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January 24, 2003

This year is getting off to a bad start. Already we have lost individuals who were part of Perry's history for different reasons and some who were just good friends. The comfort comes in knowing that each of them made a contribution in some significant way to move Perry forward during their lifetime. We will miss them, but we thank them for the legacy they handed down to the rest of us by example or simply by being good friends. They were not necessarily wizards of industry or business tycoons. Just plain folks, if you will, but special to all of us for different reasons.

Two of the most recent examples were Doris Gregory Brookhart and Betty Munger Beasley. They were Perry girls, although Doris had lived in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and Betty had been a resident of Monroe, Louisiana, for several years. They both wanted their final resting place to be Grace Hill Cemetery here in Perry. Both of them died within the past few days and I'm sorry to say I never had the chance to tell them how much I admired them. I will always remember them as beautiful young women, with talent, poise and intelligence. We were not the same age, but we were products of the same generation. That would be the trying times of the Great Depression, in the 1930s and beyond into the era of World War II.

Doris was the daughter of Ernest Gregory, a shoe repairman who operated a shop on the south side of the square. Betty's Dad was Tom Munger, a businessman and a member of the House of Representatives in the State Legislature. The wives of Mr. Gregory and Mr. Munger both were active in church, club, school and civic affairs.

I have a special interest in Betty because she was a former reporter for this newspaper, and she was largely responsible for getting me started here on a career in the newspaper business. When I was a senior at Perry high school in 1941, Betty announced her plans to leave The Journal and to become, the bride of Arthur Beasley, a good-looking Perry boy. Betty was perhaps the prettiest girl in town and I remember that most of the local bachelors believed Mr. Beasley had won a real prize. At the time, Betty rented a sleeping room in our house, which was less than two blocks from The Journal building on Elm Street. She saw me struggling to do a good job for the high school newspaper, where I was "science editor," and she knew of my interest in the field of journalism. She recommended me to W.K. Leatherock, publisher of the PDJ, as her successor. I did not know of her recommendation at the time, but he hired me and I spent part of a lifetime working for him.

Doris was an exceptionally gifted musician. She played trumpet in the PHS band under Professor Leopold Radgowsky and later under Bill Sharp. With Ellen Butler, another top-flight cornetist, she frequently played for the enjoyment of local clubs and other gatherings. Doris had an abiding interest in the arts and in time she became a professor at a university in Siloam Springs. Both of these ladies made an imprint on this community (including me) as they were growing up. Also from the same era was Bob Berger, whose death in California was just learned here. Bob had many attributes, including a love for flag and country that was exemplified by his career in the military. Bob was a retired Army colonel. Before launching on that career, Bob and his dad, the late Jim Berger, were two of Perry's finest carpenters. Many hearts are heavy as we remember such people. Perry can be proud of them.