As the pages of the old calendar flip over into another year, it is only fitting to stop and say a fond farewell to the many in our Washington County communities who have left us much better off because of their presence on this earth.
The list, as readers will see, includes many whose names will be familiar to us all. Some, however, may have trod mightily in smaller circles in Northwest Arkansas. But all were people I have come to admire over the years and appreciate their influences on this sphere.
As I grow older, it seems the younger generations simply do not see all the grandness and greatness of these men and women, who all did more than just find a job and grab a paycheck along their way.
Some of my suggestions are obvious, others may have you scratching your head over, but all, in my way of thinking, deserve some mention.
Barbara Mashburn, a Greenland native, died Jan. 4. She sang on many stages all the way to the entertainer's show palaces in Las Vegas. She and her late husband, Dr. James Mashburn, formed up the Mashburn Scholarship Singers, a college-aged troupe that when President Bill Clinton was in the White House performed every Christmas.
Ellen Compton, 81, of Fayetteville, a noted historian, researcher, guide to those seeking to unlock intricate historical records and resources at the Special Collections at the University of Arkansas, died March 18. Ellen was a force in the Washington County Historical Society, the Arkansas Historical Association and other civic endeavors, many outside of history and the environment.
Rita Jo Ward of Durham, the artist/sculptor from tiny Durham who established the Terra Studios, making those famous and iconic glass Bluebird sculptures, died in May.
Dan Dunaway, the owner of Don's Photography, who also took thousands of photos for area school children at schools, died Aug. 23.
Two longtime volunteer historians in the Washington County Historical Society, both died in August 2020. Martha Ann Webb was known for her expertise to the Civil War Society of NW Arkansas and Joe Carnes Guinn, an expert on local history, who was a teacher in the schools of Farmington and Fayetteville.
Wanda Spears of Farmington, died Sept. 20. She had a constant presence as a teacher, a lunchroom supervisor and was a mainstay at senior citizen centers as an active volunteer.
A well-known cowboy-hat-wearing civic leader from Farmington, William "Bill" Bequette, died Sept. 26. He rose through the ranks at Standard Register Printing and was on the first planning commission of Farmington.
Fayetteville lost a pair of iconic attorneys in October. Bobby Odom, died Oct. 6. He came to Fayetteville as an insurance adjuster, but entered the UA Law School and built a large locally owned law practice.
Another attorney, often known for his football accomplishments as a Razorback was Robert White. His three field goals of 34-, 24- and 31-yards helped the Hogs win, 16-2, over the University of Georgia in the 1969 Sugar Bowl.
A lady, who built a thriving cleaning business, Peggy's Cleaners, was Peggy Ellen Glenn. She died Oct. 16.
Gerald L. Harp, a Springdale icon and heir to the Harps' Food Stores, died Oct. 16. He helped orchestrate the employee "buy-out" of the local supermarket chain before his death.
Former Farmington Superintendent of Schools, Ron Wright, 66, died in November. He laid the foundation, planned and began many of the moves in the district for new buildings and grand programs.
Springdale attorney Jim Cypert, a gentleman with the powerful firm of Jones, Cypert, Blair, Clark and Harwell, died in November. He was a strong Democrat, civic leader and former President of the Arkansas Bar Association.
James Modisette, 89, former accounting professor and the UA's Faculty Representative in the SEC, left us in November.
Bobby Nell Templeton, 86, of Fayetteville, a civic leader, dynamic supporter of Ozark Literacy Alliance and the Elizabeth Richardson Center, died in November.
Joe Layman, 85, of Springdale, was one of W.L. Layman's boys, who inherited that retail magic touch. He was also a civic leader in Springdale.
On Nov. 6, Joyce Arlene Williams, 77, died. She spent 35 years in banking and then another 18 years at the Washington County Circuit Clerk's office, always serving the public.
Sheriff Lee Owen, 86, the only man to serve as Sheriff in both Benton and Washington Counties, and many other law enforcement offices, such as U.S. Marshall, died Nov. 18. He was a self-taught musician, playing benefits at senior citizens centers and pie suppers for decades. He was a legend as sheriff - never did a scandal visit his watch as a law man.
Elizabeth Reagan, 98, died Nov. 20. A mother of 13, she was a joy to meet. She was trained as a nurse and worked in the polio epidemic in New York City following WWII. She was an advocate for education, and a fixture on the U of A campus, as a student, in her later years, well into her 90s.
Candy Clark, 64, a fierce advocate for animals, county government transparency and social causes, died Dec. 4. A business owner, she was a former Fayetteville Planning Commissioner, Justice of the Peace, and co-founder of the Animal League of Washington County.
Ret. Major "Les" Braunns, 65, of Springdale, a retired Arkansas State Trooper, who once directed the fiscal side of things for the ASP and was commander of Western Arkansas State Police Troopers, died Dec. 3.
As the year was ending, the Razorback Nation lost its only Outland Trophy Winner and two-time All-American football great, Loyd Phillips, 75, of Springdale, who died Dec. 27. A terrific defensive player in the mid-1960s who played on the National Championship Team, Phillips was a quiet man, who after a short stint in professional football, dedicated his life to administration in area public schools.
He was the No. 10 pick in the first round of the NFL draft in 1967 – the first pick of the Chicago Bears. He is in several halls of fame in Arkansas, Texas and the Southwest Conference and the College Football Hall of Fame.
There were, of course, many others who have left us in 2020; space precludes mentioning all their names. Please take time to say a prayer for these and others and their families who miss them.
--Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.