June 17, 2009 Edition

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Taylor to be honored
with retirement reception

Bonnie Taylor, administrative office supervisor for the Lawrence County Extension Service, is retiring after more than 40 years of service.
Gretchen Hunt

After more than 40 years of service spanning six decades, Bonnie Taylor will retire from the Lawrence County Extension Service at the end of June.

A reception in her honor has been set for next Wednesday, June 24, from 2-4 p.m. at the Lawrence County Meeting Room, next to the library in Walnut Ridge. The public is invited to attend.

Taylor began work at the Extension office in 1959 as clerk stenographer at the age of 18. She worked until 1967, then returned seven years later in May of 1974. Her service has been uninterrupted since that time, and she became the administrative office supervisor in 1983.

Lee Hunter, who served as agricultural agent and staff chair in Lawrence County for 20 years, said she did the work of an office supervisor long before she received the title.

"Bonnie had a lot of titles over the years she worked for Extension stenographer, clerk, secretary, etc., but she always ran the place," Hunter said. "Finally, Extension recognized what she had been doing all the time. It was a fine compliment to a dedicated and talented lady."

Gail Clark, former staff chair who worked with Bonnie for more than 27 years, said she is the glue that has held the office together.

"She was a very efficient, organized and dependable member of the staff," Clark said.

Taylor said her work has been enjoyable because she has always worked with good people in a positive work environment. Many who have worked with her through the years give her the credit for teaching them about the agency.

"Bonnie has 'trained' several County Extension agents, including me," Stewart Runsick, who worked at the Lawrence County office from 1998 to 2004, said. "In fact, she deserves an honorary college degree for all the agents she helped get their master's."

Diane Jones, who worked at the Lawrence County office from 1969-1980, said she and Taylor grew together.

"Bonnie is a good friend and co-worker," Jones said. "As a young agent, she helped me a lot. She was very dependable and would go to extreme measures to get a job done, even if it meant working late."

Martha May, current staff chair, said Taylor will definitely be missed.

"I think that everyone on our staff would agree that it is such a pleasure to work with Bonnie," she said. "She works each day to fulfill the mission of the Extension Service. Each of the people who enter the office is treated with respect, and she is focused on making sure their needs are met."

Through the years Taylor has expected the respect and effort she has given her co-workers to be returned and given to those served by the office, as well.

"I learned very early not to wear my muddy boots in the office, and I better not have any ticks on me," Runsick said.

"Setting things on the file cabinets was certainly not permitted. I have been in nearly every county office in the state, and this one ranks up there as one of the best, thanks mainly to her leadership."

Hunter recalled some of the fun times learning lessons while working with Taylor.

"Bonnie is kind of straight-laced, and Mark Phillips and I were always trying to shock her with our opinions and commentaries," he said. "We never got very far with that, though. Bonnie would sort of cock one eye and give us 'That Look' and we knew we would have to back off."

He also recalled trying to get Taylor to lie for him, but she never would.

"Someone would call for me from Little Rock that I didn't want to talk to, and I would tell her, 'Tell them I am out at Larry Jones' farm,' or maybe 'I have gone to see Danny Ellis,' but she would just give me 'That Other Look' that said 'You know better than that,' and I would have to cave in."

All who have worked with Bonnie have been touched by her friendship.

"Bonnie has watched 36-plus agents, paraprofessionals, secretaries and part-time staff enter and exit the Lawrence County Extension Office taking with them a little of her organizational skills and her deep love of faith, family and friends," Clark said.

Taylor said she has loved working with the Extension Homemakers, 4-H members and farmers over the years.

While her children were in 4-H, Loretta Corbett worked with Taylor.

"Bonnie is invaluable," Corbett said. "She's always so helpful in finding things you need, and she can find anything you need in that building at a moment's notice."

Corbett said she and Bonnie shared another aspect of their lives outside of 4-H.

"I lost my daughter in an automobile/train accident, and shortly after, Bonnie's son, her only child, was killed by a drunk driver," Corbett explained. "Through the years we have been able to share our grief and comfort each other."

Taylor has built many lasting friendships during her time with Extension.

Jennifer Jones, who served as 4-H program assistant from 2000 to 2004, said Bonnie's friendship was of utmost importance to her.

"Bonnie was a very good friend to me when I worked for Extension, and I depended on her a great deal," Jones said. "She cared, and I enjoyed her company."

Angee Parrish, who was program assistant prior to Jones, said Taylor always made her want to do her best in everything.

"I consider her a great friend still today," Parrish said. "She is a very kind, loving and godly person." Runsick referred to Taylor as a remarkable, professional, friendly and caring person.

"She has served the clientele in Lawrence County and all the agents who have come and gone very well," he said. "The Extension Service is losing one of their best employees."

May, who is also retiring in June, said she is thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Bonnie Taylor in her final years with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Taylor's current and former co-workers all express best wishes for a happy retirement, summed up perfectly by Hunter, who said, "I wish her only the best in her retirement, and I hope she can have some time for herself after a lifetime of doing for others."

(Staff writer Gloria Wilkerson assisted with the reporting on this story.)

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