Story by Jeannie Stone
David and Jane Prewett of Russellville, have been named 2009 Parents of the Year by the National Parent’s Day Council of Arkansas and received the “Dakota Hawkins“ Outstanding Courage Award for their exemplary role as parents while facing personal adversity.
The Prewetts don’t think they’ve done anything spectacular as parents, although there are plenty who disagree. Williamson, who after nominating them for the honor, traveled to the state capitol to present the award to them has nothing but praise for the couple.
“The Prewetts are such committed parents and are treasured members of our community. Jane was barely out of the hospital, and she was down in the concessions stands working at the basketball game. I couldn’t believe it. She didn’t let cancer get her down. She just kept living life and supporting her children,” Williamson said.
David and Jane have lived in Russellville for 23 years. The couple met while she was attending, and he was teaching at Arkansas Tech University although she was never his student. David made his career as an attorney.
“I wanted to prove I could live on my own without David or my daddy supporting me,” Jane said. That fighting spirit would serve her well as a full-time career mother of two very active and intelligent children and then, again, in her battle with breast cancer.
“We talked about carrying out our lives as normally as possible because even if you have a good prognosis at the end of the ordeal, if you have shut down your life during that time, then the cancer would have still won. It would have robbed us of that time.”
The normally-active mother managed to stop her life just long enough for surgery and chemotherapy treatments.
“Oh, I went to a lot of things feeling really nauseous,” she said. “But I wasn’t going to let the cancer win.”
Jane showed a mother’s determination when she danced with her son a week after surgery.
“It was a huge thing,” she said of the traditional mother-son dance which was a part of a cotillion social event. “I wasn’t going to miss that for the world.”
“It’s great that they’re always supporting us,” said Haley. “During a basketball tournament in Harrison, Mom had to go home for a treatment, but she returned the next day.”
The Prewetts have invested in the futures of hundreds of children. Together, they have nurtured countless children through church and sports. They’ve shared the role as Sunday School teachers and the children of the church have fallen under their wings of influence.
David chosen as personal confirmation mentor numerous times. He has served on the Staff Parish Committee at First United Methodist Church, and has acted as chairman, while Jane has served on the Finance Committee.
“My father wasn’t able to spend a lot of time with me growing up because of his career. I wanted to make sure I was an integral part of my children’s lives,” David said.
“My mother and I bought world map placemats when (the children) were young, and they’d quiz each other,” Jane said. “I tried to find enriching activities for them during the summer… programs like the Young Researchers Camp at Tech really gave them a jumpstart in their learning.”
“They’re old enough to know they are blessed with good minds,” David said. “We just hope they make the best of their opportunities and use their talents in life. Stepping back as a parent and letting them go their own way and choose their own path is difficult, but it’s what we’re called to do. We have always told them, do what you want and go where you want.”
“I always tell them, ‘That’s fine, go wherever you want.’ As long as they know I’ll be going with them as their roommate,” Jane said and laughed.
“I think your job as parents,” David said, “is trying to teach your children social skills, a good work ethic and discipline and keep them in church. And then you have to let them live their lives. Hopefully, we’ve given them a solid foundation.”
“There was a chairman of a food committee and a transportation committee to get the kids where they needed to be. Everything was organized. We are forever grateful for this community.”
“It was really overwhelming,” Jane admitted. “One man sent over a lawn service because he couldn‘t think of anything else to do, and he wanted to help us.”
“The faith and prayers from the people of Russellville pulled us through that hard time,” David said.
Jane was touched by another experience. “The whole basketball team had the most beautiful t-shirts made with my name printed on pink ribbons. I walked into the game after my surgery and everybody, even parents, had on those shirts. I almost lost it right there.” she said.
“I’m always reminding (the children) that the money isn’t the most important thing. The number one goal is to do what you love because that will make you happy.”
“I think it’s really exciting that out of thousands of people in this state, my parents were recognized,” Wesley said.
What he failed to explain, however, is that the merits of the children are considered during the selection process.
Haley and Wes are modeling their lies after their generous and civic-minded parents. Haley has been involved in Vacation Bible School, mission trips, church and basketball camp counseling, school service organizations, and other civic associations.
Wesley is equally engaged with church and sports, having assisted with VBS, being on football, basketball, track and soccer and QuizBowl teams, and having received Grand Recognition on his ACT.
“I think this recognition is mostly about the fact that we just kept going,” Jane said. “I just didn’t want to miss anything in my children’s lives because of the cancer.”
The last thing we say to them when they’re walking out the door is, “Do the right thing,” David said. And, apparently, they have taken that to heart.
“Russellville has been a wonderful place to live and raise a family,” Jane said.
Mayor Williamson responded: “I speak for the people of Russellville when I say it is people like David and Jane Prewett that make this community such a fine place to live.”