Eureka Springs Independent Column

And so another class graduates from Eureka Springs High School and passes into legend. The graduation ceremony was held Friday, May 22 at the new high school gymnasium. It was announced that the 45 members of the graduating class of 2015 have already been awarded over $700,000 in college scholarships.

Also over the weekend, the Eureka Springs High School Alumni Association held its 125th annual banquet and meeting at the Inn of the Ozarks Convention Center.Chairing the meeting was Alumni President Rusty Dycus (Class of 1992).

Diane O’Connor Weems (Class of 1986) welcomed the newly graduated Class of 2015 as members of the Alumni Association. Diane’s daughter Sarah Weems (Class of 2015) responded by accepting the invitation on behalf of the graduating class.

Bobby Pyatt (Class of 1955) was presented the Alumnus of the Year Award by Jeff Reynerson (Class of 1974). Mr. Pyatt is one of the all-time great basketball players from Eureka Springs High School. In the days before the establishment of the three-point shot, he once scored 49 points in a single game. It was also reported that he has a passing resemblance to Cary Grant and is a true gentleman.

Phyllis Albrecht McGuire (Class of 1962) presented Juan Luis Palacios Romero (Class of 2015) with this year’s $1500 Alumni Association Scholarship after reading his excellent essay to the group.

When Ben Rivett (Class of 1964) stepped forward to call the roll of the members present, someone shouted that he was the “best bus driver ever.” I tried to keep track of how many names were called, and the unofficial total I arrived at was an even 100 alumni members present (plus their guests). The oldest class represented was the Class of 1942.

David Stoppel (Class of 1978) read the names of the 14 alumni who had passed away in the previous year.

Association Treasurer Tammy Sherman Bullock (Class of 1991) presented the financial report and Association Secretary Gayla Goff Wolfinbarger (Class of 1981) read the minutes of the 2014 meeting.

The meeting was adjourned after Thalia Colvin-Ortega (Class of 2015) won the Apple iPad.

Eureka Springs Independent Column

My obituary won’t boast that Steve Weems never met a stranger. I am not a master of social dynamics; I’ve never made friends easily.  I’m more comfortable observing than participating and I’ve been accused of being anti-social a number of times. And yet, inexplicably, I find myself having friends.

What all my friendships have in common is that I did not consciously choose them. In every case, I was brought together with someone by circumstance and a bond was formed. Perhaps I’m a little superstitious about the process. Some of my friends are blood relations, some date back to my time in school. Some are of more recent vintage, met through jobs or because of my writing one way or another. Some of my friends I met while in the military.

I had a buddy in the army from when I first arrived in Schwaebisch Gmuend, West Germany. He trained me in my job and we often worked through the night hours together. I still remember the intense feeling of freedom the day we rented a Volkswagen Golf and started driving without a single destination in mind. After an impromptu tour of the Augsburg Zoo, we became hopelessly lost in Bavaria. My friend was happy as long as he had cigarettes, so we drove until we hit Munich late at night and had to turn around and head back for duty.

Just like me, my friends are flawed. Just like me, my friends do things they shouldn’t. Sometimes friends will do something that will turn your soul to ice. My buddy returned home from a tour of Iraq and murdered his wife and then committed suicide on the front lawn while his children played inside the house. Ever since that event I’ve wrestled with questions of friendship and what it means, like when is it correct to end a friendship? What is the tipping point? In this case, my buddy is already dead. Too late to disown him, except in my mind. And yet, despite his actions, I continue to feel loyalty to him. Is that wrong? I do not know.

Eureka Springs Independent Column

I was around Joe Parkhill a few times as a teenager. He was an older man then and he’d usually be reading the newspaper. On one visit to his home, I recall that he’d just returned from a trip to Dallas to visit Tom Landry, the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys football team. I asked his step-daughter Linda recently if my recollection was correct. She said it was and that because of Joe’s relationship with Coach Landry, the players on the Cowboys team each ate a honey stick before games for a burst of energy.

Joe Parkhill was born in Eureka Springs in 1911, but grew up in Chicago. His grandfather was a barber whose parents had emigrated from Ireland. His grandmother was a sister to Claude Fuller.

When my father was Station Keeper at the Naval Reserve on Spring Street in the early 1960s, Joe Parkhill was also a member of the unit. I’ve heard the story that if something was needed that couldn’t be acquired through official channels, Joe might work his magic. After a trip somewhere, he’d show up bearing gifts. Joe Parkhill could wheel and deal with the best of them.

At some point, Joe Parkhill fell in love with honey bees. He was appointed director of the Arkansas Apiary (Bee) Board by Governor Faubus and he ran with it. He crisscrossed the state promoting honey bees and it is said that during his tenure, Arkansas went from last place in the nation in honey production to eighth place. He pushed through the honey bee becoming the state insect of Arkansas. A natural at marketing, Joe had a radio show and appeared on television. He compiled several honey cookbooks and served as President of the American Beekeeping Federation. He lectured in Japan and travelled to the Soviet Union to represent the United States bee industry.

I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve left out his rumored link to Al Capone and the slot machines at the Basin Park Hotel, and his friendships with characters ranging from Jim Bakker to Bill Clinton. And, of course, he played the drums.