Story by Kelsey Paige Boyd
Can I buy you a cold Dr. Pepper?”
Nearly every visitor that drops by Baldy Faulkner’s desk at First Arkansas Valley Bank in Russellville has been asked this question at one time or another. Before his guest can even respond to the question, Baldy digs in the pocket of his green blazer and pulls out his coin pouch, sifting through his change in hopes of buying his visitor a can of his favorite drink.
In addition to the Dr. Pepper, Baldy is known to offer his guests all sorts of office supplies and knick-knacks from the bank. He carries around caps, pencils, pens, notepads, calculators, and just about anything else he can get his hands on. it’s safe to say that nearly every person with whom Baldy comes in contact has some item from the bank.
Baldy’s has served as the bank’s business development officer for six years. Baldy has had many different responsibilities but regardless of what he does, he always deals with people. It’s what he does best.
“I go and contact new businesses in the area, I help with the public relations at the back, and I even get to entertain kids that come in for tours of the bank,” Baldy explains. He tells how “their eyes get really big when we take them and show them the vault with all the money.”
No matter who comes into the bank, Baldy is bound to greet them with a handshake, a smile, and a “good morning, how are you today?” Even at the age of 79, Baldy is a go-getter. With his 80th birthday coming up on August 27th, he had no plans to slow down. His passion and zeal for his job are as lively as ever.
Ask anyone who knows Baldy and they will say he is one of the friendliest men you’ll ever meet…and one of the most mischievous.
“My grandmother Faulkner said I was an angel. I had two little horns to hold my halo up,” Baldy says with a laugh. “Ole Dennis the Menace didn’t have nothin’ on me!”
His childhood stories can account for that. It doesn’t matter how many times he had told them, his stories are hilarious time after time. I should know- I’ve been listening to my grandfather’s stories for twenty years now.
Throughout my life, I have heard dozens of “Papa’s” stories, but my all-time favorite is the one where seven-year-old Papa gets run over-yes, literally run over- by a vehicle.
Early one morning, Baldy was watching a mockingbird fly around his neighborhood in Dallas, TX.
Oblivious to his surroundings, he carelessly “followed that doggone mocking bird across the street.”
Unfortunately, he walked directly into the path of an oncoming Model-T Ford. “The car knocked me down and the front wheels came across my chest. Before I knew it, here came the back wheels,” he recalls.
In his young mind, Baldy began remembering tragic stories of people getting killed by vehicles.
Naturally, he assumed this was also his fate. Baldy remembers thinking that “if you got ran over, you were supposed to die.” He didn’t want to die at any old location; however, he chose to die at this favorite place in the world- his backyard pecan tree. So up he climbed and awaited what he believed was his certain death.
Before long, the whole neighborhood was searching for Baldy, who had missing all morning. “I could see them down there,” he said. “I didn’t want to disturb them so I thought ‘I’ll just go on and die’.”
A few hours went by, and Baldy began to get hungry. He remembers thinking “I ought to go down and eat before I die.” Baldy was in the process of sneaking back to his house when he was spotted by his father.
He recalled how his father “wanted to give me a whipping’, but he was so relieved to see me, he just hugged me to death.”
Baldy has dozens of stories about his childhood spent in Texas; many of them describe his difficult life growing up during “the early part of a severe depression. Money was becoming quite difficult to come by,” he remembers. Both his parents worked to make ends meet. He reflects on the selflessness and togetherness of his childhood family and is steadfast in the belief that love “has always been, and will continue to be, a factor in our family’s life.”
Baldy learned many lessons from his parents, but one particular lesson he learned from his father “completely and forever changed my way of thinking about myself and my life,” he said.
He and his father went for a drive in the family car one evening, and young Baldy looked up at his father and asked, “Dad, don’t you wish that we were rich?” His father placed his arms around him and replied, “Son, we’re rich!”
Baldy asked, “How can we be rich when we can’t buy a quart of milk?”
His father replied, “A person doesn’t measure his wealth by dollars and cents, he measures his wealth by the number of friends he has.”
“You know what?” Papa asked me as he recalled his father’s words. “To this day, I’m still one of the richest men in this Good Lord’s world.”
As Baldy grew into a young man, he made more and more friends throughout Texas as his family to different cities around the state. He attended high school in Dallas and entered Jr. R.O.T.C there. After World War II began, their family moved to Maumelle, where his father supervised the construction of a defense plant in Marche.
“My father and several generations before him were brickmasons.” Eventually, Baldy and his brother, B.J., followed in their forefathers’ footsteps and became brickmasons, as well.
While living in Maumelle, Papa attended Conway High School. It was at this school that he received the name “Baldy.”
Being a new, young recruit on the football team, Baldy’s older teammates were anxious to get the best of him. They told him he must shave his head in order to be on the team. Baldy had to choose between receiving an embarrassing, mangled haircut from the seniors or having Mr. Spears, the local barber, shave his head. After resisting the haircut for several days Baldy finally gave in and had Mr. Spears shave his head. The boys on the team called him everything from “Bald Knob” to “onion Head” until someone passed him in the hall and yelled, ‘Hey Baldy!” He had been known as Baldy ever since.
After graduating from Conway High School in 1944, Papa received a football scholarship to Arkansas Tech University, then a Junior College known as Arkansas Polytechnic College and played for Coach John E. Tucker. Baldy speaks of Coach Tucker, saying “He was quite an inspiration, and I wish that everyone could have played for him.” During his time at Tech, Baldy also served three and a half years in the Army National Guard.
He graduated from Tech in 1947 with a degree in Science and began his apprenticeship as a brick mason.
In fact, Baldy, his father, and his brother are responsible for much of the brickwork at Tech, including the the observatory and the brick sidewalk outside Chambers Cafeteria.
In 1949, when Baldy was still an apprentice, he remembers laying eyes on ‘the most beautiful girl that I had ever seen. “She was a senior cheerleader at Russellville High School when they first met. He wrote to her the next week, asking her to meet him under the goal post in the north end zone. “LaRue Heflin was that beautiful cheerleader,” Baldy recalls, “and thanks to God above, we have since been together for over 56 years.”
After Grandy (LaRue) and Papa were married, Papa joined the U.S. Air Force as a volunteer. In 1952, baldy was sent directly to the 301st Air Refueling Squadron of the 301st Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana where he served as Supply Sergeant. Papa recalls, “When our troops were being pushed off Pusan in South Korea, Stalin began making brash threats. Within 72 hours, our entire bomb wind, with our A-bombs, was deployed to England.” Soon afterward, Stalin died and the U.S. “went on the offensive again.
Shortly after, we returned to the States from Lakenheath Air Force Base.”
Due to a serious injury, he was forced to leave the Air Force. “In 1965…I returned to Tech and completed my Bachelor’s Degree, then attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and graduated with my Master’s Degree in psychology,” Baldy says. He served as Arkansas as a Psychological Examiner for 25 years until he “retired” in 1988.
Baldy never quits. Although he retired from his 25 year-long job, he founds something else to keep him busy. “I worked part-time as a Public Relations person for Food Service Americas, then four years at Russellville Realty as Corporate Relocation Office,” Baldy says.
“Grandy and Papa” have two daughters-Linda Kay Boyd and Cindy Lea Chaffin. Always complimentary of his family, Papa speaks proudly of his daughters, saying, “They have grown up to be loyal, adorable, and respectectable.” During their time at Tech, the sisters met “two Christian young men of whom we are quite proud . I am very happy to say that God gave Linda and Dennis two precious daughters, Kelsey Paige and Kirsten Leigh. Cindy and Mike presented us with two wonderful grandsons, nathaniel Michael and Andrew Scott.”
According to Baldy, there is no greater joy in life than to spend time with his family and friends, which is exactly what he plans to do at this 80th birthday party in late August.
Baldy Faulkner has added spirit, creativity, and life to the Russellville community since moving here in 1944. He has been an encouragement to hundreds of people throughout his lifetime with his unselfish giving of time and money. Papa is a faithful servant to God, country, and family, and will continue to give wholeheartedly for years to come.
“God has indeed blessed our family,” Baldy says with a thoughtful smile. “We shall always be grateful and remember that we have nothing, but that which God has given to us.”
To the “richest” man I know… I love you with all my heart. — Kelsey Paige Boyd
Story by Kelsey Paige Boyd