TIMBO Olen Wilson, 95, died June 9 after just a few weeks of declining health, but he knew he and his family had been named the 2018 Stone County Farm Family of the Year.
“He knew,” said his son, Jerry Wilson of Mountain View.
“He knew. He was pleased by the honor. His health just started to decline recently. Just a few weeks ago, I had him out looking over the farm, doing what we did every day. And just this past spring, he helped build a new barn. He told me that was something he wanted to do while he was still around. … He wanted to leave that legacy,” Jerry said.
“Our farming community is saddened by the loss of our longtime friend and farmer Mr. Olen Wilson,” said Martha Blackwell of Mountain View, district coordinator for the Stone County Conservation District.
“Mr. Wilson was very knowledgeable and successful regarding his farming practices and leaves behind a beautiful farm,” Blackwell said. “His years of hard work and dedication were not only obvious at his farm, but also in conversation. … He truly loved farming. Mr. Wilson used our [U.S. Department of Agriculture] services and programs. He was a dedicated and influential leader in Stone County agriculture. His farm was always well-kept, and he was trying to develop the next best Bermuda grass.
“The Stone County Farm Family [nominating] committee asked Mr. Wilson previously [to be Stone County Farm Family of the Year], but for personal issues, he had declined, at one time stating that he was not deserving. The Stone County Conservation District was honored that the Olen Wilson Family was selected as our Stone County Farm Family for 2018.”
Olen Wilson’s family includes his wife of 71 years, the former Elma Fletcher, 92; his son, Jerry Wilson, 57, and his wife, Tammy, and Jerry’s daughters from another marriage, Kimberly Wilson of Fayetteville and Valerie Wilson of Dallas, Texas; Olen’s daughters, Janet Eunson, 62, and her husband, Bob, of Timbo and their children, Vanessa Carr and her husband, Paul, of New Zealand and Adam Eunson of Timbo; and Joanie Cromwell, 66, of Gulfport, Mississippi, and her husband, Jason, and their sons, Matthew Kreth and his wife, Suzanne, and their 7-month-old son, Ethan, of Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Phillip Kreth of Tullahoma, Tennessee.
Olen was born Nov. 22, 1922, in Onia, a son of the late Cranford and Dora Tilley Wilson. Olen graduated from Big Flat High School and was drafted by the Army to serve in World War II. He was stationed in 1943 at a temporary camp called Camp Campbell in Kentucky, now known as Fort Campbell. He served stateside in the 782nd Battalion, Light Tank Division. Jerry said his dad was discharged for medical reasons.
Jerry said his father returned home and took a test to become a teacher. He later attended Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas), then the University of Arkansas, where he received a degree in agriculture in 1951.
Olen and Elma moved back home to Stone County and bought 100 acres to start their farm, which he called the Circle W Ranch.
In information submitted to the Arkansas Farm Family of the Year program, Olen wrote, “The house we built was the first Gold Medallion Home in Stone County.
“We started cleaning up the old fields, sodding Bermuda grass and bought a small cow herd,” he wrote. “While teaching agriculture, I used a lot of hands-on experiences and took my classes on many field trips. Often this involved seeing livestock on neighbors’ farms.
“Also, I was called on often to help doctor others’ livestock before there was a veterinarian in the county. After buying 40 adjoining acres, we continued to make pasture and hay land. I always received a lot of requests for farm-management information, especially for spraying and increasing hay production. After retirement [from teaching], I leased other farms and farmed full time.”
Olen taught in one-room schools at Roasting Ear Creek, Onia and Old Lexington; he also taught one year each in Rison and Fountain Hill. He was the first agriculture teacher at Timbo High School, a position he held for 31 years before retiring in 1984 to become a full-time farmer. He started the FFA chapter at Timbo High School and always attended state FFA conventions.
He also taught veterans who were interested in learning about farming.
Olen was a member of the West Stone County Water Association and served as president for 13 years during its planning stages and while funding was being sought. He was also a deacon at Bethany Missionary Baptist Church at Onia.
Elma worked as a nurse’s aide in a hospital and in a nursing home for several years.
“We’ve had a good life … a good long life,” she told visitors recently.
Jerry said it’s been a “blessing” that “Mom and Dad have lived all these years on their own.
“We have been blessed.”
Jerry has managed the family farm since 2015. He owned and operated his own business, Wilson Town and Country grocery store, for 32 years.
The farm now consists of 610 acres. The Wilsons raise beef cattle — 125 commercial cows, 50 registered Hereford cows, two registered Hereford bulls, four registered Ultrablack bulls and one registered Brangus bull. They also raise mixed-grass hay on 110 acres and rye-grass hay on 50 acres. They bale approximately 800 bales of round hay to feed the cattle and 2,000 bales of square mixed-grass hay to sell commercially.
Janet Eunson moved back to Timbo several years ago to help her aging parents.
“I lived in Florida 40 years,” she said. “I taught high school math for 28 years. My husband, who was also a teacher, and I are both retired. We started coming up here and staying three months at a time and finally just decided to move here.
“I like farm work a lot better than housework,” she said, smiling.
Jerry and his wife, Tammy, have a large garden plot at the family farm.
“I plow, and Tammy plants,” Jerry said, “and Janet pulls the weeds.
“We would like to increase the cow herd to 200, purchase additional equipment and become more efficient with our farming. Tammy works off the farm as a licensed practical nurse, earning money to help us reach our goals.”
Jerry is a past president of the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce. He is also active in the Lions Club and serves as a member of the Stone County Cattlemen’s Association.
Funeral services for Olen Wilson were held June 13 at Bethany Missionary Baptist Church. All former students were invited to serve as honorary pallbearers.