- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

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Texarkana Gazette, Dec. 8, 2014

The Last Survivors

There are only nine of them left. Nine men who can look back and recall the events of Dec. 7, 1941, from the deck of the USS Arizona.

The last survivors of the most famous battleship sunk at Pearl Harbor.

Four of them came back to Hawaii this year for the 73rd anniversary of the attack. It was billed as the last reunion of USS Arizona survivors.

But the four brave men_all in their 90s_who gathered at Pearl Harbor over the weekend said they will reunite again.

It is certain that at least two indeed will do just that_one way or another.

Louis Conter, 93, Donald Stratton, 92, John Anderson, 97, and Lauren Bruner, 94, were among about 100 other Pearl Harbor and World War II survivors who marked the anniversary. They were greeted with salutes and martial music. They posed for photographs with members of the public who came out to honor them. They answered questions from the media. They observed a moment of silence for their fallen comrades. More than 1,170 men died on the USS Arizona. More than 900 remain buried with the ship, including the ashes of 38 survivors who chose to join their shipmates as age claimed them. One day in the future there will be at least two more. Bruner and Conter have already announced they intend to be cremated and have their ashes placed in that place of honor. Just over 2,400 were killed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.. About 60,000 servicemen survived the attack. Maybe 2,000 are still alive today. And their number grows smaller with each passing day.

We won’t see their like again.

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El Dorado News-Times, Dec. 7, 2014

Quietly making a difference

It’s funny how those who make the biggest differences, who effect the greatest good, always seem to do so in the quietest of ways.

The teacher who takes an extra moment to bolster a struggling student, the youth minister who offers a word of encouragement to a lost and lonely teen, the food bank volunteer who never realizes that his or her efforts are the difference between a child going to bed hungry or that same child going to bed fed: In most cases, these people will never know the esteem of the world at large. They will never be rich or famous, and they will never bask in the adoration of cheering fans. They may never even receive so much as a word of gratitude for their quiet, selfless, but oh-so-important contributions to the general welfare.

And maybe it’s that fact itself - the fact that they will seldom see, nor do they even desire, credit for the things they do - that makes such people so effective and so indispensible.

They do because they want to do.

They do because they are fundamentally good people who have taken that fundamental goodness to the next level: the level of action.

Here in Union County, we are fortunate to have known such a person.

For the past 40 years, Nancy Arn has been going to work at the Barton Library every day and quietly making a difference, and while some might question how much of a difference a librarian might make to a community, we have no doubt whatsoever. Who can say how many people - how many lives - have been touched by the quiet, steady efforts of this beloved community icon, and who would care to imagine what our community would look like without its six public libraries and the guiding hand that has shepherded them for four decades?

Nancy didn’t have to settle in El Dorado. She holds a master’s degree in library sciences, she’s lived all over the world, she speaks four languages fluently. With her impressive credentials, she could have gone anywhere - done anything - and yet she chose to be here, in Union County. She chose to devote her life to the task of engendering a love of reading into the very heart of a small, south-Arkansas town and making its library a welcoming, friendly place where everyone could come and feel a little piece of home.

And she didn’t stop there.

In addition to her work at Barton - augmented by her service to the Arkansas Library Association and the Arkansas Association of Public Librarians - she has served our community on the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce and as co-founder of the Union County Family Violence Center. She has also served as a foster parent, a board member of South Arkansas Fights AIDS, and an animal advocate.

What she hasn’t done is win a wall full of awards or gain the fawning adoration of the Powers that Be. In fact, there’s a very good chance that many among us don’t even know who she is. But again, the fact that she’s never coveted any of that is a huge part of what makes her such a treasure to our community. She’s simply done when she’s seen the need of doing, and if there’s any better description of public servant than that, we’re not sure what it is.

Nancy will soon be retiring. A reception was held to honor that event last Thursday, and although we are sad to see her go, she goes with our very fondest wishes for a happy and well-deserved retirement. And although she’ll no longer be there to greet us at the library, we doubt we’ve seen the last of her.

People like Nancy never truly retire. They simply move on to the next need.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Dec. 7, 2014

Get ready, get set …

It took the ol’ boy from Louisiana a couple of weeks to get used to Arkansas parking lots. Yes, parking lots. If you’re used to flat land—and it doesn’t get much flatter than parts of Louisiana—then the parking lots in these latitudes can be tricky. Because some of the parking spaces are on an incline. The ol’ boy found his car door slamming back on him if he parked one way, or jerking away from him if he parked another.

And that was in the summer. His first winter here was a circus. How do you get to work if you have to drive up and down hills the entire way—and the roads are covered in ice?

The answer that most Arkies would give him: Very carefully.

If the calendar is right, winter approaches Arkansas yet again. The price we all pay for looking out over a winter wonderland a few mornings of the year, and being able to build snowmen with the kids, and getting an unexpected break from school and maybe even work, is chancy travel. For a recent example, see last winter.

An unexpected ice storm hit the state one Friday evening last February and shut down the whole state. Folks were stranded on the interstate between Little Rock and Memphis for days. Shameful. Their predicament made national news, and it didn’t make Arkansas look good.

Where were the snow plows? Where was the highway department? Where were the trucks and salt and workers and the help in general? The governor wasn’t happy. Neither, one would expect, were the poor folks stuck on I-40.

The good news: This year, the state’s highway department says it’s ready. Or at least getting ready.

Granted, nothing’s going to keep traffic moving smoothly if the state gets 10 feet of snow one night. But the honchos at the highway department say they’re planning to hire 200 more people for their maintenance crews as winter closes in—and the hires should be made as soon as the paperwork and drug tests clear.

At the beginning of 2014, the state—the entire state of Arkansas—had only six trucks with belly plows, and four of them were stationed in Northwest Arkansas. The plan is to double that number soonest, and park four of the trucks in Central Arkansas, where they can be farmed out to different parts of the state as needed.

And the state has bought salt. Lots and lots of salt. As in 12,000 tons of it.

Yes, all of this is costing millions. Or as officials told the newspaper, about $18 million more this year.

But anybody who was stuck on I-40 overnight last February and had to rely on local church people to come out and feed the stranded might think another $18 million for people and equipment will be worth it if The Big One hits. Or just another Medium One.

For the record, the people who run the Farmers’ Almanac are calling for a wet, cold winter. And—this is the clincher—we’ve seen spoons in persimmon seeds. Now would be a good time to get that snow shovel out of the shed, y’all.

On your marks, get set … .

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