Note: Thanks to Aaron Wilson at I Am Chief for sending me these pictures of Mrs. Thornton.
Yesterday was a Flex Day for me, otherwise known as Staff Development. Fortunately, I was able to spend some time doing some really productive and useful work. While cleaning out my desk, I came across a newspaper account dated September 2007 of an obituary for Mrs.Wilma Thornton. My good intentions of contacting her family at the time turned out to be just that --- good intentions but no action.
Wilma Stephens Thornton was 98 years young when she passed away on August 30, 2007. Mrs. Thornton was very well-known in my hometown. The Stephens family was the founding family for ARKLA Gas Company and, eventually, Stephens Investments. She was the mother of two successful children, Ray, Jr. and Betty Lou, and the wife of Raymond H. Thornton.
In 2004, a $5 million building was dedicated in her honor at the College of Education at Harding University, a private university in Searcy, Arkansas. Unfortunately, this is the only picture I could find of her. I wish you could see what an attractive woman she was.
She was my high school Student Council sponsor and the model of good behavior, leadership, and all things Southern Belle.
Mrs. Thornton taught school, specifically math, in the Sheridan, Arkansas district from 1937 until 1970 --- unbelievable in this day and age (she actually taught in two other districts before that). While I was never privileged to have her as a classroom teacher, she remained a very influential person in my life.
Our high school was an honor high school. What that meant, essentially, is that we were on the Honor Code in much the same way as the military academies. Our study halls were not supervised by teachers but by the students themselves. The program, based upon the principle of student self-government and accountability, allowed more courses to be offered with the savings that came from eliminating the need for a full-time study hall teacher. If a rule infraction occurred, we were to honor the rules and report the infraction. Those reports were not sent to the principal but to the Student Council instead. Commit a PDA and you appeared before the Student Council body; chew gum --- major offense! Discipline was dealt by the students to the students. Believe me, the system worked and it worked in large part because of Mrs. Thornton’s diligence in making it work. We learned to be fair and rational. I think much of what I know about leadership came from the training I received under her tutelage. She was proud to learn years later, that I was part of creating and sponsoring a Student Council at our local middle school. She always asked about it and wanted to know about our projects.
In an interview conducted June 27, 1984 for the Arkansas News of the Old State House, Mrs. Thornton said from her home in Sheridan that she was optimistic about future leadership."I have faith in the youth of Grant County. I think they have ambition and abilities that they can use to improve our county, state, and nation. Our youth have gone through difficult times. I believe they have begun to straighten out and can see the bad results of living undisciplined lives.My hope is that they will study history to be able to understand what will happen in the future." This was always her attitude, positive and encouraging. I only wish that I could possess that same enthusiasm today.
I think Wilma Stephens Thornton would have scored 100% on the Southern Belle quiz. In fact, she probably should have written it. She actually did write a book. It was titled Where Roses Never Fade: Memories of an Arkansas Teacher, Wilma Stephens Thornton. Unfortunately, it is out of print.
This recipe for Lemon Mini Muffins is so delicious. I love just about anything with lemon and lime in it, so I jumped on this recipe right away. It comes from Cuisine At Home, December 2008.
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup lemon-flavored yogurt
2 tablespoons minced fresh lemon*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 T), softened
1/4 cup sugar
chopped zest of 1 lime
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees; coat one 12-cup mini-muffin pan (or 6 standard) with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, soda and nutmeg together in a bowl. Blend yogurt, minced lemon and vanilla together in a cup with a pour spout. Cream 6 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 stick butter together in a bowl with an electric mixer until light. Add egg and beat well. Alternately blend flour and yogurt mixtures into butter, starting and ending with flour; do not overmix or muffins will be tough. Fill cups of the prepared muffin pan three-quarters full, then bake until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool briefly in the pan before removing. Pulse remaining sugar with lime zest in a food processor until zest is minced. Brush warm muffins with 3 tablespoons melted butter and roll in sugar mixture to coat.
*To mince a lemon, cut the fruit into chunks, remove the seeds, then pulse in a processor until the texture of oatmeal.