Woman’s heart beats for her hometown of McCrory

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published March 31, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated March 29, 2013 at 10:13 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Betty Kate Thompson is the vice president of the Bank of McCrory. She’s been involved in her hometown’s activities and spends time trying to make McCrory a better place. Thompson serves as the event organizer for MosquitoFest and the Halloween Festival. She was named to the McCrory Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors six years ago and was elected president in 2010.

— Betty Kate Thompson is one of those people whom everyone in McCrory seems to know.

A dad and daughter wave from the shade of a restaurant awning across a downtown street. People stop by her desk at work to chat. Even the butcher is on a first-name basis.

That’s the benefit of living in a town of less than 2,000. It’s the benefit of living and working in the same town in which you were raised.

“You do know everybody, it seems like,” Thompson said. “You know all the phone numbers to the restaurants in town. Going to the post office ends up being a social event.”

Born in Newport, Thompson was raised, along with her brother, Bob, by their parents: Murlie, a cotton ginner, and Kate, a homemaker.

As a kid, Thompson remembers the world being safer. Parents felt more secure about their kids being out on their own.

“We’d leave home after lunch, and we’d meet up on our bikes,” Thompson said. “Our parents wouldn’t see us again until supper.”

There was a movie theater with a Saturday-afternoon matinee and plenty of kids for Thompson to invent games with. Most of all, Thompson liked going to the library on Main Street.

“It was in the upper part of a building on Main Street and had these creaky, dark stairs,” Thompson said. “The elderly man who ran the library didn’t have much to say to kids. So you really had to love reading to make the trip up those stairs.”

Thompson graduated from McCrory High School in 1972 after years of participating in student council, music and putting together the school’s annual. That fall, she started classes at Arkansas State University-Jonesboro. She had plans to study to become a social worker or lawyer when, as Thompson puts it, along came Vance Thompson.

“I never really dreamed that I would return to McCrory to live,” she said.

While home from college for a visit, Thompson stopped to see her father at work. She planned to go say hello to Vance’s brother, but found him instead. The two have been together since.

Now, Thompson and her husband share a home with their nephew Gabriel, who will return to McCrory in May from military school in Alabama before attending the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in September. The Thompsons remain close with all their nieces and nephews, and count them as their “chosen children.”

After so many years living in McCrory, Thompson now chooses to spend much of her time trying to make her hometown a better place. Thompson serves as the event organizer for MosquitoFest and the Halloween Festival. She was named to the McCrory Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors six years ago and was elected president in 2010. Thompson also serves on the executive committee of the Ken Theatre League Board of Directors, as president of the McCrory Industrial Development Corp., as a member of the McCrory Improvement Foundation and on the board of directors of the Woodruff County Health Center, along with several other committees.

“The love of community has been a motivation for me to stay so active,” Thompson said. “I am grateful for my childhood in McCrory and the involvement of town folks and church family who helped to bring us all up to be the best we could be.”

Each year, the MosquitoFest and Halloween Festival bring families from all over Woodruff County into an atmosphere not unlike the one Thompson enjoyed as a kid.

“It’s a big block party,” Thompson said. “Everybody comes back into town. Friends I grew up with who have moved away to Memphis … it’s a big reunion for everyone — visiting, eating and listening to music and watching all the kids grow up.”

In a town where a run to the post office can turn into a social event, going to a downtown bank can be just as social.

Thompson has worked at the Bank of McCrory for 24 years. She started as an assistant for a research project and eventually worked her way up the ranks as an internal auditor, loan officer, then finally reached her current role as vice president and cashier.

With her desk out in the open near the bank’s lobby, Thompson has learned to tune out noises when she’s into a project, but she doesn’t mind the fishbowl effect.

“I am very proud to be associated with our hometown bank,” Thompson said.

When asked to name an influence in her life, it’s hard for Thompson to narrow the field. There’s her friend Bettye Morris, who helped her develop a love of running, tennis and aerobics.

“Most importantly, she taught me to cultivate a zest for living,” Thompson said.

Her husband’s late uncle, Hadley Thompson, taught Thompson to “smell the roses as you go, and don’t wait until all the weeds are pulled.”

Friends Barbara Young and Kitty Dye each helped Thompson develop her love for flower arranging and cooking.

“They taught me the importance of making everyone who walks into our home feel special,” Thompson said.

In her free time, Thompson keeps up the reading habit she took on as a kid, devouring biographies and fiction on her Kindle. Thompson and her husband golf together when they can, and she needlepoints throughout the year.

Although Thompson didn’t imagine she’d end up spending her adult life in McCrory, now she can’t imagine living anywhere else.

“My marriage, family and our work are here,” Thompson said. “We love it. … McCrory is a wonderfully supportive community that turns out in good times and bad for its fellow McCrorians.”

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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