Monticello Live

Monticello's Daily News

Drew Memorial
Farmers Insurance Mainline Health Systems






Bradley County Medical Center

Frazer’s Funeral Home

Frazer's Funeral Home Warren



Head of the Class


Be A Weevil

Pines Broadcasting Company

Pines Broadcasting Company

Hooray Yard Cards

Hooray Yard Cards

Ashley County Medical Center 2 A

Ashley County Medical Center

South Arkansas Business Solutions

Major’s Forest & Lawn 2

Paint & Lighting Plus Inc.

Paint & Lighting Plus Inc.

BancorpSouth Candence Josh Frost

BancorpSouth Candence Josh Frost

Advertise With Monticello Live

UAM Trotter House A

UAM Trotter House

One 11 Southern Graphics 1

ONE11 Southern Graphics

Cass Martin Realty

Cass Martin Realty

War Eagle Boats

Ashley County Medical Center 2

Ashley County Medical Center

Farmer’s Insurance Two

One 11 Southern Graphics 2

ONE11 Southern Graphics

Burgess Process Service

Burgess Process Service

ESA Staffing

Ray Ryburn Real Estate

Monticello Exxon

Monticello Exxon

Monticello Tire (Goodyear)

Monticello Tire (Goodyear)



UAM News

UAM News

UAM Sports

UAM Sports



Searcy & Associates

Searcy & Associates

O’Fallon Vet

0'Fallon Vet

Merchant & Planters Agency, INC.

Merchant & Planters Agency, INC.

Secure Storage 2



Farmer’s Insurance One

ESA Staffing 2

Mingo Computer Consulting

Mingo Computer Consulting

Thanksgiving Day Special Report, Drew County’s Historic Rosenwald School

November 18th, 2007 by

Thanksgiving morning, MonticelloLive will be running a Special Article, about Selma’s Historic Rosenwald School.

This award winning report was written by Mrs. Sheilla Lampkin a few years ago, but is extremely interesting, especially to History buffs, here in Drew County.

Check back Thanksgiving Day, to learn more about the rich history of Drew County.

One Monticello Life: Truman Hamilton

November 11th, 2007 by

100_0378.JPGMost Monticello residents know Truman Hamilton from when he owned the radio stations.  Others remember when he managed the Magic Mart store, but there’s more to know about Truman than where he used to work.

Truman has just accepted the position of executive director of the Monticello Economic Development Commission. 

I think the job is in good hands.

MEDC’s director, Derrill Pierce, is stepping down because of health reason, but is helping it’s new director during the transition. 

Truman has just been in the office a few days, but the first thing that I noticed about his desk, was that his Bible was on it.  That’s a sign of leadership.

Read the rest of this entry »

One Monticello Life: Beverly Lobitz

November 4th, 2007 by

Mrs. Beverly Lobitz has been a member of UAM’s Music faculty for 35 years.  So many times, when someone has the same career, they just do their job.  That’s not the case with Mrs. Lobitz.lobitz.JPG

David Johnston, who’s daughter, Dailyn, is a first year piano student of Mrs. Lobitz, considers her to be “an outstanding piano teacher.  Dailyn is already reading sheet music, and can sing and play at the same time.”

Johnston added, “She is a very sweet person who allows parents to sit in on lessons with their children. Seeing her work with kids the way she does, shows that she is a very patient and talented teacher.  She always seems eager to share her love of music.” 

Beverly Lobitz grew up in Manhattan, Kansas.  She earned her Bachelor of Music degree at Kansas State University, and then completed her Masters of Science in Voice degree, at Emporia (Kansas) State University.

Mrs. Annette Hall, her colleague in the Division of Music since 1972, considers Mrs. Lobitz to be “a multi-talented musician, dedicated teacher, and exemplary role model for students.”

Mrs. Hall added, “She has the heart of a teacher.” 

Mrs. Lobitz has taught piano and voice, both in school settings and privately, since college.  She has been a member of UAM’s Music Department for 35 years. 

Betty Matthews told me last week, how helpful Mrs. Lobitz was when she taught Ms. Matthews daughter, Laura.  “Personal involvement” makes a world of difference.”

Larry Lobitz, retired, is Mrs. Beverly’s husband, and has preached for many years.  Together, they serve at Lakeside Presbyterian Church, in Lake Village.  Mr. Larry leads the choir, and Mrs. Beverly has played the organ for 11 years.

Their son, Brice is a construction contractor in New Orleans, and his wife, Becky (formerly Becky Jacobs, of Monticello), is an electrical engineer with Shell Oil.  They spend many weekends working with church projects there, such as missions, and construction for people with special needs.

Mrs. Lobitz has 2 grandchildren, Colton and Tyler.

Mrs. Lobitz says she doesn’t watch very much television, but does enjoy an occasional “Extreme Home Makeover”, when someone does something helpful to improve someone else’s life.

Mrs. Lobitz considers music, “a vocation, and a hobby”, and has taught hundreds of students in private lessons, where she can make the most of “one on one” contact, in teaching.

She explained her ambitions with this phrase, “My goal is to see students succeed, not just in music, but in life.”

It seems that Mrs. Beverly Lobitz has reached her goal; many, many, times.  Including with me.

I became a voice student of Beverly Lobitz in 1982, when i started at UAM.  3 years later, while living and working in Dumas, but just a few hours short of graduation.  Mrs. Lobitz kept in touch with me by sending messages by my church’s pianist (also a student of hers), encouraging me to finish.  Mrs. Lobitz kept saying, “When you’ve got that degree, you’ll be so glad to have achieved that goal in life.”  25 years later, I see that she was right.  The fact that Mrs. Lobitz never gave up, has really made a difference, as it does to so many other students, that she still calls “My Kids”.

Thanks, Beverly Lobitz, for sharing your One Monticello Life.

One Monticello Life: Calvin Murphy

October 28th, 2007 by

I’ve known Calvin Murphy for several years, and the more I’m around him, the more I learn.


Calvin, and his wife Mrs. Carolyn, operate O&M Oil Co., on East Gaines street.

Mr. Calvin has always lived in Drew County, and was born in the “Sipio” community, south of Ladelle and Lacey.  At the time, the Ashley, Drew, & Northern Railroad had a stop in that area.  Calvin grew up and graduated from Monticello High School.

Calvin started out as a meat cutter at “Clay’s Grocery Store”, which was located on North Main St., across from where Union Bank is now.

Calvin served in the U.S. Army, and was stationed at Ft. Chaffee, AR, Ft. Sill, OK, and was sent to Germany, shortly after the Korean War.  After he was released from the Army, he joined the National Guard, and served there until he’d completed 39 years of service to his country.

Next month, Calvin & Carolyn Murphy will have been married to each other for 50 years.

They have 2 grown children.  Their son, Les lives in Star City, and runs O&M’s bulk plant there.  Les is married to Jacque, who teaches 1st grade.  Calvin’s daughter, Kim, lives in Springdale, and teaches 1st grade there.  Kim is married to Rob Tanksley, who works at the Tyson corporate office.

Calvin got into the oil business back in the 1950’s, when he went to work for his father-in-law, Mr. Hellums Owen.  Back then, the station was at the corner of S. Main, and Shelton streets, and the bulk plant was located right where O&M is now.  This was when all “service stations” were “full service” stations.

Mr. Calvin told me, “I believe a man should work 5 days.”  He added, “Saturday is mine, and Sunday belongs to the Lord.”

On Saturday’s, if the Razorbacks play a home game, Calvin is usually somewhere close.  If the Hogs are playing an away game, he’s probably at Monticello Speedway.

On Sunday, he’ll be at Northside Baptist Church.  Calvin is the senior deacon at Northside and sings in the choir. “Quietly,” he adds.  Northside has been the only church he’s been a member of.

Over the years he has served as Sunday School teacher and director, “Training Union” teacher and director,  youth and building committees, and anywhere else that there was a need.

Calvin is also a member of Gideons, Int., which provides Bibles to schools, hospitals, and to our soldiers.

Mr. Calvin’s other passion, besides Mrs. Carolyn, is cars.  He has two “older” cars he’s working on restoring now. “Very slowly”, he comments.  One is a 1948 Lincoln Continental Mark I, and the other is a 1939 Cadillac LaSalle.

As you can tell by the photograph, Calvin Murphy loves his cars, and Mrs. Carolyn doesn’t like being in pictures.

Thanks, Calvin Murphy, for sharing your One Monticello Life. 

One Monticello Life: George Strain

October 21st, 2007 by

It was around 1:30, Monday morning, January 29, 2007. Monticello Police Dept. Patrolman George Strain was working a call at the intersection of E. Gaines and Conley streets.


That was when officer Strain was run over by an oncoming vehicle. The force of the impact that cold, early morning, either fractured or broke his right wrist, left leg, left ankle, and multiple ribs. One of the broken ribs punctured and collapsed his right lung. He also had a broken pelvis.

George spent the next 19 days hospitalized. When he was able to go home, he still had to use a wheel chair.

It’s now 9 months later, and he’s still in physical rehabilitation to overcome some of the muscle deficiencies from the accident, but George never gave up.

George grew up in Tamo, AR., just north of Dumas and Grady.

He joined the U.S. Army, received his high school diploma, and even earned college credit, while he was serving his country.

In the military, George was stationed in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky,and was a member of the 101 Airborne, and the 2 / 17 Cavalry Unit.  His military duties carried him to Germany, Egypt, & Panama.

When he left the service, George worked in construction and in food-service, until he entered law enforcement.

George’s police career began in McGehee, then Grady, before coming to the Monticello Police Dept. in August, 1999.

Next month, George will be celebrating his eighth anniversary to Mrs. Dorothy.

They are very active in First Missionary Baptist Church, on Bailey street, here in Monticello, and Mrs. Dorothy sings.

Mrs. Dorothy is a member of the McLettic Stars, a family singing group, that has traveled to over 20 different states, singing about God’s love, mercy, and grace.

Through George’s accident and recovery, they’ve been blessed by that love, mercy, and grace.

George told me, “going through the accident, and everything that followed, has given me the chance to talk, and to witness, to many people that I wouldn’t have had the chance to, without the accident.”

When I was talking to him, I realized that he sees this as an opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives.

George isn’t still in that wheel chair.

Last week I saw him at City Hall. He was on his way to work.

Officer George Strain is back in uniform, in Monticello, serving as the School Resource Officer for the Monticello School System. His office is at the high school, but he’s on duty at all of the Monticello School facilities, spending time with the students, and he’s teaching them something, simply by being there.

Officer George Strain, now there’s a good roll-model for our kids, and for us.

George Strain, thanks for sharing your One Monticello Life.

Click here to read’s original story about the accident.

Click here to read’s original report, Officer Comes Home.

How Deep Wuz Them ‘Taters?

October 16th, 2007 by


A local roadside was used to serve a couple of different purposes, recently.

A local produce vender was selling sweet ‘taters, next to a piece of road working equipment.

The super-sized digger was not used in the harvesting process.

One Monticello Life: Rhonda Brooks

October 14th, 2007 by


When most people meet Rhonda Brooks, they see her as a “lady in a wheelchair”, but there are many things that they don’t realize about Rhonda.

Rhonda grew up in Dewitt, where she lived with her parents and two sisters.

Her hobbies include listening to music, her favorites are Christian and bluegrass.

She also enjoys computer crafts, such as making cards, boxes, and similar projects, that make other people feel appreciated.

She is also well known for making balloon animals for nurses, patients, and drive through bank tellers. 

Rhonda graduated from Dewitt High School in 1979, attended UAM, and received her teaching degree in 1983.

Rhonda also got married in 1983.

Her husband is Sanders Brooks, who grew up just east of Hamburg, and was also at UAM.

Rhonda taught kindergarten for the Hamburg School District, Portland Campus, from 1983-2000.

During this time, Sanders was pastor at Parkway Baptist Church (Lake Village) and New Hope Baptist Church (Eudora).

Life so many times changes.

Rhonda is in the wheelchair because of complications from juvenile diabetes, a broken leg, and knee deterioration.  She also had a kidney transplant in 1998.

So many people would have given up, but not Rhonda.

When her husband became pastor of Northside Baptist Church, in 2004, Sanders and Rhonda moved back to Monticello.

Rhonda may be in a wheelchair, but she still is able to teach her Northside Baptist Church Sunday School elementary class and serve on the youth committee.

Between the many trips to out of town doctors, Rhonda spends a lot of time with the Northside Baptist Sr. adults, and goes out with the Wednesday night missions group to visit the Guest House residents, and other shut-in elderly members, and feed 11 stray cats.

At other times during the month you may see her spending time at the Other Way; visiting patients as a hospice volunteer; or maybe even hear of her visiting patients at a clinic or hospitals, that need a “pep talk” to gain encouragement to help deal with life’s struggles.

Rhonda may be a “lady in a wheelchair”, but she certainly doesn’t live a “wheelchair life”.

Thanks, Rhonda for sharing your ONE MONTICELLO LIFE with us!

MonticelloLive: Up for sale or phasing out

September 2nd, 2007 by

The cross roadsAfter a banner first year of activity, interaction, new relationships and community news and information, we’re ready to set MonticelloLive aside. We’ve loved having the interaction with people from all areas of Monticello and the surrounding community. We truly live in a wonderful area! Amazing people. Perhaps one of the most well-loved features of the site has been One Monticello Life – the weekly feature of your friends, neighbors and family.

We deeply appreciate the opportunity to serve the community in this way. We hope someone else will take up the mantle of MonticelloLive, but if not, it’s been a great season of life.

One of the primary reasons for turning loose of MonticelloLive is simply the high expectations it’s generated among so many. We simply can’t live up to it!

Another reason, and probably more meaningful, is that as a local pastor, I can no longer afford to divide my focus and time in the way I have with MonticelloLive. Being bivocational, I initially began the website as a hobby and possible source of supplemental income. It quickly – almost dramatically – surged to become a community icon. I simply was not prepared for the time demands – with meetings, interviews, deadlines and the need to justify all the investment by seeking advertising for revenue. I simply didn’t want to be seen as a “reporter” or as attempting to sell ads when folks saw me coming.

Therefore, we’re putting MonticelloLive up for sale. We’ll consider all offers. Please use the contact form to inquire. I will offer website support and full training. It really is a wonderful opportunity for someone, and it’s a vital source of community news and information. For someone who can give it more time than I, its future is indeed bright!

If no one expresses any interest, we’ll simply phase the site out. It will remain online for reference and archiving purposes.

We’re grateful for all the support, kindness and participation of our readers. We’re also very grateful for our regular banner advertisers that made the work more worth it. Thanks to Parkway Bank, A&B Rentals, and Union Bank & Trust.

MonticelloLive to scale back for summer

June 6th, 2007 by

With summer upon us and kids home, as well as other responsibilities crying out for more attention, we’re making the hard decision to scale MonticelloLive back over the summer. We will still be accepting submissions for stories and news releases, but we will not be actively covering news events until sometime in August.

Last month was the first month that our traffic decreased…. by 5 total hits. In May, the site saw 12,450 pageviews, down from 12,455 hits in April! We continue to be grateful for your participation and help in making MonticelloLive your community site.

We’re offering 50% off on all advertising during the summer months. Just look at the advertising page and figure 1/2 off. With between 400-500 hits per day, that is still the best ad money you can spend in the area. While we expect that traffic will decrease as posting is scaled back, you may want to seriously consider placing an ad with ML over the summer.

We also encourage you to send us news stories, announcements, engagements and wedding information. Your continued participation may provide the “fix” that some MonticelloLive addicts need to get through the summer! ;)

Again, thanks for helping make this site fun and interactive! Oh, and as always, if you’d like to make a donation, you can do so by clicking the donate button on the main page.

Recycling Reminder

May 4th, 2007 by

images.jpegThe January article on recycling definitely brought out some new recyclers in our community. Cathy Davis, in charge of recycling for the city, says the increase has been positive.

Here are some reminders from her about recycling:

  • Call 367-4407 if you have any questions or would like to begin recycling.
  • Plastics with the number 1 or 2 on the bottom may be recycled. It is helpful but not mandatory if they are rinsed prior to sending to the recycle center.
  • Fast food containers are not accepted (including cardboard pizza boxes or any styrofoam containers).
  • Please do not send tissue, paper plates, paper towels, or napkins. Paper that has been shredded is the only paper accepted at this time.
  • Please sort your recycle items into cardboard, plastics, paper, and newspaper.

Thanks for recycling.

One dead, others injured in wreck on Thursday

April 13th, 2007 by

One Monticello resident is dead, and two others are injured after a one-vehicle accident in Drew County yesterday.

According to a report by the Arkansas State Police the accident occurred at 12:48 p.m. on Midway Route in Drew County. The report states that a 1999 Mercury Sable driven by Don Simpson, age 18, of Monticello was traveling north on Midway Route at a high rate of speed. The driver lost control after over-compensating for a curve, and the vehicle left the roadway and overturned multiple times. All three passengers were then ejected from the vehicle.

Also injured in the accident were Steven Piper, age 34 and Austin Piper, age 4, both of Monticello. According to the State Police report Simpson was pronounced dead at the scene by a Drew County coroner. The other passengers were transported to Drew Memorial Hospital and Austin Piper was later transferred to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. The report states that no seatbelts or child restraints were in use by any of the occupants. According to officials at the Arkansas State Police, toxicology tests results are pending.

Accident reenactment reaches students

April 13th, 2007 by


As many drove by Monticello High School this morning something out of the ordinary was happening on school property. Unfortunately, the scene was all too familiar for the many public servants who took part in helping. An organized reenactment of a drunk driving accident was staged for high school students to observe, complete with rescue teams from the Fire Department, Police Department, State Police and ambulance service. A helicopter even landed to med-flight some of the victims.

madd1.jpgTeresa Belew, Executive Director for the Arkansas Mothers Against Drunk Driving, visited from Little Rock and spoke to students. She related to the audience that a survey of the youth of Drew County reveals shocking facts. Twelve years of age is the age most reported for having a first taste of alcohol. Of young people who regulary drink alcohol, most say they began regular use at age fourteen. She also reported that in Arkansas alone, there are four to five people killed each week because of an alcohol related accident. Countless others are injured.

Steve Brantley, organizer of the reenactment today, has first-hand experience of an alochol related accident. Today, he shared his story with students of how his wife, Patricia Brantley, was killed in a collision with a drunk driver on June 21, 1996. It forever changed his life and the life of their four children. Steve is passionate about educating others about the dangers of drinking and driving and is very involved in the local chapter of MADD as coordinator for the county.

Monticello radio stations sold

April 10th, 2007 by

In another large media sale, Monticello radio stations KHBM, KGPQ, and KXSA owned by Community Radio Network were purchased recently by Pines Broadcasting Inc., owned by Jimmy and Gwen Sledge. The sales prices of the stations was $1.05 million, according to the site. In a letter to advertisers and businesses, Jimmy Sledge stated, “We have retained all of the employees at the stations, and we appreciate your patience during this time of transition of ownership.”

Pines Broadcasting announced that it plans to provide more local news, weather, and sports, as well as offering six different music formats to listen to on the stations.

Sold! Cablevision

March 31st, 2007 by

It has been confirmed by MonticelloLive that Community Communications Company, better known as Cablevision, has been acquired by former general manager Bill Copeland.  Discussions have already begun on upgrades and the addition of new services.

Cablevision provides cable television to 27 South Arkansas communities and both cable television and high-speed Internet services in Monticello. Cablevision was founded in 1973 and was owned by the late Paul Q. Gardner, Jr. until his death in June 2006. His widow, Donna Gardner and sons, Chad Gardner and Paul (Chip) Q. Gardner III, assumed control of the company at that time.  Community Communications Company still remains the largest independently owned cable company in Arkansas.

An official press release has been promised by the new management, and MonticelloLive will publish it as soon as it’s released.

Two-year old drowned at Monticello Speedway

March 27th, 2007 by

On Saturday night, March 24, Faith Reed, two-year old daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Chris Reed of Rison, AR, died after drowning. Her death is the result of an accident on a Polaris Ranger four-wheeled ATV. The accident occurred at Monticello Speedway in a resevoir used for watering the dirt track.

The incident is currently under investigation by the Drew County Sheriff’s Department.

Other News Sources:

One Monticello Life: Terry Koone

March 18th, 2007 by


“I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world.” These words can be heard from the mouths of millions of young 4-H members across our nation. What started in the early 1900s to educate the young children of rural farmers has now grown into one of the country’s largest extracurricular youth programs. 4-H is not absent in Monticello. In fact, one of the fastest growing features of our local 4-H is the shooting sports program, and this group is mainly organized by Terry Koone. This is his story:

Terry Koone grew up in Conway, Arkansas. His dad worked for Southwestern Bell and his mom was a Farmers Home Administrator. He was the second oldest of four boys in his family. He grew up hunting, fishing and camping. All of these were a family affair and happened almost every weekend. He attended UCA and received a degree in business. He has worked for Farm Bureau as a claims adjuster most of his life.

In 1981 he married Jackie who was from Vilonia. That same year they moved to Monticello and made it their home. Terry and Jackie have two children, Kristen, 21 and Steven, 16. Terry became involved in 4-H for them. When his daughter was nine, she joined the organization. She was involved in several aspects of the club. She won state competitions in cooking. In photography she once was featured in the national 4-H calendar. Although Terry was not a part of 4-H when he grew up, he loved that his kids were a part of a group that had a “hands-on” philosophy. He loved to see them “grow and excel.”

His son, Steven, received a bow for Christmas at age 12. Terry didn’t bow-shoot and found the Drew County Bow Club ready and willing to help him and his son with their new hobby. At that time, Terry realized that 4-H had a shooting sports program on a national level but not in Monticello . He made a decision then to help begin one for the Drew County 4-H.

This is now the sixth year for the 4-H shooting sports program. The first year there were two students. In the third year, they had 8 students but no full teams to compete on a state level. In 2005, they had enough students to compete on a state level. They had a Junior Team (ages 9-13) and a Senior Team (ages 14-19). That year the Junior Team brought home 34 trophies and received a total of 60 ribbons. Last year they raised the bar and brought home 86 ribbons. The group is excited about the possibilities this year now that it has grown to over 40 students.

koone1.jpgThe 4-H Shooting Sports Progam has been a “blessing” for Terry. He does not get paid financially for his involvement or time but says that watching the kids grow and learn is payment enough for him. Terry is passionate about the organization and what it teaches the kids.

Although there are no gun clubs in Drew County, and there are no gun ranges around for the kids to practice, it didn’t stop Terry from making this possible for the kids of the shooting club.The 4-H shooting club started and still meets in Terry’s 20-acre backyard. He uses old signs from around town for targets, and there is always a firearm for someone to use. When the program started they had no equipment. Terry has used his own money at times to see that the needs are met. He has also involved as many people and parents as he can to see the program succeed. The Drew County Bow Club lets the 4-H club run a concession stand for their invitationals and have also given several bows to the 4-H group. The Friends of the NRA has a grant program that the Drew County 4-H applies for each year, and the 4-H students sell raffle tickets for the Friends of the NRA which allows the 4-H to receive some of the proceeds and/or equipment. Terry has seen the program grow by leaps and bounds and says it is “the best kept secret in the state of Arkansas.”

This program is not just about kids and firearms. The 4-H Shooting Sports Program has 4 disciplines: shotgun, .22, black-powder and archery. Terry has completed the instructional programs to train in these areas both on the state and national levels. The participants not only shoot targets, but they also learn the importance of safety, competition, life skills and practice. 4-H is open to all students ages 9-19, and there are many different 4-H programs here in Drew County. For about 40 shooting-sport students who meet twice a month in Rock Springs, the lessons they learn and fun they have make them thankful for Terry’s dedication and vision. He is a great example of the 4-H pledge. His heart has helped many young Monticellonians. Thank you, Terry Koone – one Monticello life.

Twenty meets with congressional leaders

March 6th, 2007 by


Monticello leaders of Twenty for the Future had a busy morning today as they met with four different congressional leaders in the span of four hours.

While Representative Marion Barry was unable to meet due to scheduling conflicts, the group from Monticello met with his chief of staff as well as with Congressmen Mike Ross, John Boozman, and Vic Snyder.

Bennie Ryburn III was the spokesman for the group in all meetings today as he shared Twenty’s eight-point priority list. The group received a positive welcome from the delegation, and the congressmen pledged their support in many of the projects.

Representative Mike Ross said, “It’s a done deal, as far as I’m concerned,” in reference to the need for a north-south connector from Highway 278 to Jordan Drive to alleviate traffic around the hospital and schools.

Representative John Boozman said, “We’ll help you in any way we can.”

Members of the Congressional delegation and their staff remarked consistently what a positive impact the Monticello group is able to make by having such a large group of concerned civic, business and educational leaders present to advocate the needs of the community.

MonticelloLive is proud to present you with the podcast from the group’s meeting with Representative Mike Ross today:

Pictures of Tuesday’s Washington activities can be found here.

Busiest day for site

February 27th, 2007 by

Yesterday, February 26, was MonticelloLive’s busiest day ever! Thanks for your continued interest and helping spread the word around our town and region about the site. We’re so pleased about the positive response, and you are directly to thank for that.

In addition, February has already become ML’s highest traffic month. As of yesterday, the site had already had more than 7,158 pageviews this month! We look forward to growing with you in the days ahead.

As usual, we depend upon you for help with stories and ideas, so keep ’em coming! Many of the stories you read were ideas submitted by others.

Next Monday through Wednesday, we hope to present you with an exciting feature. More about that soon! We’ll be sending out an email alert with the news about the feature in it first. If you’d like your business or group to advertise in the email newsletter, it’s only $25 for the ad! It’s also limited to the first two advertisers.

Again, thanks for your participation in MonticelloLive! It’s truly a community website!

Dumas hit hard by tornado

February 24th, 2007 by

Early reports coming out of Dumas indicate that a tornado touched down and left a path of destruction through the community. Volunteers from the Monticello Fire Department and other organizations left Monticello shortly after the line of severe weather passed through Drew County to lend assistance. Unconfirmed reports are that there many have been some fatalities in Dumas. Dumas is located in Desha County and has a population of 5238, as of the 2000 census.

Monticello police officer injured in hit and run

January 29th, 2007 by

The Monticello Police Department responded to calls at approximately 1:30 a.m. Monday at Connelley and Gaines where initial reports indicated fights had broken out at the Chocolate Factory.

During officers’ attempts to bring order, Monticello police officer George Strain proceeded to the street to apprehend one of those involved in the fights, Christopher Smith, 18. While on the street, they were both hit by a car driven by McGehee resident Keshia Daniels’, 26, as she left the location.

Officer Strain incurred significant injuries and after being initially treated at Drew Memorial Hospital was transferred to Jefferson Regional Hospital in Pine Bluff. His injuries are not listed as life threatening. Smith was also hit and suffered a severely broken leg. He was transferred to the University of Arkansas Medical Center in Little Rock for treatment.

Daniels was arrested in McGehee an hour later for the hit and run.

Recycling. What’s it all about?

January 25th, 2007 by

recyc3.jpgIt’s about making a difference. Recycling is a concern across our nation, and it’s no different here in Monticello.

Some interesting facts about recycling:

  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough electricity to run a TV for 3 hours
  • Aluminum cans thrown away by Americans in one month would reach the moon if stacked end to end.
  • Throwing out one aluminum can wastes enough energy to equal half of the can filled with gasoline. Americans toss 35 billion cans each year.
  • It takes an aluminum can 200 years to decompose.
  • The average household generates 38 pounds of PET plastic bottles (examples are soda and juice containers) each year.
  • If you drink one 20 oz. soda each day, you generate 23 pounds of PET plastic in a year. Two weeks worth, 14 bottles, will yield enough fiber for an XL T-shirt or one square foot of carpeting.
  • Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 110-watt bulb for 4 hours.

recyc1.jpgMonticello’s recycling center currently services only between 300-400 homes, but even that makes a difference. The recyclables from Monticello are compacted into large bundles using the machine pictured here and then sold to ORE-Recovered Material of Clinton, Arkansas. Last year, ORE reported concerning just the paper from Monticello that was recycled. 209.54 tons of paper was recycled from Monticello between the months of January and June, six months. Most of the shredded paper is from UAM but not all of it.

Because of the efforts of Cathy Davis and others at the Monticello Recycling Center and the university’s committment to recycling we saved in just six months:

  • 3,562 trees
  • 859,114 KWH of energy
  • 1,466,780 gallons of water
  • 691 cubic yards of landfill
  • 12,572 pounds of air pollution

recyc2.jpgAlthough Cathy is doing a great job at recycling there are some steps to be taken to make this program even more effective. Recycle products are picked up each Wednesday morning within city limits. To be added to the route and begin recycling, please call Cathy Davis at 367-4407. She is more than willing to answer questions in order to help more and more people get involved.

Once a household is added to the program items for recycling should be grouped into the following categories:

-cardboard (if large quantity of boxes, please flatten)
-shredded office paper (paper that is NOT shredded is NOT accepted at this time)
-aluminum cans (no food cans, no aluminum foil)
-plastic milk jugs, soda bottles, water bottles, etc. (no wide mouth plastics such as peanut butter jars)

At this time, glass is not accepted along with paper plates or stryofoam containers.

To find out more about recycling search the web and the sites are endless. One such site is Recycle City, a great place for people any age, but especially younger students, to learn more about recycling.

One Monticello Life: Rebecca Akin

January 21st, 2007 by


“There is a place where dreams come true, where wishes big and small lead to happily ever after.” This is the current advertising campaign for Walt Disney World. It can be heard on most television and radio stations. One of Monticello’s own, Rebecca Akin, just finished being a part of this magical experience. Here is her story:

Rebecca was born and raised in Monticello. Her dad is President/CEO of Akin Industries, which is a furniture manufacturing company. Her mother is a speech pathologist. Rebecca’s fond memories of growing up in Monticello are many. As children, she and her brother John spent time at Akin Industries where they creatively built trampolines out of excess chair foam. She also remembers city parades, her favorite teachers, ninth grade cheerleading, homecoming court and competing in a UAM monologue competition. She graduated from Monticello High School in 2002.

She attended Ouachita Baptist University, mainly due to the influence of her mother and grandfather. Her mother, Susan, was an OBU graduate, and her grandfather, Raymond Coppenger, taught religion and philososphy at the university. OBU had always played special role in her family and was already a special place for her. Rebecca had known from an early age that she wanted to pursue theater.

“OBU is a safe environment to do theater. I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about racy characters at their small theater,” she said.

She also enjoyed spending time with her grandfather who is now 97 years old. She attended church with him and could walk to his house from campus. She graduated from OBU in August 2006 with a bachelor’s of art, double-majoring in Theater and Mass Communications. She was encouraged to find a theatrical internship, and was excited to land one at Walt Disney World.

At the Disney Internship, Rebecca took entertainment and communication classes. The classes were hands-on, and she experienced the in’s-and-out’s of how theater works at WDW. Rebecca also worked daily as a tour guide for the The Great Movie Ride at MGM Studios. On each tour, she would read a fifty-page script to a group of 70 people. She could not deviate from the script unless the car would get stuck for mechanical reasons. This happened quite often. During the wait, Rebecca enjoyed entertaining her tourists. She would usually end up telling jokes like her favorite, “Why was Cinderella so bad at soccer? Because her coach was a pumpkin, and she always ran away from the ball’. Because most of the riders were at a point of impatient frustration, she usually received more groans than laughs. But this did not stop Rebecca from having fun and making the most of her situations.

akin2.jpgAt the end of the internship she was voted on by her peers and manager for the Thunderous Applause Award. This award was confirmation to Rebecca that although she might be different than most of her classmates, her fun spirit and attitude paid off.
Rebecca learned more than theater at Walt Disney World. She also grew in her Christian faith. Walt Disney World is known as a “happy” place, but she found herself unhappy at times. It proved to be quite a culture shock as she discovered the variety of people and backgrounds at the park. There were parts of her experience that she “hated” but that she wouldn’t trade them. She said she grew as a Christian and learned to rely on God on a new level.

Rebecca is unsure what is next for her now that her Walt Disney experience is over. Currently she is working for Akin Industries creating a furniture catalogue. She likes this stage of life where “nothing can hold her back,” and possibilities are endless. She loves theater and wants to keep that avenue open. Already, she has many credentials:

  • Stage Performances- This is Where We Came In, The Art of Self Defense, Anything Goes, Sound of Music, and South Pacific
  • Directed one-act play, The Diary of Adam and Eve
  • Created and directed Monticello Children’s Theater Camp
  • Semester study in Salzburg, Austria

It is obvious that many dreams have already come true for Rebecca. But because of her love for theater and her love for life, it will be interesting to see what other wishes of this Monticellonian are granted. She is proof that there is a place that dreams come true, not only at Walt Disney World but also in Monticello. Thanks, Rebecca Akin- one Monticello life.

Council abolishes Parks and Rec Commission; approves pool repairs

January 19th, 2007 by

The Monticello City Council met last night with a long list of topics to tackle, including the city pool issue. After much discussion, the Council voted unanimously to continue the repairs and replacement of the liner with contractor Kenny Johnson for a new contract price of $268,083. The original contract was for $242,585 but Mr. Johnson reported that once the project began it was discovered that “the pool is sub-standard construction-wise”. His concern is having to warranty the job for a year, wanting to be confident in the work he’s done. At $268,083 Mitch Rose, the engineer representing the city from McClellan Engineering, projects 5-10 more years use with the current restoration. At this cost, the liner will be replaced with upgraded material, some pipes will be replaced, the diving board will be repaired, a working drainage system will be installed, and the pool lights will be checked and replaced if needed. Alderwoman Sherrie Gillespie asked why the city keeps pumping so much money into the upkeep and maintenance of the old city pool, but was told that this is the first major renovation in the life of the pool, since 1993.

Another major decision reached on the initiation of new Mayor Joe Rogers was his proposal to abolish the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission. Extensive discussion followed this proposal. Rogers responded to Tim Chase’s statement that the city office was taking on more responsibility than they’ve ever had before by saying, “I take full responsibility, 100%”.

As part of this responsibility, Rogers proposed that the city’s Parks and Recreations Commission be done away with, leaving him in control of this area with an advisory board. The Parks Commission has been in place since 1998, serving the community by completing projects such as park improvements, a new baseball complex, a sports complex, among other things. Nevertheless, the Council voted 6-1 with Tim Chase opposing, to grant the disbanding of the Commission.

Just before the meeting adjourned, Parks and Recreation Commission chairman Steve Hartness was given the opportunity to speak. He wanted to voice his concern over the issue and let it be known that the Commission had worked diligently within the boundaries established for them, and that he didn’t understand the decision.

Hartness stated, “Everything we have done has been upfront. I have come to you for two years with budgets and laid it on the line for the city council to approve or disapprove. We’ve accomplished a lot in the past five years. I’m proud of what we’ve done. I’m a little disappointed tonight. I wasn’t considered important enough to even know about this except through the grapevine.”

The mayor argued that he had left a message with Hartness’s wife but Hartness reiterated that he had been contacted at work and on his cell phone on other occasions but wasn’t about the meeting and what was proposed to happen to the commission.

Hartness continued, “There were things in the paper that skirted right on the verge of us being irresponsible with tax money. I hope you don’t think that. I’m not understanding what the difference is in a 15-member advisory board and a parks commission. I’m not understanding how it’s different, other than you’ve got eight more voices or opinions. If something needed done, it’s gotten done.”

He concluded, “I wish ya’ll the best and I’ve enjoyed working with you guys.”

Appreciation for the commission was expressed by Alderwoman Beverly Hudson who said, “I’d like to say they’ve done a tremendous job, and I think that we should thank them for the many hours. I certainly have had no complaints. I think the mayor just wants to take us in a different direction, and we should give him the opportunity.”

Another issue that stirred discussion was the proposal to grant Rogers the ability to approve up to $20,000 in city expenditures without engaging in a competitive bidding process. The previous limit was $10,000. The council also approved that initiative, by a vote of 6-1, with Chase voting against.

Rogers gave his first State of the City address, reading from a prepared manuscript. In it, he stated, “…where others have found persistent problems; let us discover new opportunities.”

Listen to the full meeting on the MonticelloLive-provided podcast here.
Read the rest of this entry »

City council meeting report

January 18th, 2007 by

MonticelloLive is proud to provide you with an audio podcast of Thursday night’s, January 18, Monticello City Council meeting:

You may fast forward or rewind through the podcast by dragging the slider.

Results of the meeting included:

  • Mayor Joe Rogers proposed the abolishment of the Monticello Parks and Recreation Commission. Motion passed, 6-1, with Alderman Tim Chase voted against it.
  • Robert Rosegrant was approved as Roger’s selection for Chief of Police.
  • $262,000 of pool renovations were approved after lengthy discussion. Vote for approving renovations was 6-1, with Alderwoman Sherrie Gillespie voting against.
  • A proposal granted the mayor increased authority to approve up to $20,000 in expenditures without accepting competitive bidding was approved by at vote of 6-1, with Chase voting against. The former expenditure level was $10,000.
  • Contractual services to the following organizations were granted for the 2007 year: Monticello Boys and Girls’ Club, Monticello-Drew County Chamber of Commerce, and the Monticello Economic Development Commission.
  • The city accepted a contract with Garver Engineers for airport layout drawing in preparation for the airport’s capital improvement plan.
  • Mayor Rogers delivered his State of the City address.

A full story about the meeting will be posted Friday.

Monticello newspaper launches online edition

December 13th, 2006 by

The Monticellonian Advance launched an online edition of its weekly newspaper this past week. Located at, the website will be free for the first month, and after that viewers will pay for an online subscription.

According to an article in the Advance publisher Tom White said, “We are pleased to be able to offer on online edition that will make local news immediately accessible to readers who are interested in Drew County happenings – both the local ones, and those living far away,”

“Many of our readers have long been asking for a website, and we have admittedly moved very slowly and cautiously. We have been working on this site for quite some time and we think we have created one of which we can be proud.

“We invite everybody to check it out during the free introductory period, and to keep watching as we work to make it even better.”

Wendy Tassin, advertising manager, told MonticelloLive Wednesday that plans for the online Advance had been in the works for almost three years as personnel selected the right package of services to offer the community from internet providers. The Advance chose Hometown News Hosting to provide the necessary framework for their online edition. The service offers a full features for a subscription-based site as well as services for advertisers.

One Monticello Life: Linda Beer

November 26th, 2006 by
This past week at the First United Methodist Church Preschool there were many three- and four year-olds giving thanks. The children celebrated their annual Thanksgiving feast by bringing their favorite foods. This year’s feast included a bowl of cookie dough, macaroni and cheese, "pasgetty," marshmallows, and chocolate ice cream, to name a small selection. The leader behind this most-anticipated celebration is their preschool teacher, Linda Beer, known by all as "Mrs. Linda." This is her story:

She was born and raised in El Dorado, where her dad worked in manufacturing and her mother stayed home to raise her and her three brothers. After graduating from high school, she attended the University of Arkansas. She returned to south Arkansas after her first year in college to marry Ian Beer.

She met Ian in high school when his parents moved from Canada to El Dorado. Ian and Linda lived in El Dorado after they married as Ian commuted to Camden for a manufacturing job. Their house burned early in their marriage, and at that point, they decided to start fresh in Camden.

They lived in Camden for 18 years. During that time, they had three children. Mrs. Linda stayed at home and occasionally kept other children in her home as well. When her youngest child was four, she began to work in the Camden school district and finished her Early Childhood degree at UAM.

In 1995, the Beer family moved to Monticello where Mrs. Linda found an early childhood education job at W.C. Whaley. The next year, First United Methodist Church began planning to start a preschool. Upon learning of her interest through members of her church, she was hired as the school’s first teacher in the fall of 1996.

The program started with five students, all of whom are in eighth grade today. Mrs. Linda said she had no idea how much work it would take to start a preschool, but through all the paperwork, licensing, and other details, she and the church are proud of what the program has become.

Ten years later, there are two different classes, a three year-old class of 12 students on Tuesday and Thursday, and a four year-old class of 15 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The program’s reputation and popularity require the necessity of a waiting list.

Mrs. Linda has always loved working with children.

"Listening to the kids’ funny stories from home and their take on things is hilarious," she said.

She says that watching their "little faces light up when they write a letter for the first time" and "how they learn to interact with each other" remains some of her favorite things about her job.

In looking toward the future, she mentioned that the church is starting a new building project.

"We’re working on it having four classrooms, playground, and much more room," she said. "We would like to enlarge the program so that it will be open to everyone who wants to get into a part-time preschool. Hopefully, this will do away with the waiting list."

Mrs. Linda’s goals for children in her preschool are for the children to learn to share and interact.

"This is a time they are pulling away from mom. It is great when they get to the point they don’t want mom to come inside anymore. They become more confident and pull away. I am proud when they are ready for kindergarten," she said.

After ten years working with preschool students, Mrs. Linda confessed that she didn’t think she would still be working in this role.

"I never imagined it would bless my life like it has. I can’t imagine now doing anything else," she said.

She’s not the only one who has been blessed. Because of Mrs. Linda’s years at the FUMC preschool, many lives have been touched. Memories of Pumpkin Patch trips, fire stations, county fairs, egg hunts, and the most popular Thanksgiving Feast will not be forgotten. Many little Monticellonians and their parents are thankful this season for Mrs. Linda Beer, one Monticello life.

One Monticello Life: Chase Wellenberger

November 19th, 2006 by
You may have seen a "Pray for Chase" bumper sticker around town with on it and wondered what it was all about. Chase Wellenberger is a little boy with a big story. He is an eight year old whose roots run deep in Monticello. Although at first glance he is a typical kid, a closer look shows more of the story.


His parents, Matt and Carrie, welcomed him into the world as a Texan on January 19, 1998, but before he could even crawl they had relocated to Monticello. At the early age of four (June 2002) he was diagnosed with Low Risk Pre-B cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Within the same week of his diagnosis, his parents learned they were expecting another child. During Carrie’s pregnancy, Chase fought the cancer and after nine months entered a period of long-term Maintenance. His beautiful sister, Catie, was born. After a fairly uneventful year and a half of long-term Maintenance, Chase was checked into the hospital with a virus on October 17, 2004. Daily battling Chase’s high fevers and undergoing much testing, the Wellenbergers awaited an outcome. On December 20, 2004, the doctors reported that Chase had Leukemia blasts in his spinal fluid. His parents dreaded the news of a possible relapse and knew the tide could turn either way. Enduring numerous spinal taps and hospital stays finally brought the news that the cancer was back in full force. Needing to be close to Arkansas Children’s Hospital for daily treatments and therapies, the family moved to Little Rock in April of 2005.

Chase is currently in ACH but took some time to answer a few questions. He says that some of his favorite things to do are hanging out with his friends from Monticello, playing video games and collecting knives and dragons. Dragons are meaningful to Chase because he symbolizes fighting his cancer with fighting a dragon. While in the hospital, Chase spends a lot of time receiving treatments for his cancer and in therapy but to pass the down time he watches TV or plays video games.

When asked, “What keeps you fighting the cancer on those really hard days?” his simple answer was, “My mama, my daddy, and my sister”. He has several words of wisdom to share from what he’s learned about life:

“You can always make it through whatever comes your way.”

“Smile and have fun today; tomorrow may be worse.”

“Thank God for your blessings!”

Pictured here is Chase with Tony Hawk, a popular pro skateboarder. Tony and his crew came to AR and took some time out from their show to meet this extraordinary young man on July 1, 2005. The experience is one Chase won’t soon forget. Some other memories he enjoys are reuniting with his sister after long separations due to long-term hospital stays and playing World of Warcraft with his uncles Casey and Robert!

Even a quick visit with Carrie shows the love and support that this family has for one another. The pride of these parents in their son is evident. Although the experience of having a child with Leukemia must be difficult to describe, Carrie summed up her thoughts about Chase by saying without hesitation, “Chase is the strongest person I’ve ever known or met. He’s a trooper!”

His sister Catie (pictured here with Chase) was asked what she loves most about Chase and her reply was, “He loves on me!” She brings smiles to his face and laughs from his heart by ‘loving on him’ and playing games with him.

Along with his close-knit family, Chase’s friends love and support him. Twelve-year-old Colby Capps has known Chase for six years and says he’s her best friend. Colby remembers lots of time spent with him when they were younger and before he moved. In between giggles, Colby tells of fun times playing spy and sneaking up on their moms, who taught school together, to listen in on the grown-ups! She truly admires Chase for his energy and great sense of humor and can’t imagine life without him. Colby loves the fact that Chase laughs even when he doesn’t feel like it when she makes funny faces at him or pulls other silly antics to cheer him up!

His friend of five years, Parker Caldwell, has lots to say about Chase. He, too, considers Chase his best friend and says, “We’ve been friends for a long time and we like to play video games and go swimming together. He’s like my brother…best friends never let best friends down! Leukemia or no leukemia, Chase can count on me. He needs me but I need Chase!” Parker’s mother, Robin Caldwell, is touched by the friendship between the two and says that Parker and the family prays for Chase consistently.

If you haven’t taken the chance to dig a little deeper and find out more about Chase, now is the time. Learn more about Chase on the website his mom and dad update frequently at While you’re there, boost Chase’s spirits by leaving him a message in the guestbook. You won’t regret getting to know this one Monticello life better: Chase Wellenberger…

One Monticello Life: Priscilla Smith

November 12th, 2006 by
South Arkansas Rehabilitation recently moved to its newly-built facility on Old Warren Road. Among the busyness of workers still finishing the indoor pool and the staff of physical therapists working with patients last week was a dynamic blend of past and present in for Monticello. Nat Grubbs invited a friend and patient, as well as a former physical therapist to view a special room in the facility. The room was especially designed for children in need of rehabilitation services, and it was dedicated to Priscilla Smith. This is her story:

Priscilla Hopkins Houdlette Smith was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1918. Her father was a civil engineer who designed the majority of interstate highways in that state. Her mother was a house wife who died during the birth of Priscilla’s sister, Claire. Priscilla was seven years old at the time. She and her sister were raised by their grandmother for most of their lives.

She was an registered nurse during World War II. She served in England and France from 1943-1945. After her service was complete, she moved to New York City where she worked as a nurse. In the late 40s, Pat Stewart, a nurse friend, from the military talked her into considering work in a new field called physical therapy. She moved to the University of Texas at Galveston to train as a PT.

Polio was in full outbreak in 1950. Warm Springs, Georgia became known for its therapeutic waters. Even President Franklin Roosevelt, himself a polio victim, went to Warm Springs for therapy. Priscilla relocated there and began to work.

"The country was full of polio kids. No one thought there was going to be a cure," she said.

After she worked in Warm Spring, she moved to Dallas, Texas. Working as a PT there, she became the chief PT at Parkland Hospital in downtown Dallas. She also trained students at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

It was in 1963, at her apartment complex, that she met James Smith. He was visiting friends who lived below Priscilla and had been recently divorced. He was raising his four children who were ages one, three, five and seven at the time.

"When I met Smitty, he was changing his son’s diaper. I knew then he needed a mother for his kids," Priscilla smiled.

After a few dates, Priscilla and James traded in her pink and gray Thunderbird for a station wagon. They were married on November 3, 1963.

James was in the field service modular business. They moved several times over the next few years, to Michigan, Dallas, and California. Priscilla put physical therapy aside for a while to raise the children.

In 1985, with the kids grown and gone, the Smiths were in Dallas again. She returned to Parkland Hospital to work as a PT, but in 1988, James’ father, Homer Smith, had a stroke. He lived in Monticello. At that time, the Smiths moved to Monticello to be with James’ family. Priscilla found a job with home health in McGehee and worked there from 1988 to 1999. She was 80 years old when she retired.

Priscilla met Nat Grubbs by becoming a patient of his. The relationship became one of deep friendship and respect. Nat had always been interested in the history of physical therapy, and when he discovered that one of its pioneers was a patient of his, he never let an opportunity pass without learning something and asking questions.

"It has been a tremendous blessing getting to know "Miss Pris" over the years since I returned to Monticello and opened my therapy practice. She has been to me a pioneer, a mentor, a colleague, a patient, and a dear friend….but more than anything else, she has been an inspiration to me. I am inspired by her "spunk," by her unwavering desire to improve herself, by her compassion for others, and by her determination to meet life’s challenges. I hope that all of us who know Miss Pris will be similarly inspired to choose to have the same type of attitude that she has demonstrated as we are faced with our own challenges. I love Priscilla Smith!" Nat said.

At 88, Priscilla Smith is a wonder and delight. These days, she spends more time at home than ever before. Getting around is more difficult as she’s forced to use a wheelchair. She and James smile and laugh more than they ever have, and their kindness and joy is self-evident.

As she received her personal tour of South Arkansas Rehabilitation this past week, she was wheeled into the children’s room that has been dedicated to her. On the wall there is a picture of Priscilla working with a child who was a polio victim. The words below the photo say "In appreciation of your contribution to the physical therapy profession and the many patients you served, and for the inspiration you have provided those of us who have followed in your footsteps… Thank you! We love you! Your friends at South Arkansas Rehabilitation." Priscilla Smith will never be able to estimate the lives she’s literally touched over the years. Our community is grateful for such a life: One Monticello Life.

One Monticello Life: Mae Simpson

November 5th, 2006 by

Books can influence and change the way you see the world. At the Monticello Public Library, there are not only significant books, but there is also a special libararian. Mae Simpson has impacted many people not only through the world of books but also through her life. Here is her story:

Mae Everett Simpson was raised in the 16th Section community east of Monticello. Her father was a pastor and her mother was a housewife. She was the 9th child of 11 children. Mae went to school most of her life in Selma. She went to high school at Drew Central and graduated in 1968. She then moved to Pine Bluff to attend college.

Her freshman year she married a schoolmate, Tommy Simpson. After her first year in college, they moved to South Carolina for two years where Tommy served in the Air Force. In 1970, the couple moved back to Monticello and had their first child.

Mae worked at Burlington for 15 years until the plant closed its doors. She then went back to school in McGehee. In 1985, she graduated from vocational-technical school with an associate secretarial degree.

Though Mae and Tommy had only one child, she parents 13. Mae is a foster parent. They have been fostering for 12 years. At  present, they have three children who have lived with them for six years.

"We lived out [of town] and my husband works in Crossett (where he is a licensed electrician and machinist at Georgia-Pacific). He works graveyard. I would be home by myself all the time. I didn’t like that. So, one of my co-workers suggested I become a foster parent," Mae responded when asked how they began fostering.

They still keep in contact with all of the children they’ve fostered. "I am Mom!" she said. "We are their Mom and Dad."

Mae started working at the the Monticello Public Library soon after she received her secretarial degree. She is the assistant branch manager and holds that title with pride.

"I love the people. There are so many nice people. If I didn’t like the people, it would be hard to stay in the same place for 20 years with all the different personalities you work with," she said.

When asked how what she has seen change in Monticello over the years, she said, "There are more opportunities for minority people. In the past, you wouldn’t have walked through the door of the library and found me behind the desk. It has been a joy to work here. You know, life is nothing without people. I don’t care who they are or the color of their skin. You get them and you mold them. We help them, and we give them opportunities to go to college. It gives them someplace to work, and they learn as they work."

Mae loves the people of Monticello. "There are good people here. They’ll do anything to help you. You know everybody, and that’s good."

Unwilling to simply go to work and return home, Mae is currently on a committee to restore her old school house in Selma. She and several others are worked towards making Selma Junior High School a historical site. The building is used now for banquets and group meetings like the Masons and Eastern Star organization of which Mae is a member. Mae is also an active member of 16th Section Missionary Baptist Church.

Between fostering children, educating young people, working to restore historical buildings, and her active church membership, Mae’s life a book worth reading. Next time you’re in the library, introduce yourself and let Mae know you’re thankful for her life: One Monticello Life.

One Monticello Life: The Allen House

October 29th, 2006 by

What is Halloween without ghosts, goblins and haunted houses? Located in the center of Monticello, on Main Street is one of Arkansas’ most reputed haunted houses: the Allen House. Here is its story:

The Allen House was built in 1900 by Joe Lee Allen. It is still much like it was when it was built. Dottie Simmons, the house’s third and current owner, said, “It’s like you walk into a whole different time.”

The Allen family was in the timber business and built the house with only virgin heart of oak and pine. The wood was preserved with linseed or cotton oil which has kept away termites to this day. The windows in the house were custom made in St. Louis, MO and brought to Monticello on a boat down the Mississippi River. The windows are all different shapes, sizes and colors. The dining room has a hammered tin cherub ceiling.

The house has 9500 square feet. There are 16 rooms in operation. It now has three bathrooms which are not original to the house. There are two washrooms and a complete kitchen upstairs and downstairs. At the top of the four-story house is a full grandmother’s attic.

The house is situated on two acres of land, and the yard is covered with English ivy and several massive magnolia trees. Few know that the house was originally located across Main Street and was moved to its present location. Gloria Wright’s pink bed and breakfast sits on the lot the Allen House first occupied. The house has been featured on television commercials and printed material for southeast Arkansas. But this time of year, its most interesting feature is the house’s claim to be haunted.

Many will attest to the presence of a ghost or ghosts in the Allen House. Ask any long-time Monticellonian, and many will have a story about the Allen House. The stories usually center on Mr. Allen’s daughter committing suicide in the house in the 1940s because of a broken heart. Some say she threw herself over the staircase and plummeted to her death, but the most common story is that she overdosed on cyanide purchased at the Hyatt Drug Store.

Carolyn Wilson was one of the tenants in the house who even wrote a book which is currently out of print. You may find a copy in the Monticello Library. Its title is The Scent of Lilacs and is a romantic fiction involving a large, old haunted house.

Few people realize the history and supposed haunting of the Allen House who have lived in Monticello a short time. However, upon viewing the Allen House for the first time, the response is usually, “I’m not surprised.” Whether it’s haunted or just historical, the Allen House of Monticello surely can be considered part of our town’s life: one Monticello life.

Related Sites that mention the Allen House:

FYI: Current owner Dottie Simmons will be having an auction on November 9 at 11:00 a.m. at the Drew County Fairgrounds. You may preview auction items at the Allen House on November 7-8 at 11:00 a.m. For more information, go to

One Monticello Life: Rob Leonard

October 22nd, 2006 by
UAM will celebrate Homecoming this Saturday, October 28. For many who will attend, Rob Leonard dramatically impacted their college experience. As Director of the Missionary Baptist Student Union and music minister at Pauline Baptist Church for the past 23 years, Rob has invested his life in others for almost six generations of UAM college students. This is his story.

Jacksonville, Arkansas was home for Rob’s family when he was younger. Growing up as a "PK" (pastor’s kid), Rob and his family were integral parts of Landmark Missionary Baptist Church. For Rob and his brother, Phil, life was centered around family and the fast-growing church his dad pastored. What began as a small congregation changed quickly as the church transitioned to a large, thriving center of spiritual growth. New members were added often; church activities consumed the family schedule. Eventually, the church built a new facility to house its growing membership and ministry.

However, during Rob’s freshman year in high school, while the church grew, his family fell apart. His dad left his mom and moved to Little Rock. His mom was forced to find a job and move her boys to a rental house. The single parent family stayed at their church during this time. Rob’s mom attended realtor’s school and received her license as an avenue of provision for the family.

"High school was a tough period for me and my family," Rob said. "Basically everything I ever believed was called into question. I went from the kid whose dad preached at the biggest church in town to the kid who didn’t really have a church anymore. I didn’t know what was going on."

Sports and choir became reliable friends to Rob, who excelled in both. His football team during his senior year was the first Jacksonville team to win the state championship. His experience being selected to the All State Choir gave Rob some credentials during the collegiate application process and helped him earn a full scholarship to the University of Central Arkansas where he was a part of John Erwin’s madrigal choir. Rob and Carla, his wife, were married while in college, though they had met through church activities while in high school. Carla’s dad was a pastor in Cabot. They dated two and a half years before marrying.

"We were ready to put our lives together. Our parents must have been crazy, or they had a lot of faith in us. Carla was 19, and I was 20 when we got married," Rob said.

Driving back and forth from UCA to Jacksonville, Rob continued to attend the church which his dad had formerly pastored "mainly because of memories," he said. "I remembered how it used to be and just wanted to put it back together after dad left. If I could just work hard, I was sure we could get the church back on its feet."

He continued this commute for two years. His future was interrupted, however, when Buddy Lemons, then pastor of Monticello’s Pauline Baptist Church contacted him. The church invited Rob to consider coming to Monticello to serve as music minister. However, Rob and Carla were not interested, being content where they were. Three months later, Lemons called again to ask Rob to reconsider the ministry opportunity. Again, Rob decided not to interview, feeling that he would be wasting the church’s time due to his lack of interest. Yet, the second call prompted Rob to begin praying about the matter, and he soon realized that his time at Landmark Church was over.

He called Pastor Buddy back and asked if the position was still available. Lemons related that the job was his to which Rob responded, "You have to interview me. I can’t just take the job!"

Rob arrived in Monticello in March 1983 to visit with church leaders. There was an immediate connection. He loved the church, the people, and the town and was offered the position the same day. Listen to Rob’s account of his first Sunday at Pauline.

His ministry at Pauline included serving as the campus minister at the Missionary Baptist Student Foundation (MBSF) at UAM. He never imagined being a campus minister. "I never knew that this ministry would be the perfect niche. When I took the job, I didn’t have any idea what the job entailed," he said. He asked his pastor and was told to look through the former director’s files and he’d "figure it out." With a grin, Rob said that he’s still figuring it out today.

There are few UAM students who don’t know Rob Leonard. He continues to play intramurals with the students, as well as coaching them. He’s a fixture in the UAM cafeteria, and serves as the chaplain of the football team. He travels with them when he’s able and delivers pre-game devotionals. The baseball, softball and even rodeo teams are also recipients of Rob’s constant attention and care. Whether it’s a campus fish fry, sports activity, or special event, Rob tries to be present.

"You have to go where the students are," he said. In particular, "the athletes are on their own schedule. You have to minister to them on their time because of their busy schedule." The MBSF focuses on reaching and serving the athletic teams as much as possible.

When asked why he and the MBSF spend so much time trying to reach students, Rob responded, "Because Jesus changes lives."

"People are looking for something to believe in. They want more than they have, but the only person who can give you more than what you have is Jesus, no matter what you have. He can change lives, and when he changes a life, that is something the world cannot refute."

When asked about his thoughts on Monticello, Rob said, "Monticello has had some good opportunities for people to grow, educate their kids and have solid jobs. It seems like once people get here, there is something about this place that makes you want to stay. I don’t really understand it.

"I had no intentions of staying here. There was not anything here that would keep me. But once I got here, I knew this is where I wanted to be. Now, I’d rather be in Monticello than anywhere else. Maybe it’s the people or the spirit of the place – I don’t want to say that Monticello is a ‘godlier" place than anywhere else – but God has definitely been evident to me in this place, and there’s something about that that is obvious to a lot of people here."

Whether praying with the UAM football team before a game or leading a contemporary worship chorus at Pauline Church, Rob contributes to the life of Monticello. Having impacted collegians and citizens in our community for more than 23 years, he is truly one Monticello life.

A.J. Huffman Graphic Design

Citizen’s Bank

Citizen's Bank

Ashley County Medical Center 1 A

Ashley County Medical Center

Jerry Cruce Stump Grinding

Searcy & Associates 2

Searcy & Associates

Beaver Tree Service

Beaver Tree Service

BCMC Family Care Clinic 1

Majors Forest & Lawn 1

Malco Theater 1

Ashley County Medical Center 1

Ashley County Medical Center

Prescription Pad Pharmacy

The Prescription Pad Pharmacy

Farm Bureau

KK Logistics

KK Logistics

Mr. Bug

Mr. Bug

Drew Farm

Union Bank 2

UAM Trotter House B

UAM Trotter House

City Drug

City Drug

Ashley CountY Medical Center 3 A

Ashley County Medical Center

Immanuel Baptist Church

BCMC Family Care Clinic 2

Baker’s Electrical

Baker's Supply

Monticello Animal Clinic

Monticello Animal Clinic

State Farm Mark Gray

AM Rental & Sales

AM Rental & Sales

Commercial Bank

Malco Theater 2

Ashley County Medical Center 3

Ashley County Medical Center

Union Bank 1

La Terraza

La Terraza

Quality Plus Dry Cleaners

Quality Plus Dry Cleaners

Citizen’s Bank 2

Citizen's Bank


Be A Weevil

Mullis Insurance

Sammy Mullis Insurance

Monticello Realty

Monticello Realty

Lucky’s Of Monticello

Bone’s Auto Parts

Bone's Auto Parts

Small Bites Pediatric Dentist