May 18, 2011 Edition

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Frankly speaking...

John Bland
Publisher

An overflow crowd filled the First United Methodist Church here Friday for the memorial service of Judge Tom Hilburn. It was the largest crowd I have ever seen in the church with at least 80 people in the balcony, others seated in the choir loft and in extra folding chairs with others standing at the back and sides.

The Hilburns' extended family consisted of some 65 relatives who filled much of the center section of the church. Tom and his three siblings and their spouses, children and grandchildren drew friends from many decades of WRHS grads, as well as other friends and colleagues from around the state and beyond.

Matt Stovall gave a heartfelt and inspiring eulogy for his uncle. He compared Judge Hilburn's life to a round of golf, a game greatly enjoyed by Tom and his wife, Annette. He told how Tom stayed in the game, playing it well through the 18th hole with Annette by his side.

For many years, the Hilburn family has returned each Christmas to attend church together at their home base of Walnut Ridge. It was only natural for them to return home again to remember and celebrate Judge Hilburn's life.

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The Daniel and Dee Dee Bridges family of Clover Bend was one of several families who had to evacuate their home during the record flooding of late April and early May. Although water did not get into their home as it did others, they did have some damage to their property.

While displaced from their home, Daniel kindly drove me to get a closer look at some of the flooding. In his truck, with big wheels, we saw the BNSF tracks and Hwy. 63 turned into river falls. We also saw the tremendous effort underway to secure the BNSF railroad. Not only did the effort secure the tracks, but others said their efforts also protected Hwy. 63 and prevented it from washing out.

Thanks, Daniel, for the tour and the photo opportunities.

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