Wednesday, December 23, 2015

SPORT STORY >> Henderson’s Gold is Leader’s top 2015 story

Leader sportswriter

Another year has passed and what a year 2015 was for sports in The Leader coverage area. Championships were won and lost, and records were broken on both the local and national level.

Track and field was the sport that saw the most accomplishments for our local athletes, but the accomplishments this year came in a wide variety of sports and certainly more good things can be expected from our local teams and athletes in 2016.

Before the New Year arrives, it’s only appropriate to look back at the year’s accomplishments, and with that, here’s The Leader’s top five sports stories of 2015, and other noteworthy accomplishments and accolades to go with them.

• Jeff Henderson takes gold at the Pan Am Games.

Henderson, a McAlmont native and 2007 Sylvan Hills High School graduate, became the first American since Carl Lewis in 1987 to win the long jump at the Pan Am Games in Toronto in late July.

Henderson’s gold medal jump at the Pan Am Games was a world best 8.52 meters and he’s currently the No. 1 ranked long jumper in the world.

Henderson recently signed a three-year deal with Adidas and is currently training full time at the Olympic athlete training facility in Chula Vista, Calif., which is just outside San Diego.

The 26-year-old Henderson is training for the upcoming USA championships and hopes to qualify for next year’s summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Just having a chance to qualify for the Olympic Games is noteworthy enough, but if that happens, Henderson has a legitimate shot to bring home a gold medal.

Henderson’s ultimate goal is to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games, but his gold medal at the Pan Am Games earned him the top spot on this list.

• Weeks twins set national pole vault records. 

Lexi and Tori Weeks, the most decorated track and field athletes in Cabot High School history, each broke national pole vault records this year. Lexi was the first to break a record on the national level.

She broke the indoor record on Feb. 21 with a vault of 14-feet, 3 1/4 inches. In June, her sister Tori cleared 14-feet, 4 inches to set the new and current indoor record.

On July 4, Lexi broke the national outdoor record with a vault of 14-feet, 7 1/2 inches.

In addition to each holding national pole vault records, the 2015 CHS graduates each hold a plethora of school and state track and field records, not just in the pole vault.

Their versatility showed in the 2015 Heptathlon in May, where they finished first and second, respectively, and it was the closest finish in the state’s history of the Heptathlon. Only a point separated them. Lexi won the event with 4,481 points and Tori finished second with 4,480.

Lexi was also named the Gatorade National Player of the Year for girls’ track and field. The record-breaking twins are currently in their freshmen year at the University of Arkansas, where they’re both members of the Razorbacks track and field team – the most prestigious NCAA track and field program in the country.

• Destiny Nunez first female to win a state wrestling championship in Arkansas.
In late February, Beebe High School’s Nunez became the first girl to win a state wrestling championship in Arkansas history, and she’s only the fourth female wrestler nationwide to win a state championship. 

She entered the 2015 state tournament at UALR’s Jack Stephens Center as the No. 3 seed in the 106-pound weight class and claimed the state championship by winning a 5-2 decision over top-seeded Aiden Menchana of Maumelle.

Nunez finished fourth in the state tournament as a freshman, and earned the bronze medal at the 2014 state championships as a sophomore before claiming the state championship as a junior. The senior Badger’s goal for her senior year is to repeat as state champion.

• Beebe’s Trip Smith breaks school’s career rushing record. 

Another Badger makes the list, and deservedly so. Smith, a senior at BHS, broke the school’s career rushing record in the Badgers’ week-eight win at J.A. Fair on Oct. 23. Going into that game, Smith needed 69 yards to surpass previous record-holder Nic Bradley’s career mark of 4,640 rushing yards set in 1995.

Smith got 104 yards in that 42-6 win over the War Eagles to become the school’s new record-holder. Smith finished his 31-game career at BHS with 5,108 rushing yards.

• Mike Malham inducted into Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. 

Coach Malham, who just completed his 35th season as the head coach at Cabot High School, was honored for his coaching achievements in late February by being inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Malham is one of the most successful coaches in Arkansas high school sports history. In his 35 years heading the Panthers, Malham has compiled an impressive record of 284-115-4, and is the third-winningest coach in the state’s high school football history.

Under Malham’s lead, Cabot has won two state championships (1983, 2000) and has finished as state runner-up three times, with the last coming in 2013. Malham led Cabot to another successful season in 2015, where the team finished the regular season with a perfect 10-0 record and outright conference championship.

Honorable mentions:

There were many other noteworthy accomplishments by local teams and athletes, but only five could make the list. Here are some other accomplishments that deserve recognition.

The Cabot High School softball team advanced to its first ever state championship game in May. The Lady Panthers finished the regular season as conference champions before eventually falling to North Little Rock in the state championship game.

In the regular season, the Lady Panthers went 2-0 against the three-time defending state champion Lady Charging Wildcats, but it’s hard to beat a team of that caliber three times in one season, and the Lady Cats’ big-game experience showed in that final game.

The Cabot softball team could very well be back at Bogle in 2016, though, as the Lady Panthers return the majority of those players that now have championship game experience.

Baseball has also been solid in the tri-county area. Jacksonville finished last season as the outright 5A-Central Conference champion with an undefeated conference record, and three local athletes from three different schools have either signed or committed to play baseball for the Razorbacks once their high school careers end.

Beebe senior submarine pitcher Angus Denton has already signed with the state school, and junior center fielders Evan Hooper of Cabot and Casey Martin of Lonoke have committed to play for the Hogs in 2017.

In archery, Cabot South eighth grader Kayla Jones finished first overall out of 720 girls in her age group at the National Archery Schools Program National Tournament in Louisville, Ky., in May.

Lonoke junior swimmer Kayla McGee won a state championship in the 100-yard breaststroke earlier this year with a time of 1:06.49. McGee was a sophomore when she won the state title last spring, and will be one to watch over the next two years.

Speaking of state champions, the Cabot High School boys’ bowling team finished last season by winning its fourth consecutive state championship.

Back to track and field, Jordan McNair, now a senior at Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School, won his third consecutive Class 1A state championship in the 100-yard dash during the spring semester.

Connor Patrom of Beebe also won a track and field state championship this year. His came in the long jump event at the Class 5A state meet, and Lonoke’s Justin Meadows won a state championship in the triple jump at the Class 4A meet.

The Cabot High School girls’ team finished runner-up at the Class 7A state track and field meet in May, losing to Bentonville by half a point in the team standings. It was the closest finish to a state track meet in Arkansas history.

Bentonville’s team had much greater numbers than Cabot’s, which is what ultimately made the difference in that outcome. Cabot, who was clearly the most talented team at the state championship meet, got revenge at the Meet of Champs shortly after, beating Bentonville for the top spot by the score of 92-46.

Three standouts from that Lady Panther track and field team are now members of the University of Arkansas track and field team. In addition to the Weeks twins, standout distance runner Micah Huckabee is a freshman Razorback.

When Huckabee graduated from Cabot in May, she did so with multiple state championships and school records, and as one of only three Arkansas high school female athletes to ever break five minutes in the mile.

SPORT STORY >> JHS girls win two at home in Classic

Leader sports editor

The Lady Red Devils added two wins to their ledger in the first week of the Christmas break and final games before conference play begins Jan. 5. The Jacksonville girls defeated Clarendon 68-64 on Monday in their opening game of the McDonald’s Red Devil Classic. On Tuesday, they hammered Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School 83-12 to improve to 5-8 on the season.

Jacksonville coach Crystal Scott went with a different starting lineup against Clarendon than in most games this season, and it proved effective early. Senior Emily Lovercheck scored a layup off the opening tip to give the Lady Devils a quick lead.

Jacksonville advanced that margin to 6-2 before Clarendon began to heat up from the floor. J’Tyia Thomas scored five-straight points to give the Lady Lions a 7-6 lead, and forced Scott to go with wholesale substitutions. Four of the five players that entered the game were regular starters.

The only regular starter on the floor at the opening tip was junior Taylor Toombs, and senior Alicia Sims replaced her. The second five didn’t fare much better right away. Clarendon continued its run and extended its lead to 14-6, and forced Scott to call a timeout with 2:51 left in the first quarter.

After the timeout, Jacksonville senior Tatiana Lacy ended the scoring drought with an offensive rebound and putback that made it 14-8 with 2:20 on the clock. After a defensive stop, senior Desiree Williams made a long 3-pointer, and then another to tie the game with a minute to go in the first period.

Clarendon added a bucket and took a 16-14 lead into the second quarter, but it didn’t last long. Jacksonville senior Asiah Williams got back-to-back steals and layups to put the Lady Devils up 18-16 just 33 seconds into the second quarter.

The two teams went back-and-forth for several minutes, with Thomas and Taya Draper doing all of the scoring for Clarendon. The Lady Lions took a 26-25 lead with 2:30 left in the half, but Jacksonville responded with a 7-0 run over the next 2:18 of play. That gave the host team a 32-26 lead with 12 seconds left in the half, but the Lady Lions responded quickly, scoring four quick points of JHS turnovers and going into halftime trailing by just two.

Jacksonville controlled most of the action in the third quarter, but shots weren’t falling. The Lady Red Devils made up for the shooting struggles by dominating the boards. With two minutes left in the third, Jacksonville had built the biggest lead of the game up to that point at 44-36. Even though it only managed one free throw the rest of the period, Jacksonville’s defense was strong, and the Lady Devils still took a 45-36 lead into the fourth.

A quick bucket made it an 11-point game early in the final quarter, and the two teams traded buckets to 54-43 with 5:30 left in the game. That’s when Clarendon began a furious comeback attempt. The Lady Lions went on an 10-2 run that made it 56-53 with 2:24 remaining. Jacksonville scored again when Alexis James hit the first of two free throws. Lacy got the rebound of the second miss. She was also fouled and hit 1 of 2 to make the score 58-53.

Draper then hit 1 of 2 foul shots at the other end. Jacksonville responded when Desiree Williams missed a runner, and Lacy got the offensive putback for a 60-54 lead with 1:43 remaining.

The Lady Red Devils then made a tactical mistake by fouling on the inbound pass after Lacy’s basket. Draper hit both ends of a one-and-one trip to the line to cut the margin to four. Jacksonville’s good ball movement and offensive execution resulted in Desiree Williams all alone underneath the basket, but Lacy’s pass from the wing sailed over her head. Thomas then went the length of the floor for a layup that made it 60-58 with a minute to go. James answered with the same thing, making it a four-point game again just eight seconds later.

Thomas then drained a 3-pointer to pull the Lady Lions to within 62-61 with 39 seconds left. Jacksonville executed again, and this time James’ pass to a wide-open Sims made it 64-61, but Draper hit a baseline jumper to make it a one-point game again with 22 seconds remaining. Clarendon quickly fouled James, who hit the first of two free throws. Lacy then came through with another big offensive rebound, and stuck it back in for a 67-63 lead with 15 seconds remaining.

Lacy finished with a double-double, recording 15 points and 12 rebounds, both team highs. Lovercheck scored a season high 12 points, Asiah Williams had 11 and Desiree Williams scored 10.

Thomas led all scorers with 29 points while Draper added 23 for Clarendon. Jacksonville won the rebounding battle 43-30.

SPORT STORY >> Lighthouse avenges its loss to NP

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lighthouse Wolves avenged an earlier loss and got some hometown solace on Tuesday, beating North Pulaski 73-54 in their second game of the McDonald’s Red Devil Classic at Jacksonville High School on Tuesday.

Lighthouse jumped out to a quick 9-2 lead in the first half of the first quarter, and led 14-4 at the end of the opening period.

The Falcons didn’t make a basket from the floor until 6:12 remained in the second quarter and Justin Glasco hit a 3-pointer. Despite the offensive struggles, Glasco’s basket pulled the Falcons (4-8) back to within 10 points at 18-8. From there, the Wolves outscored NP 11-8 and took a 29-16 lead into the break.

The third quarter is when Lighthouse blew the game open after heating up from outside. Zack Bobo, Cameron Shaffer DaeShawn Dixon hit from outside. When the Falcons tried fullcourt pressure, JLCS guards Jordan McNair and Chris Mims got to the rim for easy buckets. Shaffer and Bobo also scored four points each on the inside and the Wovles carried a 52-27 lead into the fourth quarter.

“We’re just struggling right now,” said NP coach Roy Jackson, whose team beat Lighthouse 62-60 earlier this season. “We don’t have a true point guard, and when teams press us, we keep making mistakes. We just have to calm down. We need to realize there are some things we can do well, and work to put ourselves in situations to do that. Right now it’s like we’re just panicking a little bit under the fullcourt pressure, and we can’t get into our offense. We weren’t doing that earlier this year. I’m going to spend this time off breaking down film. I’m going to find some things we’re good at and we’re going to intensify working on those things.”

North Pulaski’s own pressure took its toll on Lighthouse in the fourth quarter. The Falcons forced turnovers on three-straight possessions and scored after each one early in the period. Another run later in the period resulted in back-to-back transition dunks by Falcon sophomore Christian White that pulled the Falcons to within 63-50 with 3:20 left in the game.

But the pace of the game began to take a toll on both teams. North Pulaski’s pressure ceased to be as effective and the Falcons were forced to begin fouling to extend the game. Lightouse (8-7) only made 6 of 12 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter, but the Falcons couldn’t take advantage, missing several open shots on their end of the floor.

White led all scorers with 19 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter alone. Shaffer led Lightouse with 17 while Bobo added 11.

North Pulaski is off until its 5A-Central Conference opener at Little Rock McClellan on Jan. 5. Lighthouse, which is still not an Arkansas High School Activities Association sanctioned team, doesn’t play another varsity game until Jan. 20 against Little Rock Central.

SPORTY STORY >> Devils win first game with JLC

Leader sports editor

The first-ever varsity boys’ regular-season basketball game between Jacksonville High and Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School was much more of a barnburner than the 72-62 score in favor of JHS might indicate. The Class 1A Wolves gave the 5A Red Devils all it could handle for three-and-a-half quarters Monday in the first day of the McDonald’s Red Devil Classic.

Jacksonville has struggled re-bounding this year, but JHS coach Vic Joyner has blamed his team’s lack of size, and complimented their effort in face of its disadvantages. But the Red Devils had no size disadvantage on Monday, and was, in fact the much bigger team. But they were still outrebounded, and by the biggest margin all season, 44-25.

Joyner had no compliments for his team’s effort on Monday.

“They wanted it more,” said Joyner. “That’s all that was. My kids didn’t see them as a threat, and didn’t take it serious. They didn’t take it serious in practice. I tried to explain that they were going to come in here, and try to make their whole season by whipping Jacksonville High. But you can’t get anything through kids’ heads. They had to look up at the end of the third quarter and see a tie game before they realized they were going to have to play.”

Lighthouse came out on fire, especially forward Zack Bobo, who hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter and led the Wolves to a 20-17 lead at the end of the period. But the fouls were piling up, and by the time 85 seconds had eclipsed from the second quarter, Lighthouse starters Jordan McNair and Cameron Shaffer were on the bench for the rest of the half with three fouls.

Red Devil senior LaQuawn Smith then got back-to-back transition layups, the second after a steal by sophomore Har’Derrious Martin. With two Lighthouse starters on the bench, Jacksonville outscored the Wolves 25-15 in the second quarter and took a 42-35 lead into halftime.

Shaffer picked up his fourth foul just 26 seconds into the third quarter, and sent ? Waller to the line, where he hit 1 of 2 for a 43-35 lead. The absence of the team’s only true post player didn’t faze the Wolves, who responded with a 10-0 run and took a 45-43 lead with 4:31 left in the third. Jacksonville then scored seven straight to take a 50-45 lead, but Bobo, who had been cold since the opening salvo, got heated up again. Bobo sailed through the lane to slam dunk a Chris Mims miss. After Jacksonville threw the ball away, Bobo hit a 3-pointer from the right corner to tie the game with a minute left in the third.

Jacksonville High’s Tyree Appleby then completed a 3-point play to send the Red Devils into the fourth quarter with a 53-50 lead.

Lighthouse went cold from the floor in the fourth quarter and JHS got hot from the line. The Red Devils made just 12 of their first 23 free-throw attempts, but made their last nine in a row over the final five minutes of the game, including six by Appleby.

The Wolves trailed 62-56 when they got three offensive rebounds and four shot attempts on one possession, and missed them all. Jacksonville’s Dujuan Ridgeway finally came away with the ball and was fouled. He hit both free throws for an eight-point lead and the Wolves were never closer than seven the rest of the way.

Joyner said a simple defensive adjustment was the difference in the game.

“They’re quick, got good guards,” Joyner said. “They were using the dribble drive and getting into the lane. You have to play hard to play good man-to-man, and we weren’t playing hard. So I switched us to a 2-3 zone, stopped the dribble drive. They weren’t hitting from outside, game over.”

Lighthouse was not hitting from outside after the first few minutes of the game. After making four of their first five attempts in the first quarter, the Wolves made just 3 of 20 the rest of the way. They were 15 of 43 from two-point range and 9 of 16 from the foul line. Bobo led the Wolves in scoring and rebounding with 23 points and 13 boards. Mims added 16 and McNair 12 for the Wolves.

Appleby led all scorers with 27 points Smith had 18 and Ridgeway 16 for JHS. Jacksonville was 4 of 9 from three-point range and 20 of 49 from inside the arc.

TOP STORY >> Gwatney donates $15,000

Leader staff writer

Gwatney Chevrolet in Jacksonville helped the Boys and Girls Club of Jacksonville with a $15,000 donation on Tuesday.

The Boys and Girls Club was also presented with a $100 check from Mark Perry with Modern Woodmen of America for being selected as a Hometown Hero by the company.

The donations are especially timely, as the nonprofit will not receive money in 2016 from the Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission.

The Boys and Girls Club budget for 2016 is $87,000.

The club requested $30,000 from the A&P Commission. But, according to a recent ruling, the state Constitution prohibits the “appropriation of money by municipal corporations to private corporations.”

In 2015, the Boys and Girls Club received $9,500 from the A&P commission.

“It is huge for the club. It will go a long way. Our memberships are $30 a year. We are looking at different fundraisers and sponsorships from businesses,” Boys and Girls Club director Laura Walker said.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said the city owns the building and it is available for use by churches and groups as a meeting place. He added that the city cannot pay the nonprofit employees’ salaries and their benefits.

“The Boys and Girls Club needs to be more self-sufficient. The community and businesses need to recognize the value the Boys and Girls Club plays in the development of our children and youth. Boys and Girls Clubs are time-tested,” Fletcher said.

The mayor also said the city recognizes the value of taking kids off the streets and into a facility that can meet their needs.

The Boys and Girls Club had 357 members, ages 6 to 18, in 2015.

It is open five days a week after school and on Saturdays during the basketball season. The club is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during holiday breaks from school and summer.

Gwatney Chevrolet public-relations manager Brad West said, “It is a no-brainer to get behind this. Gwatney has been in business in Jacksonville since 1957 and has grown with the community. The Boys and Girls Club started in the early 1970s at an old church building by Jacksonville Elementary. The community has been unbelievably good to Gwatney, and we wanted to support these kids. It needs the community’s help.”

West also said he attended the club as a youth and is now the vice chairman of its board.

The nonprofit also offers meals, mentoring, tutoring and teaches life skills.

TOP STORY >> Looking back on 2015

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of four articles that takes a quarterly look back at The Leader’s front page headlines from 2015.

Formation of the new school district topped the headlines during the second quarter of the year, along with the state’s report card on individual schools and districts. Funding, both positive and negative, for LRAFB was also in the news often from April through June.


• Air Force hit with $10 billion in budget cuts – Secretary asks for more funding as military is asked to do more with fewer resources and improvements

• JPD reaches out to build bonds with city’s youth – Teenagers learn what to expect when pulled over by officers.

• Community center marks its 20th year – Celebration will honor municipal facility pushed by former Mayor Tommy Swaim.

• LRAFB to get more C-130Js despite cuts – Including contingencies the military budget could reach $167 billion.

• E-cycling opportunity – Pulaski County offers a new service to dispose of old or unwanted computers and more.

• Wakes after five-month coma – Returns to her family from hospital; supplies and prayers needed.

• Ex-JPD cop’s murky world is uncovered – Lonoke sheriff said he once worked as a resource officer with the cop arrested in a meth raid.

• Ward wants youth, senior center – City is hoping to get state aid for multipurpose facility as generator project is winding down.

• Wood: We’ll make it work – Versed in all aspects of running a district, veteran educator signs on with JNPSD.

• State report cards rank area schools – More than half in Jacksonville score low, others are not much better.

• Mayor glad lawmakers home – Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher contends state legislature is making it more difficult to operate at city level.

• New community center on base – New facility named for colonel who was devoted to airman’s welfare.

• Arkansas First Lady hails Open Arms – Governor’s wife tells banquet that it is important to help the most vulnerable in our society, but more help is needed to fight child abuse in Arkansas.

• Utilities’ fees stay the same – Aldermen in Cabot decide raising fees might cost city’s residents.

• Teacher hiring is still a big issue – Uncertainty, frustration stymies efforts to separate districts.

• Hospital: Serving community well – North Metro CEO responds to critics who promote new competitor.

• Schools still fuming over report cards – An A grade can still classify school as needing improvement.

• Sherwood wants school millage –If PCSSD levy is passed, city schools will get $61 million in improvements.

• Concert series marks 10th year – IBLA winners to astound crowds with “world class” music.

• PCSSD: New district should be excluded – Schools in Pulaski County don’t want JNPSD in deseg suit.

• Hospital looks to new competitor – New facility to go in near North Metro, which continues to struggle.


• Ex-county assessor in fraud, gun bust – Jack McNally was a two-term official who made few friends during contentious period.

• Lonoke mayor explains firing of police chief – Dismissed Mike Wilson cleaned up the department after the Jay Campbell fiasco.

• Rains help replenish aquifers in farm areas –it had been too wet in Lonoke County in contrast with rest of state and drought-stricken California.

• Grading upsets Beebe schools – Superintendent Belinda Shook said report cards didn’t reflect the districts true performance.

• Second thoughts on store in Sherwood – City council says its not happy with the way lumberyard was built.

• Jacksonville to pay off range, issue bonds – Saving $82,000 a month will pay

• City welcomes new school chief, Tony Wood – Former state education commissioner picked to lead burgeoning Jacksonville district.

• Cabot health clinic wants old gym – City offered $375,000 by ARcare for its facility.

• Military may aid schools: LRAFB may pay 80 percent of Arnold Drive Elementary’s replacement costs.

• Lester: Millage needed – Jacksonville Middle School is demoralizing to kids and a tax is needed.

• Jacksonville to pay off range, issue bonds – Saving $82,000 a month will pay for remodeling firehouse, buying new police cars and more.

• Architect hired for new Sherwood library – City says it still hasn’t decided on where to put the new CALS branch library.

• Hospital releases CEO in shakeup – Rep. Joe Farrer will help run facility with financial office until replacement found.

• Voters defeat higher millage – Voters are adamant, reject new tax proposal.

• Lincoln Day: Time to celebrate – Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin urges Lonoke County Republicans to push for tax cuts and reform politics in the state.

• Panther Stadium is being trashed – Vandalism, arson and more lead to closure being considered.

• Another report card stuns district – Searcy takes a big tumble from top three years ago to near bottom, according to the state.

• Mistakes result in parolee’s shooting – He had rare ability to move handcuffs from back to front while officers weren’t looking.

• For air base, commitment always there – In an exit interview, Col. Patrick Rhatigan, 19th Airlift Wing commander looks back.

• Dividing assets by Jacksonville, PCSSD expected – Detachment settlement proposal could be ready for court date.

• Mom upset over reckless driving – Mother talks to the Cabot City Council about “joy riding” on her street.

• LRAFB gets new commander – Col. Charles Brown Jr., takes over the reins from Col. Patrick Rhatigan

• Couple drowns in a sea of debt – they face foreclosure because of flooding woes in Sherwood.

• More hires for new school district: One name you know well – Like father, like son as Bobby E. Lester may help lead new district.

• Sirens ready for stormy weather – Bad weather hits, damages and downs trees in Lonoke County.

• Bench warrant amnesty day set – District court judge in Jacksonville drops $260 administrative fee.


• Base injects $813 million for economy – Financial impact of Little Rock Air force Base is significant.

• Jacksonville teachers in limbo – Instructors are uneasy about their prospects in new district.

• Report cards mostly subpar for Sherwood – Even newly opened middle school gets a ‘D’ grade from the state.

• ‘Flix on the Bricks’ premieres -- Free movies are set to be projected inside pavilion at Jacksonville’s Nixon Library.

• District want voters’ backing – JNPSD board passes budget projection, places existing millage on ballot, hires two.

• Planner may be added – Sherwood budget committee talks about new $50,000 hire to help city engineer.

• Online survey: State is unsafe –Wallethub reports dismal findings on Arkansans’ well being.

• Farmers fear EPA clean-water rule harmful –EPA says the 300-page document adds clarity and is not an economic strain.

• Snowing rice in Lonoke – City council thinks processing facility is causing air pollution.

• Open-carry gun law prevailing – All agree that owner cannot be arrest unless he or she plans to use firearm “unlawfully.”

• Doctors’ claim of slow pay an issue – Investigation by U.S. Department of Labor continues against North Metro.

• Ward selects $4.6 million sewer plant – Aero-Mod treatment facility is chosen from five proposed alternatives for growing community.

• Funeral owners plead innocent to corpse abuse – Father, son go before judge as they face 13 felony charges.

• Brown: ‘Defenders did their job’ – Attack at air base averted by security forces’ rapid response.

• Fireworks stay illegal in Cabot – Aldermen voted 4-3 to keep ban on fireworks.

• Strong reaction to decision by Supreme Court – Arkansans weigh in on same-sex marriage ruling.

• Sherwood could stop permits for a 30-day review – City council is determined to stop any metal buildings from going up again.

• Austin may hold a special census – Growing town could get more state aid if it can show population has grown.

• PCSSD will give teachers better pay starting out – More competitive pay, but still less than neighboring districts, and veterans will see just a small increase.

• Farrer: Hospital not dying, it’s stable – Amidst numerous issues, Allegiance Health Management explains it does not own the troubled North Metro.

• Local clergy mourn attack – Community expresses its solidarity after South Carolina hate crime. n Council meeting scene of tantrum –Man taken away after he was ranting at Jacksonville City Hall.

TOP STORY >> Farmers’ pal retires after long career

Jeff Welch is standing by Don L. Kitler’s zero-grade rice field adjacent to the Lonoke County Extension Service on Hwy. 70. The rice has been harvested and Kitler hasn’t released the recent rainwater on the field.
Leader senior staff writer

He grew up in Havana (Yell County), and his family had a farm nearby, but Jeff Welch didn’t want to farm for a living. Neither did he set out to be chairman and agricultural agent for the University of Arkansas Extension Service.

Now he’s drawing to the end of a 30-year career helping Lonoke County farmers know what to plant, what new varieties might be good for them, telling them when pesticides might be appropriate and helping introduce them to new technology and new ways of doing things.

To some farmers in financial trouble, his advice can save as much as $150 an acre, which would be $150,000 on a 1,000-acre farm, which in Arkansas is a common size.

The equation for profit in any manufacturing enterprise is yield times price, minus cost of production, he said, and crop production is no different.

A farmer’s “factory” is his farm, Welch said. He’s the manager of that factory, and each crop is its own subsidiary factory. Whether in the air-conditioned cab of his tractor, computers at his side or in his farm office or shop, he’s managing his factory.

If you lower yield with a cheaper seed and less expensive herbicides and pesticides, the lower cost of production can make it a profitable year, he said, assuming weather doesn’t intervene. And crop insurance has bailed out many Lonoke County farmers after floods lowered their yields or hail beat down a crop.

That’s among the advantages that Lonoke County’s rice, soybean, corn, wheat, milo and cotton farmers have over the handful of farmers—mostly in the Cabot area—who raise fruit and vegetables, he said. A bad year or two in that business, without a safety net, can send a farmer to town for a job.

But with the beans and grains, “We’ve always had to go to the bank to put in a crop,” he said. Even with a couple bad years, “You may lose some money but you won’t lose the farm.” That’s the result of crop insurance.

Welch worked on his father and uncle’s commercial Angus farm as a boy and a young man.

After graduation from Havana High School, Welch graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with a Bachelors Degree in zoology and a Master’s Degree in entomology.

After that, he worked as a salesman for DuPont for six years and Burst Agricultural for two or three years selling plant growth regulator in sales regions as large as six states.

He was dating my wife in Fort Smith but I was on the road, he said.

So when a job as an agricultural agent at the Pine Bluff Extension Service opened up in 1986, he says he jumped on it.

By 1987, he transferred to the Lonoke Extension Service, and just settled in.

“I wanted my kids to grow up in one place,” he said. Lonoke had “continuity from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Grown now, his son Jeff in an engineer and his daughter Olivia works in advertising and promotion.

“We’ve enjoyed the people here,” he said, and “I’ve learned a lot. I got my first experience in politics.”

That was when he was appointed grounds chairman at the First United Methodist Church of Lonoke. When he got ready to put in flower beds, he discovered two distinct groups of women had competing ideas.”

“I put a woman from one group in charge who had ideas similar to the women in the other group.” It was a lesson well learned.


“Jeff is so good with our farmers in Lonoke County and beyond,” said Rick Bransford whose family farms about 2,100 acres around Pettus.

“He’s knowledgeable in the practical and economic aspects of farming.”

Lonoke used to have about 19 farmers planting as much as 22,000 acres of a year, Bransford said, and Welch arrived about 1987 as a cotton specialist.

Bransfords have grown cotton since the 1800s, so the late Dick Bransford and his son Rick found Welch pretty quickly, he said.

“As he got more rooted in the county, he spread into soy, rice, wheat and corn,” said Bransford, “and if you needed him he would come hot and dry or cold and wet.”

Welch and the extension service was a nonbiased entity—a conduit for new varieties and technologies and other information, according to Bransford.

“He kept on top of farm bills and programs,” he said.

Bransford, said he hates to see Welch go.

“We are friends.”


Agriculturally speaking, “We have three counties in one,” Welch said.

The southern part of Lonoke County is steeped in southern agriculture, growing cotton, soybeans, wheat and corn. The middle part of the county is mostly rice, you beans and corn and in the north part, they are independent thinkers who have branched out into fruits and vegetables, cattle and what remains of the county’s dairy industry. Kind of landlocked by towns and subdivisions, those farms tend to be small and smaller, without much opportunity for expansion.


“When I first came, there were 38 dairies in the county,” he said. “Now there are four.”

The University of Arkansas developed most of the soybean varieties. Today, 99 percent of the beans are developed by the private sector—genetically modified varieties. The companies patent their beans and the farmer can’t even save his beans to plan. He has to buy new beans every year, Welch said.

The new beans yield higher, but they are more expensive, Welch said. It takes about 58-bu. per acre to break even with the patented varieties, but only 30 to 35 bu. per acre for the conventional beans, because they are cheaper.

An eight-row combine was the standard in the mid-‘80s, and cost about $30,000. Today, farms are bigger and the standard is a 16-row combine costing about $600,000.

“The debt load has required farmers to increase acreage,” Welch said.

“We have had to expand acres to get the economies of scale,” he added.

Cotton was a major crop when Welch first came to Lonoke County, but when the bottom fell out of prices several years ago, it fell to as low as 500 acres and this year producers planted maybe 4,000 acres. Where once there were several cotton gins in the county, today there are none.

When I first came, there was lots of dry land farming--soybeans, cotton, corn and rice, Welch said, while today that’s the exception, with farmers irrigating from ground water pumps. The cost of fuel and electricity and to maintain pumps and irrigation pipe is a major production cost in years without much—or any—timely rainfall, he said.

At the 20th Century, about two thirds of people in this country farmed or worked in agriculture.

Today, less than 3 percent of the people farm, growing a large percentage of the food and fiber needed to feed and clothe the rest.

When Welch started as an extension agent, farmers laid out and measured their fields with a wheel. Measurements then got more accurate from the air and today, with GPS devices, measurements are not only more accurate, but with yield monitors in combines, farmers to determine what areas of a fielded produced well and which poorly. Using GPS, they could try to improve production holes, he said.

For water handling and drainage, farmers would contour plow a field. Today, many use laser levels, which can guide a grader blade to get zero grade leveling.

Water use is more efficient and fields can be flooded and drained faster.

That results in less pumping and less cost.


We have to know biology and agronomy, Welch said, and about pests.

“If we don’t know, we can contact extension specialist. “It takes three to four years to become a good county agent.”

Extension agents also are versed on food and nutrition, safely preserving food, community development, and farm financing.

In 2008, the Lonoke County Quorum Court and County Judge came to Welch and asked for a data driven assessment of a proposal to raise a one-year, penny sales tax increase. Without taking sides on the issue, the extension service worked up a fact sheet that is credited with helping pass the increase and today the new Lonoke County Detention Center has operated for about five years.

The extension service also sponsors the 4-H to teach life skills and leadership development that helps participants later in life, he said.

The extension agent also is responsibility to teach biosecurity—making sure that farmers don’t spread pests and disease from one field to another or to another farm.

“Don’t spread your trouble,” Welch said. “Make sure you’re a good steward.”

Welch said that extension agents Diana Bowen and Keith Perkins were both highly competent and qualified to take his place as Lonoke’s chief extension agent, but that the decision would be made in Little Rock.

Welch said after Jan. 31 retirement, “I’m going to travel for a couple months.” He said he hadn’t had a vacation in 20 years. He may work as a farm profitability consultant and get involved with the family’s farm over near Havana. It might surprise county farmers, but Welch has an ambitious outline for an historical novel including Lyndon Baines Johnson, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and some Arkansans. A quick glance revealed an able hand and a way with words.

EDITORIAL >> Body cameras for our police

State Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) presented a $5,000 check to the Jacksonville Police Department at a recent city council meeting.

The JPD will use the money from the state General Improvement Funds to purchase 10 body cameras.

Chesterfield’s district includes a portion of Jacksonville. She said Maumelle requested additional money for body cameras, and she found out Jacksonville also needed the cameras.

Former Rep. Mike Wilson (D-Jacksonville) has challenged the controversial improvement funds in court and could try again after the holidays. He’s won a previous round, having forced the legislature to allocate funds indirectly to local beneficiaries since the state Constitution bans funding local projects, including libraries, museums, parochial schools and others.

Wilson thinks the new system still is unconstitutional. Perhaps when the courts revisit the issue, the legislature will continue funding such worthy projects as body cameras for local law enforcement through the State Police or other stage agencies.

Most area police departments now use body cameras to protect themselves and the public. Cabot received 30 point-of-view cameras in October.

The first-year cost for the department’s five-year contract with Taser International is $29,253. The cost to manage the system and store the body cameras’ recordings for the length of the contract is about $10,398 a year. The total cost of the contract is $70,971.

The department had received approximately $11,471 in grant funding from the Central Arkansas Planning and Development District to offset some of the first-year costs.

Sgt. Jason Hopkins of the Sherwood Police Department said they have 16 body cameras but would like between 35 and 40 for every patrol officer on the force. Money is being budgeted to do that next year, he noted.

Austin Police Chief Jim Kulesa said that agency had body cameras when he took over last year.

But they were cumbersome and not being used. The prosecutor’s office helped the city get new taser-style body cameras.

Now, each of Austin’s three full-time officers has one, and two are shared between the part-time staff.

Every officer has a file they can download their recordings into, the chief noted.

Sheriff John Staley said the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office had body cameras when he took office years ago, but they have since upgraded to the taser-style body cameras.

He’d like to have a few extras and said the equipment is for “officer protection and also to protect the public.”

Capt. Carl Minden of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office said the agency doesn’t have body cameras but is looking into attaining them.

“We are currently in the testing and evaluation phase of the various body camera models on the market. The goal is to acquire the cameras in the near future. One for each deputy assigned to the patrol division is the minimum goal,” he said.

Minden also noting, “Body cameras can protect both the citizens and the law enforcement officer by allowing for transparency on interactions, whether they are positive or negative.”

He continued, “The cameras can be crucial for evidentiary purposes during use-of-force incidents, complaint allegations, crime scenes, etc. Cameras are not the end all be all, but they can be a valuable tool if used properly.”

Thank you, Sen. Chesterfield and all our local legislators who have put the safety of our law-enforcement officers and the safety of their constituents as a top priority this year and next. Here’s hoping Mike Wilson’s anticipated lawsuit will bring more clarity to the General Improvement Funds but will allow such life-saving measures as body cameras for law enforcement to continue.

EDITORIAL >> Lives they lived (RIP)

Several notable deaths have appeared in the obituary pages just before the holidays, including the passing of distinguished local veterans who served their country with distinction. We had the fortune to know many of them. They were unpretentious elderly gentlemen who never bragged about their accomplishments.

We’d see some of them at the quarterly luncheons of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council, men like retired Col. Harry Canham of Sherwood and retired Maj. Jerome Ptak, both proud Air Force veterans. We’d often sit near them whenever we could. Although they never did say much, we always thanked them for their service.

Canham passed away Dec. 15 at the age of 95 and Ptak on Dec. 10 at the age of 82.

According to Canham’s obituary, “Harry was a man of few words, but his words were impactful. His life even more so. He was a man of honor, duty and integrity. He was a true American hero; a kind hearted gentleman, one who sacrificed much for the great country he so dearly loved, honored and served.

“Harry was an intelligent, professional, humble man,” his obituary continued. “You would never have known he was a decorated veteran of war and recipient of five Distinguished Flying Cross awards. To Harry, he was just a man who did his job.

“If you were lucky enough to be Harry’s friend, you were lucky enough,” the obituary went on. “He was a giant in stature and gentle in spirit.”

Col. Canham retired from the Air Force as director of Tactical Air Command airlift headquarters at Langley Air Force Base, with 32 years of service and 22,000 hours of flying military operations during World War II, Korea, NATO, Vietnam and in peacetime. Among his many military honors and achievements, he was awarded five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 32 flying medals, six Meritorious Service Medals and two National Defense Medals. He also received the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, South Vietnam’s highest award, for saving the lives of South Vietnamese troops and the residents of a community in central Cambodia who were surrounded by attacking North Vietnamese forces.

Ptak retired in 1973 and chose to make Jacksonville his new home. He was the father-in-law of Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who met Ptak’s daughter, Suzie, while Schwartz was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Another Air Force veteran, Pascal Edward (Bud) Hancock, 84, of Jacksonville died Dec. 18. Following navigation training, he was assigned to fly transport planes at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina, where he met his wife, Nancy.
His military career included ROTC college instruction at Coe College, Iowa, two tours of service in Vietnam (where he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross), and covert flights at Wiesbaden Air Force Base in Germany.

We wrote about the Hancocks when they were working with foreign-exchange students and making them feel appreciated here.

There are other veterans: Retired Army Master Sgt. Robert H. Rawls, 71, of Jacksonville passed away Dec. 16. He served 18 months in Vietnam and was a proud recipient of the Silver Star. Billy Ray Ward of Austin, another Vietnam veteran, also passed away Dec. 16. He served in the Army in Vietnam and had retired from Remington Arms.

Apologies to the families of other deserving veterans we failed to mention. We are grateful to all of them. Nelson Mandela said, “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.”

TOP STORY >> McKay ends 50-year career

ASU-Beebe Public Relations

Dr. Eugene McKay, chancellor at Arkansas State University-Beebe, will retire in January after 50 years of service to the institution.

There will be a reception given in his honor from 1 until 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8 at the student center, which has been renamed the Dr. Eugene McKay Student Center in recognition of his 50 years of service to the institution.

McKay has led the university for more than 20 years as chancellor, and before that he has served in various roles from instructor to administrator.

Karla Fisher, who has been vice president of academics at Butler Community College in Kansas, will succeed McKay.

Born in 1941 to a farming family in Amagon (Jackson County), McKay says he learned an appreciation for hard work at an early age.

“We worked daylight to dark. We would milk the cows, eat breakfast, and head to the fields to chop or pick cotton,” said McKay. “I learned that once you start something, you don’t quit.”

Along with his older brother and younger sister, McKay attended small rural schools at Amagon, Wiona and Charlotte.

“Three things have helped me throughout my life - the value of hard work, endurance, and setting goals. I have used these in all my life experiences,” he said.

McKay’s journey in education began during high school at Bradford (White County). He excelled in English, writing and reading. During that time, he had the opportunity to meet with a recruiter at Lyon College (formerly Arkansas College) in Batesville, who suggested that he sign up for classes.

With no money to attend college, McKay said the recruiter helped him get a job on campus to pay for classes.

“I relate to the sacrifice and struggle many students experience in getting a college degree,” said McKay. “Education changed my life. I was the only one in my immediate family to attend college. We didn’t realize there were other options available.”

“I was a C+ student in high school, but the recruiter at Lyon College believed in me,” he said.

At Lyon College, McKay received a bachelor’s in English in 1964. He then taught high school English and French at Alton, Mo., for two years before teaching English and French at ASU-Beebe from 1966 until 1987.

McKay said it was ironic that French was his minor in college, but was the reason for every job he obtained during those early years of teaching.

McKay, along with his late wife Dr. Judy McKay, also served as residence hall parents at ASU-Beebe in the former men’s dormitory, Quapaw Hall. One of the conditions of his employment as an instructor was that he had to earn a master’s degree.

In 1968, McKay received a master’s degree in English from the University of Arkan-sas. Then, in the early 1970s, he and his wife attended the University of Mississippi, and both completed doctorates in English.

McKay became vice chancellor for academic affairs in 1987. Then, in 1994, with the unexpected death of Chancellor William (Bill) H. Owen Jr., McKay accepted the chancellor position in 1995.

“I didn’t want to be an administrator,” he said, “and I certainly didn’t want to be the chancellor, because I felt teaching was the best way to help people with their education. But I have seen my work and mission as the same.”

He credits the team of administrators and division leaders who have successfully led ASU-Beebe over the years.

Under his leadership, the university’s enrollment has grown from 2,800 in 1995 to 6,347 students during the past academic year, and ASU-Beebe has opened branches in Searcy and Heber Springs.

ASU-Beebe also offers classes at Little Rock Air Force Base.

“The air base campus was established in 1965, the year before I came. They are celebrating their 50th year this year,” said McKay.

All of the campuses have seen major expansions and renovations under his tenure.

One of the first programs McKay helped implement as chancellor was a partnership with John Deere to acquire the Agriculture Equipment Technology program in 1995. The university sought legislative support to garner the $135,000 to start the program. The John Deere Ag Tech program has since grown into the largest John Deere program in the U.S. and Canada.

He also helped establish the veterinary technology program in 2007.

Students can also earn an associate’s degree completely online. Approximately 1,400 students are enrolled in online coursework. “We’ve come a long way since obtaining the first computer on campus in the mid-80s. You have to be flexible, innovative and willing to keep up with new courses and programs in demand,” said McKay.

ASU-Beebe received in 2011 the Aspen Award, which placed the university in the Top 10 percent of two-year colleges based on retention and graduation rates, and State University.Com listed ASU-Beebe as the safest college in the U.S. for several years. The university has also been designated as a military friendly school.

McKay serves on the Beebe, Cabot and Searcy chambers of commerce. Beebe chamber president from 2003 to 2004 and is recipient its lifetime achievement award.

This year, the Beebe chamber honored him as the ASU-Beebe Educator of the Year Award. He continues to serve on several boards, including Unity Health, formerly White County Medical Center, and United Way of White County.

McKay has also served on the Advancing White County Steering Committee and is an active member of the Beebe Lions Club. He has been an active member of the Beebe First United Methodist Church.

He is now looking forward to retirement and spending more time with his grown sons, Shaun, Kevin and Robert, and their families.

“I want to be able to see each of my 11 grandchildren achieve their education,” said McKay.

Even though McKay plans to attend fewer meetings during retirement, he will continue his involvement in several community service groups. He also plans to oversee the Dr. Judy McKay scholarship, established by family and friends to honor his wife who died in 2013 of breast cancer.

His wife was a retired associate professor of English and former director of the Learning Center at ASU-Beebe. This fall, the first recipient was awarded the scholarship. “We both loved reading and teaching English,” said McKay. “Judy would have been happy that the scholarship will help others achieve their education.”

An avid gardener, McKay will most likely be found tending flowers at his home in the Stoney Point community. Additionally, McKay and his sister, who was born on his second birthday, are planning a cruise.

ASU System president Dr. Charles Welch, who worked with McKay as vice chancellor for academic affairs for several years, said, “He has devoted his entire life to helping people achieve their dreams.

“Personally, he has been a mentor and friend to me. His trust and confidence have allowed me to experience outstanding opportunities in my own professional career. His integrity is beyond reproach and after 49 years in higher education he still enjoys an incredible reputation.

“Simply stated, Eugene McKay is a good man who has done extraordinary work in his life. While he will certainly be missed after retirement, his legacy will live on for many years to come in the countless lives he has touched,” Welch said.

McKay said, “I have enjoyed my work and helping people achieve their goals. I believe if you love your job, you don’t ever have to work.”

TOP STORY >> Little girl tells Santa her wish for Christmas

Leader executive editor

(This is a reprint of a Christmas column from 31 years ago.)

When my friend Jack Sallee was with the Jaycees in Fayetteville, they’d put an ad in the paper at Christmastime saying that for $2 you could have Santa come to your place.

There’d be a group of Santas going out every night, and Sallee was among them.

“Each Santa went to about 10 homes a night,” Sallee says. “Each Santa had a driver. Mine was named Larry Nixon. He was a big fellow, and I would tell the kids Larry was driving me around town.”

Usually nothing out of the ordinary happened. Kids got to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas, and Santa gave them lots of candy, and everybody went to bed happy.

But then something different did happen. Sallee says, “One night, we had two houses left to go. We drove around for a while, and, when we found one, it was a one-room house. We went inside, and the house had a dirt floor and hardly any furnishings.”

A young girl was there with her mother. They were as poor as they could be: They had nothing — or very little.

The two Jaycees, college educated and professionals who had seen dozens of nice homes, couldn’t believe what they had walked into.

“There were two cots to sleep on and a table and a chair,” Sallee says. “The house had a potbellied stove. She had one of those small Styrofoam ice chests. So needless to say, I was taken aback because I didn’t think people still lived like that. This was inside the Fayetteville city limits.

“The girl was 7 or 8 years old,” Sallee continues, “and she had long hair and blue eyes. She wore a nightgown that looked like a man’s T-shirt her mother had cut off. She was flabbergasted that Santa Claus would actually visit her.”

He says, “For a Christmas tree, her mother had brought in a branch and put it on the table.”

Her mother had found her a present — a ball wrapped in tissue paper. Sallee wondered what else this poor girl would ask for.

“In the homes we had seen,” he continues, “the children would tell us what they wanted by reciting the toy sections in stores they’d been to.”

But that wasn’t what the girl wanted.

“The girl sat on my lap and looked at me seriously,” Sallee recalls. “She said, ‘Santa, the only thing I want is for Daddy to come home.’

“I looked at my driver, this big, burly guy, and he had to walk outside because tears were streaming down his face,” Sallee says.

“The mother turned her back to us, and I just turned my head away from her,” he adds.

“I was just stunned and moved and speechless. I wanted to hold the little girl and tell her everything was going to be all right, but there was nothing you could do. You felt helpless. She never asked for a toy or clothes.

“I said there are some things Santa Claus can’t do,” Sallee adds, “but Santa Claus would try. I gave her all the candy I had.

“It’s an experience you’ll never forget,” he says. “It will haunt you for the rest of your life.”

Sallee remembers that little girl around this time of the year. He wonders what happened to her father.

Maybe this Christmas he will be home, and, who knows, they’ll have a nice place to live in. You can’t lose hope.

TOP STORY >> Charter school given $250,000

The Jacksonville Lighthouse Flightline Academy, a middle school on Little Rock Air Force Base, and the Lighthouse College Preparatory Academy high school in Jacksonville have received a $250,000 grant from the Department of Defense’s Education Activity Partnership.

The grant will help the charter schools expand computer-based learning opportunities, social- and emotional-skills building and develop a curriculum with science, technology, engineering and math — known as STEM.

Flightline Principal Evan McGrew said, “Approximately 50 percent of our student population at Flightline is military-connected. That, combined with our school being located on LRAFB, gives us an inside look at the daily lives of the military community. These families and students face various challenges that many outside the military never experience.”

“Some of the biggest things in a middle school-aged child’s life are their friends, relationships, social status, fitting into the crowd and an overall sense of belonging in their social environment. A military child loses and must start these over every few years. We plan to embrace these challenges and utilize the grant money to make our schools more equipped to provide support to our students while going through these transitions,” McGrew said.

Flightline serves fifth through eighth graders.

The grant program, called Project First Class, will increase K-12 military- and federal-affiliated student achievement in reading and math, STEM and career-readiness of military- and federal-affiliated students through research-based, professional development for teachers, implementation of Project Lead the Way, one-to-one technology putting computers in every classroom and adoption of Restorative Justice practices, which encourage students to care for one another.

College Preparatory Academy Principal Will Felton said, “These monies will support our schools and especially help those military scholars who have specific struggles based on high mobility and parent deployment.

“While the grant targets increasing military scholar achievement and improving social and emotional health, all students in the Jacksonville Lighthouse District will benefit. We are very honored to have been chosen for this grant opportunity. The biggest honor, however, is helping the scholars of our military families, who sacrifice so much during their service,” Felton continued.

Lighthouse regional vice president Lenisha Broadway said, “This grant will boost our efforts to improve student learning through the use of research-based practices and programs designed to help our scholars to be college and career ready. Our goal is that every scholar is accepted to a four-year institution upon graduation. This is a great opportunity for our scholars to receive more support to help with that effort.”

TOP STORY >> Looking back on 2015

Compiled by RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville’s new school district dominated the news during 2015, but there was a lot more than school news happening in Cabot, Sherwood, Lonoke, Beebe, Jacksonville and parts in between.

Take a look at these front-page headlines from The Leader during the first three months of the year in this first of four quarterly reviews of 2015.


• Cabot eighth grader fights cancer – Barrett Starks is battling leukemia at age 14 at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

• Jacksonville operates on a tight budget – City will maintain all services, but offers no extra employee benefits.

• State starts probe of funeral home – Jacksonville undertaker denies charge it mishandled bodies.

• Courthouse beefing up its security – Cameras and metal detectors to be added to Lonoke County landmark.

• Lester: Present at creation –Retired PCSSD superintendent named interim head of new Jacksonville-North Pulaski County School District.

• School chiefs list more issues at Capitol – Superintendents lobby lawmakers about Internet access, health insurance and more.

• JPD holds its first town hall – Jacksonville aldermen, chief host meet and greet to gauge resident’s thoughts on city and police department.

• Hospital cited for improvements – North Metro one of 28 hospitals in state that have advanced patient care.

• Library nears completion – New $2.6 million facility on Main Street in Cabot will have 24,000 square feet.

• Education center for Sherwood –New facility offers job-skills training, GED assistance, computer classes and more.

• Highway improvements in the works – Plans call for under- and overpasses on Jacksonville freeway.

• Jacksonville chamber hears it’s a new dawn – Schools, highway work and wet-dry effort touted at dinner.

• Court decides county judge can’t be sued – Erwin said to be immune from $3 million suit for blocking development.

• Governor’s budget offers more for schools – The state’s $5.2 billion budget for 2016 includes more for jails, health care and families, too.

• Hutchinson praised by lawmakers – legislators like governor’s health-care reforms and call for savings.

• Lawmakers supporting tax cuts – Gov. Hutchinson’s plan gains momentum as lawmakers push agenda for schools, counties.

• New fire trucks needed for city – Aging fleet will have to be replaced, Jacksonville mayor reports.

• Cabot upgrades sewer – City says it will improve capacity and save $20 million in the future.

• Undertaker shuts, gives up license – Board levies a $10,000 fine, and families air grievances against Arkansas Funeral Care.


• Search surges ahead –New JNPSD should name permanent superintendent by end of April.

• Alcohol drive short 1,415 names – Jacksonville given 30 more days to come up with signatures for a referendum on alcohol sales.

• Students make a killing in stock market – Warren Dupree pupils show a knack for turning a profit in statewide game.

• Mother’s mold story unravels after arrest – Former Jacksonville resident is free on $100,000 bond in death of her child.

• Recognition at last – William Barnett, 92, of Beebe receives WWII medals.

• Designation of distress challenged – Beebe School District will appeal state board designation of academic failure at alternative school.

• A million shots in one year at range – But foundation’s promise of $2 million still short $1.6 million.

• Base: Cuts could affect readiness – Sequestration a “dark cloud” as infrastructure ages and help from communities is sought.

• Storm hurries baby’s arrival – Child doing fine after sudden birth in truck outside hospital.

• Cops get new bike for accident victim – 5-year-old suffered fractured skull and brain bleeding in a hit-and-run accident.

• Private option helping hospitals – Getting more patients who are now able to pay for their treatment.

• District looks at tax vote – After years of neglect, building new schools and renovating old ones will cost millions, JNPSD interim superintendent says.

• Water dispute in Jackson-ville – City water department and CAW officials meet to resolve $129,000 issue.

• Budget of $92 million for new schools – Scenario includes new high school, remodeling old buildings.

• ‘Pork’ grants here costing state $9.2 million – Ex-legislator thinking about going back to stop practice.

• Winter storm causes pileups – Record is set for late February after snow and low temperatures.

• City offers CAW $90,000 water deal – Jacksonville willing to give Little Rock utility most of what it wants.

• Military spends millions on base projects – $108 million for runway, $21 million for fuel cell, $4.1 million on simulator.

• Judge will decide on Lewis’ competence – Evaluation finds defendant accused of capital murder has antisocial disorder.


• Bill to form new districts passes – Sherwood and Maumelle awaiting governor’s signature on law that makes splitting from PCSSD easier.

• Plans set to move middle school – New district will shut down substandard Jacksonville Middle School.

• The Leader starts its 29th year – Award-winning newspaper was launched on March 4, 1987.

• Winter weather was brrr… — Latest storm cancels meetings, disrupts travel and school activities.

• Liquor sales rules eased for petitions – Senate bill says fewer signatures will be required for wet-dry vote.

• $6 million bond to fund Sherwood library – City to buy land, construct and equip facility with millage hike.

• Hill warns of cuts at air base – Congressman tours LRAFB and says military needs more flexibility on sequestration.

• Eminent domain invoked – Sherwood is at a standstill with some owners for Maryland Avenue project.

• Alpine Village gets the axe – Cabot City Council could hire firm to remove complex that was too dangerous to occupy.

• Guilty plea made in wife’s murder – Ex-auxiliary Lonoke County sheriff’s deputy gets life without parole in shooting.

• NPHS teens protest PCSSD policy – Many students back teachers as seniority question imperils jobs.

• District not out of fiscal distress – State rules that PCSSD’s finances are still not strong enough, so state will control the district for at least another year.

• Severe potholes getting repaired – Hwy. 67/167 lanes closed for day so crews could patch weather damage.

• Board warns on state cuts – Cabot School Board president criticizes state proposal, which would hurt the district.

• Millage vote to affect schools – PCSSD tax increase would mean new facilities, upgrades.

• Puppy mill dogs adopted – Crowds line up at Sherwood facility to adopt six of 31 shih tzus.

• Questions remain on treatment of bodies – Jacksonville funeral home must answer investigators on question of whether deceased were improperly prepared.

• Senator pushes for workforce – Sen. Jane English promised $17 million for job training initiative and wants $40 million more.

• More hours for students – Snow days cause area school districts to add six to seven days to the school year.

• Job security of teachers raises fears – Educators feeling insecure amidst many proposed detachment changes, but PCSSD superintendent says not to worry.

• Floods anger Sherwood residents – Residents file Freedom of Information request to get documents as they allege violation occurred.

• Loans will modernize businesses’ power use – Pulaski County energy district loans would pay for themselves by cutting usage.

• Church is helping area’s hungry kids – North Little Rock’s First Assembly is helping those in need in Jacksonville and Sherwood.

• First-term reflections – Representatives Tim Lemons, Camille Bennett and Karilyn Brown discuss legislation.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

EVENTS >> 12-23-15


The Bethlehem United Methodist Church’s “Road to Bethlehem” display is now open and will remain open through Jan. 1.

The annual event includes approximately 30 scenes and scriptures placed along Bethlehem Road, off Hwy. 31 North just outside Lonoke, which tell the story of Christ’s birth.

“Since it began in 1987, the exhibit has been a popular destination for visitors from all over central Arkansas. The memories are often shared about families driving down Bethlehem Road and enjoying the Christmas story together. The true meaning of Christmas comes to life,” a news release from the church said.

“The lighted displays are wonderful to see at night, but the scenes are also enjoyed on daytime drives. We invite you and friends, large groups, church buses and senior groups to enjoy the ‘Road to Bethlehem’ this season,” it continued.

The church is at 2540 Bethlehem Road.


The Jacksonville Museum of Military History and the Major Jacob Gray Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution are collecting items for Arkansas veterans in Community Living Center Units, patients at Fort Roots and patients of the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.

The units provide dementia care, geriatric specialty and sub-acute respite services, plus short and long-term care.

New, not used, items are needed.

Clothing is needed in all sizes, but especially large through XXXL.

Personal care items, like disposable emery boards, toe manicure sets, shampoo and body wash — not in travel sizes — are requested.

Miscellaneous needs include liquid laundry soap, craft and recreational models, leather and needlecrafts, and large print puzzle books.

Monetary contributions will also be accepted. Make out checks to CAVHS Voluntary Services and write Community Living Center in the memo line. For volunteer opportunities, call 501-257-3288.


Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are held in Cabot several times a week at the Church of Christ Friend’s House, 500 N. Second St.

Closed discussions, which are limited to alcoholics or people with a desire to stop drinking, are held at 8 p.m. Tuesday and 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Open discussions, which are for people who wish to learn more about alcoholism and recovery, are held at 8 p.m. Friday.

Open-book study is at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Closed discussions, for women only, are at 2 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, visit


Jacksonville First United Methodist Church will hold a Christmas meal for the community and church members at 5:30 p.m. today in its Family Life Center.

This event is part of Mission 5000, which provides meals twice a week for those in the community who are less fortunate.

The meals are held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 11:30 a.m. Saturdays.

The church will also hold three candlelight services at 4, 7 and 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Call 501-982-8176 for more information.


The Cabot Church of Christ will hold a Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. The family event will include cookies and hot chocolate in celebration of the Christmas season.


The Community Theatre of Cabot will have auditions for “The Matchmaker” by Thorton Wilder at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 28 and Tuesday, Dec. 29 at 1102 S. Pine St.

There are roles available for eight men and seven women. Performances will be held in March.

For more information, call 501-941-2266.


The Butlerville Volunteer Fire Department will elect a new board of directors at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5 at the fire station, 101 Burnett Road in Lonoke County.

All members are encouraged to attend.


Cabot AARP will host a potluck supper, short business meeting and a group caroling at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 28 at the Cabot Senior Center, 600 N. Grant St.

Words, music and accompaniment will be provided.

Officers for 2016 will also be installed.

For more information, call 501-492-1456.

OBITUARIES >> 12-23-15


Robert Lee Rush Sr., 77, of Beebe passed away from this world on Dec. 21 in Little Rock.

Bob was born on Jan. 31, 1938, in Madison, Penn., to Clarence and Helen Rush. He honorably served in the Army and was medically discharged. Since 1963, Bob was a member of the Local 12 Operating Engineers and worked for the past 13 years in California in excavation.

Bob married Martha Bearded in Sun Valley, Calif., on Sept. 28, 1968. He enjoyed life by bowling, building model cars, doing woodwork projects, watching classic Westerns and old movies.

He was a wonderful family man, loving father, grandfather and great grandfather. Everyone will always remember him as a strong Christian man with deep values and an open heart.

Bob is survived by his wife, Martha; his sons, Robert L. Rush Jr. and his wife Kim of California, David Hanna and his wife Teresa of California, Tony Rush of West Virginia, and Don Rush and his wife A.C. of Arkansas; a son-in-law, Larry Sanders, of Cabot; a sister, Dolly Baker, of West Virginia, 12 grandchildren and a host of great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, family and friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents; a brother, Clarence Rush Jr., of West Virginia, and his daughter, Clara Sanders, of Cabot.

The family thanks St. Vincent’s cardiovascular intensive care unit and the attending physicians and staff for the wonderful care Bob received.

The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 23 at Smith-Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial in Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens Veterans Section.


Elizabeth Ann Coyle, 66, of Jacksonville, died Dec. 22. She was born Oct. 28, 1949, in Carlisle, to the late Archie and Nellie Faye Tosh. She graduated from Carlisle High School in 1967 and later from UALR School for Registered Nurses. She worked many years as a RN at St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock.

She was preceded in death by her parents, one brother, Johnny, and both sets of grandparents.

She is survived by her loving husband of 47 years, James; son and daughter-in-law, Bradley and Alissa; and her two special grandsons, Donavon, and Eli; and half-sister Edith James.

Funeral services will be 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 24 with a visitation from 9 a.m. until service time at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home. Interment will follow at Chapel Hill Memorial Park.

The family would like to express appreciation to Arkansas Hospice for their care during Ann’s illness.

In lieu of flowers, please make memorial donations to Arkansas Children’s Hospital or Arkansas Hospice.

Arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home & Crematory.


Michael Ray Smith, 67, of Garner, passed away Dec. 21.

Visitation will be from 9 to 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 23 at Searcy-McEuen Funeral Home. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. with burial following at Cheek Cemetery.


Pascal Edward (Bud) Hancock, 84, of Jacksonville went to be with his Lord and Savior on Dec. 18. He was born to the late Jake Austin Hancock and Juanita Grace King Hancock on Dec. 30, 1930, in Straw Plains, Tenn. He was preceded in death by his sister, Opal, and is survived by his brothers, Leonard and Chandler of Knoxville, Tenn.

Bud graduated from the University of Tennessee and received an Air Force commission. Following navigation training, he was assigned to fly transport planes in Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina. It was there he met and married the love of his life, Nancy.
His military career included ROTC college instruction at Coe College, Iowa, two tours of service in Vietnam (where he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross), covert flight operations at Wiesbaden Air Force Base, Germany. While stationed in Germany, Bud received a master’s degree in business administration from the University of South Carolina. After transfer, Bud became an air operations navigation officer at Little Rock Air Force Base.
Upon his Air Force retirement, Bud became a successful real estate broker while serving as a part time business and history professor for USC satellite school. Bud faithfully served the Lord as a founding elder and teacher in two churches. He served (together with his wife) with various missions organizations, including Teen Missions International and Child Evangelism Fellowship.

Bud professed a strong Christian faith to all those around him, joyfully lived and faithfully loved his wife, Nancy Phyllis Dunn, and left a fun-loving and godly legacy to his children, Nancy Kathleen Oaks and her husband Michael of Maryville, Tenn.; John Edward and his wife Beth of Gilbert, Ariz.; Karen Grace Harris and her husband John of Round Hill, Va.; Mary Christine Hoffman and her husband David of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Mark Andrew of New York. He deeply loved his grandchildren, Melanie Holdridge and her husband Brian, Rachael McMichael and her husband Jeff, Jacob Holt, Rebekah Oaks; Brendan, Elisabeth and Jonathan Harris; Michael, Anna, Sarah, Leah and Olivia Hoffman.

He loved unconditionally, was loved by all and was a hero of the faith. “’Behold I make all things new.” Rev 21:5

Bud’s family is grateful and humble toward all who have loved him. In lieu of flowers, donations to the following organizations would be appreciated: Distinguished Flying Cross Society, Wounded Warrior Project, E.B.A.C. Orphanage in Haiti, Missionary Flights International Child Evangelism Fellowship of Arkansas and Arkansas Alzheimer’s Association.

Funeral with full military honors will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 23 at Faith Bible Fellowship in Sherwood. Arrangements by A Natural State Funeral Service.


Billy Ray Ward, 68, of Austin was born Sept. 19, 1947, to Brooks and Ludy (Burnett) Ward, and he died Dec.16. He proudly served in the Army in Vietnam and had retired from Remington Arms. Bill loved the outdoors. He was a hard, stubborn man who refused to give up even though he was faced with many difficult and challenging obstacles.

He is survived by his son, Patrick S. Ward and his wife Nadine of Austin; sister, Joyce Gilleylen of Ward; and nieces and nephew, Jo Anne Wilbanks and her husband Danny, Brenda Price and her husband Adam, Cindy Stanley, Karen Baum, Debbie Martin, David Brooks Ward, Tammy Ward and Becky Ward.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents, his brother, Eugene Ward, and his nephew, Raymond Eugene “Butch” Ward.

Memorials may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758517 Topeka, Kan. 66675. Cremation arrangements by Smith-Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.


Air Force Col. Harry G. Canham (Ret.) claimed his heavenly wings Dec. 15. Harry was born Sept. 3, 1920, in Wataga, Ill., to parents Albert and Opal Gleason Canham. He was preceded in death by his parents, his sister, Ruth; brother, Morris “Jim;” his first wife, Betty Woolsey Canham, and his son, Marc Alan Canham.

Col. Canham lived a life of service to God, his country, his family and friends. While working in a coal mine to earn enough money to attend college, Harry joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 as a response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Initially assigned to glider school and earning the rank of staff sergeant, Harry entered the aviation cadet flying program. He flew the Martin B-26 and was stationed in North Africa. Harry was recalled to active duty in 1951 following five years in the active reserves and stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in the Third Strategic Support System Squadron flying the C-124, the largest aircraft in the Air Force at that time.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Harry was given a number of important assignments, including the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va.; Air-South of NATO Command, Naples, Italy; and the Tactical Air Command (TAC) at Langley AFB, Va. After attending C-130 school, Harry was sent to Southeast Asia in 1967, serving two tours of duty. He spent five months in the Air Force hospital at Scott AFB in Illinois after a serious injury that same year. Harry returned to Vietnam to fly 86 more missions, commenting, “To protect my country, I would go to war as long as I live.”

During the Vietnam War, Harry was promoted to colonel and was given command of the AC-130 gunships. In 1970, Col. Canham was assigned as wing director of operations for the 4442 Combat Crew Training at the Little Rock Air Force Base. In 1971, Harry was named department commander for aircraft gunships and wing department commander for special operations, Eighth Tactical Air Command Fighter Wing.

Col. Canham retired from the Air Force as director of Tactical Air Command airlift headquarters at Langley AFB, with 32 years of service and 22,000 hours of flying military operations during World War II, Korea, NATO, Vietnam and in peacetime. Among his many military honors and achievements, Harry was awarded five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 32 flying medals, six Meritorious Service Medals and two National Defense Medals. He also received the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, South Vietnam’s highest award, for saving the lives of South Vietnamese troops and the residents of a community in central Cambodia who were surrounded by attacking North Vietnamese forces.

He leaves behind to cherish his memory his wife, Carlyn Lilly Canham; son, Air Force Maj. (Ret.) Michael Harry Canham and daughter-in-law, Gwen; daughter-in-law, Mary Canham; devoted friend and caregiver Carolyn Johnson; granddaughters, Dr. Michelle Canham Sergel and Marcy Canham; grandson, Matthew Canham; great-grandchildren Samantha and Alex Sergel; stepsons Dr. Lee Hinson and his wife Marsha and Dr. Wallace Hinson and his wife Jennifer and many step-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren, as well as friends all over the world.

Interment was held Dec. 22 at Little Rock National Cemetery. A memorial service was held following the interment service at the Jacksonville First United Methodist Church. A reception followed at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials honoring Harry be made to the Jacksonville First United Methodist Church.


Army Master Sgt. (Ret.) Robert H. Rawls, 71, of Jacksonville peacefully passed away Dec. 16. Robert served 18 months in Vietnam and was a proud recipient of the Silver Star. Robert was generous to a fault and his faith was in the redemption of Jesus Christ. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother, John.

Robert is survived by his wife of 45 years, April; their daughter, Sherrie Ivy; their granddaughter, Emily, and son-in-law, Steven Ivy; his daughter, Sandi Hildebrand and her husband, Benjy, and their children, Rose Michelle and Nicole of Smackover; his daughter, Skylar (Becky) Ashcraft and her husband Brad, and their children, Taylor and Zach, of Colorado Springs, Colo.; his sister, Marie Stocks of Beebe; and sister-in-law, Bobbie Rawls of Higginson.

The family is grateful for the care Robert received in the last month from the Little Rock VA Hospital.

Funeral services were Dec. 22 at Roller-Owens Funeral Home in North Little Rock with burial at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery.


Donna J. Sellers, 68, of Jacksonville, passed away Dec. 17. She was born Jan. 4, 1947, to Carthel Olan and Goldie Thompson. Donna’s life was a fulfillment of her faith in God. Her passion for living was seen in her unselfish love for others. She adored her children, grandchildren and dogs.

She is survived by her mother; two children, Rick Sellers and his wife Vickie of Lonoke and Rhonda Crowly and her husband Jason of Jacksonville; three grandchildren, Scott Sellers and Jordan Hunsburger, both of Cabot, and Hunter Sellers of Lonoke, and three sisters, Paulette, Ann and Kay.

Donna was preceded in death by her father; husband, James Sellers, and two sons, Jeffrey and James Sellers, Jr.

Services were Dec. 21 at the Roller Owens Funeral Home Chapel in North Little Rock. Interment was at Palestine-Jones Cemetery at Sheridan.


Bobby Joe Chaffin, 72, of Sherwood passed away Dec. 16. He was born Dec. 18, 1942, in Magnolia to William Frank Chaffin Jr. and Sybil Chaffin.

Bobby was preceded in death by his parents and his wife, Pearlie Chaffin.

He is survived by his children, Dwayne Chaffin and his wife Tauny and Tammy Scharf; grandchildren, Joshua Chaffin and his wife Laura, Kailum Scharf and Staci Chaffin; great-grandchild, Ethan; siblings, Margarette Ubillas, Carolyn Taylor and Lyndell Chaffin and his wife Dorothy and a host of nieces, nephews and friends.

Funeral service was Dec. 21 at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home.


James Jim Bryan Bowen, 79, of Jacksonville was born Aug. 15, 1936, in Tuckerman (Jackson County) to Willard Woodson Bowen and Ina Ann Berry Bowen. God welcomed Jim home on Dec. 16. He was a member of Holden Avenue Church of Christ in Newport.

He was preceded in death by his parents and two sons, Chet Bowen and Bryan Bowen.

He is survived by his wife, Paula Sue Grimes Bowen of Jacksonville; his sister, Shirley Campbell of Gravel Ridge; three sons and one daughter, Rick Bowen and wife, Jeanne of Jane, Mo.; Doug Bowen of Elkins; Sean Bowen of North Little Rock, and Cassie Stokes and her husband Eric of Holly Grove.

He is also survived by eight grandchildren, Jeremy Bowen and Jennifer Bowen of Orlando, Fla.; Alex Bowen of Bryant; Specialist Andrew Bowen and his wife Elizabeth of Fort Stewart, Ga.; Candice Bowen and Tori Bowen of Clarendon; Jake Bowen of North Little Rock, and Kacey Stokes of Holly Grove; two great-grandchildren, Alianna Tyler of Clarendon and Easton Bowen of Fort Stewart, Ga.; one nephew, Scott Bowen of North Little Rock, and a host of other friends and family.

Funeral service was held Dec. 21 at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home. Interment was at Gracelawn Cemetery in Tuckerman.


Donald E. Abbott, 63, of Austin, passed away Dec. 18. He was born Nov. 1, 1952, in Akron, Ohio, to Kenneth and Emma (Lord) Abbott. Donald was an Army veteran.

Donald is survived by two sons, Christopher Justin Abbott and Jonathan Wayne Abbott; three grandchildren, Brady DeMaccus, Braden Allen Crowley and Cadence Mae Crowley; three brothers, Kenneth F. Abbott, Jr., James G. Abbott and Randle B. Abbott; and a sister, Robin R. Coggins. He was preceded in death by his parents.

His memorial service was held Dec. 22 at the Smith-North Little Rock Funeral Home.


Janet Mayelian Massihi, 76, of Ward passed away Dec. 18.

She was born in Tehran, Iran, on Feb. 22, 1939, to Thomas Youhanna and Lisa Bitparoyan.

Cremation arrangements have been entrusted to A Natural State Funeral Service of Jacksonville.


Daniel Joseph Huizar Jr., 51, of Lonoke passed away Dec. 14. He was born Sept. 28, 1964, in Passaic New Jersey to Daniel Joseph Huizar Sr. and Evelyn M. Huizar. Daniel was preceded in death by one sister, Christina Vera.

Daniel leaves behind his parents; his sister, Kim L. Rose and her husband David; three aunts, Shirley Reiner, Jane Ciampo and Beverly Brussel; one uncle, Everett Ciampo, and four nieces and nephews, Stari, Zach, Chris and Sean. He was a member of the First Baptist Church of Pine Bluff.

A graveside service was held Dec. 22 at Serenity Gardens Cemetery in Jacksonville.

Arrangements have been entrusted to A Natural State Funeral Service in Jacksonville.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills handles Chapel

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills boys didn’t have too much trouble with Watson Chapel on Friday in Sherwood, as the Bears improved to 7-2 on the season with a 71-50 win over the Wildcats.

With Friday’s win, the Bears have now won four straight, and consistency has played a big part in the Bears’ recent success. Sylvan Hills’ win streak began in last week’s Cyclone Invitational Tournament in Russellville, which Sylvan Hills won.

“If you look at the Russellville tournament, the last four games we’ve started the same,” said Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis. “It’s been about a 10-point lead in the first quarter and then we’ve been able to maintain.

“The last three games, the scores were 68, 69 and 70. That tells me this team has been real consistent with what they’re doing, and that’s what we have to do. Consistency is a huge factor for a basketball team.

“We need to be consistent players, we need to be consistent students and we need to be a consistent team. That’s what you’re seeing now in this stretch.”

Sylvan Hills started strong and built a 12-4 lead to start the game. Both teams added a basket before the first quarter came to a close, which gave the Bears a 14-6 lead at the end of one.

The hosts held their largest lead of the second quarter at 27-12, but Watson Chapel (4-4) closed the gap to 31-24 before Sylvan Hills added the final points of the first half on a contested layup by Cordy Winston on the Bears’ final possession before the break. That made the score 33-24 at halftime.

Watson Chapel scored the first three points of the third quarter on a Darrell Williams basket and Derrick Marks free throw, which cut the Bears’ lead to 33-27, but Sylvan Hills answered with a 9-0 run to push its lead back to double digits and make the score 42-27.

The Bears made four shots from the floor in the third quarter, and those four baskets were made by Zion Butler and Traveon Ross, who scored five points apiece in the third period and provided a needed spark for the hosts when their only other points of the quarter came on a pair of free throws by Sam Williams.

“They did,” Davis said of Ross and Butler. “At Russellville, our bench was the difference. We play 10 guys and Traveon is the 11th man. He has been in the rotation. He’s not been in the first two fives, but all 12 guys I’ve got sitting over there, I feel like can contribute.

“I don’t hesitate to call anybody’s number over there, and they’ve got to be ready.”

Davis also pointed out guard Herman Washington for his play. Washington came in and drained a 3-pointer with 2:57 to go in the first half, which gave the Bears their 27-12 lead.

“Herman came in and hit a big three and hit a big free throw for us down there,” Davis said, “and just in his minutes, he comes away positive from the game. He helps us not only defensively, but he’s got something to show for a little bit of offense as well.

“Now you’re seeing, up and down the bench, consistency. Guys being able to come in and contribute and that’s huge to a basketball team.”

Sylvan Hills led 45-35 at the end of the third quarter, and steadily added to that lead throughout the fourth. Consecutive and-1s by JaCobe Davis late in the game made the score 69-50, and the Bears added two more points before the final buzzer to set the final score.

The Bears finished the game 22-41 from the floor for 54 percent. Watson Chapel was 15-52 from the floor for 29 percent. From the free-throw line, the Bears were 22-36 and the Wildcats were 13-19.

Watson Chapel outrebounded Sylvan Hills 32-23, but the Bears won the turnover category 13-17.

JaCobe Davis led all scorers with 23 points. Two other Bears scored in double figures. Williams added 15 points and Jordan Washington scored 11 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.

Marks led Watson Chapel with 19 points. He was the only Wildcat that scored in double figures. Jakobi Jackson added nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds.