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Linda Faye's Family Nurtured Boy's Yearning for Learning

Posted Friday, September 9, 2011, at 4:50 PM

Saddened was I to learn the death of Linda Faye Parks Lawrence (Aug. 25, 2011).

As a farm boy, privileged was I to know Linda Faye and class-to-the-Bootheel-bone parents, Hugh and Mildred Gowan Parks, for they were close kinfolks to nearest and dearest farm neighbors, A.J. and Nell Neel, who lived on an adjacent farm to our land at Canalou.

Honored was I to be invited to Linda Faye's wedding at Gray Ridge General Baptist Church in the 1950s to Jimmy Lawrence. They both had long distinguished teaching careers at Richland Schools.

We share a rich heritage at Richland/Gray Ridge schools, for I graduated there in 1962, largely due to the patience and guidance of Superintendent Robert L. Rasche, greatest "school man" I've ever known.

I credit Mr. Rasche, school board member Hugh Parks and farm neighbor A.J. Neel with fostering my love for reading and writing, which resulted in a world-traveled newspapering career spanning 45 years until retiring in 2006.

As a small tyke, it was A.J. who first recognized my yearning for book learning.

"Danny boy, your reading books will let you travel the world one day," A.J. prophisied one day he was taking me to the Grace Hewitt's Town Library that doubled as "City Hall" and the Canalou Calaboose.

When Canalou High was consolidated in 1958-59 with Matthews High, I asked Mr. Rasche's permission to transfer to then Gray Ridge High. A waiver was required since I lived on the New Madrid County side of boundary Little River.

It was blessed fateful move, for at Gray Ridge I had the Rev. Omar Brooks as an English/speech teacher. His encouragement helped make me ready to enter newspapering.

The last time I spoke with Linda Faye and Mr. Brooks was a few years ago, when I was privileged as guest speaker at the Richland/Gray Ridge/Essex school reunion in Dexter.

At that reunion, I shared covering the White House, getting shot at multiple times while covering the war in Bosnia, getting "cotton patch" religion, and ultimately retiring as a columnist for multiple newspapers in Tennessee in 2006.

Linda Faye's parents and relatives helped encourage a young farm boy. May the Good Lord rest their precious souls, who saw fit to nurture and love a farm neighbor boy.

I treasure their memories and have been served well by the strong work ethic I learned from them and my farm parents, the late Hubert and Ruby Lee Whittle.

Thanks for reading this first edition of the "Bootheel Beat."

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Retired recently as world-traveled newspaperman, career made possible by late Superintendent of Schools Robert L. Rasche, about to have Bootheel life book published by SEMO State University. Loved farm life, but knew at five years old, didn't want to be a "cotton picker" when I grew up.
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