March 21, 2012 Edition

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Kathleen Ahna du Plessis


Bagwell ~ Olson


Paul Atkinson Mildred Mathews Easterly Jonathon Holderby
Velma Howard Joe L. Hudson Elaine Huskey
Willie R. Lairson Connie Bilbrey Matthews Scotty McCluskey
Essie Mae McElrath James Boyd Neal Hershal Woodrow Ragsdale
Carmelita Kirksey Roper Frank H. Shell Bob Smith
Chester Leo Warnick


Kathleen Ahna du Plessis

Francois and Kimberly du Plessis of Jonesboro have announced the birth of a daughter on Feb. 28, 2012, at St. Bernards Birthcare Center in Jonesboro.

The baby weighed seven pounds, six ounces, and has been named Kathleen Ahna du Plessis.

Grandparents are Doyle and Joan Kilman of Walnut Ridge and Kobus and Patsy du Plessis of Monett, Mo.

She is the great-granddaughter of Archie Williams of Walnut Ridge and Pennie du Plessis of Monett, Mo.

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Bagwell ~ Olson

Garry Bagwell of Ash Flat and Becky Glidewell of Black Rock have announced the engagement and forthcoming marriage of their daughter, Stephanie Lynn Bagwell, to Jonathan ChaiRon Olson, son of Charles and Audrey Olson of Russellville.

The bride-elect is the granddaughter of Tommy Goza and Wanda Ragsdale, both of Black Rock, Ruthie Gibbens of Ravenden and the late Thomas Bagswell. She is the great-granddaughter of Opal Marie Goza of Black Rock.

She is a 2009 Black Rock High School graduate and is a student at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.

The prospective groom is the grandson of Ella Benshoff of Ottawa, Ohio, and the late Ronald Benshoff and the late Garlan and Loreen Carpenter.

He is a graduate of Russellville High School and is attending Henderson State University, where he is majoring in aviation.

The couple will exchange vows on March 24 at 4 p.m. at Ravenden Baptist Church in Ravenden.

A reception will follow the ceremony at Cedar Glade Baptist Emcampment in Imboden. All family and friends are invited to attend.

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Paul Atkinson

Paul Dean Atkinson, 77 of Walnut Ridge, passed away Monday, March 19, 2012, at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Born Feb. 8, 1935, in Egypt, he was the son of Coy and Daisy Dulaney Atkinson. He was a carpenter and was of the Baptist belief.

He was preceded in death by his parents; and a brother, Bobby Atkinson.

Survivors include wife, Genendal of the home; two daughters, Paula and Ron Coleman of Jonesboro, and Sheri Truxler of Walnut Ridge; three stepdaughters, Donna and George Beaube of Houston, Chris and Kenneth Stewart of Peoria, Ill., and Ida and Don Hewitt of Corning; one stepson, Van and Carolyn Clayton of Arkansas; one sister, Alta Horton of Jonesboro; 11 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and many other relatives and friends.

Funeral is today at 3 p.m. in the Bryan Chapel with Bro. Keith Marlin officiating. Interment will be in the Manning # 1 Cemetery.

Pallbearers will be Larry Dulaney, Dewayne Guillean, Jeremy Lawrence, Steven Beaube, James Manning and Ed Hembrey.

Visitation is today from 2 p.m. until time of the service.

An online guestbook is available at


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Mildred Mathews Easterly

Mildred Mathews Easterly, 87, of Walnut Ridge, died March 13, 2012, at Lawrence Hall Nursing Center.

Born March 28, 1924, in Sheridan, she was the daughter of Charles W. and Lala Lites Mathews. She had lived in Sheridan, Walnut Ridge and Jonesboro.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Edgar Ardell Easterly; and a brother, Dr. Travis Mathews.

Survivors include two daughters, Marta Jones and husband Larry, Clover Bend, and Selma Jo Fisher and husband Al, Jonesboro; a sister, Charlene Somervell, Forney, Texas; three grandchildren, Andrew Jones, Matthew Fisher and Tonya Weaver; and two great-granddaughters, with one on the way.

Funeral was Friday at 10 a.m. at Memorial Gardens Funeral Home in Sheridan with Bro. Derek Collins officiating. Burial was in Lost Creek Cemetery at Sheridan.

An online guestbook is available at

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Jonathon Wayne Thomas Holderby

Jonathon Wayne Thomas Holderby, 23, of Newport, son of Carolyn Cunningham of Swifton, died March 10, 2012, at Newport. Burial was Thursday in Watson Cemetery under the direction of Dillinger Funeral Home of Newport. An online guestbook is available at

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Velma Howard

Velma Wooldridge Howard, 92, of Cave City, formerly of Hoxie, died March 16, 2012, at a Batesville hospital.

Born Nov. 12, 1919, in Cave City, she was the daughter of James E. and Lillie Ann Wooldridge. She retired from International Shoe Factory in Batesville after 24 years and was a seamstress. She was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Cave City.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Taylor Howard; a son, Gary Taylor Howard; and a sister, Eara Lee Nicholson.

Survivors include a daughter, Diane Howard Wilkes, Cave City; four grandchildren, Barry A. Wilkes, Brandt Wilkes, Susannah Vincent and Julie Fillingim; and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral is today at 2 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Cave City with Bro. Stanley Vandergrift and Rev. Roger Hook officiating. Burial will be in Mount View Cemetery, near Cave City, under the direction of Qualls Funeral Home of Cave City.

Pallbearers will be Warren Willette, Cody Vincent, Jack Wallis, Josh Petkovich, Eugene Heath and Joey Carpenter. Honorary pallbearers will be Barry A. Wilkes, Brandt Wilkes, John Fillingim, Mattheu Allen, John Yoshita, and the congregations of Mt. Harmony Free Will Baptist Church and First United Methodist Church of Cave City.

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Joe L. Hudson

Joe L. Hudson, 57, of Hoxie, died March 16, 2012, at the White River Medical Center in Batesville.

Born June 4, 1954, in Jonesboro, he was a former employee of the Arkansas Highway Department and attended Hoxie Baptist Church.

He was preceded in death by his father, Carrington B. Hudson; and his grandparents, Joe and Minnie Hudson and Lester and Florence Brady.

Survivors include his mother, Nina Jane Brady Hudson, of the home; and two aunts, Fredreca Stone and Pauline Rankin, both of Jonesboro.

Funeral was Monday at 11 a.m. at Bryan Funeral Home with Bro. Howard Pankey officiating. Burial was in Lawrence Memorial Park.

Pallbearers were Glen Smith, Travis Stone, Charles Stone, Bill Duke, Phil Sheets and Chris Stone.

An online guestbook is available at

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Elaine Huskey

Elaine Huskey, 83, of Trumann, died March 15, 2012, at her home.

Born Dec. 1, 1928, at Strawberry, she was the daughter of J.C. and Belle Cochran Foushee. She was retired from housekeeping at ASU and was of the Baptist belief. She and her husband owned and operated Huskey's Grocery Store. She also owned and operated a ceramic shop.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Raymond Huskey.

Survivors include three daughters, Evelyn Mitchusson, Harrisburg, Jane Furnish, Trumann, and Lori Bunch, Colquitt, Ga.; a son, Bob Huskey, Trumann; eight grandchildren, Tracy Cousins, Shelly Dinkelman, Brad Swails, Chad Furnish, John Huskey, Valerie Bunch, Adam Bunch and Brandi Gruber; eight great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.

Funeral was Saturday at 1 p.m. at Roller-Farmers Union Funeral Home in Jonesboro. Burial was in Ward Cemetery at Strawberry.

An online guestbook is available at

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Willie R. Lairson

Willie R. "Bill" Lairson, 69, died March 12, 2012, at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Born March 11, 1943, in Tulot, he was a Vietnam War veteran and a skilled carver. He was of the Protestant faith.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Ollie Henry and Margarett Johnston Lairson; and a brother, Joe Lairson.

Survivors include his wife, Barbara Lairson; a daughter, Ann-Marie Holcomb and husband Jamie, Bay; two sons, Randy Massey, Ravenden, and Greg Massey and wife Tracie, Conway; a sister, Patricia Parrish and husband Sonny; and seven grandchildren.

Funeral was Thursday at 10 a.m. at Thompson Funeral Home in Trumann with Rev. Gerald Vickers officiating. Burial was in Dail Cemetery at Ravenden.

Pallbearers were Jamie Holcomb, Archie Cooper, Zachary Perry, Joey Abbott, Jerry Barton and Ronnie Parrish.

An online guestbook is available at

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Connie Bilbrey Matthews

Connie Bilbrey Matthews, 61, of Bethesda, died Saturday, March 17, 2012, at her home.

Born October 2, 1950, in Walnut Ridge, she was the daughter of Lester Bilbrey and Dottie (Runsick) Bilbrey.

She graduated from Clover Bend High School and attended Arkansas College, where she received her bachelor's degree. She then received her master's degree from Arkansas State University.

She was a retired schoolteacher who taught third grade for 20 years and she was always trying to find different ways to help her students learn more and be better. She was a faithful and selfless person who was always concerned about others. She enjoyed camping with her family, and her grandchildren were her pride and joy. She was a member of the Unity Missionary Baptist Church.

Survivors include her husband of 41 years, Danny Matthews of Bethesda; one son, Keith Matthews of Batesville; two grandchildren: Eli Matthews and Claire Matthews; two brothers: Sonny and Gary Bilbrey of Walnut Ridge; three sisters: Kathryn Doyle, Barbara Gaither, and Rosene Bilbrey, all of Jonesboro; and several nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her parents and a nephew, David W. Doyle.

Pallbearers were Tommy Matthews, Cary Matthews, Todd Matthews, Pana Matthews Phillips, Gary Tucker, Paul Kimmer, John Tucker and Stephen Kimmer. Honorary pallbearers are the teachers and the administration at Cord-Charlotte School.

Funeral was Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Roller-Crouch Chapel with Bro. Rodney Stevens officiating. A committal service was Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Clover Bend Cemetery in Clover Bend under the direction of Roller-Crouch Funeral Home of Batesville.

Memorials may be made to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, 904 Autumn Rd., Suite 500, Little Rock, AR 72211.

An online guestbook is available at


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Scotty McCluskey

A memorial service for Scotty McCluskey, who died Jan. 1, 2012, will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Fellowship Building of the apartments at 109 South Larkspur in Walnut Ridge.

Visitation will be one hour prior to the service. House-Gregg Funeral Home has charge of arrangements.

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Essie Mae McElrath

Essie Mae McElrath, 79, of Smithville, died March 19, 2012, at UAMS in Little Rock.

Born March 6, 1933, she was the daughter of Tillman and Lottie Rosier Shrable.

She was preceded in death by three brothers and two sisters.

Survivors include her huband, Bud McElrath, whom she married March 20, 1949, in Bono; two daughters, Barbara Crider and husband Tony and Brenda Graham, all of Smithville; two sisters, Ella Faye Cline, Bono, and Betty Bates, Hot Springs; five grandchildren, Tammie Caldwell, Torre Crider, Wendy Milligan, Brad Graham and Jeff Graham; two great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.

Private funeral arrangements are under the direction of Cox-Higginbotham Funeral Home of Walnut Ridge.

An online guestbook is available at

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James Boyd Neal

James Boyd Neal, 76, of Jacksonville, died March 13, 2012, at Baptist Hospital in Little Rock.

Born Dec. 3, 1935, in Walnut Ridge, he was the son of Jess and Dorothy Campbell Neal. He grew up in Lawrence County before moving to St. Louis, where he lived most of his life. He had lived in Jacksonville the past 20 years. He was retired from Tyson Foods in Little Rock and attended Harvest Praise Church in Cabot.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Catherine Neal; a brother, Andrew Smoot; and a sister, Dixie Brady.

Survivors include three sons, Jimmy Neal, Jacksonville, Gerald Neal and wife Lisa, St. Mary's, Mo., and Jess Neal and wife Windy, Sheridan; four daughters, Patty Neal, Jacksonville, Theresa Belcher and husband Glen and Tina Watson and husband Lee, all of Tupelo, Miss., and Tammy Pupilo and husband Tom, St. Louis; 13 grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

Funeral was Saturday at 1 p.m. at House-Gregg Funeral Home with Lloyd Black officiating. Burial was in Lawrence Memorial Park.

Pallbearers were Joshua Neal, Matthew Neal, Nicholas Neal, Justin Neal and Scott Brown.

An online guestbook is available at

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Hershel Woodrow Ragsdale

Hershel Woodrow "Woody" Ragsdale, 71, of Black Rock, died March 13, at St. Bernards in Jonesboro, following a lengthy illness.

Born Nov. 14, 1940, at Liberty Hill, he graduated from Ash Flat High School in 1959. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 1960 and served until being honorably discharged in June 1963. He had lived in Black Rock the past 41 years and was a retired truck driver. He was a member of the New Life Full Gospel Church of Black Rock and the Black Rock Masonic Lodge.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Marvin and Vada Blunt Ragsdale; and two sisters, Francis Vowel and Patsy Moss.

Survivors include his wife, Bonnie Lou Stogsdill Ragsdale, whom he married July 16, 1971; five children, Sherry Cruse, Ravenden Springs, Jackie Cruse and wife Pat, Culpepper, Va., Bobby Cruse and wife Diann, Pocahontas, and Darlene Schmidt and husband Norman, Black Rock; three sisters, Earlene Hanan, Virginia Hall and Judy Douglas, all of Black Rock; three brothers, Earl Ragsdale, Black Rock, Paul Ragsdale, Hoxie, and Noah Ragsdale, Trumann; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

Funeral was Friday at 2 p.m. at the New Life Full Gospel Church in Black Rock with Rev. Wayne Bryant officiating. Burial was in Oak Forest Cemetery under the direction of Cox-Higginbotham Funeral Home of Walnut Ridge.

An online guestbook is available at

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Carmelita Kirksey Roper

Carmelita Kirksey Roper, 86, of Ash Flat, formerly of Imboden and Batesville, died March 15, 2012, at Mountain Home.

Born Oct. 7, 1925, in Jonesboro, she was the daughter of Edward Bert and Alice Louise Keller Kirksey. She ran the Sandtown Grocery Store in the 1960s and 1970s, and also had worked in retail management.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Paul E. Roper; a son, John Edward Roper; two brothers, Jimmy Kirksey and Wilburn Kirksey; a sister, Dayle Kirksey Looper; and a granddaughter, Sara Dawn Roper.

Survivors include two sons, James Patrick Roper, Cave City, and Paul Michael Roper, Ashburn, Va.; and two grandchildren, John Logan Roper and Christina Michelle Roper.

Graveside service was Monday at 11 a.m. at Roselawn Memorial Gardens, near Batesville, under the direction of Qualls Funeral Home of Cave City.

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Frank H. Shell

Frank H. Shell was born July 6, 1933, in Sage, AR to Harry A. and Myrtle Tomlinson Shell. He died Monday, March 19, in Batesville.

He was preceded in death by his parents; a sister, Jean Hanley; a brother, Hoyt Shell; and his first wife, Carolyn Southerland Shell.

He is survived by his wife, Loretta; his children Jay (Cathy) of Batesville, Sarah (Jeff) Teague of El Dorado, Joe (Janelle) of Batesville, Susan (Andy) Allison of Topeka, Kans., Loretta's son, Sam Caery (Lora) of Cabot, and 16 grandchildren. He is also survived by a sister, Sue Chrisco, and sisters-in-law, Margaret Shell, Virginia Henry and Kay Southerland.

Shell was a natural athlete, and earned scholarships in baseball and basketball at the former Arkansas College (now Lyon) and the former State Teachers' College (now UCA). He played on pennant-winning minor league teams every year throughout the South, including the Industrial, Cotton States, Sally (South Atlantic), International and Mexican Leagues, as well as the Southern Association. He collected several championship rings, watches, and MVP awards. He was also selected to play baseball on the elite Black Knights Company team during his service in the Army in Germany, making it to the semifinals of the European G.I. World Series.

While playing baseball, Shell sensed a calling to Christian ministry. He earned Master's Degrees from Ouachita Baptist University and the Southwestern Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He taught and coached baseball at the former Southern Baptist College (now Williams) in Walnut Ridge. He also pastored Southern Baptist churches in Alicia, Walnut Ridge (White Oak and First) and Clinton in Arkansas. He contributed as pastor, associational director and volunteer for several stints in Montana, including tenures in churches in Missoula, Kalispell, Billings and Big Timber.

Shell lived out his strong convictions about mission work, and traveled to several countries to share the Good News. From Australia to Zimbabwe, he preached on every inhabited continent. Shell also set the pace with hard work on missions building projects and had a knack for enlisting friends to participate. He shepherded groups to Colorado, Montana, Indiana and Wyoming, and completed numerous projects at Williams Baptist College, where the baseball field is named for him. From every church he pastored full time, there were members who entered either the mission field or full-time ministry. He continued to preach until last year. He was a member of West Baptist in Batesville.

He presided as Chairman of the Board at Williams during several terms. A Kiwanian for almost 50 years, he served as President in many of the towns where he lived, and was always ready to travel for an Interclub meeting. He served on the Board of the Citizens Bank in Walnut Ridge. He was a 32nd degree Mason and a pilot. He was an avid gardener, planting fruit trees, hardwoods and forsythia at every house he ever owned. He was also an ardent outdoorsman, bagging an eight-point buck by bow as recently as October 2011, for which he received the Nimrod Award. He was known for his energy and enthusiasm, and his keen sense of humor and sharp wit never left him.

Visitation will be 5-8 p.m. today at Roller-Crouch Funeral Home, 510 College Ave. in Batesville.

Funeral services will be 10 a.m. on Thursday at West Baptist Church, 1100 N. Central, with Bro. Adam Hughes officiating. Burial will be at Oaklawn Cemetery by Roller-Crouch Funeral Home.

Pallbearers will be his grandsons. Honorary pallbearers will be James Beavers, Roy Dean Dempsey, Jerol Swaim, Eddie Cox, Jim Kilgore, Bobby Davis, Billy Cox, Gary Edwards and Jim Watkins.

Friends may express thoughts and favorite memories at

Memorials may be made to Williams Baptist College, 60 Fulbright Ave., Walnut Ridge, AR 72476 or Yellowstone Baptist College, 1515 Shiloh Rd. Billings, MT 59106.

The family would like to thank Dr. Bob Walton and Caring Hands Hospice.


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Bob Smith

B.L. "Bob" Smith, 84, of Walnut Ridge, died March 16, 2012, in Walnut Ridge.

Born Aug. 30, 1927, in Walnut Ridge, he was the son of Lonnie and Opal Towell Smith. He had lived in Lawrence County most of his life and was retired telephone repeaterman for Southwestern Bell. He was also a troubleshooter for Rice Belt Telephone Company for 60 years, and owned and operated Smith Communications for 30 years. He was a member of the Lawrence County Exceptional School Board for three years and was a member of Main Street Church of Christ.

He served on the Lawrence County Quorum Court for 12 years and on the Walnut Ridge Fire Department for 34 years, including 14 years as chief.

He was preceded in death by a brother, Jack Smith.

Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Hattie Smith; a daughter, Cindy Whitaker and husband Charles, Jonesboro; two sons, Mike Smith and wife Debbie, Walnut Ridge, and Stephen Smith and wife Vicki, New Albany, Ind.; a sister, Betty Montgrain and husband Bob, St. Louis, Mo.; a brother, Ben Smith and wife Pam, Springfield, Mo.; six grandchildren, Andrea Corley, Jill Crocker, Amy Jones, Matthew Smith, Emily Smith and Andy Whitaker; and two great-grandchildren.

Funeral was Monday at 10 a.m. at House-Gregg Funeral Home with Rob Combs and Don House officiating. Burial was in Lawrence Memorial Park.

Pallbearers were Bob Anderson, Steve Cravens, Billy Ging, Ed Baker, Jim Mosier and Patrick Beard.

Memorials may be made to the Paragould Children's Home, 5515 Walcott Road, Paragould, AR 72450.

An online guestbook is available at

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Chester Leo Warnick

Chester Leo Warnick, 79, of Hoxie, died March 18, 2012, at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Born December 16, 1932, he was the son of Frank and Leona Warnick. He was a coach and teacher at Lafe and Clover Bend and ended his teaching career at Hoxie with 32 years of service. He was a member of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, serving as a deacon and an Adult Sunday school teacher for several years.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 54 years, Kathleen Warnick; five brothers, Archie Warnick, Ray Warnick, Roy Warnick, Leonard Warnick and Lester Warnick (his twin); five sisters, Pearl Brooks, Marie Warnick, Beulah Warnick, Lula Warnick and Agnes Crow.

Survivors include two daughters, Pam Johnson and husband Ron, Walnut Ridge, and Sharon Hickman and husband Gordon, Imboden; a brother, Gene Warnick, Jonesboro; three grandchildren, Derek Johnson and wife Rachel, Alyssa Johnson and fiancˇ David and Jake Hickman; and a great-granddaughter, Lilly Johnson.

Funeral is today at 10 a.m. in the Bryan Funeral Home Chapel with Bro. Warner Allen officiating. Nephews will serve as pallbearers.

Memorials may be made to the Clover Bend Historic Preservation (CBHP)- Gym Restoration Project, c/o Angela Fowler 236 Lawrence Rd. 536 Alicia, AR 72410.

An online guestbook is available at

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