Friday, April 01, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville ladies get sweep at Beebe

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils got their first signature wins of the season on Tuesday, traveling to Beebe and sweeping a doubleheader from the traditionally powerful Lady Badgers – Jacksonville’s first-ever win against Beebe. Scores were 4-3 in game one and 10-2 in the nightcap.

Jacksonville scored the first two runs of game one, but had to come from behind for the win. In the top of the first inning, Bailey Holt hit a one-out single to start a two-run rally. Emily Lovercheck laid down a sacrifice bunt, but a fielding error left everyone safe. Mackenzie Rodgers popped up to shortstop, but another Beebe error off the bat of Kym House led to both runners scoring and giving Jacksonville an early lead.

The Lady Badgers (4-6, 2-2) took the lead after scoring all three of their runs in the bottom of the second.

Shanie Young got the rally started when she was hit by a pitch with one out. Jacksonville’s Kym House struck out the next batter, but an error at second base allowed L.Devore on base and left runners on the corners.

Beebe’s Elizabeth Shellenbarger then doubled to left field to drive in two runs, and Caelyn Longing singled to score Shellenbarger and give the Lady Badgers a 3-2 lead.

That’s how it stayed until the top of the fifth.

Jacksonville (7-2, 4-0) put two runners on base with one out in the third, but Beebe pitcher Faith Rose struck out the next two batters.

In the fifth, Jacksonville leadoff hitter Allison Seats walked with no outs and Holt singled to left field to put runners on the corners. Lovercheck hit a fly ball deep to right to score Seats, tying the game and moving Holt to third. Rodgers then hit a fly ball to left. Holt tagged up and tried to score, but Beebe left fielder, Baylee Halford threw her out at home for the 7-2 double play.

House retired the Lady Badgers in order in the bottom of the fifth, and Jacksonville scored the game-winning run in the top of the sixth.

Senior Kinley Burrows worked Rose to a full count before hitting a leadoff double to start the inning. Brianna Loyd grounded out to second and moved Burrows to third. Zylah Richardson then hit an RBI single to left to drive in the winning run.

Beebe got its leadoff hitter on base in the bottom of the sixth but failed to move her around.

House threw a six-hitter over seven innings for Jacksonville, striking out two, walking none and hitting two batters. Rose gave up 11 hits, striking out three and walking two.

Holt went 4 for 4 at the plate to lead Jacksonville. Burrows went 2 for 4 with two doubles while House and Richardson each got a pair of singles. Shellenbarger and Halford got two hits apiece to lead the Lady Badgers.

Jacksonville never trailed in game two and blew the game open with a six-run third inning. Loyd took the mound for Jacksonville in the nightcap. Playing as the home team, she retired Beebe in order in the top of the first. Jacksonville then scored twice in the bottom half and held the lead for good.

Lovercheck hit a two-out single to start the opening rally. Rodgers walked and House hit a two-RBI double. Payton Mullen then walked and Burrows hit a hard line drive that was caught in right field.

Jacksonville committed four errors in the top of the second, but Beebe managed just one run. Loyd then led off the bottom of the second with a double to left centerfield, and scored on a slap single by Richardson for a 3-1 Lady Devil lead.

Beebe got four base hits off Loyd in the top of the third, but again managed just once run. Jacksonville put it out of reach in the bottom half.

Lovercheck drew a leadoff walk and scored on a double by Rodgers. House then singled and Mullen hit an RBI double to make it 5-2 and leave two runners in scoring position. Burrows then struck out, but Loyd got the rally started again with another double, this one just inches from a home run, bouncing off the top of the fence in left field and scoring two more runs.

Richardson singled to put runners on the corners, and Seats hit a two-RBI double to straightaway center field to make it 9-2.

The game’s final run came in the bottom of the sixth when Burrows and Loyd hit back-to-back doubles.

Beebe had ample opportunities to score, collecting 10 base hits. Loyd also walked three and hit one batter, and the Lady Red Devils committed five errors.

Sydney Smith and Aleighu Porterfield each got two hits to lead the Lady Badgers. Loyd went 3 for 4, all three doubles, drove in three runs and scored twice to lead Jacksonville’s offense. Jacksonville is scheduled to host a one-day tournament at Dupree Park on Saturday, and will a big 5A-Central Conference doubleheader against conference co-leader Sylvan Hills on Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils score five straight, win

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville boys’ soccer team overcame a sluggish start to beat Sylvan Hills 5-1 in their 5A-Central Conference game Tuesday night at Jan Crow Stadium.

Sylvan Hills (2-6-3, 2-1) scored the game’s first goal 6:31 into the game. That goal was scored by Andrew Menke, which gave the Bears a 1-0 lead. It didn’t take Jacksonville (3-0-1, 2-0) long, though, to respond.

Approximately three minutes later, Jacksonville’s Andrew McMasters scored from close to seven yards out to tie the game. The score remained 1-1 until Jacksonville’s Pablo Yoste Ramos scored from more than 10 yards out with 9:50 left until halftime.

Just minutes before the go-ahead goal by Ramos, the most bizarre moment of the game took place. Sylvan Hills freshman Nick Burd was injured on a collision near the ball on the Bears’ end of the field. The injury was to his leg. The freshman Bear tried to play through it, but was having a noticeably difficult time doing so.

Despite pleas to the officials from the SHHS sideline, play kept going, and in an effort to bring the game to a momentary halt in order to sub Burd out, Sylvan Hills coach Sam Persson, from the sideline, instructed Burd to go to the ground and stay there until the game was stopped.

When play did stop, the sideline official raised her flag, told the midfield official what had happened, and Persson was then issued a red card and was ejected from the game with 15:47 left until halftime.

“As soon as the play finally stopped, the assistant referee goes over to the center and apparently says the coach told him to go down, which I’m not denying it,” said Persson. “I fully intended to tell him that, and apparently they thought I was trying to stop the game to stop them (Jacksonville) from having an advantage or whatever. He wasn’t faking. He was obviously hurt.

“He’s holding his leg and limping around. He’s a ninth grader, so I know he doesn’t necessarily know all the conventions of the game. Generally most refs in this league aren’t going to stop the game for an injury unless the player goes down. Typically then they’ll see this is an injury and then they’ll stop the game, or at least next stoppage of play they’ll stop it.”

Eskridge’s goal was the last one of the first half, giving JHS a 2-1 lead at the break. The second half was all Red Devils. Jacksonville turned up the aggression and maintained possession for the bulk of the final 40 minutes, and added its third goal of the night with 24:09 remaining.

That goal was scored by Illijah Carter from close to five yards out, which gave JHS a 3-1 cushion. Jacksonville took a 4-1 lead on a goal by Stevie Eskridge. It came with 15:50 remaining, and Ramos earned an assist on that play.

Eskridge’s goal all but sealed it for the unbeaten Red Devils, but Jacksonville scored again with 37 seconds remaining, setting the final score. The final score came off the foot of Juan Martinez.

Despite the win, JHS coach Donny Lantrip wasn’t pleased with the sluggish start.

“We came out slow,” said Lantrip. “Our seniors came out late to warm up. I’ll take partial blame for that. Maybe I didn’t warm them up soon enough, but we were slow the first 12 to 15 minutes of the match. After the first 15 minutes we picked up the pace.”

Once JHS did pick up the pace, there was no doubt what team was in control of the game.

“We keep pressuring and that’s something that we do,” Lantrip said. “We’ve got a lot of good players and good kids and talent and they work hard. As long as they do that, good things happen. But it’s never a gimme. Every match we play it’s never a gimme. We’ve got to come out and work hard every day just like everybody else does. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”

“Our guys kind of struggled to deal with that,” Persson said of Jacksonville’s aggression. “I was really impressed with our goalie (Jared Ealy). Even though the score line doesn’t show it – something that he’s needed to work on is coming off his line to kind of stop things before they start and I thought he really improved on that.

“We also had some nice saving tackles and it could have been a lot worse. We could never really solve things up front. We’ll play them again and I think we’ll be better, but we’ll see. We’ve known since the Jacksonville/North Pulaski merger, as far as the soccer team’s concerned, we knew they were going to be strong. “So we’re kind of looking up at them and we’re kind of looking up at probably PA. So we’re going to be fighting for a state spot, and that’s kind of our goal.”

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers win meet as hosts

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers boys’ track team won the Walmart Invitational meet Tuesday at Panther Stadium. The Panthers scored 95 points to edge out Conway’s 90.5 for first place.

The Panthers won five events and finished second in several others to earn the victory in the 23-team field. The Beebe Badgers finished ninth with 22 points.

The Lady Panthers took seventh place out of 23 teams in the girls’ competition while the Lady Badgers also finished in ninth place.

In the boys’ competition, Cabot placed three in the top eight in the 400-meter race. Britton Alley won the race with a time of 50.97 while teammates Conley Hillegas and Austin Schwackhammer placed fourth and eighth respectively.

Panther hurdler Mark Odom avenged losses to Parkview’s Amari James at the Bryant meet by winning the 110- and 300-meter hurdles on Tuesday. Odom beat James by .07 seconds with a time of 14.86 in the 110. Beebe’s Connor Patrom took seventh in that race. In the 300 hurdles, Odom was the only participant to break 40 seconds, finishing in 39.69 to beat James’ 40.38. Beebe’s Trip Smith took sixth with a 42.73.

Senior Brandon Jones threw the discus a personal best 143-04 to win that event, and Rocky Burke cleared 12-feet to win the pole vault.

The Panthers finished second in two relays and third in another. Cabot’s 4x400 team was barely edged out by Bryant, losing the mile relay by .67 seconds with a time of 3:30.88 Burke, Schwackhammer, Alley and Hillegas made up the team.

Hillegas also ran anchor leg on the 4x100 team that took second by .11 seconds to Jonesboro. Alex Roberts, Brandon Whitley and Connor Daigle joined Hillegas to run a 43.55. Beebe’s team of Jo’Vaughn Wyrick, Patrom, Smith and Keishun Davis finished seventh.

Cabot’s 4x800 team of Greyson Kaufman, Jack Moore, Wells Guyor and Gardner Howze took third while Beebe’s team of Logan Brown, John Paul Savage, Gus McCoy and Logan Archer finished fifth.

Cabot junior Matt Stanley took second in the high jump, clearing 6-2 to finish two inches under Greg Mitchell of Little Rock Central.

Howze finished second in the 800, just .59 seconds behind Bryant’s Charlie Terry. Savage finished fifth for Beebe.

Alley also took fifth in the 200-meter dash and seventh in the 100m for Cabot.

McCoy took fifth for the Badgers in the 1,600 while Howze finished seventh in that event. McCoy’s best finished was fourth place in the 3,200 while Cabot’s Blake Scott finished seventh.

Patrom finished sixth in the triple jump for the Badgers.

In girls’ competition, Cabot’s 4x800 relay team of Samantha Nickell, Hadley Dickinson, Tristyn Edgar and Casey Gore placed second, but it was a distant second – more than 33 seconds behind Conway.

Nickell later won the 1,600-meter race with a time of 5:45.31, while her teammate Brayden Giesler finished sixth and Beebe’s Natalie Childress was seventh. Giesler was also sixth in the 800 while Childress scored one point with an eighth place finish.

In the 3,200-meter race, Nickell finished fourth while teammates Erin Bowie and Ashley Gore finished sixth and seventh, and Beebe’s Allie Lane was eighth.

Cabot’s 4x100 relay team of Dickinson, Case Gore, Edgar and Anna Sullivan finished sixth. Sullivan also placed seventh in the shot put with a toss of 31-09. Caytee Wright placed fifth in the high jump for Cabot.

Also scoring for the Lady Badgers, Tori Lovelady finished fifth in the discus with a throw of 88-08. Annmarie Covington took fifth in the 400-meter dash. Taylor McGraw took eighth in the triple jump for the Lady Badgers. Jacksonville’s Amber Lockhart finished sixth in the 100-meter hurdles to score three points for the Lady Red Devils.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers earn split with JHS baseball

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville and Beebe split a 5A-Central doubleheader at Gilliam Fields in Beebe on Tuesday. Jacksonville got an outstanding performance on the mound from Brandon Hawkins in a 6-1 win in game one. Beebe’s Angus Denton was even more dominant as the Badgers came from behind in the last two innings to win game two 10-3.

Playing as the visiting team in game one, Jacksonville got one run in the top of the first inning and never trailed.

Third baseman Caleb McMunn hit a two-out double and scored two batters later after Brandon Hickingbotham walked and Caden Sample singled to right field for the RBI.

Hawkins walked Beebe’s leadoff hitter in the bottom of the first, but got three-straight groundouts to follow. Jacksonville then added three runs to its lead in the top of the second.

Caleb Smith and Trent Toney both walked to start the rally, and both runners scored on a throwing error after a sacrifice bunt by Tyson Flowers. Two batters later with Flowers on third, Mike Havard hit a grounder to second to score the base runner and give Jacksonville a 4-0 lead.

Hawkins walked Beebe’s Bryson Halford with one out, but catcher Javan Wakefield threw him out trying to steal second and Alec Matlock flew out to end the inning for Beebe.

In the top of the third, Wakefield hit a double to start another two-out rally for the Red Devils. Smith followed with a walk and Toney doubled to score both runners for a 6-0 Jacksonville lead.

Beebe (4-7, 3-1) got on the board in the sixth with three hits and a walk, but was only able to push one run across the plate. Hunter Naramore hit a leadoff single and Denton followed with another hard single that left runners at first and second. Carson McNeil grounded into a force out at third. Senior John Finley then singled to load the bases and freshman Noah Jolly walked to drive in the game’s final run.

Hawkins went the distance on the mound for Jacksonville. He gave up six hits with three strikeouts and three walks.

Sample led the Red Devils offensively with two base hits in four at-bats. Toney went 1 for 2 with a double and two RBIs.

Game two was a pitchers’ duel despite the 13 combined runs. Defense let both teams down and no earned runs were scored. As the home team, Jacksonville took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second after an error at second base left Sample in scoring position with no outs. Wakefield sacrificed him to third and he scored on a wild pitch.

The Red Devils (5-8, 3-1) had another prime opportunity in the fourth when Wakefield hit a one-out triple down the right-field line. But Denton struck out Savage and Toney to strand Wakefield at third.

That’s how it stayed until the top of the sixth inning when the Red Devils’ middle infield fell apart. Two errors at second base and two at shortstop, combined with a walk and double by Jolly gave Beebe six unearned runs and lead Denton, a University of Arkansas signee, would not relinquish.

Jacksonville added an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth, but gave up four more unearned in the top of the seventh thanks to three more errors, two in right field and one more in the infield.

Two walks and another Beebe error gave Jacksonville a run in the seventh to set the final margin.

Denton threw a four-hitter over seven innings with 15 strikeouts, two walks and a hit batter.

Hickingbotham threw five and two-thirds innings for Jacksonville. He gave up just five hits and no earned runs with one strikeout, no walks and no hit batters. McMunn finished the game and gave up one hit.

Beebe is in a tournament at Batesville this weekend and will host another important conference doubleheader on Tuesday against co-leader Pulaski Academy. Jacksonville also has a huge Central doubleheader on Tuesday when it hosts conference co-leader and archrival Sylvan Hills.

TOP STORY >> WWI exhibit in Cabot Cabot

“The Great War: Arkansas in World War I,” a free traveling exhibit about Arkansas’ role during the war at home and on the battlefields, will be on display at the Cabot High School Library for students on April 4-14.

The exhibit will then move to the Cabot Museum of American History at 401 S. Front St. from April 29-May 21. It will be open from 10 a.m. until noon Fridays and Saturdays during that period.

The traveling exhibit consists of 12 panels that showcase images from the Arkansas History Commission’s collection, including original documents, photographs, posters, maps and historical objects, giving a firsthand look at the lives of Arkansans during the Great War.

“I am very pleased that the Museum of American History is sharing ‘The Great War: Arkansas in World War I’ with their visitors and community,” said Lisa Speer, state historian and director of the Arkansas History Commission.

“This exhibit, created to commemorate the centennial anniversary of America’s entry into World War I, powerfully memorializes the impact this first modern, global war had on the 65 million who were mobilized, including the 70,000 soldiers from Arkansas,” Speer explained.

The Arkansas History Commission, located in Little Rock, is the state’s official archive. It maintains the largest collection of historical materials on Arkansas in the world and is dedicated to collecting and preserving the documentary history of Arkansas.

For more information about the exhibit at the Museum of American History, call 501-286-9665 or email

To schedule to the exhibit for schools or other institutions, call the Arkansas History Commission at 501-682-6900 or

To learn more about the Arkansas History Commission, and its collections visit

The exhibit is funded in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council, the Department of Arkansas Heritage and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

TOP STORY >> Driver derails traffic

Leader senior staff writer

A single vehicle accident took out about three concrete guardrail posts Thursday morning on the Hwy. 67/167 overpass at Main Street Jacksonville, according to state Highway and Transportation spokesman Danny Straessle, but by late afternoon, concrete Jersey barriers had replaced the damaged section and the affected inside northbound lane had been reopened.

Cabot resident Kenneth McGahan, 71, told first responders he “got turned around” trying to get to Ft. Roots Veterans Hospital.

The State Police incident report was still incomplete by early Friday afternoon, according to State Police spokesman Bill Sadler, who said McGahan “suffered minor injuries and was transported by Jacksonville EMS to the Veterans Hospital,” Sadler said.

McGahan’s vehicle came to rest on the guardrail and between the northbound and southbound structures of the overpass, causing traffic delays.

This overpass is a dangerous stretch of highway that is currently being rebuilt in a safer configuration with more modern materials. Accidents here claimed at least one life in recent years.

Part of a widening of Hwy. 67/167 from I-40 to an intersection north of Cabot, the overpass should be complete by 2017, Straessle said.

TOP STORY >> Cotton: Increase defense spending

Leader staff writer

The presidential race, the Supreme Court nomination and more funding for the military and local highways were some of the topics Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) spoke about Wednesday morning during the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce’s Coffee with Cotton event at the police department.


Cotton, who is on the Armed Services Committee, said he is trying to increase defense spending that would help the base.

He said the defense budget has been underfunded for the past seven years.

“We are $100 billion short on where we should be. It is dangerous because our troops aren’t getting the equipment, weapons and training they need,” he said.

“Their units are undermanned at a time when the world is growing more dangerous every single day. We have tens of thousands of troops stationed overseas. It is creating a long-term wave of underinvestment in Air Force platforms, like a long-range bomber, a fifth-generation fighter and tactical and strategical airlift that we need to move equipment and personnel all over the world,” Cotton said.

“I don’t think the budget can drive our strategy when it comes to national security. It is the foremost responsibility for the federal government to keep our country safe from enemies, whether they be terrorist enemies like the Islamic State or traditional nation states,” Cotton continued.

Cotton is hoping for more military funding next year with a new president.

“I consulted with many of the Republican presidential nominees and told them you need to propose an emergency spending bill in early 2017 to show our troops that help is on the way. President Obama hasn’t done it and Secretary Clinton is probably not going to it,” the senator said.


State Rep. Bob Johnson (D- Jacksonville) asked Cotton if he would willing to help with federal highway funding to connect Interstate 555 in Jonesboro to Hwy. 67-167 which would help to change Hwy. 67-167 into Interstate 30.

Johnson said it will encourage economic growth with industry, commerce and jobs to the area and Arkansas State University.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said it is important to advocate for additional funding for the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

“I don’t like taxes, but sometimes taxes are needed if that is the way in needs to be funded. Our infrastructure is crumbling beneath our feet,” Cypert said.

Cotton said he agreed. He opposed the highway bill last fall.

“It used too many budget gimmicks and dug a lot of quarters out of a lot of federal couches in ways it’s not going to ultimately pay for itself,” Cotton said.

Cotton said control of the highway decisions needs to be returned to the states.

The highway bill needs to be refocused on highway infrastructures. Cotton said 20-percent of that legislation was spent on public transportation. Only two-percent of consumers use buses, subways and light rail. It might be great for people to get around living in New York City, but not so great in Pulaski County.


“Hillary Clinton is running for president to pardon herself,” Cotton said that brought laughter in the conference room.

Cotton then spoke about the presidential races.

“It is way too early to predict what is going to happen in this race and who the nominees are going to be. On (the Republican) side we are down to three finalists out of 16 candidates. There are more days in the primary season than there are behind us. It may go all the way to the convention,” Cotton said.

“On (the Democratic) side, Hillary Clinton has a strong lead, but Bernie Sanders won three races over the weekend. There is the real threat of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices. I think she’s disqualified herself from being the Commander in Chief by her cavalier disregard for national security and secrecy.

It’s soon to say she is going to be the nominee either,” Cotton said.

“Whoever the nominees of both parties are and whoever the president is, it is hard to imagine a president who works more poorly with Congress than Barack Obama has done,” Cotton continued.

Cotton said Obama has over promised and under delivered. Cotton said Obama first came on the scene during the Democratic National Convention 12 years ago talking about unity and when he became president spoke on transcending the party divisions. Now polarization is higher as it’s ever been. Cotton said Obama does not interact with either party in Congress.


With the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last month Cotton said the voice of the American people should not be silenced on who is going to control the Supreme Court.

“We should wait until after the election and let the people speak. It is very rare that Americans get the choice of who is going control both the presidency and the congress this year. It is even rarer the choice of who is going to control the Supreme Court,” Cotton said.

“I don’t think we should go forth on a nomination just a few months before the election. Particularly from a president who has consistently shown disregard to the Constitutional limits of his office. Therefore, I am not going to vote for any nominee until after the election,” Cotton said.

Cotton said he was in Washington during the two week long Easter recess, because he had to gavel the Senate into a “pro forma” session (when no legislative business is conducted). Cotton said an obscure Constitutional provision allows the president the power to make appointments during recess. Cotton said it goes back to the days when the Senate would be out for months at a time. There were no trains or jets and the early presidents might need to fill a vacancy. The court rules say if the Senate is in recess for three days or less, the president can’t appoint someone to a vacancy. Cotton said the Senate decided to keep a session every three days.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

EDITORIAL >> It’s not kids’ play

The other day, I was waiting in a doctor’s office – a required pastime of mine lately – and this wait got so long that I finally had to look at those outdated magazines on the waiting room table.

I picked up an April 2008 copy of Parents magazine because I don’t golf, and it was about the most recent periodical in the pile.

A cover story struck my fancy –“100 Ways to Keep Little Kids Happy.” I thought, gee, aren’t we all kids anyway? And what is good for the kid is good for the kidder or kiddest, oh heck, for us older folks.

And my intuition was right.

No. 1 on their list of 100 happy activities for the wee ones was “celebrate a new holiday!” Shoot, we more mature toddlers can do that too. I’d start with National Stay In Bed Day and celebrate it once a month and then there would be Candy is Dandy Day, and don’t forget National Food Has No Calories Week.

Of course, somewhere in the year, I’d squeeze in I’m Simply Irresistible to Women Day (well, except to my mom, my aunts and my exes).

Another idea from that article (No. 5 on their list) was to camp out in the living room. Don’t we do that already? I’ve got my form-fitting recliner, a big screen TV, the remote and a can of peanuts right there. Do we need anything else for camping?

Then there are bubbles at No. 14. Who doesn’t love bubbles? The article even suggested blowing them while “waiting to see the doctor.” Love that idea.

At No. 26 was adopt a pet rock. So 1970s, but might still be fun. I’d want something shiny, like obsidian, or maybe something more beatup-looking, like pumice.

Another idea they had was “knead some goop” by mixing a box of cornstarch with water and food coloring. Shoot, you don’t have to be that creative. Half the dinners I cook end up as goop, or is that a goof?

Playing air ball was another idea that transcends the ages. The article suggests hitting a beach ball up toward the ceiling, making sure it doesn’t hit the ceiling or the floor. I think I’ve done something similar at a few concerts in my day. At home, a balloon might be equally fun.

No. 55 was bake cookies with care. Is there any other way that doesn’t involve a visit from the local fire department?

I loved tip No. 58, “create an obstacle course.” God or somebody always creates one instantly when the phone rings in the living room, and I’m in the bedroom. To zig and zag and grab that phone by the fourth ring is worthy of “American Ninja.”

Moving up to No. 92, the article says to hand a youngster an old cell phone. Do we mature kids have any other kind? My flip phone is so old it could qualify for an antique license plate.

Then there is No. 95 — Dance on bubble wrap. There is nothing better to improve a mood then popping bubble wrap, no matter your age.

So go ahead and make your day, after all, aren’t we all kids at heart? Oh, gotta go, that balloon is gliding back down, and I have to slap it back up toward the ceiling.

— Rick Kron

EDITORIAL >> 40 years after deadly disaster

A devastating tornado destroyed much of Cabot 40 years ago yesterday. The F3 twister ripped through town a little after 3 p.m. March 29, 1976.

In her dramatic account in The Leader on Saturday, freelance writer Deborah Horn explained how the twisted wreckage of that disaster planted the seeds of rapid population growth, a modern school district, a vibrant downtown and much more.

The tornado started about five miles southwest of Cabot and grew to about the length of four football fields, carving a swath about nine miles long.

The storm left five people dead and 64 injured, with many hospitalized. The tornado destroyed much of the business area before the twister moved on, leaving locals stunned and worried about their town’s future.

In the days following the tornado, the Red Cross estimated that the tornado had destroyed 49 mobile homes, 28 homes and 24 apartment units. It significantly damaged another 12 mobile homes, 38 homes and 36 apartments. About 6,000 people were without power.

The state’s emergency office estimated that the damage reached about $7 million, and Cabot was declared a natural disaster area. Area law enforcement, military and other agencies quickly responded, and even the Arkansas Highway Department brought in heavy equipment to help with the cleanup.

Two years after the storm, Cabot Mayor Willie Ray, who served as mayor for 19 years, put together the “We’re Back—Cabot” festival. Now simply known as CabotFest, the tradition continues with recent attendance recording topping 30,000 visitors. The three-day festival has grown to include live entertainment, rides, a carnival, food vendors and a cricket-spitting contest.

This year’s CabotFest will be held Oct. 6-8.

Mayor Bill Cypert recalls, “The original goal was to celebrate the city’s recovery…To say we are not dead but alive and thriving.”

Cabot is indeed thriving. At the end of the 1960s, the population had nearly doubled to 2,900 and continued to grow through the 1970s to about 4,800. More people meant more retail and other services.

According to the latest census numbers, Cabot’s population is now over 25,000, and the school district’s 2016 enrollment is at about 10,000.

Thank you, Mayor Cypert, for reminding us how far Cabot has come in four decades and for honoring the memory of Mayor Ray, who led his city out from under the rubble and toward a better future that he could hardly have imagined in 1976. More than 25,000 souls are glad that they have come this far.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS track returns pair of conference champs

JHS seniors Amber Lockhart, from left, Dyshaii Doyne and Tatianna Lacy lead this year’s Lady Red Devil track team.
Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville track teams’ numbers are up in boys’ and girls’ competition, with a pair of conference champions returning for the girls and a recent college signee back for the boys’ squad.

Lady Red Devil senior Tatianna Lacy is back to defend her 5A-Central 100-meter dash championship she won a year ago, as is classmate Amber Lockhart, who won the conference 110 hurdles championship a season ago.

Lacy’s goal this season is to defend the 100 championship, and add the 200, which she finished second in a year ago.

“The ultimate goal is to perform well enough to get a college scholarship,” said Lacy. “I think winning two championships will help with that. So I’m focused on really improving and making that happen.”

While Lacy has been running track since a very young age, Lockhart burst onto the scene last season after being a non-factor and non-scorer in most meets as a sophomore. She put more work into offseason her junior year, and when she saw the results in her first meet early last season she knew something was different.

“It was the first meet last year, I think it was at Bryant, when I won the race,” said Lockhart. “I kind of surprised myself. But ever since then I’ve been pretty focused. I think I can do even better this year.”

Girls’ track coach Crystal Scott, who took over the program when Lacy and Lockhart were sophomores, said focus was all that was missing for Lockhart the whole time.

“Her sophomore year, we fought,” said Scott. “Oh my we fought. They weren’t used to me and how I do things, and it wasn’t what you’d call a smooth transition, to be honest with you. But those two, and Dyshaii Doyne have stuck with me these three years, and I think all three will have their best seasons. They’ve put in the work.”

Malcolm Nelson returns for the boys’ squad just weeks after signing to run track for William Penn University in Iowa. His specialty is the 800m, and he’ll anchor the two-mile relay team. Fonzell Jones is also a good distance runner who ran cross-country in the fall.

“Nelson’s the kind of kid you love having out,” said boys’ track coach Jim Stanley. “He’s here every day and he’s such a hard worker.”

Jaylon Tucker placed in conference in the sprints last year and will be joined by another speedster from the football team, Quinlan Britt.

“Those two have a chance to have some success, but mostly I have a bunch of middle distance and distance runners,” Stanley said.

The boys’ and girls’ teams each have 12 participating, which isn’t a lot relative to some other schools, but more than JHS has had out for track in a few years.

“It’s the most I’ve ever had,” Scott said of her three years at the helm. “We’re building it up slowly. But the kids are getting used to the demands and the work ethic is improving.”

Stanley had dozens sign up for his team, but only one dozen remained after a few practices.

“I started with 75,” Stanley said. “That’s how many registered. But I’m happy with the 12 that are left. Those are the ones who show up every day and go to work.”

SPORTS STORY >> LHS ladies rout LRC softball in non-league

Leader sportswriter

Little Rock Central scored one run in the top of the first inning of Monday’s nonconference game against Lonoke, but the Lady Jackrabbits responded with 16 unanswered runs over three innings to get a 16-1 mercy-rule win over the visiting Class 7A Lady Tigers.

Central’s two-hole hitter was the game’s first base runner. She was hit by a pitch in the top of the first inning. She then stole second base and scored on the same play because of an errant throw from behind the plate.

The Lady Tigers didn’t score again, and it was all Lonoke (2-4) after that. Central struggled to find the strike zone throughout the game. Valerie Staton and Molly Harrison both walked to start the bottom of the first, and pitcher and three-hole hitter Madison Pool drove the game-tying run in with a RBI single to center field.

Staton scored on the play, and Harrison scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball. Cleanup hitter Jarrelyn McCall walked after Pool’s base hit. She advanced to second on a passed ball, and Lindsey McFadden, Pool’s courtesy runner, and McCall both crossed the plate on a single to center field by Trinity Foley.

Foley was thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double, but the two-RBI hit put Lonoke up 4-1. Madison Crow was hit by a pitch the next at-bat, and catcher Candace James followed that with a fly ball to right field that was dropped. Because of the drop, Crow and James advanced to second and third base.

Mary Katherine Sumner popped out to the pitcher for the second out of the inning, but Crow scored shortly after on a passed ball to give the Lady Jackrabbits a 5-1 lead. Sarah Rinsch, James’ courtesy runner, advanced to third on the play.

Madison McFadden walked the following at-bat, putting runners at the corners with two outs. Madison McFadden, one of the more fleet-footed players on the team, stole second with Staton back at the plate. The throw to second wouldn’t have been in time anyway, but it was wide to the right side of the base, and that allowed Rinsch and Madison McFadden to score on the play and give Lonoke a 7-1 cushion.

Staton walked that at-bat, but Harrison lined out the next at-bat to end the inning with Lonoke leading 7-1. Pool retired the side in the top of the second, and the Lady Rabbits got back to work in the bottom half of the inning, scoring four more runs to take a comfortable 11-1 lead.

Pool walked to lead off the bottom of the second. Lindsey McFadden once again came in to run for Pool. She stole second and third base on the same play because of an errant throw to second, and she scored on a sacrifice groundout to first by McCall.

McCall’s RBI put Lonoke up 8-1, and Foley followed with her second hit of the game – this one a double to shallow left field. Crow then hit into a 1-5 fielder’s choice, but the throw to third wasn’t in time, leaving both runners safe at the corners.

James took a pitch in the middle of her back the next at-bat, loading the bases, and Foley scored Lonoke’s ninth run on another passed ball. A strikeout followed for the second out of the inning, but the Lady Rabbits added two more runs on their next scoring play.

Crow scored Lonoke’s 10th run on a wild pitch. Rinsch ran to third on that play, and also took home because of Central’s lackadaisical effort getting the ball back to the circle. Madison McFadden struck out swinging the next at-bat, but the ball was dropped by the Lady Tigers’ catcher.

As Madison McFadden ran to first, the throw from the backstop was off, and the Lady Rabbit junior speedster went all the way to third on the errant throw. With Staton at the plate, Madison McFadden took a big lead down the third baseline after a pitch.

The Central catcher came up throwing, and the junior outfielder took off for home as the throw went to third. The throw back to the plate was in time and accurate, though, resulting in the third out of the inning. But the damage had been done, as Lonoke led 11-1 after two.

Central did threaten in the top of the third. The Lady Tigers had runners at the corners with two outs and their cleanup hitter at the plate, but a fly out to left field ended the top of the third with the score still 11-1.

Lonoke’s first two batters reached base in the bottom of the third, and Pool drove in Staton with a standup double to deep left center. Harrison went to third on the play, and Lindsey McFadden came back in to run for Pool.

McCall then hit a routine ground ball to shortstop that was cleanly fielded, but the throw to first was way off, allowing Harrison and Lindsey McFadden to both score and further Lonoke’s lead to 14-1.

Foley singled to the right-field gap for her third hit of the day, and Crow advanced her to second with a sac bunt. James also bunted, but an errant throw to first left all runners safe. Sumner walked the following at-bat, and Madison McFadden hit into a fielder’s choice at second base, but again all runners were safe, and Foley crossed the plate on that play to give LHS a 15-1 lead with two outs.

Staton then singled to right field, which drove in Rinsch to end the game because of the 15-run lead after three innings sportsmanship rule.

Pool got the win in the circle. She gave up just one hit in the three innings of work, finishing with three strikeouts while issuing two walks.

The Lady Jackrabbits had seven hits against Central. Foley led the way, going 3 for 3 with two singles, a double, two RBIs and two runs scored. Pool was 2 for 2 with a single, a double and two RBIs. Staton and Harrison each had a single and two runs scored.

Lonoke resumed 4A-2 Conference play last night at home against Riverview after deadlines. The Lady Rabbits play another conference game tomorrow at 4:30 at Helena-West Helena Central before hosting the 2016 Lady Rabbit Invitational Friday and Saturday at the Lonoke Ballpark.

The Lady Rabbits’ first game of their tournament will be against Carlisle at 6:45 p.m. Friday. The winner of that game will play the Hazen/Bradford winner in the semifinals at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, and the championship game is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday.

SPORTS STORY >> Blunders lead to Cabot loss

Leader sports editor

The Cabot baseball team did not enjoy a first game back from spring break, where it went 3-1 and won its last three games in a row at the Best of the West tournament in Memphis. On Monday, the Cabot Panthers went to Benton, where the hosting Panthers routed their guests 11-1 and ended the game with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Cabot got just three base hits, committed five errors and gave up nine unearned runs to drop the nonconference game.

“There’s no excuse for what happened today,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. “One team showed up to play and one team didn’t. That’s all that happened here. Benton is a very quality program and you have to be ready to play when you come here. We weren’t ready to play today, and that’s ultimately on me for not having them ready.”

Goodwin refused to use lineup depletion as an excuse, but Cabot lost two more starters during the spring break tournament, on top of the loss of Razorback commit Evan Hooper before the season began.

When pressed, Goodwin acknowledged the injuries, but stopped there.

“We are banged up right now, but I’ll never use that excuse,” Goodwin said. “We should never be as flat as we were tonight, and again, that’s ultimately on me.”

Benton (9-2) scored in nearly every inning, posting two runs in each of the first two innings, and putting up three more in the third. Cabot pitcher Brodey Schluter held Benton scoreless in the fourth and the Panthers posted a run in the top half of the fifth. Reliever Michael Shepherd threw a scoreless inning in the fifth. But after leaving two runners stranded in the fifth and going down in order in just 11 pitches in the top of the sixth, Benton posted a four spot to end the game early.

Benton’s four-run sixth started when Chase Nix reached on a one-out error in right field by Brett Brockinton. Brinson Williams then reached when first baseman Davis Wofford failed to catch a throw from shortstop on a routine play. Coltyn Lane replaced Williams on the base paths before Shepherd fanned Drew Dyer for the second out.

Jack Jumper singled to center field to score Nix. Lane got home on the next at-bat on a wild pitch and jumper advanced to second. Jumper then moved to third on a passed ball and Kyler Nitchske walked to put runners on the corners.

Another passed ball moved Nitchske into scoring position, and a base hit by Gunnar Smith scored both runners to end the game.

“Benton’s got six seniors over there signed for college and I think four of them DI,” Goodwin said. “You just can’t have that many errors and expect to beat a team like that.”

Cabot’s lone run came in the fifth after sophomore third baseman Dylan Thomas drew a four-pitch walk to start the inning. Brockinton hit a hard line drive to right center field but it was caught for an out. Wofford then blooped a single to right to put two men on base.

Blake McCutchen struck out looking, but not before a passed ball moved Thomas to third. Bobby Joe Duncan then singled to right field to score Thomas.

Catcher Denver Mullins had Cabot’s other hit.

Benton pitcher Jake Croushore threw five innings, giving up the three hits and earned run along with eight strikeouts and two walks. Dylan McKinney threw the last inning and struck out two batters. Cabot will get back to league play tomorrow when it travels to Marion for a 7A/6A-East doubleheader.

TOP STORY >> Chevy dealer is nominated

Brett Russell of Russell Chevrolet in Sherwood was recently nominated for the 2016 TIME Dealer of the Year Award.

He and the 49 other nominees chosen from 16,000 dealers nationwide will be honored Friday for their success and long-standing commitment to community service at the 99th annual National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention in Las Vegas.

Ally Financial, the exclusive sponsor, will recognize nominees and their community efforts by contributing $1,000 to each nominee’s charity of choice.

“I find it very rewarding to carry on the family tradition of civic and charitable involvement,” Russell said. “Examples of professionalism and ethics were instilled in me by my grandfather and father, both of whom were recognized by the TIME Dealer of the Year awards for their community contributions.”

After graduating from Northeast High School in North Little Rock and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, he joined the family’s dealership in 1991. But Russell started working in the service department there at age 14.

The dealer recently donated a portion of each vehicle sold — a total of $32,000 — to the Humane Society of Pulaski County, a no-kill animal shelter.

Russell provides funds annually for his employees and friends to walk in the local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

He also supports CARTI Cancer Center in Little Rock, Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Arkansas and the Sherwood Fire Department. He provides vehicles for the North Little Rock School District’s driver’s education program and the University of Arkansas athletic department and funds a scholarship for a North Little Rock High School senior.

While Russell has received various recognitions for service, he says the greatest reward is knowing that he’s made a difference.

“I’m just very satisfied that we are giving back to the community,” the dealer said.

He has also been involved with the Boy Scouts of America Quapaw Area Council, North Little Rock Police Department’s Citizen Police Academy, North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Greater Little Rock, Little Rock Executives’ Association and North Little Rock Housing Authority.

TOP STORY >> Guitar show April 9 in Jacksonville

By JEFFREY SMITH Leader staff writer

The first annual Central Arkansas Guitar Show will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 9 at the Jacksonville Community Center.

Admission is $7, or $5 for people who bring a guitar other string instrument.

Guitar show promoter Roger Brooks of Conway said he is expecting to have 50 dealers buying, selling and trading new, used and vintage collector acoustic and electric guitars, amplifiers, banjos, dojos, mandolins and other stringed instruments.

Brooks estimates there will be 1,200 to 1,500 instruments brought to the show by dealers in Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma and Illinois.

“Vintage guitar shows date back to the 1970s, when collecting guitars started, and continued to boom to the 2008 when the recession hit. Vintage pieces continue to hold their value,” Brooks said.

He also said the guitar show would be like an “Antiques Roadshow” for musical instruments. “It is exciting to see what people bring in. There is more variety. Visitors can learn about their guitar, get some appraisals and maybe some offers,” Brooks said.

Brooks is hoping 700 to 1,200 people come through the doors of the community center for the show. He said there will some acoustic bands performing during the day, too.

“Most music stores don’t have used guitars. You can’t see a guitar, pick it up and play it on eBay before you buy it,” he noted.

Vintage guitar collecting has been one of Brooks’ hobbies for years. “It is a passion. Some people fall in love with a music instrument,” he said.

Brooks said he’s being doing vintage guitar shows since the late 1970s in Dallas, Texas, and other surrounding states.

He said this would be the first vintage guitar show held in Arkansas and that it should be a great show. There are a lot of vintage acoustic instruments around, with the popularity of bluegrass and country music in the state, Brooks said.

For more information about the event, email

The show is being put on by Brooks Custom Guitars, Recycled Sound and Guido’s Hot Springs Music Company.

TOP STORY >> Green light for PCSSD candidates

By JOHN HOFHEIMER Leader senior staff writer

On the Nov. 8 general election ballot, you can vote for president of the United States, help choose a U.S. senator and congressman and—if you live within the new, reduced boundaries of the Pulaski County Special School District—choose the first elected school board since the state took over in 2011, sending the old board packing.

Those running for the PCSSD school board can begin collecting signatures July 31, according to Chris Powell in the secretary of state’s elections office. The filing period is from Aug. 23 through Aug. 30.

PCSSD was in fiscal distress when the state took it over that year, installing Jerry Guess as superintendent and the state Education Commissioner, currently Johnny Key, as a one-man PCSSD school board.

With the help of demographers at Metroplan, the PCSSD advisory board recommended and Key approved seven new board zones, changes necessitated by creation of the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District, which has lopped off the north end of the PCSSD district for its own.

A new, seven-member board representing areas of the district including Maumelle, Sherwood and parts of Little Rock and North Little Rock and unincorporated areas of the county like Sweet Home, Camp Robinson and West Little Rock, would take over immediately upon being elected and trained.


Among the challenges facing a new PCSSD board will be attaining unitary status, a challenge from the district’s two unions, which before state takeover were the bargaining agents of the employees and perhaps eventually separate districts for both Sherwood and Maumelle schools.

Sherwood and Maumelle areas are both interested having their own school districts some day, and Sherwood Alderman Beverly Williams said Tuesday, “It’s not eluded us that we will have someone on that board.” Having not seen the board election zone map, she said it could be big enough for two zones and aldermen. That would be helpful if and when Sherwood tries to move forward on creating a school, she said.

“It won’t be Beverly Williams,” she said.


Currently, no additional school districts may detach from PCSSD until it is completely unitary and released from federal court oversight.

Guess, superintendent of the almost 17,000-student district, said the need for a new board came after the district was released from fiscal distress and returned to local control earlier this month by the Arkansas State Board of Education.

“We are proud of our hard work these last few years and are pleased that the state has confidence that we are ready to be returned to local control,” Guess said.

The new district already has elected it first board, and now that PCSSD is dismissed from fiscal distress, it needs to elect and train board members.

School elections, including for board members, have traditionally—and by law—been held in September, but the General Assembly last session changed the law to allow the election to be held with the November general elections.

In cutting PCSSD and also Helena/West Helena loose from state control, Key ordered those elections to be held as part of the general elections.

The filing period for school board candidates runs from noon 77 days before the election through noon 70 days prior, according to state law.

The Secretary of State’s Office has not yet set the dates.

Meanwhile, “The current Community Advisory Board shall remain in place until such a time as the new board of directors has been elected,” Key wrote.

Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board officers Daniel Gray, president, and Ron McDaniel will continue to represent that area on the PCSSD advisory board until July 1, when the two districts become completely separated from each other.

Monday, March 28, 2016

OBITUARIES >> 3-26-16


Jacie Lynn Michelle West, 3 months, of McRae went to Heaven on March 24.

She is survived by her parents, Christopher and Jamie West; a sister, Carsyn; grandparents, John and Michelle Poole of Bradford, and William and Tammy Griswold of McRae; great-grandparents Raymond and Edna Allen of Floyd and Reatha Griswold of McRae, and numerous aunts and uncles.

The family will receive friends from 10 a.m. until noon Monday, March 28 at Smith-Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. A graveside service will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at New Floyd Cemetery.

Louella (Sis) Roper Cox, 86, of Jacksonville died on March 24.

She was born Nov. 26, 1929, in Calhoun County to the late Vollie and Dora Davis Roper.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Joshua Gilbert Cox, and a brother, Jody Roper.

She is survived by three daughters, Sandra and her husband Randy Nichols of Sherwood, Linda and her husband Kent Hardy of Little Rock, and Donna and her husband Chuck Moravec of Jacksonville; two grandsons, Joshua and Todd Paintin, and two brothers, Roddy Roper of Enterprise, Utah, and Veetaugh Roper of White Hall.

Visitation will be held from 1 until 2 p.m. Monday, March 28 at Union Grove Assembly of God Church near Hampton. The funeral will follow at 2 p.m. at the church. Burial will be at Union Grove Cemetery.

Arrangements are by Benton Funeral Home of Fordyce/Hampton.


Velma Mae Randolph, 81, of Cabot went to be with her Lord on March 24.

She was born July 20, 1934, in Prescott (Nevada County) to the late Guy and Maggie Brown.

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her daughter, Darlene Jones Johnson, and her first husband, Tommy F. Jones, and four brothers.

Mrs. Randolph worked as a dietary manager for Malvern Nursing Home for many years and was a faithful member of Cabot Church of Christ.

She enjoyed gardening and sewing. She will always be remembered as a loving, wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

She is survived by her husband, Duane Randolph; her children, Dianna Baldovino, Donna Birnbaum, Denise Heard and Capt. David Jones; her stepchildren, Phyllis Loftin, June Miller and Dennis Randolph; a sister, Ruth Garrett, eight grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Monday, March 28 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Betty Mae Williams, 81, of Jacksonville went to be with her Lord on March 25.

She was born Dec. 19, 1934, in Decatur, Ala., to the late Wheeler and Lee Chamlis.

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her son, Johnny J. Nichols.

Ms. Williams retired from Remington Arms in 2004 with over 26 years of service. She spent time in her early life in Hawaii and in Maine.

She also enjoyed roller-skating and quilting, as well as teaching others to roller skate and quilt. She will always be remembered as a loving mother, grandmother and great-great-grandmother.

She is survived by her children, Danny O. Nichols, Lerenda L. Judy, John P. Smith and Montie Williams, two sisters, numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

Memorials may be to CARTI of North Little Rock.

The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 29 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Danny Oneal Plummer, 70, of Beebe went to be with the Lord on March 23.

He was born in Beebe on June 11, 1945.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Otis and Alberta Plummer; a brother, Doyle Boone, and a sister, Louise Brown.

He is survived by his sons, Danny Plummer Jr., and Brian Plummer and his wife Selena; a daughter, Heather Thompson; his grandchildren, Darren Plummer and his wife Juliana, Bryce Plummer, Courtney Lemire and Macey Kearse; great-grandchildren, Luca Plummer and Karley Lemire; a brother, Billy Boone and his wife Wanda; a sister, Katheryn Adams and his wife Euell; a sister, Shirley Brown, and many nieces and nephews.

A graveside service was held March 26 at Beebe Cemetery. Arrangements were by Smith-Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.



Retired Air Force Tech Sgt. Gene Arden Ruple, 80, of Jacksonville went to be with his Lord on March 23.

He was born April 19, 1935, in Keeler Township, Mich., to the late Harold and Dorothy Ann Ruple.

Mr. Ruple retired with over 20 years of service in the Air Force serving numerous tours in Vietnam, and he earned three Distinguished Flying Crosses. His military career allowed him to serve his country around the world, stationed in France, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines and numerous bases in the U.S.

After his retirement, he enjoyed spending time with his family, travelling in his RV, coaching little league baseball, woodworking, gardening and was very active member of the retirees whom he met daily at McDonald’s.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a sister, Betty Waldenmaier.

He is survived by his loving wife of 58 years, Delois (Dee) Ruple; a son, Dale Arden Ruple and his wife Kimberly; grandchildren, Bradley Arden Ruple and his wife Sheri, and Joshua Aaron Ruple and his wife Gina; great-grandchildren, Kylee Grace Ruple, McKenzie Lee Ruple, Cayleb Arden Ruple, Julian Aaron Ruple and Joshua Maxey; a brother, Wayne Allen Ruple and his wife Pat; a brother-in-law, William Waldenmaier, and numerous nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, March 28 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home with military honors to follow.

Memorials may be made to the DAV or a charity of your choice.



Kenneth (Wayne) Ernhart, 53, of Conway, passed away on March 20 at his home.

He was born on Sept. 28, 1962, in Rantoul, Ill., the son of Chief Master SGgt. Kenneth Ernhart and Ann Ernhart.

Wayne was a field technician for Verizon for 24 years. He enjoyed playing poker, golf, watching sports, coaching his daughter in softball, and most of all spending time with his grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his paternal grandparents, Frank and Dorothy Ernhart, and his maternal grandfather, Henry Sharp.

Survivors include daughters, Kristen and her husband Greg Horton, and Kacey and her husband Alex Price; her grandchildren, Kayden, Laken and Jude Price and Landen Horton; his parents, Ken and Ann Ernhart; a brother, Paul and his wife Robyn Ernhart; a sister, Cyndi and her husband Dave Kalpac; his girlfriend, Elaine Lively and her son Josh Lively; a grandmother, Clara Sharp, and a host of nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles.

The funeral will be held at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 29 at Huson Funeral Home Chapel in Sherwood. Interment will follow at Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in Sherwood.

Visitation will be from 6 until 8 p.m. Monday, March 28 at the funeral home.


Kenneth Lykens, 80, of Ward went home to Our Lord on March 22.

He was born to George and Mary Lykens on Jan. 18, 1936, in Pennsylvania. Ken was deeply devoted to his wife, Debbie, and their son, Chris and his wife Amber, and grandchildren, Belle, Tom, Bailey and Emma.

Ken proudly served his nation in the Army for 20 years. He was a Vietnam veteran and was awarded the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal (3D Award), Vietnam Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Bronze Star Medal and two Overseas Bars.

The family moved to Arkansas in 1988, and Ken worked for Southern Cotton Oil until he began serving his community as a volunteer firefighter for Ward and later as a police officer for both the Ward Police Department and Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office. He was selected as a Lonoke County Sheriff’s Deputy of the Year in 2000.

During his 23 years with the Law Enforcement Brotherhood, Ken became involved in aiding abused children and was a strong supporter of the Wade Knox Children’s Advocacy Center in Lonoke.

He was known as a tough-but-fair man, who believed that our children must be raised with love and discipline and protected at all times. Ken would tell friends that moving his family to Arkansas was the second best decision he ever made.

Ken was preceded in death by his parents, George and Mary Lykens. Left to cherish their memories are his wife, Debbie; a son, Chris and his wife Amber; a sister, Nellie; brothers, Frank and his wife Patsy, Earl and his wife Mary, and George Jr.; his dear sister-in-law, Cheryl Charbonneau; brothers-in-law, Bruce Bell and Steve Bell, four grandchildren and many friends in the community who he loved.

The funeral will be held at Cornerstone Assembly of God Church in Ward at 9 a.m. Monday, March 28 and will be followed by an escort by Patriot Guard Riders to Ken’s resting place at the North Little Rock Veterans Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Wade Knox Children’s Advocacy Center in Lonoke.

Arrangements are by A Natural State Funeral Service in Jacksonville.


William Dale (Bill) Blackwell, 82, was born on May 20, 1933, in Gillham (Sevier County) to the late Emma Grace and Jasper Franklin Blackwell. He went to be with the Lord on March 25.

He was preceded in death by his parents; a son, Douglas Alan Blackwell, and his grandchildren, Kyle Landon Vocque and Wiley Nicole Russell.

He is survived by his wife, Martha Blackwell; his children, Jeff Blackwell and his wife Paula, Karen Vocque and her husband Lance, and Mark Russell and his wife Lyn; his grandchildren, Joseph Blackwell, Brandon Vocque, Conner Vocque, Erika Nelson, Morgan Russell and Elizabeth Russell; his great-grandchildren, Bailey Vocque, Aiden Sandoval and Easton Kramer, and his siblings, Donald Blackwell and his wife Mevelene, Eunice Verrett and her husband Leroy, and Wanda Branch.

He was a member of First Baptist Church. He served 23 years in the Air Force, where he retired. He was an avid golfer and a supporter of Razorbacks sports. He enjoyed traveling and spending quality time with his family.

A memorial service will be at First Baptist Church in Hot Springs at 2 p.m. Monday, March 28.

Arrangements are by Hot Springs Funeral Home.



John L. (J.L.) Wilkins, 73, of Hickory Plains (Prairie County) passed from this life on March 22 at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Little Rock.

John was born on April 10, 1942, to the late Freddie Coy and Thelma Sullivan Wilkins of North Little Rock.

J.L. attended Sylvan Hills High School and enlisted in the Army in 1959. He served as a paratrooper during the Korean War era and was stationed in Korea after the truce as a staff sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Division.

In 1972, J.L. started what would later become John Wilkins Trucking, a cross-country trucking company, which he operated until 2011.

J.L. was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Hilary, and a daughter, Melody Wilkins Kinney.

J.L. is survived by a sister, Geneva Wilkins Boatman and her husband Ralph of Little Rock; a very special cousin, Phillip Sullivan of Mayfield, Ky.; two sons, Jay Wilkins and his wife Jeannie of Smithville, and Darren Wilkins and his wife Sheila of Sherwood; two daughters, Shannon Wilkins and Micah Wilkins, both of Tampa, Fla.; five grandchildren, Jennifer Collier, Chris Kinney, Jason Wilkins, Sherry Yancey and Jasmine Wilkins; six great-grandchildren, and a host of friends including, Mike McDaniel and Diane Hanks, both of Carlisle, Arkansas.

The funeral was held March 24 at Smith-Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe with visitation to follow. J.L. will be interred at Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in Sherwood with military honors.



Cheryl Ann Hester, 54, of Mt. View (Stone County), went to be with the Lord March 23.

She is preceded in death by her parents William and Judith Hester and a grandson Davian Briggs.

Survivors are her daughters, Ami Hester (Murad) and Jennifer (Don) Briggs; one son, Seth Wall; siblings, Cliff and wife Stacia Hester, Connie and husband Kenny Wood, and Craig Hester; 15 grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; best friend Donna Remphry; two step-daughters Tammy Calloway and Sherry Miller, their children and grandchildren and a host of nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils leave beach with a victory

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils lost their first three games at the Gulf Shores Classic over spring break before finally breaking through with a victory over fellow Arkansas team Valley View in game four.

In the first game in Alabama on Monday, Jacksonville led Normal West High School, of Normal, Ill., 7-3 through three innings before giving up seven runs in the fifth in a 10-8 loss. Jacksonville took the lead in the top of the first inning on a leadoff walk by Caleb Smith and base hits by Caleb McMunn and Caden Sample. They made it 3-0 in the second when Trent Toney drew a leadoff walk, followed by Cameron Whitmore reaching on an error. With one out, Mike Havard and McMunn got back-to-back base hits to drive in the base runners.

NWHS got two back in the bottom of the seventh, but the Red Devils pushed four runs across in the plate in the top of the third on just one hit. For the third-straight inning, Jacksonville got a leadoff walk, this time by Javan Wakefield. Sample followed with another walk and Tyson Flowers got an RBI base hit. After a pair of groundouts failed to push across a run, Whitmore walked to load the bases. Smith was hit by a pitch to drive in one run, and the fourth run came in on a wild pitch.

Normal West got an unearned run in the bottom of the third, then exploded for seven, five earned, in the fourth. NWHS had no runs with runners on the corners and two outs when the rally began. A walk loaded the bases before back-to-back doubles drove in five runs. The last two came in on an error at third base.

Jacksonville’s last run came in the seven inning when Sample hit a two-out double and Flowers reached on an error at second base. McMunn and Sample each got two hits lead offensively. McMunn took the loss in the mound.

The Red Devils got an excellent outing on the mound from Brandon Hawkins in game two, but couldn’t get any run support in a 2-1 loss to North Jackson of Jackson, Miss.

Hawkins hit the first batter of the game and Marcus Darnell scored on an error at third on the next at-bat.

Jacksonville tied it in the bottom of the first when McMunn drew a two-out walk, Brandon Hickingbotham singled and Sample hit an RBI double down the left-field line. The game stayed 1-1 until the bottom of the seventh inning when another error at third base led to the game-winning run.

The error came with one out, and Hawkins got a pop up to mound for the second out. With a runner on second, William Patton got NJHS’s second hit of the game to score Terrence Cooper for a one-run lead.

Jacksonville got a leadoff hit by Whitmore in the bottom of the seventh, and he moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Toney. But Wesley Williams and Wakefield each struck out to end the threat.

Jacksonville also got its first two runners on base in the third inning and failed to score.

Hawkins threw all seven innings, giving up just two hits and zero earned runs while striking out nine, hitting one and walking zero. He retired 15 straight batters from one out in the second inning until the error in the seventh.

In the third game, Jacksonville fell 7-6 to Mountain Brook, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham. Walks accounted for most of Mountain Brook’s runs. Brandon Hickingbotham threw four innings and left after giving up four runs; three earned on five hits, three walks, a hit batter and an error.

MBHS then scored three runs in the fifth on five walks issued by relievers Savage and Williams. Jordan Wickersham came in to stop the bleeding and finished the game, but Jacksonville could only muster two more runs, one each in the sixth and seventh innings.

Hickingbotham went 2 for 4 at the plate with two RBIs and Havard went 2 for 2 and reached base on four of five plate appearances. Savage also got two this in three at-bats.

In the last game of the tournament, Jacksonville came from behind to beat Valley View 8-3. Havard had a much better outing than his relief appearance against Normal West.

The Blazers scored one run in the first inning on two hits, an error and a hit batter, but didn’t score again until a run in the fourth tied the game.

Jacksonville took the lead with two runs in the third inning. Whitmore drew a leadoff walk and Havard got a base hit before McMunn hit into a 6-3 double play. Hickingbotham then hit an RBI triple to the wall in center field, and scored on a base hit by Sample.

The Red Devils posted an unearned run to take a 3-2 lead in the fifth, then posted five in the sixth to blow the game open.

With one out and Toney on base after a fielder’s choice, Smith singled to right-center field. Whitmore walked to load the bases and Havard singled to score a run. McMunn then hit a two-RBI double to right field and Hickingbotham hit a two-RBI single that put the Red Devils up 8-2.

Valley View got one run in the seventh on two walks and a hit off McMunn, who threw the last 1 1/3 inning of relief.

Havard threw 5 2/3, giving up five hits with one strikeout, no walks and two hit batters.

Jacksonville (4-7, 2-0) gets back to 5A-Central Conference play on Tuesday when they travel to Beebe for a varsity doubleheader against the Badgers.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood to get Denny's

Leader staff writer

Denny’s — the 24-hour “America’s Diner” family-friendly restaurant chain known for serving up comfort food at affordable prices — is coming to Sherwood, where the Zone Mart Phillips 66 gas station sits at Wildwood Avenue and Warden Road.

Its owner, Tom Drinkwine, couldn’t be reached for comment this week because he’s on vacation.

According to the chain’s website, the total estimated initial investment expected from franchisees is $1.12 million to $2.6 million.

Barry Sellers, the city’s economic developer, said Drinkwine had allowed him to make this announcement but that few details are known or can be released at this time, including a date or timeline for the groundbreaking or opening.

Sellers added, “It’s going to be lots of jobs and lots of sales tax...pretty exciting.”

Mayor Virginia Young commented, “We’re excited about it. We think it’s a good opportunity for our city. We think they’ll do well.” She noted the site selected is a great location for Denny’s.

According to the chain’s website, Arkansas is a “new and emerging market” for which incentives are available to those opening up locations.

The website also states that the chain, founded in southern California in 1953, is “where guests have come for over 60 years now to sit back, relax and enjoy delicious, hearty meals 24/7, every day of the year. From breakfast anytime to satisfying lunches and dinners, if you're in the mood for it, chances are we're serving it.

“Denny's is always open, always welcoming and always serving up hearty diner food along with a mug of fresh hot coffee. So come on in anytime, park yourself in a comfortable booth, take a seat at the counter, whatever you want, because it won't take you long to understand why we're truly America's diner."

This “one of the world’s powerhouse family restaurant chain” has over 1,700 locations and 90 percent of them are franchised, the website continues. It also touts that Denny’s was ranked No. 1 of family restaurants and No. 8 overall by Entrepreneur Magazine in 2014.