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Ashley News Observer- Features


Work is child's play for new Crossett pediatrician
For Dr. Kenneth Richards, his job is much like play time.

“It’s great,” he said. “I come to work and play with kids all day.”

The newest member of the Ashley County medical community, and the only pediatrician in the area, is now at work – or play – in the Ashley Women’s Clinic on Fred LaGrone Drive, adjacent to Ashley County Medical Center.

Richards said one of his major inspirations was, in fact, a pediatrician that he knew while growing up in American Fork, Utah, south of Salt Lake City.

“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” he said. “My pediatrician was a big influence, and I always wanted to help people. And then when I took a biology class in high school, that made the interest even stronger.”

After high school, Richards went to Utah State University for his undergraduate studies, followed by medical school at the University of Louisville and then a three-year residency at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria.

He had been in the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina for the past four years, and first heard of Crossett when his parents, Arlyn and Colleen Richards, moved here.

“My dad is in the IT department at Georgia-Pacific,” Richards said. “And my mom taught Dr. (Alan) Wilson’s kids piano lessons, and then he started asking about me.”

Richards said he finally decided to see Crossett himself, which he did just over a year ago.



(Full story, photo in the Ashley News Observer)




Ministry continues to support Wilmot
The uncertainty over the future of Wilmot Elementary School and a mid-summer move by the Hamburg school board to re-open the school for the upcoming school year had very little impact on Eagle Family Ministries.

The Bentonville-based religious organization never gave up on the Delta community as it maintained its annual plans for a week of building and support activities in the Delta community on behalf of the small elementary school.

Steve Tucker, president of Eagle Family Ministries, said his organization adopted Wilmot in 2000 and it has spent a portion of its summer in the small Ashley County town for the past 13 years.

An annual element of the summer project crafted by Eagle Family members is to bring and distribute school supplies to students at the elementary school. The organization also provides supplies and materials to Wilmot’s schoolteachers.

Tucker said his organization would still have come south to Ashley County and brought school supplies for the children of Wilmot even if there were not a Wilmot school.

He explained the students would have still needed the supplies; they just would have used them at a new school elsewhere in the county.

“We were still bringing school supplies for the children at Wilmot,” Tucker said.


(Full story, photo in the Ashley News Observer)




Haley Creek Boys still pickin' after almost 40 years
Classical music in New York City may mean Bach and Beethoven; but in Arkansas, classical music is gospel and blue grass.

The sound of guitars, mandolins, fiddles and a stand-up bass is the music of the south – particularly Arkansas.

In Ashley County, particularly in the Promise Land community, the Haley Creek Boys have long been spreading the word and playing the music that best represents classical southern culture – bluegrass and gospel.

The group came together in 1975 and will celebrate its 40th anniversary in just a few months.

Over the years, membership has changed and there have even been a few girls mixed in with the Boys; but the current 11-member singing group keeps alive the music and spirit that the original membership sought to represent.
The oldest member of the band is one of the original members, 83-year-old Ed Watt (mandolin, vocals).

The youngest is 37-year-old Jared Brooks (lead guitar, vocals). Despite being the youngest, Brooks knows the band’s legacy because he joined it as a youngster – 12-years-old.



(Full story in the Ashley News Observer)




Former Crossett resident collects first Super Bowl ring
What began as an internship for Lane Gammel has led to a job as director of communications for the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks – and a Super Bowl ring.

Gammel, a 1993 graduate of Crossett High School, was in town last week to visit family and friends, with two top prizes in tow – the championship ring and his new daughter, almost four months old.

“It has been a big year,” he said. “We won the Super Bowl February 2 and we had our first daughter March 20.”

Gammel said he graduated Crossett High School with no thoughts at all of being in his present field.

He attended and played football at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, then known as Northeastern Louisiana, and considered following in the footsteps of his father, local pharmacist Billy Gammel.

“I went to pharmacy school since my brothers didn’t and I thought I might go into the same field that my dad had,” Gammel said. “But then I just realized I wanted to do something in sports. I had stopped playing (football) after two years at Northeast Louisiana but I still wanted to be in sports. I thought maybe I wanted to be an athletic director. Then I found out that our athletic director at the time had majored in public relations.”

Gammel said he had considered “public relations” to be a media job, not something that an athletic director would pursue.

“I didn’t want to be in the newspaper business, but when I saw our AD had been in public relations it gave me something to think about,” he said, “so I changed my major after I realized that I could have a public relations degree and still work in sports.”

Gammel initially went to Seattle in 1997 as an intern with the Seahawks.



(Full story in the Ashley News Observer)




Parks, tourism bring resources, jobs to Arkansas
Richard Davies gestures as he addresses Crossett Rotarians June 26 at First Methodist Church. (Tom White/News Observer)
Arkansas’ state parks and tourism industry not only provide recreation for state and outside residents, but they pump a considerable amount of money into the state’s economy, according to Richard Davies, executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

Davies discussed the important role played by tourism and the state’s parks to Crossett Rotary Club members June 26 at the First Methodist Church of Crossett.

Davies argued that the first national park in the U.S. is not Yosemite, as is widely reported and in the history books, but actually Hot Springs.

“(President) Andrew Jackson set aside Hot Springs as a federal reservation, 60 years before Yosemite,” he said. “He just didn’t call it a national park, he called it a federal reservation.”

Davies said the number of parks in Arkansas grew considerably after the 1921 national conference of state parks, with Petit Jean officially designated as the first state park.

Problems grew over the years, however, as the number of state parks multiplied, but not the resources to care for them, according to Davies.

He said the 1996 conservation amendment “has helped us take care of things that had been broken since the 1940s.”

Davies said Arkansas’ 52 state parks offer a variety of features for local residents and tourists to enjoy, from the Ozark Folk Center to the Crater of Diamonds.

As for the latter, he said the discovery of five diamonds each over one carat in one year boosted revenue at that facility by $1 million.

Tourism in Arkansas, Davies said, “means money and it means jobs,” adding that the tourism industry generated $5.9 billion last year.

He said the state’s 23 million visitors have helped to create 100,000 tourism-related jobs and produced $425 million in taxes.

And that has also served to benefit Ashley County, Davies said, as the county had 119,000 visitors last year, serving to help create 314 jobs in tourism-related fields.

Davies said 85 percent of Arkansas’ tourists come from what he called “the egg,” an area that extends from Illinois and Indiana to Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.

“We’re the big pretty hole in the doughnut,” he said.

Davies added that the top reason given by tourists for visiting Arkansas is the state’s beauty.

“The number one reason is they think we’re pretty,” he said. “They think we’re a pretty state. And, for us, the Natural State isn’t just a name.”



(Full story in the Ashley News Observer)





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