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Heber Springs resident honored for volunteer workOriginally Published December 2, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated November 30, 2012 at 11:52 a.m.
HEBER SPRINGS By definition, a volunteer is a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task. By example, Diane Hall, 63, of Heber Springs does just that.
She is a member of several service organizations — Daughters of the American Revolution, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Gold Star Wives of America, the American Legion Auxiliary and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary. Yet she still finds time to volunteer consistently at the Pine Mountain Veterans Home near Quitman.
For all of her work, Hall recently was recognized by the Arkansas Society, Daughters of the American Revolution with a Community Service Award.
“I can think of no one more deserving of the Community Service Award than Diane Hall,” said Jo Ann Cooper of Cabot, a regent with the Arkansas Society, Daughters of the American Revolution. “The purpose of the Community Service Award is to recognize worthy local people from a variety of walks of life for outstanding achievements in educational, humanitarian, patriotic, historical or citizenship endeavors.
“I have known her for several years, and she is truly an outstanding person,” Cooper said. “She truly cares for the veterans at the Pine Mountain Veterans home where she regularly visits. She takes them shopping, to events and takes cakes for special occasions. Diane is an outstanding individual.”
Hall first began working with veterans in 1979 while she was employed as a licensed practical nurse at the Eugene J. Towbin Healthcare Center in North Little Rock, known then as Fort Roots. She worked there for 10 years, then transferred to the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock, retiring from there in 2001.
She began volunteering at the Pine Mountain Veterans Home in 2003.
The local veterans home is owned and operated by Rick and Lori Green, who grew up in Damascus and graduated from Concord High School. They bought the facility, which was built in the mid-1980s, in 2002. The residential care facility is licensed for 13 beds and currently houses 12 men between the ages of 41 and 67 who suffer from mental illness. Rick Green said the residents are referred to them from the Towbin Healthcare Center.
“Diane was the first person we saw after we opened the home, and she’s been here ever since,” Lori Green said. “She is the best. She is truly an all-American hero in our eyes and is well deserving of any honor she may receive.”
Hall said she volunteers at Pine Mountain at least once a month. She is accompanied by her fiancé, Jon James.
“These guys are just great,” Hall said of the veterans living at Pine Mountain. “They are younger than most who are living in veterans homes.
“I volunteer there because I enjoy it. I think I get as much out of it as they do. It’s important that they know that somebody cares about them.”
Hall was born in Jacksonville, Fla., the daughter of Fern Rogers of North Little Rock and the late Frank Rogers, who was in the Navy at the time of her birth.
“I only lived there for six weeks,” she said with a smile.
Hall’s father, who died in 1991, developed Cleburne County Memorial Gardens in Heber Springs. She took over the business after his death and sold the cemetery in 2005. Hall has one sister, Betty Ratcliffe of Gravel Ridge, two nieces and a nephew.
Hall graduated from Clinton High School in 1968 and attended college for two years, studying nursing. She married her high school sweetheart, Gary Hall, who joined the Air Force after graduating from the University of Arkansas in 1970. He trained as a helicopter pilot and was killed during the Vietnam War as he was flying over Laos on Jan. 24, 1975. The couple were married for six years.
Hall has had more than her share of health problems over the years. She had a car wreck in 1975 and sustained a head injury.
“I had to redo all my nursing classes and finally received my LPN in 1979,” she said. Since then, she has had back and neck surgery and, most recently, a knee replacement.
She met her fiancé in 1992.
“I always say my dad raised up from the grave and put Jon in my life to take care of me,” Hall said.
Hall helped reactivate the Gold Star Wives of America chapter in Arkansas in 1985, known as the La Petite chapter in Little Rock. She served several years as president of the group, which helps war widows and their children. Hall said the chapter has now been disbanded. She was also active in setting up chapters in Texas and Louisiana.
Hall joined DAR in 2003 and is now a member of the Maria Van Buren Chapter in Clinton, where she serves as patriotic chairwoman. Through her DAR chapter, Hall has been instrumental in planting red maple trees at the Pine Mountain Veterans Home.
She is third vice president of the Cleburne Memorial Chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy and purchased a flag in honor of the Pine Mountain Veterans Home that flies in the Field of Heroes display between Sept. 11 and Veterans Day on the courthouse lawn in Heber Springs.
“I am consistent,” Hall said of her volunteer efforts at Pine Mountain Veterans Home. “I do whatever is needed. They think of me as family.”
Hall divides her time between her home in Heber Springs and one in North Little Rock, where her 84-year-old mother lives. Hall said her mother has lived with her ever since Hall’s husband’s death in 1975.