Several years ago, one of my meanest critics from my hometown died…at the age of ninety-one. Actually he was a seemingly-nice neighbor until, in 1973, he served as the lead attorney for my husband in our ugly divorce.
I mentioned Steve Matthews in my book, THE BEAUTY QUEEN: Let No Deed Go Unpublished, because he openly hated me. I never understood why, during the divorce, he attacked me viciously---like a scorned lover. He also nitpicked over every nickel to keep me from getting enough money to support my daughters. One would have thought every dollar was coming from his personal bank account.
Years later, when we crossed paths, socially, Steve refused to speak. He stared at me from across a crowded room with seething anger, much-like a bitter ex-husband. I almost felt sorry him. His unharnessed hate must have made him physically sick.
Reading his obituary, I noted he was being praised for the various positions he held in his church. I found it puzzling he was credited for the length of time he’d served in church outreach. Everything in his lengthy obituary focused on his church duties and number of years he’d performed them….but, never once, did his obituary mention any of his involvement on a personal level. There was absolutely no mention of any of Steve’s “good deeds”. Not even one time was there a mention of Steve's love for God....or for his family.
Steve’s death was a reminder of his hate of me. I know attorneys are hired to do the best job for their clients BUT---does that require an attorney to get so- personally involved in a divorce that he/she adopts the same hate-contempt-for the wife or husband---as their client!?!?!?
Obituaries seldom--if ever--say anything negative about the deceased. Or, as old people would say, "Never speak ill of the dead." But, as I approach the finish line, I speak out more and more about what I've experienced from people….whether its good or bad.
Life is never one-sided; all of us make mistakes. Hopefully, we learn from those mistakes......but if we purposely hurt others, slander others, and do whatever we can to harm others.... and appear to enjoy it.... should our obituaries really focus on our Christianity? Should our obituaries really describe us as candidates for Sainthood? I don't want to hear about someone’s dedication to church duties or how many hours they spent inside the church. Talk to me about their good works.
PS….For the “first time”, I’m going-public with information I learned almost one year after my divorce was settled. Letters full of serious lies and hate... were written by Steve Matthews, Jack Perdue (my ex-husband,) several“Good Old Boys” and sent to then-Governor David Pryor. The letters attempted to get me fired from my position with Arkansas Public Television. In the early seventies, AETN (Arkansas Educational Television Network) was owned/operated by the State of Arkansas and I was considered a State Employee.
Interesting to note: I saw the letters because David Pryor was a loyal friend….more than he was a politician. (David and I became friends when we both attended the U. of A at Fayetteville, AR).
I strongly believe that, eventually, Hate turns on its Haters and...they die a slow, miserable death.
The day of my noontime appearance at The Pine Buff Rotary Club, I was happy to see a large turnout of members as well as several journalists from the Arkansas media.
Barely into my lively “show and tell” presentation, I noticed a few members glancing at their watches while another longtime Rotarian kept stirring his coffee, his metal spoon loudly clacking against the china cup. A few minutes later, two members began whispering loudly. But, when the Rotarian across from me started snoring---mouth open, eyes closed-- I lost my composure.
I stopped talking, laid my photos on the table, and waited. After a minute or two, wondering why the speaker was suddenly silent… everyone stopped stirring their coffee, whispering, sleeping, nibbling.... and looked in my direction. Silence can be the perfect attention-getter. It was only after the room got completely quiet and every eye was on me, that I choose to speak:
“Why am I standing here telling you about an historic event which took place at Oakland Park….only blocks from your businesses? Why am I showing you photos of the 819 rescue with all the visiting dignitaries, when---as Rotarians and important leaders of this community--you could have been there, should have been there----- but chose not to be?!?!?!
Just moments ago, I realized that the future of the 819 is in jeopardy without strong leadership, the kind of serious leadership that is desperately missing in Pine Bluff.
So…..as of today, I’m announcing my intention to run for Mayor of Pine Bluff. And, if you aren’t careful----I’ll win!"
Of course I lost my bid for Mayor and...just as I feared...the 819's Future died...along with the Town. Yes, I was bitter, frustrated, and angry. Not only because I lost in an unfair, rigged, race but....because I had a solid platform and a flawless plan to save my hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The day the race ended I said "NEVER AGAIN".
Today, I'm convinced that plans are in-place to Take Over America. The plans were conceived long ago and are being initiated by the same Evil I saw in my small-town race. But the Evil has now grown to such gigantic proportions that it encompasses the entire worldwide stage so, after much thought....I've been rethinking the word "NEVER".
Age has never limited my actions or my possibilities. In fact, Age has merely improved my performance. My Experiences have made me stronger and widened my vision. And, my Losses have taught me to lead with my head...not with my heart.
IF YOU KNOW ME--YOU KNOW I BELIEVE IN ACTION RATHER THAN WORDS. AS YOU KNOW, ALL WE HEAR FROM POLITICIANS ARE WORDS, PROMISES, MORE WORDS....SO...
WATCH-OUT WORLD! I'M SERIOUSLY THINKING ABOUT ANOTHER LONG DISTANCE RUN. THIS TIME...I'M THINKING OF A RUN FOR CONGRESS.
Many girls dream of wearing a crown. There’s a Cinderella magic associated with a crown, a certainty that once you wear the crown you’ll have it all: fame, fortune, the happy ending, and best of all---the Prince. Every Saturday, from childhood through my teen years, I visited the public library. I well remember the Saturday I saw a magazine cover featuring the newly-crowned Bess Myerson, Miss America, 1945. I quickly switched from being a movie star during pretend-playtime----to being a beauty queen. Discarded lace curtains became my flowing train and an old wire light fixture easily twisted into a crown.
Eventually I had to grow up and pretend-playtime had to end. Even today, I miss it. Those times in front of the dresser-mirror--- pretending, creating make-believe, and playing dress-up---were my safe times. More than anything, I loved having fun with the little girl in me. Too bad my pretend world and my real world had nothing in common.
In my new role as Miss Arkansas, life lost no time teaching me about the real world. Only weeks after winning the state title, I received a congratulatory letter from the President of Simmons Bank---the largest and oldest bank in my hometown of Pine Bluff. The bank president said, in honor of my recent success, he had opened a bank account in my name. He asked me to contact his secretary so I could sign the necessary papers and pick up my new checks. Of course, the bank had opened the new account with a deposit of twenty-five dollars which, in those days, was considered an impressive gesture. Today, there’s not a beauty queen worth her crown who would say “thank you” for less than a one thousand dollar deposit.
The day of my bank appearance, I dressed in my nicest suit and best accessories. It wasn’t every day a young girl was invited to meet the president of a prestigious bank. When the president’s personal secretary escorted me to the president’s private elevator to reach his very-private office, I was impressed. She introduced me to the bank’s president and, after the official photographer snapped a few photos, both the secretary and the photographer left the room.
The bank president made a little small talk then described watching me on television the final night of the Miss America Pageant and how good I looked in my swimsuit. He paused for a moment---before complimenting me on my very pretty legs, emphasizing how long and sexy they looked on his large television screen. Caught off-guard and slightly embarrassed, I didn’t know how to answer so I simply thanked him and---waited. There was an awkward silence just before he asked me to stand and lift my skirt so he could get a better-look at my long legs. Shocked, I was unable to respond until--- suddenly, I thought of pretend-playtime--- glanced at my watch, and began walking, tall and proud, toward the door.
Just like Susan Hayward, the classic actress, I smiled sweetly and said “I’m so sorry sir, but I’m supposed to meet my father at the service station to have my tires rotated and I’m already late. Thanks for the bank account and I’m sure we’ll see each other soon.”
Apparently not a man who missed many opportunities, the bank president insisted on seeing me to the lobby---by way of his private elevator. During the ride down, Wayne---as he insisted I call him--- locked me in a big bear- hug while one of his hands brazenly fondled and caressed my butt.
Thank goodness the President's office was located on the mezzanine, only a short elevator ride to the lobby.