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Mamie Ruth Aber­nathy

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - In This Issue - By El­iz­a­beth Rob­bins, pho­tog­ra­phy cour­tesy of the Gar­land County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety

Af­ter 96-year-old Mamie Ruth Aber­nathy's death on Jan. 1, 2015, The Sentinel-Record pub­lished an ar­ti­cle about her that de­scribed her many achieve­ments as an ed­u­ca­tor, au­thor, mu­si­cian, and his­to­rian. What has struck me is how in­ter­twined her life was with the his­tory of our com­mu­nity. Rather like our own For­est Gump, if some­thing was hap­pen­ing, Mamie Ruth was likely there.

One of the first places I re­searched at the So­ci­ety was Lons­dale. Sure enough — Mamie Ruth was there. Mamie Ruth had moved from Hot Springs to Lons­dale for her se­cond-grade year in 1926, when her mother taught at the Lons­dale School. She never for­got any­thing, so decades later she re­called ev­ery neigh­bor, friend and build­ing. She re­mem­bered hur­ry­ing dur­ing re­cess to wave at the Mis­souri Pa­cific en­gi­neer, con­duc­tor, and pas­sen­gers as the train left Lons­dale sta­tion, bap­tisms in Ten Mile Creek, and rid­ing the Mis­souri Pa­cific No. 19 into Hot Springs on Fri­day nights.

In 1932, she was a Span­ish dancer in the Cen­ten­nial Pageant that cel­e­brated HSNP's 100th an­niver­sary, and in 1941 she was a Gre­cian maid in the grand Saga of Wa­ters pageant at Rix Sta­dium. She took part in Christ­mas Eve and Easter sun­rise ser­vices at the na­tional park and was a char­ter mem­ber of the Hot Springs Choral Club. She was part of the Girl Re­serves honor guard for Eleanor Roo­sevelt at the Ar­ling­ton Ho­tel in 1936, and —

one of her fa­vorite sto­ries — had made the dress and scarf for the Girl Re­serve mar­i­onette pre­sented to Eleanor.

She worked at Kress & Co. down­town in 1935 for $1.37 for an eight-hour day, was sec­re­tary for the Hot Springs Bathers base­ball club for two years, and was the di­rec­tor of the Y-Teens at the YWCA. Dur­ing World War II, she vol­un­teered at the USO club and also saw the POW camp at Lake Cather­ine, later de­scrib­ing its high fence and a carved wa­ter wheel made by Ger­man pris­on­ers.

Many peo­ple re­mem­ber her as a teacher at Jones School (19461981) and re­call the elab­o­rate stu­dent op­erettas she wrote and di­rected. The or­gan­ist for church ser­vices at Se­cond Bap­tist Church for 40 years and Cen­tral Bap­tist for 15 years, she also played at 327 wed­dings. Most mem­o­rable? The wed­ding when the min­is­ter was late so she played for an hour and 45 min­utes with­out re­peat­ing a se­lec­tion un­til he ap­peared. She grad­u­ated from Hot Springs High School in 1936 and guided Pres­i­dent Clin­ton through the alumni ex­hibit at the school re­union in 1997.

A very en­thu­si­as­tic par­tic­i­pant in our com­mu­nity for nearly 10 decades, Mamie Ruth re­ceived many hon­ors, in­clud­ing the Val­ley Forge Teacher's Medal and the Cham­ber of Com­merce Woman of the Year award, but her legacy is in the thou­sands of lives she touched, es­pe­cially the 9,335 stu­dents she taught at her beloved Jones School. As Hot Springs School District Su­per­in­ten­dent Joyce Lit­tle­ton Craft once said, “Peo­ple like Mrs. Mamie Ruth Aber­nathy come along so rarely in life that when you see them, they leave an in­deli­ble im­print on your life and lives of oth­ers.”

Aber­nathy has her Jones School T-shirt signed by NBC weath­er­man Wil­lard Scott, 1992.

Aber­nathy was a church or­gan­ist for over 50 years.

Above: Aber­nathy takes se­cond graders to visit ther­mal spring, 1952. Below: Aber­nathy makes pre­sen­ta­tion to Don Cooper at a GCHS Christ­mas ban­quet.

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