Wayne and Alice Ann Kellar moved into Harding Place last year, at the end of May, in the middle of a pandemic, so, just like at other retirement facilities, their new home was off-limits to visitors during Father’s Day.
“During COVID, we shut down very early because we wanted to protect our people as much as possible,” Harding Place Marketing and Resident Services Director Sandy Reynolds said. “We didn’t allow any visiting in our building so our back porch became a very popular place for families to meet. All those traditional things that people were used to doing, all that stopped.
“This is a retirement community. We allow our residents to age in place. I have 58-year-olds all the way up to 102, so they are in varying ranges of need. Some people need care, some people don’t need care. Some people come and go as they please; they are very independent. We could not prevent our residents from going out of our building, but we could stop people from coming in.
“It was hard. Our staff had to step up and they had to be the eyes and ears and hands and feet of family members who couldn’t come in. We had to do all those things.”
For this Father’s Day, though, which is Sunday, Reynolds said, “We are not masking. We are not temping because we have all been vaccinated.”
Now that residents can do things together again, Reynolds said “everybody’s spirits are just lifted because we can have guests. We can go on activities. We can go out to eat.”
Wayne Kellar, 92, said Father’s Day will feel much better since everybody last year was locked in to some degree. He and Alice Ann, 91, have a son, Stephen Paul, and two daughters, Kim and Mary Ann, along with seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
“We have been a very close-knit family and our kids all went to Harding,” Kellar said. Alice Ann added that “they spend every Christmas here and we took them on vacation every summer so that kind of bonded us.”
Kellar said like any family they have had their ups and downs, but becoming a grandpa is “a different world.” He said they text back and forth regularly and even do FaceTime visits. He also mentioned that they have a door chart where they keep track of their grandkids’ heights. “All our grandkids are measured every year.”
Wayne Kellar said he is originally from West Virginia and Alice Ann said she is from Waldo. The Kellars married in Waldo. He said he and his wife met when he came to Searcy to attend Harding College from 1947-51.
“I enlisted in the Air Force in 1951 and came home on leave,” Kellar said. “We decided that we would get married in Waldo and then I was overseas in England in August and she came over there the next April. We lived in England for three years.” Their son was born there.
Kellar said he finished his accounting degree at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia. He said he went to work for Searcy Medical Center in March 1973 and retired in 1994. “I was the first clinic manager for Searcy Medical Center. I was the administrator of it.”
The Kellars will soon celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.
Another Harding Place father is Lee Smith, 89. He and his wife, Wanda, are from Oklahoma and will have been married 63 years June 29.
Smith said he was born in Lexington, MO., and his family moved to Oklahoma when he was 3. He said his wife also grew up there.
As to how they arrived in Searcy, Smith said the husband of their daughter, Shelley Yeakley, is a minister for College Church of Christ.
“They were ministering in Wichita Falls, Texas, for 20 years and then they moved here about eight years ago,” Smith said. Wanda said they also have a son, Scott. who lives in Grand Junction, Colo. He works as a pilot and flew in to Searcy was two weeks ago.
Smith said Father’s Day to him is a day of pride. “We are just proud of our family and our children. They both have just done so well. We are so proud of them. Shelley teaches sixth-grade science at Southwest Middle School. She taught in Wichita Falls for 20 years before she came here.”
Concerning Father’s Day 2020, Smith said “we had restrictions here to protect us and the restrictions were quite understandable and we maintained the routine of wearing masks and staying in and not going out and things of that nature.”
“It didn’t adversely affect us any,” he said. “We were slightly inconvenienced, I would say, but not compared to a lot of people that had a lot of sickness and death and everything. We were relatively, I hate to say immune, but we were immune here.
“They saw to us getting our shots and remaining separate from most of the population and everything. It cut down our religious services we have here once a week and all the activities that we have. Our new activity bus came in the week or two before it shut down. We had a brand-new bus and couldn’t even go places for a year.”
Wanda said their entire family took an Alaskan cruise four years ago. In addition to their children, the Smiths have four grandsons.
“I think the most happiest types of moments were at our children’s weddings and watching them starting their own families,” Smith said. “We made it to all of the births of our grandsons. We always made it a point to be there when they were born. We drove all night to get to [their grandson’s] Stuart’s birth in Abilene, Texas. We don’t have any great-grandchildren yet. If you could help us, that would be good.”
Smith said he has degrees in psychology, social studies, chemistry and physics “and all that kind of stuff” from the University of Oklahoma. He said he graduated from there in 1953. He was in the Army and then worked for the school system in Oklahoma for 42 years.
“I taught college at night and worked in the school system and retired as an assistant superintendent, so I have had a whole life of working with kids,” he said. “I taught psychology and science in high school and psychology in college at night at the Tulsa junior college.
“I know there are things that dads do and don’t do that is reflected on the outcome of the child. I studied psychology. I worked with special ed children. I worked with teachers, conducting workshops on how to manage and work with children. Bonding is the most important thing when you have a child. Holding and rocking and singing with a teeny baby and then the kid becomes a toddler.”
His said his “most effective fatherhood was getting on the floor at child level and laying down and playing with the child on the floor. I felt that that continues the bonding operation. Telling stories of early childhood to little children. I was doing that. I would make up stories. We would sing little songs to the children with little records and things. Teaching children about pets is important. We always had a pet, a cat or dog or both, and we taught them to respect the pet and learn about the world that is about them.”
Screen time was not much of a thing back when their kids were little, but Smith said “limiting screens is important.
“They should not spend their time watching screens,” he said. “From age 4 to 8 is where the child begins to blossom. During that age, we taught all the bedtime stories, creative play, prayers, prayers before bedtime, all the reading possibilities and Bible stories. We had playhouse for girl and boy both. In fact, we took our children to see ‘Camelot.’ They were about 6 and 7 when we took them to see ‘Camelot.’ When we came back they were singing the song.
“At OU, one of my favorite professors taught project curriculum, so I said, ‘”et’s do a project for these children who so much loved ‘Camelot.’ Let’s build a Camelot,’ so we did. We made a castle out in the backyard, a real one. It looked really good. It had a drawbridge, a cannon. It was 8 foot by 8 foot and had a dungeon in it and a stairwell to the top and the cannon shot tennis balls. I built a cannon out of pipe about as big as a tennis ball and drilled a hole in it big enough for an M1 firecracker. We dropped the firecracker in there. We’d light the fuse and have a tennis ball and it would go pow! shooting the tennis ball. They helped build all this and were so proud of it. All their little friends played here for years. We finally had to dismantle it when they got in high school or college.”
Helping their kids with homework was an important part of being a dad and mom, Smith said. “We never fussed at them if they didn’t do something right at school. We just would live by example for them. We ended up with both of them being valedictorians of their high schools. We were so pleased with their performance.
“We didn’t fuss at them, we honored them. Teach them right, stay out of their way and let them perform, that’s what I told someone who asked me about how our kids turned out so well.”
Traveling is another thing that Smith said helped the kids, from the time they were 3 or 4 until they graduated.
“After they were all graduated, we took them and their children to Disney World – whole bunch of them in our travel trailer, close quarters,” Smith said. “We did a lot of swimming, too, since we lived close to Lake Keystone. We taught them how to ski and their friends from college. We would have a party on the lake and we would ski. We did a lot of picnics, hiking and projects in our community.”
Smith said he feels that he and his wife are still an influence in their children’s lives.
“We taught them about writing letters,” he said. “You should communicate with your loved ones by writing so you will have a hard copy. I wrote Scott 500 letters during the time he was at the Air Force Academy because it was tough and he needed some joy, and I wrote him letters. The reason I know it was 500 is because when he went, I bought a 500 box of envelopes and emptied it by the time he graduated. I think that helped.
“I wrote letters to my daughter but not quite as many as I wrote to him. I have always written letters. They can fold them up and look at them years later. I think we are starting to get away from it with the dot coms and the cell phones. We shouldn’t.
He said they also have talked to their children “about engineering their finances and caring for their own personal things, understanding about their driving and what to do if the car quit.”
“I am real pleased with our son and our daughter on the engineering of their lives. They have really succeeded,” Smith said. “We have nothing to do but just be thankful to God that they have been well and safe all this time. That would be about my career as a parent.”