 10 community landscaping projects, which are the most visible projects conducted by the volunteers. These include the Faulkner County Courthouse, the Faulkner County Museum, the Legacy Gardens on the grounds of Antioch Baptist Church’s 110 Building and Faulkner County public libraries at Conway, Greenbrier, Mayflower, Twin Groves and Vilonia.

Diana Polcar of Vilonia received the 2022 Master Gardener of the Year award during the recent meeting. “I am honored to receive Faulkner County Master Gardener of the Year,” said Polcar, who became a Master Gardener in 2018. “I love being able to serve my community through my love of gardening.

“Projects that I worked on include the Vilonia library, Legacy Gardens, teaching garden, vegetable section at the plant sale and training committee for new Master Gardeners,” she said. “I also contribute articles to our monthly newsletter, The Grapevine, and am one of the moderators for our public Facebook page.”

Polcar donated 404 project hours and 151 education hours in 2022. “She leads by example, steps up when needed, follows through with commitments and comes up with creative ways to educate the public about gardening and the Master Gardener program,” Quinn said.

Vicki Morgan of Mayflower, 2022 FCMG president, announced other awardees:

• Rookie of the Year, Allen Lindley of Conway.

• Friend of FCMG, Individual, former Faulkner County Judge Jim Baker of Conway.

• Friend of FCMG, Business or Organization, Friends of the Faulkner County Libraries.

• Project of the Year, 2022 Plant Sale.

• Mentor of the Year, Michele Lindley of Conway.

• Extension Agent of the Year, Krista Quinn.

• President’s Choice, Celia Harkey of Mayflower.

One of the biggest projects of the Faulkner County Master Gardeners is its annual plant sale. This year’s sale is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. May 13 at the Conway Expo Center. Customers should note the change in closing time. There is no cost to attend and parking is free.

Customers will find thousands of plants known to thrive in Central Arkansas, including annual, perennials, native plants, pollinator plants, ferns, succulents, grasses, vines, ground covers, house plants, herbs, vegetables, shrubs and trees. For more information on the Faulkner County Master Gardeners program, call 501.329.8344 or find them

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on Facebook. Allen Lindley (from left), Rookie of the Year; Michele Lindley, Mentor of the Year; Diana Polcar, Master Gardener of the Year; Krista Quinn, Extension Agent of the Year; Celia Harkey, President’s Choice and coordinator of the 2022 plant sale, which was named Project of the Year; and John McGraw, director of the Faulkner County Library System, who accepted the Friend of FCMG Business or Organization Award on behalf of the Friends of the Libraries. Photo by Carol Rolf
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A message from Kim Williams Executive Director, Conway Downtown Partnership

May is always a big month in Downtown Conway! There are so many events and holidays to prepare for and to enjoy.

First, the Conway Art Walk is planned for Friday, May 5, as part of the Toad Suck Daze Festival, which runs from May 5-7. That weekend also marks a UCA graduation. The Downtown Conway Farmers’ & Crafts Market opens Saturday, May 13, and then let’s not forget Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 14. Then there are many more graduations to enjoy! Needless to say, downtown will be “hopping” the entire month of May. This month, we will welcome new businesses like The Rogue Roundabout. Plus, save the date for our three summer Community Band Concerts on May 19, June 9 and 30 taking place on the Kris Allen Stage at Simon Park sponsored by 501 LIFE.

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Photo by Mike Kemp



Conway County cowgirl enjoying the ride

If you didn’t know Katie Williams was 11, you might think you were talking to a long-in-the-tooth cowgirl about the ranch she grew up on, her saddle worn bare from all the years of riding with the herd.

“Yes, my pony Pancho is ornery! He was just born that way,” Katie says like the accomplished cowgirl she is. “I’m trying to break him, but he’s nothing but a pasture ornament.”

The conversation is quick with Katie, and the interviewer is delighted to hear the phrase “pasture ornament,” recited by a child to describe an animal as if it’s common everyday language. This little cowgirl is not someone who is “all hat and no cattle”—she’s the real deal.

Katie lives on T&W Cattle Ranch with a number of cattle, two ducks, six dogs and thirty horses, six of which belong to her. Her mother, Tiffany Williams, grew up on a ranch and said she is glad her daughter is getting to experience that lifestyle as well. Tiffany said her daughter’s skill with horses has been something she has marveled at since she was first around them.

“She’s always been natural on a horse. She can ride a horse better than most grown men. She just takes to it,” Tiffany said. “When she was going through gangly stages, she would get on the horse, and it would all go away. She had perfect balance and there was no problem at all.”

Although Katie is an accomplished rider, she still has years to learn even more about animals as a fifth grader at Wonderview Elementary School in Hattieville (Conway County). Elementary school Principal Shandee Gordon said those who know Katie know she comes from a family of ranchers and farmers and that she loves all things horses. But Gordon said Katie’s kindness does not stop with animals.

“She is beautiful inside and out,” Gordon said. “She is a friend to all and is a pleasure to have in class.”

Katie said she enjoys school and making friends and finds forging friendships fairly simple. She said she keeps it straightforward and encourages others to do the same. “Everybody is my friend,” she said. “I say hello and I ask them what their name is and what their favorite color is and stuff like that and then I tell them my favorite color and ask if they want to play with me. If they say yes, great. If they say no, I’m going to leave.”

When it is time to hit the books, most children favor one subject over another, and Katie is no different. She said her favorite subjects are English and science and she can tell you why without hesitation. “That’s because English is easy because it’s not math and science is the same way; it’s really fun and I get to do science experiments,” she said.

Her dreams of what to be when she grows up will not come as a surprise.

“I want to be a veterinarian because I want to help animals and want to see if I can make them happier than they are,” Katie said. “And I like to be around animals.”

Tiffany thinks Katie will be able to be anything she wants to be if she puts her mind to it, and she can see her only child becoming a vet based on past experiences. “She has watched her dad, Terry Williams, and her grandad, Dub Williams. She knows horses and when they are at ease,” she said. “She can just glance around horses from a distance and find a certain one in the pasture. It’s just crazy.”

The young cowgirl from Conway County with a sweet, albeit straightforward, disposition is destined to make friends with people and animals all of her life.

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Slugbugs, sugar cups & parent shame

It never fails that once someone hears that I'm a mom of two sets of twins (only 18 months apart), they look at me like I'm some sort of superhero. Trust me, I'm not! I jokingly admit that I'm just as surprised as everyone else about how amazing my adult twins managed to be.

Just to be transparent for a moment, parenthood is HARD! That is the one thing that remains consistent! Survival is not for the weak, but seriously, for me it has been the toughest job I’ve ever loved.

Watching my adult children navigate their own parenthood journeys had me thinking about my younger days. Looking back, I often wonder how my own mom ever survived me and all my siblings. There were six of us that she raised the majority of the time on her own. Her best friend was also a mother to six children (misery loves company), and you can only imagine what our childhood hangouts must have looked like.

Mom often reminisces about how the two of them would load up all of us kids in a Volkswagen (slug bug) and head to Sugarloaf Mountain to swim. Just close your eyes and picture what that car ride must have looked like. We were EVERYWHERE … the floorboard, back window, stacked on top of each other, absolutely pure chaos. Safety wasn't a high priority in those early parenting days of the ’70s. We lacked seatbelts, we drank straight from the water hose,

and if you were lucky enough to know how to ride a bike, you could go wherever you liked until sundown.

As a teenager, I guess some laws got a bit more strict, but I still have very fond memories of riding in the back of a truck. In fact, we once took a family vacation from Arkansas to Disney World in Florida and guess where us kids rode? Yep, right there in the back of our parents' Silverado. My mom was ahead of her time, so she'd pull out all the stops and put a full-size mattress in the bed of the truck so that we could ride comfortably. These really are some of my most favorite memories. The funny thing is we all survived and honestly, we all still love each other! This is a pretty big accomplishment for a family that seemed to be the real-life version of The Griswolds.

Fast forward to my life of parenthood, with twins times two! Twins are proof that God has quite the sense of humor, but I was determined to do what I considered an amazing job. No back-of-the-truck rides for my twins! I would "safely" buckle three babies in the backseat and one in the front with me in their safe little bunko seats! I'm being sarcastic of course, because if you don't know what I'm talking about, in the ’90s our kids were carried around in glorified car seats. We didn't have lock-in bases or those handy seat clips, just a lightweight carrier. I shamefully admit that I felt like such a good parent as far as raising kids go. They had a steady diet of McDonald's

Happy Meals, bags of chips, and lots and lots of VCR tapes of cartoons. Just like my mom, I was a little extra, so I took the extra time to record my kids’ favorite shows while cutting out all the commercials. They could sit and watch hours of “Barney” or “The Rugrats” without all those dreaded commercial interruptions. Another mom hack I had was if the kids let me nap on the couch during a “Hey Arnold” non-commercial marathon, I would let them eat a cup of sugar for a little snack. Yep, you read that correctly … A CUP OF SUGAR! It's amazing the lengths an exhausted parent will go to to get a little extra sleep and I plead guilty!

Henceforth, here we are at that beautiful part of life where my kids have started having kids. I have to be honest; I don't have a clue how parents today navigate all the expectations they have to endure. I mean with my mom and myself, we get to chalk our parenthood challenges up to learning experiences. Today's parents have to deal with the social media revolution of parenthood shame. Seriously, whether choosing to breastfeed or formula feed, parents today are constantly bombarded with unrealistic expectations. Children of today's generation have more access to things that parents and grandparents could only dream about, but at what cost? My mom and I didn't have to suffer from the lack of better judgment moments we endured. There weren't cell phones to catch our mistakes, but that isn't necessarily the case for parents today.

And while I agree today's generation is blessed with such bougie items as Millie Moon diapers, Miss Rachel and baby food pouches, I think we can all agree that what every parent craves and desires is the blessings of grace. Maybe that is one of the ill effects of technology. We

all have more and more head knowledge, but less grace and heart knowledge. We would rather pull out our cell phones and catch a trending video rather than offer up an encouraging word or a helping hand to a parent in need.

Every time I'm tempted to overstep my grandparenting rights, I remember I survived a slug bug with 12 kids in the back, my kids survived eating cups of sugar and nonstop TV, and there is a really good chance that allowing my kids the same grace I was afforded will allow them to raise some pretty awesome grandkids.

It's honestly too long to add to this story, but Psalms 139 in The Passion Translation is one of my favorite passages, and it's to God alone that I will always give the glory regarding my family. He loved me and knew my whole story before I ever loved Him back. His love, mercy and grace are the one constant thread that binds our whole family legacy together. So, parents of today, take heart. Someday your children and grandchildren will laugh at the utter craziness that was involved in being a parent in 2023, and if you've done it to the best of your ability, your kids will look at scripture and know that in all our weaknesses, God got the glory!

Another favorite from that translation is 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So, I will celebrate my weaknesses as a parent and grandparent, for when I’m weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.

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Chicken coop for the souls

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Like most houses of worship, Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock takes on the mood of the services being held on any given day.

At Easter, the sanctuary bursts with joy; at Christmas, sights and sounds commingle in hope; on Good Friday, the tone is suitably somber. Weddings, baptisms, funerals and ordinary weekday Mass all take their own tone here, translated through song and scripture handed down through thousands of years.

So you can imagine the faithful’s surprise eight years ago, upon emerging from the sanctuary and heading for their cars, at the sound of chickens clucking on a patch of church property next to the parking lot, set aside for gardening and reflection. Some congregants just continued on, refusing to believe their ears, while the more curious investigated and discovered Pinocchio, Clean Twitch, Janet Jackson, Red Runner, Pumpkin and Chick Norris, the founding fowl of Holy Souls School’s chicken flock.

Today, both students and parishioners are used to the sound of hens, as the flock has long ago been accepted as just another unique element of the church community.

“Some of the big things I love that it’s turned into is we use the coop almost like a composter,” said Principal Amber Bagby who started the flock eight years ago with her fourth-grade class. “A lot of our fresh vegetables and fresh fruits that are left over from the cafeteria, one of our classes will collect all that and walk it up to the chickens each day. They’re well-fed.

“I also think as a neighborhood, it’s become such a fun community. We have people who will come up and bring mealworms with them and feed them. It’s a great thing; it’s kind of taken on a life of its own.”

The original six hens are all but gone, with only the matronly Chick Norris still struttin’. Additional two-dayold chicks were ordered a while back to repopulate the coop, built by Bagby’s husband Marc and some other volunteers. The brood also grew post-COVID-19 when people who raised chickens as a pandemic hobby found them to be less-practical pets once they had to return to work.

Bagby said watching and tending the birds has given

students a living classroom and a front-row seat to the cycle of life, the structure of community and one’s place in both.

“I think it teaches them to tend to the needs of something that’s vulnerable by giving them something that they can take care of and raise,” she said. “And introducing the new flocks, that’s always a really big process. We have to teach them there’s a pecking order and we talk about that a whole lot, even in the classroom.

“There’s a really good book called ‘The Pecking Order’ and it talks about a chicken that’s introduced to a new flock and how they just peck on him to establish that order. You read it to children to teach lessons about behavior on the playground when we have new students come. It’s a great teaching moment.”

The project is supported by two other teachers – Melissa Roberson and Tricia Finch – but the birds have a while ago stopped being the responsibility of just one grade or classroom. There’s too much to be learned in the caring of living things – about kindness, about responsibility and about life – to be contained by anything less than the entire school.

“I would love to see it become more of a structured program at some point. And I would love for it to almost sustain itself monetarily,” Bagby said. “I don’t think they would ever produce enough eggs for us to ever really do that, but I do think that it would be a fun idea just to get the community more involved and to bring more awareness to it.

“We do love the idea of outdoor classrooms and outdoor spaces. Teachers will do that to whatever extent they have a comfort level. We’ve got some that would be out there all day in raincoats if they could with their kids. And we have some that probably don’t love to get dirty, and that’s OK.”

As for growing the flock beyond its current 12 beaks, Bagby said she’s fine with the numbers where they are.

“I think a dozen [chickens] is about as big as we would want to get for them to be comfortable in their little mansion,” she said. “As it is, about once every other week we’ll get a call in the office about a runaway chicken, and if it is ours. When we check, it usually is.”

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Top Left: Holy Souls School Principal Amber Bagby (from left) and teacher Melissa Roberson pay a visit to Chick Norris, the longest-lived member of the school's chicken flock. Bottom Left: Longtime Holy Souls teacher Melissa Roberson introduces second-graders to Chick Norris, the matron of the school's coop. Right: Holy Souls second-grader Rosalie Mohr shows off one of the school's resident chickens.


It's time to plan a trip to the new Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts

After 40 months of construction, the curtain has lifted and the public is invited to explore the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock’s oldest urban green space, MacArthur Park. The $160 million project has transformed AMFA’s landmark building and grounds into a welcoming yet sophisticated space with an emphasis on flow and natural light. The building and grounds renovations were designed by Studio Gang and SCAPE in collaboration with Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects.

Fortunately for us, Harriet and Warren Stephens co-chaired the immensely successful capital campaign. We’ll never know how many meetings and conversations were had to secure this amount of capital, but the donors’ investments will benefit Arkansans and tourists for several decades.

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Two members of the 501 LIFE team received an invitation to attend the Press Preview event on April 19 and were some of the first Arkansans in the building. We took in so much art and information over several hours and decided to share our favorite pieces with you. Our main advice is to plan a trip to the museum! Staff members encourage visitors to reserve a free ticket so they can anticipate the number of guests each day. Visit

During the AMFA tour, one of my favorite pieces on display was by Little Rock native LaToya Hobbs. The composite portrait is the first of a five-part series entitled "Carving Out Time Scene 1: Morning." The large-scale piece was created with the arduous method of woodblock printing, which is the process of hand-carving on blocks of wood to imprint on paper with ink. Hobbs started the series during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. She painstakingly recreated this moment in time from her personal life on three 4-foot by 8-foot hand-carved sheets of plywood. The artist’s labor of love represents the challenging time we all shared, yet reminds us to slow down and truly value life's simple, most precious moments.

My favorite piece of art is the building itself. The architects have created a magnificent backdrop for all kinds of art. The neutral colors, stone, wood, glass, mirrors and massive windows promote a feeling of openness that is unencumbered by walls. As you move through the large corridors, your eyes travel back outside to pleasant, sloping green spaces. The main corridors rise up, up, up to a ceiling lined with light-colored wood that creates a flowing effect and hides light fixtures and sprinklers.

There was a glass box room that fascinates the eye because it appears to have several sides of glass — thanks to mirrors. And, the renovated theater seats 350 people and they repurposed the original seats. Upstairs, eight galleries flow from one to the next, and I also thoroughly enjoyed my time in the gift shop. In fact, Paulette and I were the first two customers — a fact that surprised and excited us a lot, but our husbands were neither surprised nor excited.

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Paulette and Stefanie

A life in control

Mike McCullars managers Type 2 diabetes with lifestyle changes

Mike McCullars of Conway experienced a life-changing moment during a doctor’s visit in May 2022.

“I had been classified as pre-diabetic for more than ten years when my primary care doctor said my fasting glucose level had reached the level for Type 2 diabetes,” said McCullars. His glucose level had risen to 147, and the doctor asked if he wanted medication or insulin. “Taking medication is not something that I wanteds to do. I had taken my health fairly seriously but not seriously enough,” said McCullars. “I was scared about what to do and what I could eat.”

His doctor suggested another option. So McCullars enrolled in a diabetes self-management class at Conway Regional Health System. McCullars, who is retired from the Arkansas Educational Television Network, knows the value of education. “That was probably the best class of my life,” said McCullars recalling how the certified diabetes educators had taught him the importance of managing his nutrition and exercising. “The staff was phenomenal and so helpful.”

Ashley Robb, a certified diabetes educator and registered

dietitian, said the Conway Regional diabetes classes teach patients how to change their lifestyle using an 80/20 principle for eating. “It emphasizes 80 percent good eating with a 20 percent splurge. Of course, nobody is perfect, so the 80/20 plan gives people some wiggle room to still have some of their favorite foods,” said Robb, who manages the Conway Regional Diabetes Self-Management program.

She cautioned that a splurge, for example, could be one meal out of 21, with most of their eating based on smaller, lean meat meals with balanced carbohydrates and fruits and vegetables. While the splurge may result in a blood sugar spike, “you want it to go down to your goal range within a reasonable amount of time,” Robb said. In addition, she said, “These are foods from nature that your great, great grandmother would recognize as food. She wouldn’t know about Pop-Tarts.”

The dietitians emphasize mindfulness in eating. “We want our patients to think about what they are eating at each meal and plan ahead when they can,” said Robb.

McCullars was rewarded when the lab tests came in over the next few months. “The diabetes educators believe

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After being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes last May, Mike McCullars enrolled in a diabetes self-management class at Conway Regional Health System. He lost 45 pounds and is controlling his Type 2 diabetes without medication.

I have made considerable progress regarding my Type 2 diabetes and overall health improvement. In the past nine months, I’m down 45 pounds (and holding), fasting glucose is down from 147 to 110, and I’m doing it without medication.”

In another crucial test, his A1C level dropped from 6.6 to 5.6. "Peggy (Schultz, a certified diabetes educator) said my diabetes is technically in remission," said McCullars, but he knows it will be a life-long lifestyle change. "And my situation may not reflect other situations but does show that it is possible," he added.

"I may have to resort to medication at some point," said the 69-year-old. "But if I can push off medication for 5, 10, or 15 years or the rest of my life, it's worth it."

Successful lifestyle changes often require the support of the entire family, and he is thankful for the help of his family, particularly his wife, Gayle.

Spouses are an important part of the support group, Robb said. “Many of my male patients don’t do much of their cooking at home or grocery shopping, which is why we encourage them to bring a spouse or partner to the diabetes self-management classes.”

Closing the Loop

Robb says Conway Regional succeeded in closing the loop for many diabetes patients in north Central Arkansas by providing Endocrinologist Maria Javaid, MD. Javaid, a highly experienced physician, is with the Conway Regional Endocrinology and Diabetes Center.

“I have patients coming from Clinton. They have healthcare at Conway Regional, and they are familiar with our campus, and now they are not having to drive the interstate to see a specialist,” Robb said. Most endocrinologists in Arkansas have practices in Little Rock or Fort Smith, leaving a void in much of the central part of the state.

Robb explained, “I was working with a female patient who had type 1 diabetes since she was young. When I told her we had an endocrinologist here, she started to cry. Now, she doesn’t have to drive an extra 30 to 45 minutes to go to a huge hospital.”

She added, “If you already have your primary care at Conway Regional and your diabetes education here, now you can also have your endocrinology services in one place for continuity of care.”

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Top: Central Baptist College Choir. Left: Cole and Julie Crossland. Right: President Kimbrow announcing the gala raised more than $1 million. Bottom Left: Harry Miller and Yalanda Merrell at CBC Gala 2023. Bottom Right: Lisa and Jason Speer.



Central Baptist College hosted its fourth annual Scholarship Gala on March 28. The black tie-optional event featured keynote speaker Harry Miller and was held at the Conway Expo Center.

The proceeds of the event benefit student scholarships, and Central Baptist College President Terry Kimbrow announced $1,085,208 had been raised through event sponsorships and private donations.

The theme of the event was “Fearless Faith” and the program focused on the mission and ministry of Central Baptist College, which is “the integration of Christian faith and academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment.” The emcee for the night was Yalanda Merrell, director of audience engagement at Lifeword.

Following the opening prayer by Dr. Larry Henderson, Central Baptist College chaplain and therapist, CBC Dining Services, under the direction of Chef Billie Rodriguez, served a delicious meal.

The highlight of the evening was an interview with Harry Miller facilitated by Merrell. Miller is an Ohio State student who announced last year that he was medically retiring from football due to declining mental health. He shared his testimony of living through times of deep depression and thoughts of suicide. When he medically retired from football, Miller said people would say, “What’s wrong with

Harry?” He was at the height of his football career, NFL agents were recruiting him, and he was a 4.0 mechanical engineering major. On the outside, he seemed to have it all together. On the inside, however, he was falling apart.

Miller talked about how God has worked in his life over the past year bringing him to the realization, “I have a story that must be told.” At the end of the interview, he received a standing ovation from more than 400 attendees.

The Central Baptist College Choir, under the direction of Jim Turner, sang “Fearless Faith.” The words were written by Christine Harris, wife of alumnus David Harris, and the musical score was written by Turner, assistant professor of music.

In his announcement of the $1,085,208 total that had been raised through this event for student scholarships, President Kimbrow acknowledged 57 event sponsors and many additional individuals and businesses who made contributions towards the total. "I am beyond grateful for the generosity of so many,” Kimbrow said. “The Central Baptist College Board of Trustees, businesses, not only in Conway, but across the state of Arkansas, and other individuals who are such faithful supporters of Central Baptist College all came together to make this an unforgettable night for the support of Christian higher education."

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Making his mark in Morrilton

After a dedication ceremony in which he signed his work, Jason White gazed at the newest mural to be completed in downtown Morrilton and said, “I’ll miss it — the project and the community.” The Searcy-based mural artist began work on the mural titled “Morrilton - Small City. No Limits.” in January. He completed work on the 2,250-square-foot public art installation, located at 204 W. Railroad St., at the end of February.

The design was inspired by a vision of the late Charles Louis Ormond, who operated his insurance company out of the building where the mural is located for many years and was an important figure in economic and community development for Morrilton. Before his passing in 2017, Ormond had made improvements to the wall in hopes of eventually installing a mural. During his life, he was an Air Force veteran, a former state legislator and a farmer, among other things. He was also instrumental in the

development of the Morrilton municipal airport and was passionate about all things related to transportation.

Since his passing, Ormond’s daughters, Shannon Ormond and Scarlett Ormond Phifer have maintained ownership of the building, and still employ their father’s long-time staff member, Theresa Paladino, who oversees the daily operations of the business. “Charles often said he wanted this building to hold a mural as a banner to promote vital elements of Morrilton and Conway County,” Paladino said.

“Dad would be so happy as the mural has everything he loved, trains, planes and grains,” added Phifer.

White, who is known for his work with flags across the state, has been working as a professional artist for seven years, even though he knew he wanted to be an artist from a young age. When Main Street Morrilton put out the

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Jason White downtown mural unveiled in honor of late Charles Louis Ormond Story and photos by Morgan Zimmerman

After an extensive restoration by Union Pacific, in 2019 the 4014 “Big Boy” went on a tour of the Union Pacific system to commemorate the transcontinental railroad's 150th anniversary. That tour included a stop in Morrilton, and the new mural by Jason White has created a stir in train enthusiast groups throughout the area.

request for proposals seeking an artist with experience designing large-scale installments with “patriotic and historical themes,” White knew he was a good fit. “I really love to do the American flag. I feel like every community needs one,” he said.

Further drawing him into the project was the town of Morrilton itself. He has traveled all over the state painting murals for many small and large towns. However, he and his family spend a lot of time hiking and camping at Petit Jean State Park, and the Morrilton area is special to them. White spent time with the Main Street Morrilton Public Art Committee and Ormond’s family to really get a feel for the meaning behind the mural before finalizing his design, which includes a large American flag, the city’s name and slogan, a small airplane, a large steam engine and nods to local crops that are grown throughout Conway County.

The star of the show is the depiction of the famous Union Pacific 4014 steam locomotive known as “Big Boy.” The train, which is the largest operating steam locomotive in the world, was delivered to Union Pacific in December 1941 and retired in December 1961, having traveled 1,031,205 miles in its 20 years. In 2019 after an extensive restoration, Big Boy went on a tour of the Union Pacific system to commemorate the transcontinental railroad's 150th anniversary. That tour included a stop in Morrilton, and White's depiction of it has already created a stir in train enthusiast groups throughout the area. “I have painted a lot of trains in my time, but this is by far the largest one I’ve ever done,” he said. The image of the completed train is approximately 18 feet tall, just over two feet taller than the actual train. “One thing I really love about it is if you stand at the right angle, you can see the Morrilton Train Depot in the background,” said White.

Main Street Morrilton commissioned the mural, which was partially funded by a Public Art Grant from the Arkansas Department of Heritage, and it is the second public installation in Morrilton's historic downtown district over the past year. “We were thrilled when we received Jason’s proposal. We knew right away that his aesthetic was exactly what we were looking for to fill this space,” said Main Street Morrilton Public Art Committee Chair Morgan Zimmerman. “This mural is something we can all be proud of,” said Mayor Allen Lipsmeyer. The City of Morrilton matched the grant with money from their annually budgeted public art fund.

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celebrating athletic excellence

White County's Butch Gardner

His competence and composure are readily discernible. Whether in person or on the telephone, his speech reveals a man who knows himself and has few arguments with the 68 years that have passed since his Mississippi birth. A transplant to Searcy at age 5, Elvester “Butch” Gardner has enriched the Natural State not only with his AllAmerican basketball talents but also with his admirable professional and people skills. Never has he been anything but an asset to the state he has long called home.

One of twelve children and the oldest of four boys, Butch learned early the importance of team play. On the playground as well as at the supper table, sharing became a vehicle for nurturing camaraderie and success. Basketball—in which team play is essential—soon became his favorite activity, although racing and both high and long jumping were attractive seconds.

Adolescence moved Butch into organized school sports that prepared him well for three years of multi-sport high school competition. Basketball increasingly became his passion, with track and field events serving as valuable vehicles for improving his speed and jumping on the court.

Launched years earlier was his parents’ unwavering support for his participation in school sports. The two were tireless workers, Butch recently explained, his father eventually the owner of a small business, his mother always “pretty fantastic” as a homemaker. Both “were trying to make a living,” he proudly added; yet they “came to all of my games.”

What they saw made all of their labors more than worthwhile. Consistently capable in the classroom, Butch treated his parents to ongoing improvement athletically. His part-time play as a sophomore won him a varsity letter and provided perfect preparation for stardom in his junior and senior years.

As a junior, he averaged 18 points and 13

rebounds per game. As a senior, while earning selection as an All-American, he tied Searcy’s single-game scoring high with 43 points and averaged 24 points and 14.1 rebounds per game. Ultimately he sent 1098 career points through the nets, with all but 61 tallied in his last two seasons. Clearly, he was showing why, three years earlier, his Searcy coach, Birdie Rogers, had announced he “wouldn’t trade Butch for any other player in the state … . He’s a natural.”

College and university recruiters agreed: Butch was a basketball marvel whose best years lay ahead. Offers were numerous and attractive, and Butch weighed them carefully, finally opting for Ouachita Baptist University, with legendary Bill Vining heading their basketball program.

On the 1973 evening before his departure for Arkadelphia, however, came a visitor to Butch’s home who was to turn his basketball fortunes, and his career, in a different direction. Butch greeted not Coach Vining but Coach Jess Bucy, in his fifth season of strengthening Harding’s basketball program. Bucy quickly convinced Butch that his nationally celebrated skills deserved to be paraded on home soil and before the fabled, raucous basketball crowd that had no equal elsewhere (his parents would enjoy the “The Rhodes Rowdies” too, he emphasized).

Thus began a quartet of seasons seldom replicated on America’s campuses. Butch took

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Photo by Mike Kemp Butch Gardner stands in stands in the Rhodes Field House on the Harding University campus. Archival photos courtesy of Harding University Archival photos courtesy of Harding University


the basketball world by storm, four times an All-Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference and an All-District selection, three times adding All-American laurels. In 2023, fortysix years after last donning his Bison uniform, he remains Harding University’s chief basketball record holder, first in six career all-time rankings and in our single-season rankings.

Most admirable in the minds of Harding basketball aficionados are Butch’s top finishes in points scored (2255) and scoring average (21.1). Butch, however, admits he takes “more pride in his rebounds than points scored.” Reporter Corey Shunne explains that the springy,6’4” small forward calls rebound statistics “blue-collar” because “You got to get in there and bang around with people. It’s more about desire and want-to than skill.”

But shortly after his final Bison season, his always trusty legs failed him. At the training camp to which the Atlanta Hawks invited free agents and draft choices, oppressive heat hobbled him; heat cramps ended his professional opportunities.

In 1978, upon completing his undergraduate degree in education, with a minor in business, Butch plunged into Harding’s graduate program in education. A year later,


armed with his master’s degree, he became Coach Bucy’s assistant coach, a post he enjoyed for five years.

Yet the lure of a head coaching opportunity proved irresistible, and Butch misjudged, later conceding “It wasn’t a good fit.” Three seasons of overseeing the Basketball Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff preceded his return to his alma mater for 34 years of successful administration.

Those years found him in a variety of leadership posts, each with greater responsibilities than the last. By 1991 he had advanced to Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, and by 1999 to Director of Minority Student Services and the First-Year Experience at Harding, while also launching his part-time doctoral study. After earning his Ed.D. at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2007, he moved to Director of the university’s Career Center, holding that position until his 2021 retirement.

Harding’s President Mike Williams, a friend and colleague of Butch’s for three decades, labels him “the most heralded basketball player” in the history of the institution as well as “a remarkable, humble and beloved man who works for the good of others.” Undoubtedly, White County and the 501 would agree without reservation.

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‘a remarkable,
man who works for the good of others.’
— Harding’s President Mike Williams on Butch Gardner

A moment in time

The University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton (UACCM) is marking its 60th year as an institution in 2023 and a yearlong celebration will take place. The theme for the year is “Cheers to 60 Years.”

On Feb. 25, a new tradition began with an inaugural gala fundraiser that was hosted at the UACCM Workforce Training Center. It was themed “A Moment in Time” and made a net profit of $64,000 that will be used to build a commemorative clock tower on campus.

Gala attendees enjoyed fine wine and dinner at the black-tie event. The evening also featured a silent and live auction, with all proceeds benefiting the construction of a commemorative clock tower to be built on the UACCM campus.

Several more events will take place throughout the year, such as the Links for Learning golf tournament on June 23, the opening of the UACCM Historical Archives Exhibit in July, and tentative plans for a special guest speaker from NASA in October.

For a full list of events, visit More details about these events will be made available as they approach.

Miss UACCM Emily Lawrence welcomed guests to the event.
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1. Judy Zellner (from left), Bill Zellner, Julie McDonald and Chris McDonald. 2. UACCM Development Officer Taylor Holland (from left), with UACCM staff members Lauren Bryan and Shelby Beck 3. Jeff and Mary Newsome 4. UACCM Director of Marketing and Public Relations Mary Clark (from left), Kristin Clark Fowler and Tommy Fowler 5. UACCM Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Larry Davis, Carlene Davis and Dr. Linda Beene 6. Leigh Counts and Dr. Richard Counts 7. Nabholz representatives Eric Sutterfield (from left), Mike Armstrong, Mark Solberg, Lisa Willenberg and Scott McKennon. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

AC Tune Up

Stay Energy Smart this summer

Summer is almost here, which means temperatures are steadily rising. Sometimes it’s hard to balance comfort and cost, but staying relaxed and cool in your home on the hottest days of the year without worrying about energy bills going through the roof is possible.

One of the easiest things you can do to stay cool this summer is have a professional tune up your air conditioning unit. Over the course of 12 months, a home’s heating and cooling will easily run thousands of hours. Left unserviced, the average unit will lose 5 percent of its efficiency each year from dust and dirt accumulation as well as regular wear and tear.

Conway Corp recommends customers have a preventative maintenance tune up on their central air conditioning unit every year to keep it working efficiently. Having your home’s cooling system serviced is one of the best things you can do – both from a comfort perspective as well as a financial one. Plus, small problems can be detected long before they turn into big, expensive problems when temperatures are likely at their worst.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a checkup of your home’s HVAC system can extend its life by several years as well as save you up to 10 percent a month on energy bills. On average, a tune-up will cost $70 to $100, which easily pays for itself in monthly efficiency savings. Plus, a well-looked-after unit will last up to 15 years, compared to seven years for ones that are left ignored. Extending the life of your unit will save up to $5,000 in replacement costs.

Conway Corp Energy Smart professionals recommend scheduling a local, certified HVAC contractor to perform a system tune up that includes four basic steps:

• Measure airflow of the system to test capacity and efficiency. Most air conditioners require 400 cubic feet per minute of air to operate to capacity.

• Clean the condenser. The outdoor unit should be sprayed with a heaving foaming cleanser that soaks for 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing.

• Measure indoor and outdoor conditions, including indoor wet bulb, indoor dry bulb and outdoor dry bulb. After all measurements are taken, they should be plotted on a sliding chart to determine superheat that will set the proper refrigerant charge.

• Adjust refrigerant charge. One of the most expensive repairs for units is a refrigerant leak.

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Homeowners can also play their part in keeping the system in good working condition by changing the filters on their heating, ventilation and cooling system four times a year. This helps to keep the system running smoothly and improves the home’s airflow providing better air quality and less temperature fluctuation. When you clean or replace the filter, you enhance your air conditioner’s efficiency by 5 to 15 percent.

If your air conditioning unit is more than 10 years old or frequently needs repairs, consider replacing it. New units with a high-efficiency rating of at least 13 are 25 percent more energy-efficient than their older counterparts and can save you up to 30 percent on your energy bill.

Conway Corp customers replacing their air conditioning unit can apply for a zero percent interest loan. The loan program, funded by the City of Conway through the American Recovery Act of 2009, is available only to Conway Corp customers. Although there are no income limits, applicants must have a good credit history with Conway Corp. Loans are available between $500-2,500 and are repayable over a 36-month period.

To learn more about the loan program or Conway Corp’s Energy Smart program, call 501-450-6000 or visit EnergySmart.


Conway Corp’s Energy Smart program can help you balance increasing demands for electricity with our commitment to providing affordable rates. This month, Energy Smart is giving away an air conditioner tune-up to one Conway Corp customer.

To register to win, visit ConwayCorp. com/actuneup. Entries must be completed by midnight May 31, and the winner will be announced by June 10. The winner must be a homeowner in the Conway Corp service area.

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Sisters turn hard obstacles into stepping stones

Except for the bullfrogs’ percussion section and cows harmonizing their “moo-zic” with tree frogs trilling in the oak trees, one very small town near Arkansas’s Spring River was the otherwise quiet site of my maternal grandparents’ home. I would say their still-standing house will be forever safe from destructive winds. My granddad built the structure himself with cement walls and floors and an exterior of rocks from the local quarry. The fireplace was perhaps large enough to have an echo. A rock-sided drilled well with a cylinder bucket was outside the kitchen. My Arnold grandparents and family lived much of their lives in that house.

An outhouse stood at the back of the large lot, so by the time you reached its door, you almost forgot your intentions. Behind the outhouse was the Methodist church’s cemetery, so you hastily walked back after fulfilling your intentions, yet looking around for recuperated “haints” (ghosts).

Grandmother birthed nine children. The first living child leading the pack in 1901 was my mother, Bessie Vivian. After becoming a competent age, Mother helped Granddad with farm chores as the boys were too young. In adulthood, Mother moved to Conway in 1935 with her own family. Her career was helping raise five children to be three physicians and two teachers. And the financial effects were many dinners and suppers of cornbread and soup!

Daughter No. 2 was Zula Greenfield. Aunt Zula played rolling chords accompanied by her not-terribly-melodic singing. I once asked Aunt Zula how she got her middle name. She said she didn’t know. According to our family tree, I now know that the name’s origin was her greatgrandmother’s maiden name, which I traced to my ninth great-grandfather born in 1531.

The third daughter was Annie Jane, the one awarded the first name of her Grandmother Noel. A nice two-part Southern name eventually became “Jane.” She and her two sisters were good cooks, meticulous seamstresses and pianists.

The two boys, William Everett and Kirby Edmond, were herded by their sisters bearing comparison to keen-eyed border collies. Uncle Bill likely had the ancestral name of William. We don’t know from whom he got his very tall stature or how he could kick his foot up and touch a doorway’s top jamb. Uncle Kirby died at age 34 the day before his marriage so I never knew him. My grandparents also had two stillborns; one child died at age 2 and one at 20 days. Four out of nine survived, but Grandmother was forever affected.

The three sisters did not look or act alike, nor did the

brothers. My mother was quiet but displayed style and social graces although she might have just repaired cattle fencing. She sewed without patterns, quilted and made lace. She said all five children would walk down the church aisle on Sundays displaying their Scots/Irish heritage, one with black hair, one red, one brown, one auburn and one cotton-headed.

As adults, there were even more differences. Aunt Zula was a teacher for 40 years, earning her degree by spending summers with us while walking to college every day. As a teacher, she fed children who had little to eat and bought clothes and shoes for those who wore the same clothing every day. She enjoyed pranks played on her and relished shocking others with her antics. She had a prosthetic eye lost from cancer and false teeth, which she delighted in popping out for my children. Had she performed with her eye, we would have had to talk.

Uncle Bill married Margaret, a gracious lady with a syrupy Georgian drawl who pronounced her name “Mahgrit.” Besides his height and door-frame kicking ability, his robust laugh could likely be heard downtown even with all the cotton gins and the Conway Corporation generator running. While a Coast Guardsman in World War II, he sent home a shipboard photo of his new beard. His hair was auburn, and his ample beard was bright red.

Aunt Jane was a devout Christian with an enthusiastic, sometimes mischievous smile. I think she must have been memorizing the Bible all her life. That was fortunate for a rough and challenging marriage leading to becoming a single mother. By determination, she became a nurse, helping to heal people medically and spiritually.

These Wonder Women never let something beneficial escape. Aunt Jane, her son and Aunt Zula and others were at our home at the same time one Christmas Eve and empty beds were scarce. Aunt Jane said, “Well, Vivian and I will just sleep on the living room floor!” I was unexpectedly volunteered, but we made our nests and started chatting.

She began telling my 12-year-old self about her early church days in the hills of Arkansas and beyond, and she asked,” So are you saved?” I had to admit that I didn’t know what that meant nor had I ever read the Bible. She didn’t even gasp, but proceeded to tell me what I should know. In fact, the saved part didn’t happen for 20 years, but she must have planted a Matthew 17 mustard seed for me! When the seed came up, it was a spindly, wobbly sprout that needed and received water. Many more years later, I experienced baptism in 2021. Even gnarly old plants can need and receive reviving water.

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The three sisters: Annie Jane (from left), Zula and Bessie Vivian stand in front of a home built by Hogue's grandfather, Noel Arnold. Hogue credits all three aunts, Zula (top), Annie Jane (middle), and her mother, Bessie Vivian (bottom), for being Wonder Women in her life.






FAMILY: My husband, Wilks Marshall, and I have been married for 18 years. My family is also comprised of many cousins and a lifetime of close friends. I am from Newport (Jackson County).

EDUCATION: I attended Hendrix College and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Arkansas State University, Jonesboro. I am also a 2002 graduate of the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

WORK: I am honored to serve as the Bank Commissioner for the Arkansas State Bank Department. I began my career with the agency in 1995 as a Bank Examiner Trainee and was appointed Bank Commissioner in October 2020. I have held many positions within the Bank Department, including 13 years as Deputy Bank Commissioner.


I am very involved with our national association of state bank regulators, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS). I currently, and have previously, serve on the Board of CSBS and I am active in many committees and work groups within the association. I have also been re-appointed to a two-year term to serve as a member of the State Liaison Committee of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, a formal interagency body comprised of all federal and state regulators, which promotes uniformity in the supervision of financial institutions.


It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. I began working at a local community bank in Northeast Arkansas during

the summer before college and have never stopped working in the banking industry. I had recently graduated college and was working full-time at a local bank when I was introduced to a Bank Department examiner. A phone call, two interviews, a denial and a subsequent offer later, and the rest is a wonderful 28-year history. My regulatory career and the Arkansas banking industry are my passions.


I enjoy serving in a variety of roles at Trinity United Methodist Church. As my schedule allows, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in a lay leadership role on the Church Council, the finance committee and the women’s ministry. I am also a proud member of the Chancel Ringers, our amazing handbell ensemble.


My photos, belongings and amazing memories of my parents and grandparents. Seeing a photo or a holiday decoration from my childhood gives me comfort and strength and a reminder of their love and the sacrifices they made for me.

‘The Arkansas State Bank Department has an amazing team dedicated to overseeing the state’s banking industry. The agency’s mission is to provide the public with access to safe and sound banking products and services to meet their needs and provide economic opportunities to Arkansas communities and the state as a whole.’

- Susannah Marshall

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A Growing Health System for a Growing Community

Down the Hallway, not the Highway

As our community continues to grow, we are growing alongside you to ensure all of your healthcare needs are met right here in Conway. When your family needs emergency care, our board-certified providers will give you the comprehensive care you deserve when you need it most. When you’re facing an emergency, trust the care you’ll find down the hallway, not down the highway.

We’re not just growing—we’re growing together.

Innovative Services More Specialists New Medical Offices
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