Some of the remarkable people featured in 2013

By Wayne Bryan Published January 2, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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Florrie Wakenight Lyle, who turned 100 in August, rang a bell as part of a Veteran’s Day ceremony at the Saline County Courthouse in Benton. Lyle’s bell ringing has been a part of many patriotic observances in Saline County.

Editor’s note: Selected from more than 250 stories written in the last year, staff writer Wayne Bryan shares a second look at some of the people who were featured in the Tri-Lakes Edition in 2013.

Dorothy Morris

Dorothy Morris is well known in Arkansas as a philanthropist and supporter of the arts and cultural activism, but she is best known for her enthusiasm for all that she finds interesting. And Morris finds much in the world interesting.

The story that ran in February is a very personal story for the Hot Springs resident, but it was easy to be caught up in her fascination about a new “relative.”

“We are cousins,” Morris said as she introduced Laurel Nakadate, a New York photographer and video artist who had come to Arkansas because of the discovery of the two women’s biological link.

“We found a connection when we had our DNA tested, and we found we have a common ancestor somewhere in the last 200 years,” Morris said. “That’s why we are cousins.”

Morris explained that both women had sent DNA samples to 23andMe, a company that extracts the genetic code and analyzes it.

“You get this kit and send them some of your spit, and they read about 2 million of the more than 3 billion strands of DNA you have,” Morris said.

Through testing a person’s genetic materials, scientists can track maternal lineage back as far as 10,000 years, according to the 23andMe website.

Nakadate, who added her genotype to the database in 2011, said knowing all those cousins are out there inspired her.

“As I learn more about who I came from, it hit me one day that I needed to meet all these people,” she said.

That desire turned into a creative effort to meet and record some of her DNA relatives. Nakadate is traveling around the country, meeting those bio-relations at night and taking their pictures, set in local and natural surroundings.

The two strangers met, and they connected with their adventurous nature.

Nakadate photographed Morris one night on Hot Springs Mountain, just above the Grand Promenade.

David Hathcoat

At 70 years old, David Hathcoat has a warm smile for everyone, but he is a force to be respected.

As a lieutenant with the Clark County Sheriff ’s Office and a bailiff, Hathcoat enforces law and order for the 1st Division of the 9th East Judicial Circuit Court in Arkadelphia. He moves people in and out of court and makes sure there are no courtroom disruptions. It is a job that requires patience and courtesy but also carries the weight of authority.

Hathcoat said he can’t remember when he first thought of being a lawman, but he has proof that it was long ago.

“I found a picture of me at school at Emmet,” he said. “I was wearing overalls and a checked coat. On the back, I had written my name and ‘Policeman.’” He said he might have been inspired to a life of law enforcement by a state trooper who patrolled the roads around Hathcoat’s hometown. “I would watch Trooper Guy Downing [of the Arkansas State Police] working the highway,” Hathcoat said. “He was always neat in a sharp uniform. I would watch him catch folks.”

After service in the Navy, Hathcoat joined the Arkadelphia Police Department in 1967. Most of the cases Hathcoat handled in those days were traffic stops and reading the parking meters.

“I did catch a subject wanted for rape and auto theft while I was walking down the street,” he said. “And we found 900 pounds of grass once,” he said. “In 10 years, I never fired my gun.”

From being a city police officer, Hathcoat moved on to become a state trooper in 1977.

In 1982, he was awarded a medal for valor, when, after a car ran through a roadblock in Mena, Hathcoat chased the car 31 miles as the driver fired at the trooper’s patrol cruiser.

“Kelvin Love killed a student and a professor, then kidnapped a student at Garland County Community College (now National Park Community College in Hot Springs),” Hathcoat said. “He shot at me six times, hitting the car four times, including the

windshield. We had nothing set up ahead of him. I knew I had to ride this out and stay with him.”

Hathcoat said the driver finally stopped outside Wickes and held a gun to his hostage’s head. The standoff lasted around 15 minutes.

“I put my shotgun on the hood of the car. I told him, ‘It’s over,’ and told him that if he tried to shoot, he would never know if the hammer [of the pistol] fell,” Hathcoat said.

Ten years later, Hathcoat received another commendation for arresting a suspect in a hostage situation at a meat-packing plant near Hope.

He has worked in the Sheriff’s Office and the courts for 16 years, saying he enjoyed the work and had no thoughts of retiring. The veteran officer said a regular job lets a worker know how every day will be, whereas for a police officer and a state trooper, or a bailiff, every day is different.

Stony Evans

Walking into the library at Lakeside Junior High School in Hot Springs might be a bit of a surprise for someone from an older generation. There is music playing and video screens going, some even being used as art. Books line a couple of walls, but most of the space is taken up with computers and tables where students are listening to a teacher, or just talking, which is encouraged.

That’s the library or media center, under the direction of Stony Evans.

“I was told that an empty, quiet library is a useless resource,” he said, “so I want to make sure I have things going on for teachers and students.”

Evans was honored in April as Library Media Specialist of the Year by the Arkansas

Association of Instructional Media. The AAIM is a group of professional Arkansas educators, mostly librarians, dedicated to improving education through the use of media technology.

While he is in his 19th year on a school faculty, it is only his fourth as a librarian and media specialist. He started as a band teacher in his hometown of Bismarck, then became certified in media education.

But not before he had another moment that greatly influenced his approach to education.

“I was talking to a veteran Arkansas band director, Bill Hickman,” Evans said. “He said to always take the positive approach by giving out compliments. And he told me, ‘Make it real’ — that kids could always tell a fake.”

Evans said he started taking that approach with his younger students, and he soon saw the results.

“It showed, so I changed how I looked at classes,” he said. “I could now say something wasn’t going well because they knew they came first with me, and I was in their corner.”

It is an approach Evans continues to use at Lakeside, even though he does not come in contact with students as much as he did in the role of teacher.

“I want the kids to know my name,” he said. “I want them to know I’m one of the teachers, and this library is a classroom for them.”

Evan said he discovered that a key to leadership is to develop professional relationships with the teachers.

“I want the library to be a collaborative effort with many teachers,” he said. “I want to know their classroom goals and how I can help with technology.”

Evans attacks his job as a media specialist with a great student-centered enthusiasm and a mindset of grabbing the attention of the school’s students.

Lorraine Duce

Lorraine Duce of Amity is at heart a force — an apparently unstoppable juggernaut of compassion, care, love and humor who has been helping children and adults in need for almost 32 years.

Duce is thought to be the oldest foster grandparent in the state, as well as one of Arkansas’ longest-serving volunteers. She has worked with youngsters at the Arkadelphia Human Development Center since 1981, when she was only 64.

“She’s grandma to everybody here,” said Aaron Nelson, staff-development specialist at the center. “She is always bringing in birthday cakes and banana bread and keeping everyone in snacks. But if we have a person here who is isolated, she will turn on her Grandma love and get them talking, and they will start getting to know people. She breaks through that shell of isolation.”

While she helps others at the center, Duce credits her work there for saving her life because she was living with her own isolation and loneliness after the death of her husband and her mother within a short period of time.

“I sat at home by myself, never going out, but two good friends worked out here and wanted me to come with them,” Duce said. “It was better than sitting at home doing nothing.”

After filling out an application, she was hired by Arkadelphia Human Development Center Director Estelle Ford on the spot, Duce said.

“They gave me a little boy, and I cared for him until he went to school in Conway,” she said. “Then they gave me three girls.”

Duce said she was unsure of how many children have been in her charge in the years she has been at the center, but she has been working with one person since he was 9. The man is now in his 30s.

“He was just a child when I first saw him, and I am with him every day,” Duce said. “He is blind, and I help him.

“I don’t want to stay home. I need someone to talk to and be with. This gives me a reason to get up, get dressed and drive over here.”

Nelson said Duce has always been very dedicated to her work with the children.

“She broke her foot and had a cast on it and used a walker,” he said. “Then they found her knee was injured, and she had surgery. She never stopped coming in.”

“I like the people who live out here,” Duce said. “It’s important to be with people who need your help. There are sure plenty of people in the world that need help, so I’m doing what I can.”

Duce, 96, was born three days after America entered World War I. She has retired from two jobs and outlived two husbands and raised a family.

The great-grandmother said the children she has worked with, others who have lived there and the staff have become a second family for her.

Asked about retiring from the center,” Duce laughed at the idea and said, “I’ll never retire.”

Florrie Lyle

Florrie Wakenight Lyle was also included among the most interesting people of 2012, but anytime someone reaches 100 and follows a public tradition that began in 1918, they are worth mentioning again.

Veterans Day began as a day of thanksgiving in 1918 as the news spread that the fighting had ended in what became known as World War I.

In 2013, the more than 100 people who attended Veterans Day ceremonies held on the grounds of the Saline County Courthouse in Benton heard an authentic sound of that first Armistice Day.

“This is the bell my mother gave me that day in Searcy where we lived, and she said to go out and ring it, that we had gotten word the war was over,” Lyle told the gathering. “This is the bell my mother used to ring to call me in for supper. I ring this bell for all the veterans and all you dear people.”

Seated in front of a memorial that honors county residents killed in the wars of the 20th century, Lyle, a former Benton High School teacher, rang the bell to the applause of those assembled.

The ringing of the bell by Lyle has become a part of the annual patriotic observances in Saline County. County Judge Lanny Fite said at Lyle’s 100th-birthday celebration during the summer that the county invites her back every year to ring the same bell in honor of the Saline County residents who gave their lives in “the war to end all wars,” and in all the American wars since then as well.

Lyle’s story also carries an often forgotten chapter of World War II.

Seventy-one years ago, Florrie Wakenight was a young teacher in Searcy, and her boyfriend, Tom Lyle, was working as a banker in Little Rock. The war had been underway for only a few months when her future husband suggested they join a group that would operate an internment camp for Japanese-Americans being moved to Arkansas.

The children, most of them born in America, had been moved with their families in the early days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Classed as dangerous enemy aliens, the families were moved from their homes to places such as Arizona and California deserts and the southeast Arkansas Delta.

In August 1942, Wakenight and Lyle moved to the camp in Jerome. The families arrived by train in November. As many as 8,497 people, including 2,483 children, lived there for several years.

Wakenight enjoyed her work, calling the students “so understanding of being there, and they so wanted to be a part of this country.”

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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