December 26, 2012 Edition

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Neighborly love is
way of life for Mizes

For Cecil Balentine (left), Maxine and Homer Mize, his neighbors while growing up, epitomize what it means to be a good neighbor. They have been there for him since he was a teenager, including being with him on his wedding day in 1996.
Lindsay Penn
Contributing Writer

In a small town - or any town for that matter-it's not uncommon to have good neighbors; however, the more than three decades one Smithville couple has dedicated to a neighboring family, all while expecting nothing in return, is truly admirable.

In June of 1980, a little more than 32 years ago, 60-year old Coleman Balentine was losing his battle with cancer and worrying about the welfare of his wife and their three young teenagers, Carl, Cecil and Connie. A resident of Smithville a mere 10 months, he knew few people in the community. Nevertheless, he asked a nearby couple if they would look after his family when he was gone.

Homer and Maxine Mize said "yes" without hesitation - and they've been keeping that promise ever since.

With a family of their own, a cattle farm and other community obligations, the Mizes had their fair share of responsibilities, but that didn't stop Mrs. Mize from taking the Balentine kids to town each August to buy school clothes. Or making sure they were able to shop for Christmas presents. Likewise, it didn't stop Mr. Mize from planting the garden. And priming the old pump numerous times so they had running water.

"I know without a doubt that Mr. and Mrs. Mize had plenty of other things to do besides help us with necessities," said Cecil Balentine. "But they still helped."

As a widow in the early stages of Alzheimer's with three children at home, the load on Mrs. Balentine's shoulders was heavy - but luckily, she had Mrs. Mize to watch over her. When Mrs. Balentine's health began to fail, Mrs. Mize was appointed her custodian so she could handle her friend's paperwork and assistance programs.

Mrs. Mize worked endlessly to get Mrs. Balentine into Lawrence Hall Nursing Center, where she could get the care she needed. The promise didn't end there, though. During her 21 years in Lawrence Hall, Mrs. Balentine's condition naturally worsened. Due to the severity of her illness, emergency medical treatment was sometimes needed. But through it all, Mr. and Mrs. Mize were right there with the Balentine family, offering support and prayers.

"We were so grateful to Mrs. Mize for getting Momma into Lawrence Hall, where she received the very best care," said Cecil. "When she passed, some of the staff even attended the funeral. People who don't care don't do that."

Over the years, the Mizes have experienced several health setbacks themselves. In the early 90s, Homer was diagnosed with cancer, only to be followed by heart trouble, back and knee problems and a broken hip. To top it all off, he lost a fight with a mule - the four-wheeled kind - that caused further injuries.

In addition to caring for Homer, Mrs. Mize also underwent knee surgery. Yet, despite all they endured, they were still there for their neighbors.

In 1993, Cecil recommended the Mizes for the KAIT Good Neighbor Spotlight - a fitting title for a segment on such a giving couple.

Then, not long after Mrs. Balentine passed away in March of 2011, Mrs. Mize received the 2010 Volunteer of the Year Award from the Senior Volunteer Program for her 1,115 hours of care for her neighbor and friend. Apparently, the Balentines weren't the only ones who noticed her caring nature.

"Some say the measure of a good person is to look at what he or she has done, and I agree," stated Cecil. "But to be considered great, you should be measured by what you did that you didn't have to do."

Mr. and Mrs. Mize didn't have to help their neighbors. After Mr. Balentine passed on, they could have conveniently avoided the situation. But that's not the way of life for the Mizes, nor for many who live in small communities. They understand the importance of serving others and being good neighbors.

"If there were a standard for being a good neighbor, the Mizes would be the measuring stick," Cecil added. "There is no way for me to repay them for everything they've done for my family. All I can do is show my gratitude by letting others know about their decades of good deeds.

"Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Mize, with all of my heart. I hope in my life I can make you 10 percent as proud of me as I am of you."

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