July 13, 2016 Edition

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Bold actions II

John Bland

If you are similar to me, you have often thought and said, "Wouldn't it be great if we had this or that or if someone would only do ..." Wishful thinking is a lot easier than making a plan and pursuing that great idea with all the time and energy you can muster.

A friend recently mentioned some bold ideas and actions that have resulted in important institutions in Lawrence County. Three that came to mind were Williams Baptist College, Lawrence Memorial Hospital and The Children's Shelter. However, there are many others.

Others to add to the list could include: the Wings of Honor Museum, the Stan Jones Mallard Lodge, the Ralph Joseph Youth Leadership Program and the Parachute Inn's Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 dining room.


The Walnut Ridge Army Flying School Museum, better known as the Wings of Honor Museum, was established in 1999. The purpose of the museum is to preserve the rich history of the World War II Walnut Ridge Army Flying School, the Marine Corps Air Facility at Walnut Ridge, the War Assets Administration's Warbird Storage, Sales and Scrapping Facility and the USAF 725th Radar Squadron. The museum also "remembers and honors those civilian and military personnel who served to maintain our freedom."

Harold Johnson, museum board president, and his small band of dedicated volunteers continue to do a remarkable job of expanding and enhancing the museum and preserving an important part of our history that could easily be overlooked.


The Stan Jones Mallard Lodge at Clover Bend opened in the fall of 2012, bringing tourism to new heights in Lawrence County. At the world-class duck-hunting lodge, visitors find beauty, solitude, five-star dining, top-notch accommodations and amenities - as well as great hunting. Guests include corporate executives, who visit the lodge for a retreat, hunting and meetings, as well as professional athletes, who are seeking refuge. Numerous weddings and receptions have also been held in the elaborately landscaped gardens at the lodge.

When rice farmer Stan Jones opened the lodge, he said, "I felt that this was something I needed to do. This is something I can do ... Part of it is being able to give back with this facility."


Dr. Ralph Joseph identified a need to train the county's youth to be good leaders and donate back to their communities. Since pursuing that vision with other community leaders, the Ralph Joseph Youth Leadership Program has graduated 21 classes. The training covers many facets of leadership, and each school group completes a community service project during the program. Thanks to the program, many of the graduates are now serving their respective communities as leaders or as my friend said, the program is replanting seeds for the future.


The Parachute Inn's Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 dining room came about from a simple, bold request. In 2004, Lorna Reese asked the CEO of Universal Asset Management for an airplane. She never dreamed that he would say yes on the spot but that's what happened.

The idea formed as Reese, a waitress at the Parachute Inn restaurant, watched planes land daily on the tarmac at the Walnut Ridge Airport. She told Parachute Inn owner, Donna Roberts, "We need a plane for a restaurant."

Then one day, Steve Manley, UAM president, sauntered in for a meal, states a 2004 TD feature story. "Lorna called him into the kitchen," Roberts said. "He said, 'Now, I can't cook, but I'll wash dishes.' Lorna just asked him for an airplane, and he said, 'Sure.'"

The airplane has been providing a unique dining experience at the Walnut Ridge Airport's Swindle Field ever since. Doris Gustin is the current owner of the restaurant.

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