Official Website for South Central Region - Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas
For Nancy and I it has been an immense pleasure to work together on a project as heartwarming as “SCR Gardening Hero.” We hope you will enjoy reading the beautiful stories of our sisters in this wonderful organization we just call garden club. We have found honoring someone in this way is inspiring to us and to the next generation of members. As you read, someone may come to mind that is a “hero” to you! What better way to “honor the past and embrace the future” as we raise funds to better educate the next generation of garden club members? Look for pictures on the SCR website.
I have been overwhelmed at the response to this effort to raise scholarship funds. I will always be grateful to the donors who have honored so many great women who have led us! We now have 29 SCR Gardening Heroes! I expect that number to round to 30 by the time we meet together for the last time this term in Oklahoma City! Through this program we have truly honored the past and we embrace the future with scholarships for tomorrow’s leaders.
Rose Knight, SCR Director
Nancy Voyles, SCR Gardening Hero Chairman
“SCR Gardening Heroes” honored to date:
Donna Marsheck by Rose Knight
I wish to honor Donna Marsheck as the first “SCR Gardening Hero” for her years of dedicated service in all areas for Oklahoma Garden Clubs, Inc., for her service over the years to South-Central Region, and for her unselfish and gracious assistance to me in preparation for the 2021-2023 SCR Term.
Rose Knight, SCR Director
Mary Jean Easterling by Lucy Clinton
I wish to honor my mother, Mary Jean Easterling as “SCR Gardening Hero.” She taught me well to
respect the environment and have fun canoodling with Garden Club people. She served Fort Cobb Improvement Garden Club and Oklahoma
Southwest District well.
Lucy Easterling Clinton 2021-2023
Mary Ann Holman by April Pratt
I wish to honoring Mary Ann Holman as an SCR Gardening Hero on her 90th Birthday. MaryAnn has tirelessly supported the OGC, SCR and NGC organizations for decades. Even at 90, she is continuously willing to volunteer for committees, travels to and judges flower shows all over the region, works diligently to encourage membership, projects and events for her club, district, and the whole state. She always has a word of encouragement for those of us who are flagging in our work. She is the best cheerleader we have! The knowledge she possesses astounds us at every turn.
We wish her many more years of active service, because, selfishly, we need her! With deepest affection, we wish her the very best.
April Pratt Presented at her birthday party on May 15, 2022
Johnita Turner by Viola Garden Club
The volunteer services that Johnita Turner has graciously and willingly performed have impacted not only garden clubs and societies but also the Will Rogers Garden Exhibition Center and Oklahoma City. She worked as a liaison between the Council of Garden Clubs and Director of Parks for the Oklahoma City Parks Department. Johnita negotiated long and hard for four years to keep the Will Rogers Garden Center as a
building for gardeners. She humbly shares her success in this endeavor by saying it was a “joint effort.” One only has to look around the Will Rogers Garden Center to see Johnita’s impact, i.e., repapering all the kitchen shelves and then putting clear plastic over the paper so it would last for many years; organizing gardening clubs and societies to raise funds for a new refrigerator, funds for additional carts in the kitchen, and funds for a large cart in the prep room. Johnita organized collecting jars for classes, moving 5000 plants to larger pots, and revitalizing the library. She provided a large Christmas tree for the Exhibition Hall and replaced it when needed. During the same four years she was spending countless hours negotiating, Johnita was instrumental in organizing plant sales and planning four Festivals in the Park to celebrate all things gardening. The list of offices that Johnita has held are numerous and include President of the Oklahoma City Council of Garden Clubs 2015 to 2019. She is a dynamic personality who not only observes needs, but who also steps right in with her “can do” attitude finding solutions and creating new opportunities. Johnita’s work and love of gardening and garden clubs and societies will be felt and appreciated for countless years. Johnita Turner is truly a Gardening Hero!
Marilyn Lahr by Viola Garden Club
In the many years that Marilyn Lahr has served in garden clubs, she has provided varied and critically important services, including mentorship to club members. Marilyn was a supportive and positive influence during the four years of negotiations between the Council of Garden Clubs and the Oklahoma City Parks Department to preserve the Will Rogers Garden Center for garden club activities. During that time, she shared and continues to share the historical significance of Will Rogers Gardens. When Viola Club members and activities were on a sharp decline and the club was headed toward extinction, Marilyn single-handedly stepped in and was determined that Viola Club, which had been in existence since 1939, would not be lost. One of the Viola Club members said Marilyn was the “savior and soul” of Viola Club. Marilyn has great skills in tapping members’ abilities and enlisting their help and she is always available to answer questions and offer assistance. Viola Club continues to depend on her. Marilyn’s list of offices is wide-ranging and includes: (1) North Central District President 2005-2007, (2) Oklahoma City Council of Garden Clubs President 2007-2008.
(3) Garden in the Festival Chairman 2008, (4) Late Bloomer’s President 2001-2003, and (5) Viola President 2013-2015 and 2019-2021. In addition, she has had the sole responsibility of preparing and printing the Viola Yearbooks since 2006. Marilyn’s delightful sense of humor and gracious personality are appreciated by all. Marilyn Lahr is truly a Gardening Hero.
Lena Belle Keahey Thornton, Martha Sue Reed Thornton, & Martha Rose Thornton Knight
by John Knight
I wish to honor three special ladies as “SCR Gardening Heroes” for three generations of membership and service to garden clubs in Arkansas Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc.
Lena Belle Keahey Thornton
Star City Garden Lovers Club, Charter Member
Martha Sue Reed Thornton
Star City Garden Lovers Club
Martha Rose Thornton Knight
Star City Garden Lovers Club * Primrose Garden Club of Arkadelphia Verna Garvan Design Study Club
* Little Rock Designers Study Club Arkansas Judges Council * AFGC President 2015-2017 * SCR Director 2021-2023
John Knight April 21, 2021
Eleanor Fikes by Phyllis Byrum
Eleanor was a happy, good-natured pillar of AFGC for many years—until her death. She was a charter member of Riverdale Garden Club of Benton and later joined Designers Study Club of Little Rock.
She was a tireless club, state, and district worker, giving outstanding design programs all over the state and chairing flower shows too. Besides holding officers in her local club, she also was Southwest District Director,
Arkansas Judges Council President and served on many state chairman jobs, including state nominating committee and symposium chairman.
She mentored me and others as flower arrangers and flower show judges. She was a warm friendly person and beloved by AFGC members over the state, truly an “SCR Gardening Hero” to me.
Phyllis Byrum August 24, 2021
Pat Haering by Verna Garvan Design Study Club
We wish to honor Pat Haering, a gracious lady who was a mentor to Arkansas Federation of Garden Club members all over the State. She held many leadership positions and because of sharing her artistic and creative talent, was instrumental in promoting flower shows and judges training. Her generosity was unbounded and her contributions to AFGC and to each of us cannot be measured. Pat’s areas of service were:
Whitfield Garden Club * Designing Women * Wildflowers Garden Club
Grow & Show Garden Club * Designers’ Study Club * Verna Garvan Design Study Club NGC Accredited Flower Show Judge * Arkansas Judges Council * Flower Show School Chairman * State Flower Show ChairmanAFGC President 2001-2003
By the members of Verna Garvan Design Study Club April 28, 2021 Terri Waterman * Phyllis Byrum * Alessandra Hurst * Adrienne Kahn * Joanne Pegler * Rose Knight * Margo Bushmiaer * Dianne Szczygiel
Phyllis Byrum by Bryan and Amy Golden
Phyllis Byrum loves the Garden Club. She is a member of several in the state of Arkansas. More than gardening, she loves the people. Mom enjoys sharing her knowledge of flowers, competitions, and gardening with everyone she meets. She always goes above and beyond when asked to provide educational programs – whether it be on table décor, outdoor plant advice, or any number of topics of which she has a vast knowledge base. Her infectious love of the Garden Club began years ago in Benton, Arkansas. Her involvement expanded over the years as she learned new skills. To the point, that as an adult, she obtained a degree from the University of Arkansas in Horticulture and Landscape Design. Phyllis Byrum is a great role-model, especially for her family who often seek her advice. And because she is a great advocate for higher education, it is our honor to nominate Phyllis Byrum as a SCR Gardening Hero to benefit the scholarship program.
Amy and Bryan Golden April 26, 2021
Joyce Brown by Deborah Woolsey
Joyce Brown is a hero in many ways. Garden Club is one of those ways. For decades, Garden Club has been vital for her. As an active member of several clubs in the Arkansas, she continually uses her skills and artistry for the benefit of others such as conducting workshops for nursing home residents, decorating her church for weddings or events, and preparing floral designs for parties and showers. Her home is always decorated with plants and her unique floral designs. It is always a treat to see what new creation she has on the island in her open, family-style kitchen. With several degrees in education, Joyce is both a natural and trained teacher. She unselfishly communicates her knowledge of both design and horticulture to others. Joyce loves to share her love of gardening and design, and she has nurtured a love for art and nature in her children, grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren. Her mother, Irene Weatherly, was a lifelong Garden Club member, and now Joyce leads three more generations as both her daughter, Debbie Woosley, and her granddaughter, Claire Golden, have served as officers of their local clubs and remain active Garden Club members. As a founder of Environmental Services Company, Inc., Joyce (for more than 50 years!) used her knowledge of nature and the environment on a daily basis to assist clients with pollution prevention, environmental protection, and conservation. Her efforts to protect our flora and fauna through her business career are countless. Those efforts, her generosity with her artistry, and her love of sharing with and involving others make her a true SCR Gardening Hero.
Deborah Woolsey August 2021
Nell Freeman by Nancy McGraw
If my grandmother could have peeked 50 years ahead of the day her daughter was born, I think she would have named her Rose. My grandmother would have seen the love, the fun, the challenges, the prizes, the friendships, the hard work, the education, and community service that all seeped into the life of her beautiful daughter through gardening.
Since I was a teenager, my mother has enjoyed every gardening adventure through her local and regional, even national events. Nurtured by Annie Mae Matthews, my mother took advantage of every aspect of her garden club. Forty plus years have gone by since my mother first started her adventure in the garden. My mother has a green thumb and a love of flower design. She grows her grandmother’s, my great grandmother’s fragrant, huge pink rose she rooted from a cutting of the original plant. Her rose garden boasts the most beautiful roses that my dad cuts and puts in a vase and presents to my mother with a kiss and the words, I love you. It is a beautiful gesture and a sight to see.
Through my beautiful mother, I can see the beauty of the earth through her roses and the dedication she has to gardening and the treasures of friendships. I am proud to present my mother, Nell Freeman, as an SCR Gardening Hero.
Most sincerely, Nancy Freeman McGraw August 24, 2021
Imogene Miller by Joyce Brown
Imogene Miller worked hard to build membership in garden clubs. She was a founding member of Chenal Garden Club. She also was a booster for the purchase and maintenance of Hillcrest Hall.
During our flower show schools together she was always a positive influence, always eager to help in any way. She served in many capacities during her lifetime. She was State Flower Show Chairman, Council President, decorating Hillcrest Hall, assisting students in their schools, and working to improve gardening to name a few of her many attributes.
Joyce Brown August 24, 2021
Daisy Mittlesadft by Phyllis Byrum
Daisy Mittlestaedt was truly a gardening hero to Arkansas Federation of Garden Clubs and Little Rock Council of Garden Clubs. She was an Accredited Flower Show Judge for many years and was also a horticulture instructor for flower show schools and symposiums. She walked tall in the state as she handled the records for the flower show judges of Arkansas. She did it all with patience and kindness. Her husband, Dr. Stanley Mittlestaedt was dean of the UAMS School of Pharmacy when my husband was a student there. Daisy entertained members of a club composed of wives of pharmacy school students. We were invited to her basement where she showed us her collection of dried plant material and how to arrange it into beautiful things for the home. That was long before I was a garden club member, but it planted a desire in me that is still there. On the first schedule I every wrote for a flower show, she wrote the hort portion, and I wrote the design part. It was “Arkansas Is a Natural,” a state flower show held in conjunction with the spring state convention on March 29 & 30, 1982 at the convention auditorium in Hot Springs, Arkansas. She is one of my heroes.
Phyllis Byrum August 24, 2021
Jean Gipson by Nancy Voyles
Jean Gipson is a hero to me and many other garden club members. At one time she was a member of four clubs in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
She was responsible for starting many of those clubs. Jean presented a program on table designs at the first garden club meeting that I attended as a guest. I could not wait to become a member of a garden club to learn more about designing. Jean was the reason that my husband, Bobby, and I started making metal sculptures in
2000. Jean came down to our scrap yard and was blown away at the many possibilities of metal sculptures that we could make if we welded the parts together. My husband and I were shocked at the prices Jean told me to charge for the items.
She was the reason I started flower show school and became a Master Flower Show Judge. Because of Jean Gipson I gained knowledge and my circle of friends grew. Jean was always ready to help and encourage me as I struggled to make a design for the flower shows. When I was asked to be AFGC President, Jean was the first person I called for advice. Jean said she would help me if I decided to take the position. I asked her to be parliamentarian. Because of Jean I have learned to appreciate art in many forms. Jean is a wonderful artist even with declining eyesight. Jean has a wealth of information in her head and is always willing to help everyone. Because of her I look at the world in a different way. Jean served as AFGC President in 1973-1975. Back then all the ladies wore a hat and gloves to the meeting. There were 3,083 AFGC members back then. Jean served as Alternate ACR Director. Jean was active on the NGC level. She attended all four NGC schools: Flower Show School, Environmental School, and Garden Study. She is a Master Flower Show Judge. Jean was facilitator for Environmental Schools and traveled to all eight regions as a speaker. Jean has served more than twenty-five years on the NGC Board and is a member of the Golden Circle Committee.
Nancy Voyles August 24, 2021
Bobbie Verser by Nancy Voyles
I first met Bobbie Verser at a Northwest District meeting in 1994. At the time Bobbie was living in Harrisburg and served as the club president for many, many terms. Bobbie is great at organizing. She was Northeast District Director 1997-1999, and I was director 1999-2001. Bobbie was AFGC President 2003-2005, and I followed in 2007-2009. The great thing about following Bobbie, is that she got things in order, and it made my job much easier. We traveled together to district, region, and national meetings. All along the way we were planning the next event. One drove and the other would take notes.
In 2012 AFGC hosted the NGC Board Meeting. Judi Davis and Bobbie Verser were the chairman and vice- chairman. They both did a fantastic job. In the beginning Bobbie and I lived only thirty minutes apart, but I would never have met her if it hadn’t been for garden club.
Later Bobbie moved to a patio home in Little Rock with lots of flowers from her place in Harrisburg. I have a nice place to stay when I am in town. She also shares her home with many NGC Presidents when they come to town. Bobbie is great to shuttle people to the airport.
Now her spare bedroom is an office for AFGC. Bobbie is our office manager. She still has room for me from time to time.
Bobbie worked for a chancery court judge after retiring as an elementary school teacher. AFGC has benefited from Bobbie’s background in education and the court system. No wonder she is so organized!
Recently Bobbie’s church has served as a meeting place for a flower show and our flower show school. Even though Bobbie had a job as church secretary, she still had time to help everyone out. Yes, Bobbie Verser is an SCR Gardening Hero!
Nancy Voyles August 24, 2021
Mildred M. Thompson by Nancy Rana
In March of 1953, Mildred M. Thompson became a charter member of the Iris Garden Club of Clinton, Arkansas serving as the first secretary-treasurer of the newly formed club. She served in many compacities throughout the years and remained active until her passing in 2017
Mildred’s love of plants and flowers was instilled in her by her mother, and she passed it forward to her family and friends. She was a life-long learner and enjoyed the fellowship with others who shared her passion for the beauty in nature. Mildred would work for weeks on a design for a flower show and received several awards for her efforts. Garden Club was an important part of her life, and we wish to honor her as a “SCR Gardening Hero.” Nancy Rana & Family August 24, 2021
Nancy Voyles by Darrel and Melissa Dickinson
Nancy has played an active role in the garden club community for over 30 years. She has served as local president, state president, and region director.
Nancy has served on the scholarship committee and numerous state level committees as chairman. Not only has she been a member of her hometown club, but she has been a member of Harrisburg Garden Club and Little Rock Designers. She and her husband, Bobby began making sculptures from scrap metal that were used in flower shows and designs that brough home many blue ribbons. Her love for flowers, designing and gardening reflects all throughout her home and yard. She has taught her children and grandchildren throughout the years to appreciate the love for flowers and making arrangements. We have all watched her magic come alive as she decorated for many weddings and events over the years. She was also very honored when she received the “Pat Haering Creative Design” award at the AFGC flower show in 2019.
Among all the awards, blue ribbons, and committees, she still says the greatest reward over the years is all the wonderful friends she has made. I have heard my mother say time and again, if it wasn’t for the garden club, I would not have met these ladies. My mother, Nancy Voyles if my SCR Gardening Hero!
Darrel and Melissa Dickinson August 24, 2021
Ronna Precure by Nancy Rana & Rose Knight
We wish to honor Ronna Precure s “SCR Gardening Hero” for her most recent three terms as AFGC Award chairman. Ronna had served in this chair previously and when a need arose during Rose’ 2015-2017 term as AFGC President, Ronna stepped up again! She reported to the executive board and received approval to revise the application form and the awards list to update it. She continued to serve during Derenda Stanley’s 2017- 2019 term and Nancy Rana’s 2019-2021 term as AFGC President.
Ronna brought clarity and enthusiasm to our AFGC Awards and exceeded the call of duty by attending all state and district meeting to answer questions and promote awards. She was available by phone, email and in person to answer questions that any garden club might have and assisted with the award application.
There is no better cheerleader for AFGC, SCR, and NGC that Ronna! Thank you, Ronna, you are our “SCR Gardening Hero”!
Nancy Rana and Rose Knight August 24, 2021
Liz Howell by Audrey Howell Chandler
My mom Liz Howell should be selected for the honor because she has many wonderful qualities that are deserving of this award. My mom goes above in all things she does! She is a Christian woman and a leader in the Searcy community. She has been Arkansas Federation of Garden Clubs president and she has wonderful passion for gardening. She gives 110% to make sure her yard and all gardens are fantastic! She not only takes care of all plants, but she even helps with the bees (a huge factor for pollination) for her flowers. She loves butterflies (like me) and provides milkweed for them on a regular basis. Liz Howell will give back to you and she will make sure your organization thrives! Thank you for considering her for this honor.
Audrey Howell Chandler August 2021
Sug Borgognoni by Glenda Tolson
Sug Borgognoni Joined the Lake Village Garden Club in 2018. She had been president of the Greenville, MS Garden Club and brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Lake & Plantation Garden Club in Lake Village. She was elected President to the Lake Village club in 2019 and was in her second year as president when she passed away in January 2021. Her giving spirit and ability to make everyone welcome and loved was a huge boost to the Lake Village club. She was able to see talent in others and find ways for them to shine. She wrote a grant request sponsored by Ames Tool Company, and the club was awarded tools to use in the beautification of their community. She led the club in community projects such as beautification surrounding the SE Arkansas Library in Lake Village and the downtown amphitheater on Lake Chicot. Sug had been diagnosed with MS at age 36 but she never let it dampen her spirits or slow her down. Sug had a servant’s heart
and a passion for children and gardening. This was very evident in her leadership and volunteer service. Her incredible selflessness, compassion, positivity, and courage in battling every challenge she faced is truly an example for the kind of lives we should all strive to lead.
Glenda Tolson August 24, 2021
Linda Jean Brown by David Stephen Brown
My wife, Linda Jean Brown, has been a member of Dogwood Garden Club since 1996. She served as President for a total of eight years. She has held many positions during her years as an active member. Linda Jean has dedicated years to making our community a more beautiful place to live. She continues to find ways to help others by bringing new ideas to her club, but the one I believe she deserves recognition is for working with non-profit organizations. These organizations all have different mission statements or themes and are very community oriented.
The idea she brought to the club and named the “Festival of Trees” was a contest we saw while vacationing in Destin, Florida during Christmas. Her enthusiasm for helping non-profit organizations was overwhelming and the garden club decided to give it a try in Texas. She organized the project from start to finish and by writing the guidelines, spreading the idea by word of mouth, and writing articles for the local newspaper and her contest began to take shape. She has judges from other towns come in to judge the contests using a specific scale of point system. This event is not about the most beautiful tree, but about how the trees reflect the mission statement of each non-profit. She approached a local business and asked the General Manager to consider underwriting the cash prizes for the top winners and as they say, the rest is history. Each year she contacts him and each year he says “of course.” This year marks ten years of helping non-profit organizations by giving them the opportunity to win cash prizes for their worthwhile causes. Originally held in the local mall, the event has moved to a new venue in the downtown merchants’ store windows. This award gives non-profits the opportunity to have their names mentioned in public and a chance to win cash prizes to help with the volunteer work they do. Not only do non-profit organizations benefit from the vision she had, but this event inspires the community with the Christmas spirit.
Linda Jean is my gardening hero and I wish to honor her as “SCR Gardening Hero.”
David Stephen Brown August 2021
Sheila Brown by Dig ‘N Design Garden Club
Sheila Brown has been an active member of the gardening community in this area for many years. She participates with our Garden Club and the local chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas. Ms. Brown volunteers her time, sharing her knowledge and experience in both basic gardening and gardens and habitats. She has organized projects for schools and was instrumental in the establishment of a Native Pollinator Habitat Grant Program that provides funds for the establishment of native pollinator habitats. Her enthusiasm is contagious. She is able to inspire fellow gardeners, students, teachers, and parents in projects that have benefited schools and communities throughout this area. She is tireless in her efforts to increase knowledge of plants and the environment.
Dig ‘N Design Garden Club November 2021 Seabrook, Texas
Renee Blaschke by Rose Knight & Nancy Voyles
We wish to honor Renee’ for her service to NGC as President, to SCR and TGC. Renee’ is well known in Texas for her gracious leadership, she is the crown jewel of SCR, and one of the Crown Jewels of NGC>
Renee’s tireless commitment to our organization on every level, her business acumen, and her warm engaging manner has won her countless friends. I have been a fan since meeting Renee’ at SCR Convention in NM in 2017 where she won my respect with her humor and down to earth approach.
Renee’ willingly stepped up to serve SCR as Parliamentarian for this term and we are grateful for her guidance and honored to call her “friend.”
Rose Knight and Nancy Voyles