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ARKANSANS INTERVIEWED

Mena - From the Middle East to Middle America

From the Middle East to Middle America

Don & Judith Forbis

Since the age of 3, Judith Forbis has loved horses. That love soon grew into a way of life. From taking a U.S. government position in Turkey so she could ride the Turkish Calvary horses to owning the Ansata Arabian Stud farm in Mena with her husband, Don, Judith has kept her eye on the prize each step of the way. Almost 50 years after she and Don founded Ansata, the farm has become a testimony to a lifetime of "striving to exceed the ordinary."

Where do you live?
Mena, Arkansas.

Where were you born and raised?
I grew up on Long Island, N.Y. I went to Syracuse University to study art, but the travel bug bit me and I left early, taking courses at other colleges and then going overseas. My husband, Don, went to work for Halliburton, working mostly the Middle East.

What brought you to Arkansas? After Don and I met and married in Turkey, we studied the Arabian horse breed, eventually deciding we wanted to breed them. Happening through Arkansas after a horse show, we fell in love with the area.

What was your first impression of Arkansas and its people? My first impression of Arkansas was its overwhelming scenic beauty and raw nature. The people here are so friendly and warm, and every time I travel, I am so glad to get back to the hometown atmosphere and simplicity of the region. I've been to many countries, and to me this is one of the most special places on Earth.

What do you tell people from out of state about Arkansas? We tell people who have never been to Arkansas that it is home to us, in all its natural beauty and glory. No wonder it's called The Natural State!

West Little Rock - Getting Back to the Basics

Getting Back to the Basics

Bruce Bennett Family

Although Bruce Bennett was born and raised in Arkansas, his career goals took him to places as far away from Arkansas's rolling hills as Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Years later while vacationing in Hot Springs, Bruce and his wife, Kim, decided that the family-friendly pace of Arkansas was perfect for raising their two young sons, Brock and Chad. Now, six years after Bruce's return to his roots, he and Kim share what their family loves about living here.

Where do you live?
West Little Rock.

Where were you born and raised?
I grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and Kim grew up in New Jersey.

What is your current occupation and/or hobby?
We are both attorneys, and we own Brock-Chad Title Co. and Brock-Chad Marketing Inc. Kim is a marathon runner, and I coach youth basketball at the Boys and Girls Club of Little Rock.

What did you find most surprising about the area?
We were surprised to find that there are a number of restaurants here. The food is great, and there is a variety of food to choose from.

What do you enjoy most about the area?
Having both lived in larger cities, my wife and I really like getting around with minimal traffic. Most events and outings are usually within a short driving distance.

What are some of your favorite local festivals and events?
Each year, we look forward to Riverfest. There are just so many fun family events during the day and great music to enjoy at night. We also like the annual Greek Food Festival.

What do you tell people from out of state about Arkansas?
We tell our friends from out of state to please come and visit us in Arkansas. Your perception, largely shaped by mixed media messages, will change immediately.

El Dorado - Artistic Appreciation

Artistic Appreciation

Jorge and Maria Villegas

As professional artists, Jorge and Maria Villegas carry long lists of accreditations and awards. Since moving to El Dorado over a decade ago, they have painted more than 20 public murals in Arkansas and Louisiana, their most recent being inside the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce boardroom. Although they lead busy lives, Maria Villegas said, "We love what we do! There is something wonderful about discovering the individual talents we all have."

Where were you born and raised?
Buenos Aires, Argentina.

What originally brought you to Arkansas?
We liked the contrast between Buenos Aires - a cosmopolitan city - and a small town in Arkansas.

What are your careers?
Jorge holds an 11-year degree, and he has been working as a professional artist for the past 35 years. I hold a five-year degree, and I've worked as a professional artist for 25 years. As Artists-in-Education, a program sponsored by the Arkansas Arts Council in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, we both take art to the schools in El Dorado and other communities in Arkansas.

How does Arkansas lend to your creativity as artists?
We have found a place to quietly meditate and reflect surrounded by nature.

What are some of your favorite local arts events?
El Dorado's Music Fest is one of the most important events of the year, and the South Arkansas Arts Center offers art shows, plays and galas.

What do you tell people from out of state or family from Argentina about Arkansas?
We tell them that Arkansas is a gorgeous place to raise a child, where friendly people still wave to fellows in the streets. Arkansas is not only a place to be in contact with nature but also a state with deep-rooted heritage and a modern appreciation for the arts and culture.

Bentonville - Native Daughter Returns Home

Native Daughter Returns Home

Becky Paneitz

She left Arkansas in 1984 as a mother with a master's degree in criminal justice and returned 19 years later as a grandmother and the president of a college. Becky Paneitz, 54, was born in Arkadelphia and grew up in the tiny Delta town of McGehee. After leaving Arkansas, she moved to Colorado, where she taught at Pueblo Community College while earning a doctorate in vocational education from Colorado State University at Pueblo. In 2003, she left her job as vice president of instruction at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, N.C., to become president of Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville.

What did you miss about the state while you were away?
The people and especially my parents. The state is a pretty one and I missed the familiarity of home.

What do you tell people about Arkansas who don't live here?
That it is a well-kept secret and does not fit many of the stereotypes out of there of Arkansans being backward and uneducated.

What do you enjoy most about the area in which you live?
The vibrant economy, the great quality of life, and more and more amenities that are always being added, such as restaurants, shopping malls, and cultural events like Pops in the Park in Bentonville, the Benton County Civic Symphony Chorus and the planned Crystal Bridges Museum, funded by the Walton family.

What local events or festivals do you attend?
I go to concerts and plays at Walton Arts Center and many performances at NWACC including musicals, plays and lecture series. I also attend chamber of commerce annual dinners and various galas that raise money for local organizations.

What was the best concert that you saw at the Walton Arts Center recently?
Michael McDonald, formerly with the Doobie Brothers, was great!

Hot Springs Village - World Traveler Retires in Arkansas

World Traveler Retires in Arkansas

Paul Day

In his 30-year career working for IBM and other technology companies, Paul Day lived places ranging from the familiar to the exotic - from Amarillo, Texas, to Okinawa, Japan. But when it came time to retire, Hot Springs Village was the only place with everything he and his wife, Patty, were looking for, including autonomy over the construction of their home in a retirement community. Now Paul Day spends his days burning through all those frequent-flyer miles collected over the years, serving on several community development boards and playing golf at least three times a week.

Do you have a favorite golf course?
Yes, we live on the eighth hole at Diamante. And Diamante, we believe, is the best course in the state. This is where we had the Nationwide Golf Tournament. We had it here five years in a row, and the pros that were here said that these were the best greens they putted on all year and that this was probably the third-best course of all the courses they played.

What is your handicap?
Currently my handicap is 14. It had been as low as a 10. But, you know, when you are approaching 70 it isn't quite as good as it used to be.

What do you do when your family members come to town for a visit?
Clearly the guys like to play golf. Magic Springs is nearby for the grandchildren. And we go fishing out on some of the lakes here in Hot Springs Village.

Have you been to any good shows at the Summit Arena in Hot Springs recently?
We went to Dino when he was here last year. He is a performer out of Branson. He is a piano player, and his wife sings. We also went to visit the Triplets at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event last year. They were three all-American basketball players from Arkansas [that is Ron Brewer, Marvin Delph and Sidney Moncrief].

Helena-West Helena - Relocated Reporter Takes Root in Delta

Relocated Reporter Takes Root in Delta

Michele Page

Michele Page, 32, was skeptical about moving to the Arkansas Delta, but she quickly fell in love with the area's unique landscape and culture and was embraced by locals as one of their own. Now she's giving back to those who have given her so much. Working as reporter/photographer for the Helena-West Helena newspaper, The Daily World, she covers all the important issues currently facing the newly consolidated community, including the fight for better public education.

What do you tell people about Arkansas who don't live here?
I tell them they must really ride around, experience the beauty of the land and the personality of its people. I also tell them my story and how I have fared here. I truly believe that I couldn't have prospered as well in some other state.

What sorts of hobbies or recreational activities fill your time? I mostly work and go to every event in the area. Right now, I am helping with radio debates for the candidates in our district and even have a big one in the works. I love to volunteer for as many things as possible. This area has given me so much, I can't think of enough ways to repay this city and people for all the love they have shown me.

What local events or festivals do you attend?
I attend them all, but the most recent one I covered was the Main Street Helena Art Festival. The upcoming festivals I am going to cover are the Gospel Festival and the Delta Idol Banquet on May 20.

Are you a blues fan? I am now that I'm more aware about the culture related to the blues and how deeply rooted the music is with the culture here. There is even an exhibit in the Delta Cultural Center that goes into great detail about how the blues actually started right here in Helena. The yearly mecca of blues fans to the former King Biscuit Blues Festival happens in the fall in October. Thousands upon thousands of blues fans come from all around the world to visit the birthplace of the blues.

Cherokee Village - Lakeside Living: Cyril and Lynda Bertram

Cyril and Lynda Bertram

Cyril & Lynda Bertram

When Cyril and Lynda Bertram decided to move from northern Wisconsin to Cherokee Village, they left behind seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. What drew them to a state so far away?

"We looked at numerous places in the U.S. to retire in a warmer climate," Cy, as he is called, said. "We chose Cherokee Village because it has just about everything one would want for retirement with a touch of four seasons and within a reasonable distance from our family."

After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary for 45 years and working for Mercury Marine as a plant manager for 37 years, Cy knew he had to find a place where he could be around the water.

"Boating has been in my blood all my life and now I spend my summers patrolling the seven lakes here in our city," he explained. "This job is similar to what I did in Wisconsin when I patrolled Lake Winnebago. In fact, Cherokee Village reminds me of Wisconsin with its abundance of trees and lakes."

Four years before they retired, Cy and Lynda visited Cherokee Village with some friends. They loved it so much they bought a house before they left. Today, they live on Lake Sequoyah.

"We were so impressed with the beauty, friendship and affordable cost of living," he recalled. "Cherokee Village is the hidden beauty of The Natural State. It has two 18-hole golf courses, tennis courts, recreation centers, physical fitness center, senior center, horseshoe pits, and seven lakes for boating or fishing."

Cy volunteers with Village Pride, an organization that strives to keep the city beautiful, and is the chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee for the city. The Bertrams enjoy fishing, boating, bowling and spending time in the garden.

Though they left their family in Wisconsin, the Bertrams have learned the importance of staying in touch. They call their family and stay up to date with pictures sent through e-mails. However, Cherokee Village is now home, and they enjoy spreading the word about their successful out-of-state move.

"We enjoy affordable housing, very good fire and police protection, and a wide range of doctors for our health care needs," Cy said. "Once an individual retires and is on a fixed income it is very difficult to maintain the lifestyle that you were used to while working. Moving to Arkansas gives you the ability to keep that lifestyle."

Air Executive: Deborah Schwartz / Little Rock

Deborah Schwartz

Deborah Schwartz

As Executive Director of Little Rock National Airport, Deborah Schwartz oversees the operations, maintenance and strategic development of the city's air link to the rest of the country; the airport served almost 2.5 million passengers in 2006.

Schwartz and her daughter, now 16, relocated from Worcester, Mass., in November 2004 so Schwartz could assume her role at Little Rock National. Before her tenure at Worcester Municipal Airport, the Indiana native worked as assistant airport manager at William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas.

"Many of my friends and colleagues [in Texas] had parents who had retired in Arkansas, or they themselves vacationed in Arkansas. I had only driven through Arkansas once, 20-plus years earlier, before I moved here," Schwartz said.

The state surprised her, Schwartz said, with its natural beauty and outdoor opportunities, plus its geographical variations. She thinks Little Rock's friendly people, four seasons, relatively low cost of living, and easy access by land and air are excellent reasons to retire to the area.

The state's natural beauty lets Schwartz participate in her favorite pastimes. She enjoys "horses, running, hiking — almost anything outdoors."

Besides being an accredited member of the American Association of Airport Executives, Schwartz has become invested in local community through professional organizations. She serves on the Arkansas Aviation and Aerospace Commission, on the boards of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of Pulaski County, as a honorary commander of the USAF 463rd Airlift Group and member of the Community Council at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Schwartz envisions a bright future for Little Rock National. Her wish list includes a new or remodeled terminal that will enhance air service and customer service; direct international service to Mexico and Europe; and the relocation of "all production and support suppliers for Dassault Falcon Jet and Hawker Beechcraft to Little Rock National to establish a single, one-stop location to meet their customers' production and service needs."

Schwartz said she doesn't plan to retire in the traditional sense of the word, but would give this advice to people looking to relocate: "Determine how you want to spend most of your time and then find the best location to support that vision."

Pine Bluff - Writer in Residence: Laura Castoro

Laura Castoro

Laura Castoro

Laura Castoro has made a career out of telling stories. The author was born in Texas but raised in Pine Bluff, the city she still calls home. Her first book, a historical romance titled "Silks and Sabers," was published in 1980. Since then, she has published 36 novels, including historical romance, western, paranormal and women's fiction, as well as magazine articles, a short story and "Careers in Computers," a nonfiction book for young adults.

Laura and her husband, Chris, have lived many places; the couple moved from Dallas back to Pine Bluff in 2002 to care for her ailing mother.

"I was surprised to come back and look at my state with new eyes," Laura said. "It's a beautiful place with access to every kind of retirement possibility anyone could be looking for – lakes and hills, low country and warm waters, city life, museums, culture and plenty of green, quiet places to relax and enjoy."

The genuine friendliness of the people of Pine Bluff also impressed Laura. "I have made dozens of new friends and reconnected with more old friends. Pine Bluffians have taken me back in, along with my New Orleans-born and Brooklyn-bred husband."

Chris Castoro is a retired executive from an international corporation who keeps busy as a city commissioner, a Big Brother and executive director of the Pine Bluff Area Community Foundation. The couple's three grown children and their families live out of state, so the Castoros spend free time traveling to see their eight grandchildren.

Laura is an active member of Arkansas's creative community. She speaks to professional writing groups and conferences and has served on the board of the Arts and Science Center of Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff. She's also a past president and current member of the board of the Communications Arts Institute, which sponsors the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs. The colony offers writers of all types a quiet and secluded place surrounded by the state's natural beauty.

Laura was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2005. It was "the thrill of a lifetime," she said. "To be honored for one's achievements in one's home state, there's nothing quite like it."

Her advice for those wishing to relocate to Arkansas? Come on! "A person can come to Arkansas and make a name for her or himself, or find solitude. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination and effort."

Hot Springs Village - World Traveler: Tom Arwood

Tom Arwood

Tom Arwood

Tom Arwood traveled around the world as a major general in the U.S. Army before retiring in Hot Springs Village in 1997. After moving 23 times, Tom and his wife, Peggy, believe their move to Arkansas was the best decision they ever made.

"Friends of ours in Texas introduced us to Hot Springs Village in 1994, and we were drawn to the natural beauty of the state, the abundance of friendly professional services and the friendly neighbors. The medical support in the area is also far superior than in most locations," Tom explained.

Tom grew up in northwest Ohio and graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1958. One year later he entered the Army, advancing from second lieutenant to major general during his 34 years of service. Before his retirement in 1993 Tom traveled around the world, serving in Vietnam, Somalia, Panama and Desert Shield/Desert Storm and commanding the humanity relief efforts for Hurricane Andrew in southern Florida in 1992.

Though Tom is officially retired, he puts his talents to good use in and around Hot Springs Village. "I was fortunate to have a satisfying career in the military in service to our nation. Now, I have the opportunity to serve our Village in many ways," he said.

Currently he serves on the St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital Advisory and Foundation boards, and as president of the Hot Springs Village Foundation board, president of the Veterans Memorial Foundation, president of the Rotary Club and chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee. Peggy serves on the St. Joseph's Mercy Advisory Board and at the Boys and Girls Club and is the chairwoman of the POA Recreation Committee.

In their spare time, the Arwoods golf, boat, travel and keep in close contact with their relatives in Michigan and Ohio, including their son, John, and granddaughter, Salina. They enjoy many of the local restaurants and shops available in the Village, but often make the quick trip to Little Rock for additional choices in dining and entertainment.

"Arkansas is a great place to retire," Tom concluded. "It's the people that make it the best. They are goodhearted folks, dependable to work with and fun to be with. I would hold it up over anywhere we have been — and we have seen and lived all over the world."

Harrison - Artist's Inspiration: William McNamara

William McNamara

William McNamara

It made perfect sense for William McNamara, an artist who paints vivid watercolors of the rugged outdoors, to move his family from Louisiana to Cave Mountain in Arkansas. "I'm inspired by the particular place I live, the energy of the mountains, the climate, all four and ever changing seasons, and the intimate grandeur that fits so well with my painting," McNamara said. "Where I live is very beautiful, quiet and peaceful, and it's in the middle of nature but also remote, isolated, and requires some strenuous activity just to keep things going. But for those who like it, it's heaven."

McNamara's mother was an amateur artist and he began drawing at a young age, but he did not immediately pursue it as a career. Instead, after majoring in art in college, he taught in the art department in Centenary College in Shreveport, La., for several years. In 1974 the McNamaras visited the Ozarks with a friend to search for a place to live. While looking near Harrison, they saw an ad for 80 acres on the Buffalo River and decided to buy the land. "We chose the piece of land because it was in the roughest parts of the Boston Mountains and beautiful in any direction one could walk," McNamara said. "I smile when I think that I get to live here."

It was here that McNamara realized that he could support himself with his art. In 1980 he exhibited his watercolors at a local community college, where his work was discovered. Besides painting, McNamara has also written several novels set in the area and spends his time walking in the mountains, reading, growing a garden, and keeping up with his children and grandchildren.

So what is next for this painter, author and naturalist? "Despite the years I've been painting and the successes I've had, I have this feeling that I'm just getting started. Great achievements still seem like something of the future," McNamara said. However, don't expect a change of scenery for the not-yet-retired artist. "I'm very much attached to this place; I want to retire right where I'm living now."

Bentonville - Bob Workman

Bob Workman

Bob Workman

Memories of childhood vacations in Arkansas state parks flashed back to Kansas native Bob Workman when he was offered the executive director position at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. Remembering Arkansas' natural beauty made it easier to leave his consulting practice in Fort Worth, Tex. for the excitement of shaping a new cultural center in Arkansas.

Bob threw himself into the Crystal Bridges project after moving with his wife Liz in 2005. The museum isn't set to open until 2011, but when it does, Workman believes the hard work that went into it will be evident. "I am very proud of the firm academic foundation being built within the permanent collection and program structure. Crystal Bridges will serve everyone, from children to tourists and scholars, and that is very gratifying," he said.

What impresses Bob most about Arkansas is its people. He loves that northwest Arkansas throws its full support behind improving the state, in aspects ranging from art and education to natural resources preservation. "Throughout Arkansas, I've met people who are open to ideas and have a very strong get-it-done attitude – a wonderful mix of Midwestern work ethic and Southern hospitality," Bob said. "The people are very friendly, have a strong pride in community and enjoy a great collaboration in the arts."

And it's not just the people that Bob enjoys. Speaking engagements have taken him through the state's many different regions, and he's always surprised by the variety of scenic splendor from the Delta to the Ozarks. "Arkansas is a place that never seems to stop amazing me. The state works hard to protect its natural resources and, at the same time, has made the natural beauty of the state readily accessible for everyone."

Bob recently stepped down from his position with Crystal Bridges to semi-retire with Liz. They plan on opening another consulting firm to provide museum and arts management throughout the country. But they don't expect to leave their newfound home. "All the resources I need to run my company are right here. Plus we get the opportunity of living in Arkansas surrounded by its great scenery."

Maumelle - Michael McCoy

Michael McCoy

Michael McCoy

When Michael McCoy's son and daughter tried to convince him to move to Arkansas, he scoffed at the idea. As one of the principle founders of eTurboNews, an online travel publication, he lived close to the headquarters in Honolulu, Hawaii, one of the most beautiful states in the U.S., in his opinion. But he changed his mind when he realized he could exchange his two-bedroom condo for a home with a huge backyard with room for a garden. So he packed his bags and bought a lower-priced, bigger house in Maumelle.

Moving to Arkansas, Michael soon acknowledged that it had as much beauty as Hawaii. In comparison, Arkansas' picturesque background had many untouched areas that had yet to be exploited by tourism. "There are lots of things to do and see that aren't really obvious. You definitely have to look for them, but that's what makes exploring Arkansas so exciting. You get to discover things," Michael said.

He often takes his motorcycle and his camera to find the unexpected beauty in the state. He loves to drive his bike down the winding roads to shoot Arkansas' aged Americana against the blue sky, creating a contrast between a battle-scarred relic of the past and a clear day. Whether it's an old house, a rundown gas station with hand-painted signs or the natural beauty of Mother Nature, Arkansas inspires him daily. "I've always felt an affinity to the South. It has a lot of soul and deep romantic ripples," he said. "Plus the music is great, and the barbeque is awesome."

And, really, it's the simple things in Arkansas that makes Michael happy. He grows his own vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers and squash, in his backyard garden. He also enjoys the local Farmers' Market in downtown Little Rock, as well as the many festivals throughout the year. But, most importantly, he loves the people of Arkansas. "Driving anywhere in Maumelle, even if you don't know the person, [he or she] will wave at you as you pass by. The people here in Arkansas are very congenial."

Jonesboro - Dr. Ruth Hawkins

Dr. Ruth Hawkins

Dr. Ruth Hawkins

A Missouri native, Dr. Ruth Hawkins knew a little about Arkansas before she moved here. So when her husband wanted to farm, she didn't hesitate to move from their home in Virginia. The relocation led her to one of her great passions: preserving the history of the Delta.

Shortly after moving, Ruth fell in love with Arkansas' natural aspects, particularly in the Delta because of the area's presence. "There are places where you can stand and feel connected to the history of the location. Louisiana Purchase State Park isn't a big place, but you can stand there and feel the connection with the people who began the entire state."

It was her childhood fascination with the nearby Mississippi River and the way it shaped the Delta that ignited her passion for the region years ago. "Rivers make you feel connected with the rest of the world," she said. "The Mississippi River drains three-fourths of the country and contains soil and sediments that were in several other states." Inspired, Ruth strived to demonstrate the Delta's interconnectivity by advocating for its nationally significant heritage projects in her tenure as the vice-president for institutional development at Arkansas State University.

Ruth played an integral role in ASU's capital campaign to purchase and restore the family home of Pauline Pfeiffer Hemingway, the second wife and mother of two of Ernest Hemingway's three children. Known today as the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center, the site includes the barn where Hemingway wrote portions of "A Farewell to Arms" and several short stories. "Tourists come every day from various countries. The center also has creative writing workshops for junior high and high school students," Ruth said.

Today, Ruth is director of ASU's Arkansas Heritage SITES, which contains two more properties, the Southern Tenant Farmer's Museum and Lakeport Plantation. But Arkansas offers still more opportunities to feed Ruth's hunger for historical development. "I am interested in the places in Arkansas that have national stories to tell that weren't being told, and I enjoy going to different places and immersing myself in their history."

Little Rock - Constance Sarto

Constance Sarto

Constance Sarto

Despite the fact that she had lived on the West Coast all her life, Constance Sarto didn't hesitate when her husband, a native Arkansan, received a job offer that allowed him to move back to the state he loved. Keeping with her lifelong philosophy of welcoming change, Constance considered the move a chance to face new challenges and opportunities.

Self-proclaimed old-house fanatics, the couple found the perfect place to live – the Quapaw district in downtown Little Rock. Preservation of antiquities had always been important to Constance, and it seemed that this neighborhood represented everything she loved about a community. "The people in our neighborhood are a cohesive group of people who value the meaning of history and buildings," said Constance. "We have a community built on mutual respect and an agreement to preserve our traditional neighborhoods."

Along with the perfect neighborhood, Constance, a former journalist, found an ideal job as director of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, which preserves and showcases African American history from around Arkansas. Her passion for historic preservation now had a professional outlet. "I continue to be most impressed with the depth of history in the state. The West Coast is young compared to this part of the world, and the history here is quite inspirational."

With the opening of the new center last year, Constance is constantly on the move, promoting Arkansas' rich history through the center. A member of the mayor's tourism commission, she believes heritage tourism is gaining momentum and will be a big draw for the state in the future. And the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, thanks to her leadership, is poised to inform visitors or newcomers interested in Arkansas' history.

But the past isn't all that Constance enjoys about Arkansas. Thanks to the opportunities and strong economic base, as well as to the wide array of museums and the River Market district, she loves the state's quality of life. And watch out for her on the Arkansas River Trail, too. She walks, bikes and even rollerblades. "I have to be sure to where my helmet because it freaks people out to see a gray-haired person on rollerblades."

Hot Springs Village - Robert M. Shoemaker

Robert M. Shoemaker

Robert M. Shoemaker

When New Jersey natives Bob and Norma Shoemaker decided to retire, they began their search in Tennessee. But a friend simply raved about living in Hot Springs Village, Ark., the nation's largest gated community. So on a golf trip to Tennessee, they made a quick detour to the village, and before the end of the trip, they had decided to retire there.

Of course, the couple had been introduced to Arkansas earlier when Bob was still a senior executive with the Boy Scouts of America. While living in Texarkana, Tex., Bob would often go camping with the scouts in the Ouachita Mountains. "After camp, my family and I would go and vacation in the area, and I realized then how beautiful Arkansas really was," Bob said. Today, he feels even more strongly about the state. "I describe Arkansas as finding heaven right here on earth. It's a beautiful state, and the tax system is ideal. We didn't know how good Arkansas was until we got here. Now that we're here, you can't get us away."

One of Bob's retirement goals was to get involved in public service, and 40 years with the Boy Scouts supplied him with the appropriate skills. Bob landed a spot on the private community's board of directors seven years ago, serving as president for the last year and a half. In their spare time, the golf enthusiasts, who live on one of the village's nine courses, also enjoy walking parts of the community's 20 miles of trails. And since their sons live in Texas, it's a convenient one-day drive to visit their grandkids – a definite bonus to living in Arkansas.

But Bob really felt blessed that they chose Arkansas when his wife was diagnosed with multiple myeloma six years after moving. Living in Hot Springs Village meant they were near the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, one the nation's best medical facilities treating and researching multiple myeloma. "UAMS is a great medical facility," Bob said. "We couldn't be more pleased with what we have available to us."


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