CONWAY — Glenda Bell said her mother was “a rose and azalea lady,” and her grandmother “an iris lady.
“I like anything that blooms,” Bell, 64, said with a laugh. “I’m a flower person.”
Bell’s love of flowers and gardening led her to the Faulkner County Master Gardener program, sponsored by the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. She has been named the 2013 Faulkner County Master Gardener of the Year for her hard work and dedication to the program.
“It was a total surprise,” Bell said of the honor. “I didn’t have a clue. A lot of people put in a lot of hours.
“I worked on a variety of projects last year,” Bell said. “I logged 320 hours.”
“Glenda is always going above and beyond,” said Kami Marsh, cooperative extension service agent in charge of the Master Gardener program in Faulkner County. “She is a delight to work with and is always willing to jump right in.”
Bell said she works in her yard every day.
“I moved into this house three years ago,” she said. “The lady who had it before me had started the garden in the backyard. I changed the plants out.
“It’s a slow project. I call it a ‘work in progress.’ I’ll work out here in the back for a while and then move to the front. I have lots of birds, squirrels and hummingbirds.”
Among her favorite Master Gardener projects is the group’s annual plant sale.
“We raise money for scholarships for students,” Bell said. “Everybody jumps in and works on this project.”
She is also involved in a new committee — Triple R.
“That’s for recruit, retain and recognize,” Bell said.
Bell served as president of the Faulkner County Master Gardeners in 2012. She serves on the state level as a member of County 76, a statewide advisory group that helps set policy and provides guidance to county programs.
Bell grew up in Little Rock and graduated from Little Rock Central High School in 1967.
“I stayed in the Little Rock-North Little Rock area most of my life,” she said. “I worked for AT&T for 32 years.”
She said she met her “special sweetheart” while employed with the telephone company.
“He was in Texas, and I was in Arkansas,” Bell said of her late husband, John Dudley Bell. “He was the nicest, most gentle man I ever met. We married in 1985 and moved to Texas.
“I didn’t like living in Texas. We both got jobs in Arkansas and came back in 1998. We built a home on Acklin Gap Road. It was to be our dream home. Then he got sick. He had a liver transplant in 1998, and he lost the battle in 2007.”
Bell said it was her husband who encouraged her to join the Master Gardeners.
“I would rather be outside on a tractor than in the house,” she said of living on their five acres. “So I went and joined the [Master Gardener] class in 2006. He died in January of 2007.
“Between my gardening and my church (Grace United Methodist in Conway), I made it through the tough times. They were my saving graces. Dudley was the love of my life. God gave me 22 years with him.”
Between the two of them, the couple had four children.
Daughter Jodi Tuttle and her husband, Shane, live in Minden, Louisiana. They have three children — Elizabeth, 9; Jaydee, 6; and Logan, 7 months.
Son Chris Long and his wife, Whendie, live in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Son Keith Kirklin lives in Conway.
Son John D. “Jay” Bell Jr. is stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi with his wife, Lindsay, and their daughters, Lainie, 6, and Gracie, 3.
Glenda Bell volunteers at Grace United Methodist Church. She also enjoys karaoke.
“That’s my thing,” she said, smiling. “And I sing in the choir and in a ladies ensemble at church.”
For more information on the Master Gardener program, call the Faulkner County Cooperative Extension Service at (501) 329-8344.