Regina Lawry has been chosen to be the Beta Sigma Phi Woman of the Year for 2011. She and her husband, Richard moved from Colorado to Mena in 1981. They have two grown children and three beautiful granddaughters.
Regina has been active in Beta Sigma Phi since 1996, serving as President of the Preceptor Alpha Beta chapter for two years. She has owned her own successful business, The Golden Thimble, and for the past ten years has been the manager of the USEM Federal Credit Union.
In 2007 Regina’s concern for family and friends who have had cancer led her to become involved with the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Polk County. Since 2008 she has been the chairman of the event. In the five years since 2007 the Polk County Relay For Life has raised more than $245,000.00 in the fight against cancer. Regina has been given the Relay For Life Voluntarism Leadership Award by the American Cancer Society.
In 2009 Regina was recognized for outstanding volunteer service to the people of Mena by the Chamber of Commerce. She was also honored as the 2009 Rotary Club Volunteer of the Year, and received a letter of Volunteer Recognition from Governor Mike Beebe.
Beta Sigma Phi presented Regina with a check in the amount of 500.00 for Relay For Life. This year's Relay For Life event will be held in Janssen Park on Friday, May 20th, starting at 6:00 P.M. Beta Sigma Phi is proud to honor Regina for her hard work by naming her the Beta Sigma Phi Woman of the Year for 2011.
This week the letter is O. O is for old photos. Recently we received a mysterious package in the mail. It was addressed to my wife. I asked her, "are you expecting a package." "No", she replied. When we opened it we found a lot of old photographs from the 80's. They were pictures that my father-in-law, Papa Ready, had taken or ones that we had sent him. As much as I love family photos, it was like a treasure chest for me.
We often invited Papa Ready to go along with us when we took a family vacation. Here the family is waiting somewhere, I don't remember where. I can tell you that it was taken in 1986.
Since last weekend was Easter, I was happy to get this picture of Cynda in her Easter Dress taken sometime in the early 80's
I was very excited to see these photos that I hadn't seen in years. There were a couple more great ones of Cynda, my little redhead, as a baby and a little girl.
Sometime in the early 80's I did a custom paint job on Papa Ready's Dodge van. In the family photos there were some photos of the van after it was completed, and some photos taken while I was working on it.
I will close with a family portrait from the early 80's and a snapshot that shows my wife with her sisters, mother and grandmother - Three Generations.
This week the letter is N. N is for NASCAR. Recently my cousin Clyde invited me to attend the Samsung Mobile 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. It was my first time to attend a NASCAR race. The day of the race was hot and windy, and I do mean windy.
It is hard to explain the experience of NASCAR racing to someone who hasn't attended. I was surprised by the number of people in attendance, 185,000, and especially the noise level. When the 42 engines start the decibel level is tremendous, as much as 115dB. Ear plugs or headphones are needed.
I was able to use headphones provided by Clyde. They were tuned in to the channel used by Dale Earnhardt Jr. It was interesting listening in to the conversation between Jr. and his crew.
The race was fairly clean with five cautions and 31 lead changes among 13 drivers. There was one accident that was on the other side of the track so I couldn't see it clearly. It was a three car accident involving Mark Martin, Regan Smith and Martin Truex, Jr.
In the end Matt Kenseth won his first race of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The win was his first since the beginning of the 2009 season. I was able to snap some photos as he spun out in victory lane.
My first NASCAR race was an incredible experience that I will never forget.
It was a dark and stormy night. No I'm not starting to write a novel, it was actually a dark and stormy night. Strong thunderstorms swept across Oklahoma and Arkansas. Late last night the National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for the Mena area. With the devastating April 2009 tornado still fresh in so many peoples mind it was a scary night. Around 11:00 p.m. the tornado sirens started blowing. I was able to listen to the scanner to try to get any information about the storm. Apparently there was only minor damage at a few locations caused by falling trees.
Around midnight the storms seems to be weakening and according to the radar the danger was about over so we left our safe area, the downstairs hallway, and went upstairs to get ready for bed. This morning I heard that the Frito Lay warehouse had been badly damaged. The warehouse is less than half a mile from my parents home. On my way to work I drove by the location and sure enough the warehouse had extensive damage. I didn't see any damage to any other buildings in the area, and my parents house was OK. I attend church at the Mena Seventh-day Adventist Church which is located just a short distance from the damaged building. The church was OK, but there was debris in the churchyard.
I am puzzled that this one building had so much damage while others around it had none. I'm sorry for those who had storm damage last night, but so thankful that it wasn't worse. So many people had a scary night with the memories of April 2009 still so much on our minds.
This week the letter is M. M is for Mena, Arkansas. I have liven in Mena for 30 years now. My wife and I moved to Mena from Colorado in April of 1981 and have made our home here ever since. We drove from Colorado to Mena in this 1967 Toyota Stout Pickup that I had custom painted to show my patriotism.
The history of Mena begins in the last decade of the 19th century. In 1895, Arthur Stilwell sent railroad scouts to the Ouachita Mountains. The men were to scout the area and lay out the best path for the soon to be built railroad, which was to run from Kansas City to the Gulf coast.
When the surveyors came there was very little cleared land. The area purchased for the future townsite of Mena was a farm owned jointly by Dr. G.G. Baker and R.S. Owens of Old Dallas. The two men sold it to the Townsite company for $5,000.
It was Stilwell who decided Mena would be the name of this new town along the route to Port Arthur, Texas. He named the town in honor of his friend Jan DeGeoijen's wife, Mena.
It was Mena's father for whom Janssen Park was named. Janssen Park is still a focal point of Mena, and many community events including Relay For Life are held there.
Mena became an official town on August 19, 1896. The town fathers chose the official coming of the first railroad passenger car as the town's birthday.
The most historical building in Mena is the old log cabin in Janssen Park. Built eight years before the Civil War, this hand-hewn cabin was constructed by William Shelton, a crippled veteran of the Mexican War, for his home.
Throughout the years, with little physical change, it has served as a home, hospital, inn, a club house, civic center, a museum , and for a time, as the City Hall of Mena. It was thirty-one years old before a title grant was obtained for the land. During those years before 1882, it was just another "squatter's cabin".
In 1906, the cabin, together with four city blocks surrounding it, was donated to the City of Mena by Arthur Stilwell and his associates. They were so charmed with its natural setting, and so vocal in their admiration, that it inspired the local people to develop the park.
I have really enjoyed the last 30 years that I have spent in this beautiful area. The Ouachita mountain views are spectacular, and there is a quiet beauty here in every season of the year.
Moving to Mena is a decision that I have never regretted. I love this area!
Two years ago today the face of Mena changed drastically. An F3 tornado damaged a large section of town. 100 houses were destroyed and 600 damaged. Over 10,000 trees were destroyed. Although the community has done an awesome job of rebuilding, it will never look the same.
I wrote the following paragraphs a few hours after the tornado hit.
Tonight at around 7:30 the tornado sirens sounded here in Mena. Gina and I went to the safe place in our house, the downstairs hallway. About that time our electricity went out. The storm passed without damage here at the house. We were thankful that we were spared.
After the storm passed and the stars came out, I decided to drive into town to see if anyone had electricity. When I got to downtown, I started to see storm damage and saw that the authorities were not letting people proceed to the north side of Mena.
I drove to my parents house to see if they were OK, and they were fine with no damage to their house or property. I drove on to the church but saw no damage there. I thought that the storm may not have been to bad, but by the time I returned home, the phone was ringing off the hook with reports of severe damage.
The first news reports stated that the Polk County Sheriff's Department reports one person was killed after a tornado swept through the town Thursday night.
We received a call from a friend telling us that our good friend Deanna had a lot of damage to her house, and her car was totaled. Just before the storm hit, Deanna was on the phone with Gina telling her that she was in the closet and she was scared. We have not been able to talk to her since. We don't know what we will find when we are able to get into the the area. Just a couple of blocks from her house, there were 20 or more people in the Masonic Lodge when it collapsed. There is one known fatality on the street where Deanna lives.
We have had friends staying with us this evening, because they were not able to get home. The National Guard is in town and not letting anyone into the severely damaged area. There was damage at Rich Mountain Community College, and at Wal-Mart. There is extensive damage at U.S. Motors where Gina operates the Credit Union.
I need to go to sleep, but probably sleep won't come. I don't know what tomorrow will bring.
Here are photos that I was able to take 2 days after the tornado. Pictures can't really give you the feel of the actual scene.
I want to dedicate this post to the memory of those who died in the tornado; Anna Cress, Judy Lobner, and Albert Shaw.
Click on the photo above to purchase my latest book, In the Fog, for $3.58. The Kindle version is only $0.99.
I was born in 1956 in Madison, Tennessee, while my parents were attending Madison College. I grew up along the Front Range in Colorado, attending schools in Longmont, Brighton, Boulder and Loveland, Colorado. Two years after graduating from Campion Academy, I married my sweetheart, Regina. We lived in Loveland, Colorado for six years before moving to Mena in western Arkansas.
I love the people of Mena and the friendly easy going way of life here. I have owned and operated my own business since moving to Mena. I enjoy the natural beauty of western Arkansas and being out of doors.
My newspaper column in The Mena Star, An Arkie’s Faith, premiered on January 7, 2016. In March 2017, I published my first book, titled The Little Things - Devotionals from a small town, using articles from the column. I published the second book in the Devotionals from a small town series, titled In the Fog, in December 2017.