Famous and colorful voices silenced in '03 -- Year marked by passing of community icons

Friday, January 2, 2004
Judge Arthur Carter

BERRYVILLE ---- Families throughout Carroll County lost loved ones in 2003, and the community itself lost several leaders and noted personalities this year as well.

As a group, their dedication to the community made them well known, and though everyone's death is important, the loss of the following people affected the entire county.

It will take a long time to forget the bear-like and welcome presence of Alpena Fire Chief Walt Record; the suspicious frown of pharmacist Dean Newman; the simple dedication of Fornie McGehee, a minister and politician; the spirit and drive of radio pioneer Tom Earls; the quiet leadership of banker Herb West; and the bravery and dignity of Judge Arthur Carter.

Behind the scenes, Bob Weathers of Berryville passed on after helping build the electricity infrastructure of Arkansas and today's Carroll Electric Cooperative Corporation.

The Rev. Herman Cook of Holiday Island, the soft spoken intellectual minister, and founder of Holiday Island Community Church, laid down his ministry and golf clubs forever.

The iconoclastic, cigar-chomping founder of Checks restaurant, Jack Whiteley, died in retirement after creating the Berryville burger joint that was more a piece of local lore than just a place to eat.

And few can forget the smile of Betty Doss, a fixture in county appraisal operations for decades, traveling the county from one end to the other to reassess property. She may not have been a welcome sight to those on the receiving end of higher property taxes, but the always-cheerful lady performed her tasks with good humor and that lovely smile. She was a champion golfer and gifted artist, as well. She died on the eve of 2003.

There may be others equally deserving of mention in a year-end review, but there is a newspaper tradition that says you can try to remember everyone, but you'll always miss someone.

  • Today, thousands of people in Carroll County barely know who some of these luminaries were.

    If a child was born in 1980 or later, they missed a generation that has become known now as "The Greatest Generation," those who grew up during the Great Depression and World War II, fewer and fewer of whom remain with us each year.

    Among last year's list of those now gone, most were among that Greatest Generation, but of course there were the people like Betty Doss, 57, and Walt Record, 56, who died too young.

  • Up on Saunders Heights in Berryville, there is a flashy white Cadillac with gold trim. The license plate on the back says "American POW."

    The luxury car belonged to Judge Arthur Carter, who died last April at age 87.

    He was tortured by the Japanese for years during World War II, when he was a prisoner of war (POW).

    That Cadillac is similar in some ways to Carter the man, who deserved his luxuries. That special license plate would not be on a Japanese car, nor would the Bronze Star medal for bravery be on many walls in Carroll County.

    At the time of Judge Carter's death, his friend Burt George reminded a reporter that the judge didn't hold a grudge against his Japanese tormentors, he just wouldn't buy a Japanese car.

    The Cadillac seems to fit the man who is responsible for most of the paved roads and many a dirt road we drive on today. He also did a few other things during his 28 years of service as a county judge, like help start the hospital and get the airport built.

    They called him Judge Carter, but he was also a state lawmaker in the Arkansas Legislature for two terms, a good buddy in the good ole' boy chain of yesteryears. He was close with the legendary Gov. Orval Faubus. Judge Carter got things done.

    When describing the horrors of war, he had a unique vision. He said iguana tastes like chicken, if that's all you've got to eat.

    In describing being a prisoner of the Japanese, he said, "People who have never been hungry cannot know what it's like, the gnawing at your stomach. You're sitting on concrete in the hot sun, for days, and the only relief comes with rain or nightfall. ... I began to get a determination, to get through. I thought I might have a good life if I could just get home."

    He got home, and had an extraordinary life.

  • As local institutions go, Berryville Drug Store certainly qualified.

    The pixie king of the store was Dean Newman, who died last May at the age of 79.

    He closed the store with the famous soda fountain that today's children would envy ---- if only they knew.

    Mr. Newman was a good pharmacist of the old school, a short man with a droopy countenance who seemed to be perturbed much of the time.

    His friends knew another side of him, and by all accounts he was kind and funny, too.

    Upon Mr. Newman's passing, Mayor Tim McKinney said, "Dean was one of a kind. He was somebody that just can't be replaced. He was an institution in Berryville. He was the most lovable, and crankiest old man I've ever known."

    What he did was run a pharmacy for 57 years, and leave a legacy of being good at what he did.

    In October 2001, when he was being honored upon his retirement from Berryville Drug, the mayor and city council had to sneak up on the grumpy pharmacist to present him with a proclamation.

    "Oh, this is really too much," Mr. Newman said as he spied Mayor Tim McKinney and Aldermen Burt George, Sally Phillips and Joel Gibson as they entered the store to honor him with a proclamation declaring Oct. 28 through Nov. 3, 2001, as "Dean Newman Appreciation Week."

    When he retired and shut down Berryville Drug and its popular soda fountain, it was the end of a certain era, the end of a simpler time.

  • The raspy, deep voice of the fire chief with the big heart, Walt Record, went silent forever in May of 2003.

    The chief was always helping someone, whether on the road in his tow trucks, or putting out structure fires in eastern and southern Carroll County.

    He always seemed to be on the police radio, helping at bad accidents or towing a semi-truck out of a snowbank.

    Ted Larimer, who knew Mr. Record for many years in Larimer's official capacity as a 20-year former Green Forest mayor, said, "In all the years I've known him I never asked him for assistance that he didn't give ---- immediately. He was a big bear, but he was a big softie, a good man."

    Mr. Record died just east of Green Forest as he was helping a friend clear some property of logs.

  • Tom Earls, the man who pioneered radio station KTHS into the digital age of the 21st Century, died in February 2003 at the age of 67.

    He had a lung transplant in the mid-1990s, but he went right back to work.

    KTHS News Director Linda Boyer, who worked with the Earls family at the station for more than 20 years, said, "With all honesty, I have never known anyone with his will to survive. He had incredible fortitude and perseverance."

    Of his medical battles, Boyer said, "He was a stubborn, willful guy. He would never give up, no matter what happened. We'll miss him terribly."

    Longtime KTHS salesman Carroll Autrey, who knew Mr. Earls since he and son Jim Earls bought the station in 1982, said his boss was "absolutely fair and square. There were no mistakes made when he did something, and he was the most detailed man I've ever met in my life."

    Autrey said Mr. Earls was a no-nonsense business man who trained his son Jim and others to be the same way.

    During his long medical battle, Autrey said, "We would count him out, and then he'd drive up and walk into the station. He was a fighter."

  • Herb West was another man who has been out of the mainstream for years, and the most recent of the "old guard" to pass on.

    Mr. West, who could be described as a compassionate power broker, died in November at the age of 93.

    He was a self-made man all the way, starting business as a banker in Berryville some 70 years ago.

    He climbed his way steadily up the ladder at First National Bank of Berryville, from janitor and teller to loan officer, vice president, president, and finally, chairman of the board.

    He retired in 1975, but served as a director of the bank until March of 1990. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Carroll-Boone Water District, and served on the boards of many community organizations and clubs.

    He was a supporter of the local libraries and the Carroll County Historical Society, and a longtime member of Rotary in Berryville. He was active and strong well into his eighties, and left a lasting impression on the friends and town that he loved.

    He received the Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Citizen Award for 2003 just a few weeks before his death.

    In his retirement years, he was also an active supporter of the Ozarks Guidance Center, the Berryville Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Razorbacks and Bobcat Boosters, the Area Agency on Aging, and held state offices in Rotary and the International Order of Odd Fellows.

    He was also a veteran of World War II, and his legacy includes the Herbert West Foundation for local scholarship grants, and First National Bank of Berryville as it stands today, with his friends and sons playing a major part in the bank's operations.

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