July 15, 2015 Edition

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Clover Bend shaped
Viola Meadows' life

Viola Meadows visits with Vincent Insalaco in 2014 at a local political rally. Insalaco was married to a cousin of Viola's, the late Sally Jane Riggs Insalaco. He is chair of the Arkansas Democratic Party.

John Bland

There is little doubt that without the efforts of Viola Belle Callahan Meadows, the historic Clover Bend School and farmstead would not have been preserved. She was crucial in getting all five buildings that made up the Clover Bend School restored and on the National Historic Register after the school was consolidated with Hoxie School in 1983.

It is appropriate that the visitation and memorial service for Viola will be held at the Clover Bend Auditorium. The visitation begins at 5 p.m., and the service is at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

It is also appropriate that Viola, age 89, died on July 4, Independence Day. She believed in the Democratic process and believed one should be involved in the political process to protect our freedoms and the opportunities that a Democracy provides.

"Clover Bend shaped her," said Viola's daughter, Mary Pyburn of San Antonio.

Pyburn traces back her mother's staunch political and religious convictions and motivations to Clover Bend, which was part of the New Deal programs. President Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted the programs in response to the Great Depression to help provide relief and work for the unemployed and poor.

At Clover Bend, the program provided some 88 units, averaging 45 acres each, with farmers receiving the land, a four- or five-room house, a barn, a poultry house and other outbuildings for a yearly mortgage payment of $200.

"It gave her family a chance to work with dignity," Pyburn said of her mother's family. "It gave them a home and work."

"She was helped by the government to better herself and given all these chances to succeed," Pyburn said.

"This is kind of what the Democratic Party stands for," she said. Thus, Viola was a staunch Democrat all of her life. "She always felt she should fight for others," Pyburn added.

Through the government program, the Callahan family was able to get dignity. "Is that not one of the best gifts you can give," Pyburn exclaimed. "She fought for that. She fought for the underdogs."

Matt Meadows of Dallas reflected that his mother accomplished a lot in her almost 90-year lifespan, which he added is not all that long in the grand scheme of things.

"You didn't want to get between her and a project, unless you were helping," he said. "She put her mind to something and got it done."

"She was pretty good at spoiling us - in a good way," Matt said of having Viola as his mother. He once made a comment that it would be fun to have a saxophone. Having heard that comment, his mother found a used saxophone, had it repadded and gave it to him "out of the blue."

Before her marriage to Howard Meadows, Viola was named a Fulbright Scholar and taught home economics in India. She also served as the director of student activities at the American International School in Tokyo, Japan.

After their marriage, the Meadows family spent time in Sudan, Libya, Nigeria and Afghanistan, as Howard served in the Foreign Service. Every two or three years, the Meadows would come home on leave for the summer months. They would stay with Viola's parents, Homer and Lillie Callahan, in Clover Bend.

One of those summers they did stay at what would become the permanent home of Howard and Viola, located between Black Rock and Imboden.

Pyburn said her mother enjoyed all of the countries and the variety they offered. "We spent more time in Afghanistan than the other countries," she said.

"She made sure we got to see the area where we were living the way the locals saw it," said Matt. "In Rome, we got on local buses and went out to different sites with other locals."

Pyburn recalled a time in 1967, when a civil war broke out in Nigeria, and they had to evacuate with many others. She and her brother, Matt, then attended Alma Spikes Elementary School in Pocahontas during her third-grade year and his fourth-grade year.

The Meadows family would eventually return to the U.S. to stay, and both Mary and Matt graduated from Sloan-Hendrix High School in Imboden. Matt would spend two years at Sloan-Hendrix, graduating in 1976, and Mary spent three years there and graduated in 1977.

Mary Freeman, whose husband is County Judge Dale Freeman, was a close friend of Viola's. They became friends through their mutual involvement with the Democratic Party.

Freeman was with Viola during her illness and in her final moments of life. "I loved Viola," she said, adding, "I could get aggravated with her like anybody else."

"She was so knowledgeable. I loved her stories about her foreign travels," Freeman said.

"She didn't know the meaning of the word 'no,'" Freeman said, adding that her persistence was boundless.

No one realizes just how many hours she put in each day for the preservation of Clover Bend, Freeman said.

There was also another side to Viola, Freeman said. "She was so loving and caring and generous. She loved to help other people and wanted no credit."

When Viola talked of her husband, Howard, and their children, Matt and Mary, she "got a sparkle in her eyes," Freeman said. "She just loved them with her whole being."

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