Speaking of People: Little Frank, Joann Flowers, Kaye Wilkins
By Jim Turner

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

A couple of April events brought back a flood of memories for many of us, but they were contrasting. We celebrated the vibrant, ongoing life of Frank Dockins Jr. and paid tribute to Joann Flowers upon her passing. Both of them have played key roles in my life.
Bethany Church of Christ at Olmstead held a reception/roast for octogenarian Frank Dockins on Sunday afternoon, April 16. Frank has been the on-air radio evangelist for that congregation for well over 50 years, almost the entire time WRUS has been on the air. Every two weeks he follows the 8 a.m. news on Sunday morning, alternating with the Adairville Church of Christ minister.
The event had been postponed a couple of months because of health issues facing his wife, Davy Lee. She has trouble walking now, but was able to be there all day. Frank had preached at the morning service, filling in for his son Harris. Frank Harris Dockins III has been Bethany’s preacher for over a decade.
A highlight of the roast came from Frank Harris Dockins IV, Harris and Sharon’s grown son. He did a standup comic routine, impersonating his grandfather. He has “Little Frank’s” dialect, colloquialisms and body language down pat. Especially captivating was an exchange between Frank Harris and Crittenden Drive Youth Minister Daniel McCarley, who carried out his part by manning a hand puppet fashioned to look like Frank.
Frank’s younger son Dave led congregational singing, and Harris spoke emotionally about the day and his parents.
Steve McCarley, who spent many hours during his teen and young adult years in the Dockins home, and I were the other roasters. Frank and Davy Lee were my trusted partners during the seven years I coached Harris and Dave in speech, Davy Lee was the one who “fixed up” Elaine and me on our first date, Frank was the speaker at our wedding rehearsal dinner, Harris was my best man, and Dave was one of the groomsmen.
The premise of my comments were based on the absurd notion that Bethany elders Nelson Lyne, Bradley Brown and Johnny Dawson might be hosting the event in anticipation of replacing Little Frank on the air. What would the Dockinses do without that income, especially since tobacco is in trouble and Frank no longer has his trusted coondog Woodrow to hunt for food and pelts? My conclusion: as long as WRUS keeps Don Neagle and Mack Mallory on the air, age is not going to be a factor at the station.
Don and Chris McGinnis were there to honor Frank, too. Chris presented him a crystal microphone, observing that Don is the only other air personality there to have ever received such an award.
Judge/Executive Logan Chick, who noted that his late grandfather Press Herndon had been associated with the Dockinses in church work, declared it Frank Dockins Jr. Day in Logan County.
As usual, the women of Bethany fed everyone lavishly, but mostly we feasted on the jovial, loving spirit of Little Frank/Brother Frank, which always fills whatever room he enters.
Joann Flowers , who lived three facets of public life, died in early April. She would have been politely pleased by the outpouring of love and praise that flowed in the days which followed. In her early years, she helped her husband Ruston operate R.M. Flowers Hardware on the square in Russellville in the building that has been the home of the News-Democrat & Leader since 1973. In their retirement years, they were the leaders of Red River Meeting House Association near their historic Schochoh home. In between she was an English teacher, most of the time at Russellville High School but in her final professional years at Logan County High School.
She and I started teaching at RHS in the same year, the fall of 1968. I was fresh out of college. She had already been part of the world of world in a non-academic setting and then had taught in Todd County briefly before coming home. Our roles were contrasting. I was deeply involved in coaching speech and tennis, directing plays, and beginning a secondary career as a sportswriter.. She was a professional English teacher without distractions.
The biggest contrast, however, was the pressure that was on us. I was teaching sophomore English and following a guy who, like me, was an extracurricular enthusiast-assistant football coach Pat Counts. On the other hand, Joann had the toughest role at RHS, following the legendary Ruth Price Carpenter, who had died during the previous school year. Miss Ruth was bigger than life, the junior/senior English teacher who-along with Eleanor Piper, Katherine Lyle Stengell and (Miss Ruth’s sister) Clennie Sue Rector Riley-prepared RHS graduates for a lifetime of good grammar. She not only taught Miss Ruth’s classes but did it in her classroom, appropriately Room 1 in the three-year-old building. Following Miss Ruth was the academic equivalent of trying to emulate Bear Bryant, Adolph Rupp, Johnny Wooden or Ken Barrett.
Joann Flowers obviously was up to the challenge, as evidenced by the tributes which followed her death. She not only taught English well, but she influenced lives. Take for example the comments which were written either on my Facebook wall or that of her daughter, Kathy Holman. First we’ll listen to the words of two educators who recently have beaten the odds against high-profile cases of cancer:
Pamela Hunter Holdcraft said, “She was such a beautiful, unique lady and wonderful teacher!! She took six of us to England and France for six weeks in the summer of our junior year to study English Lit. What an amazing opportunity she gave us! Her life to all RHS students is one to celebrate. Every time I teach onomatopoeia, which is every year, I have thought of her...I even remember what it looked like on her bulletin board! She made learning fun. She was the ‘Cool’ teacher!! She was a blessing to us all!!
Belinda Ray: “She was such an inspiration to both Charlie and me. I actually have her classroom and live great memories everyday”
Language arts educator and national caliber speech coach Rosemary Cundiff-Brown wrote: “She was such a sweet lady. She actually was the first person to introduce me to the competitive speech world. She will truly be missed.” Another woman who has taught at both RHS and LCHS, Shelia Edwards, said simply, “I have many fond memories of Mrs. Flowers. She had a lot of spunk.”
Russellville School Board Member Davonna Coursey Page said, “She was a real Southern lady and great teacher. I had her for senior English at RHS and it was a great foundation for college.”
Three or four decades after having had her in class, several of her former students were lavish in praising what they learned from her. A sampling follows:
Jacqueline Denise Gaines: “Mrs. Flowers was the person who inspired me the most in high school. When I first went off to college my writing was praised as some of the best writings from a college freshman. If it hadn't been for her I guess my writing would certainly suck today but thanks to her I have even gotten better during the years because I have always remembered what she taught me.”
David O. Vick: “Fantastic senior English teacher and an outstanding person! I remember her common sense and witticisms. She and other RHS English teachers prepared me well for college writing as well as editing my own children's papers! Hundreds whom she positively impacted are saddened at her passing!”
Judy Kirkland: “Ms Flowers helped us all make sense of English and genuinely cared for us all.”
Kelly Dickey: “She was the most influential teacher I had in my four years at RHS. They don't make them like her anymore.”
Lynn Noe Sahlin: “Mrs. Flowers was such an awesome teacher. I learned so much from her. She really taught me how to write.”
Robin Foster: “Wonderful lady and one of my favorite teachers...she taught me how to write.”
Deborah Roman said, “I was just speaking of her with my son yesterday (the day before she died). She was not only a great teacher but a mentor as well. I will always remember her and her kind and genuine nature.:
Among those calling her their “favorite teacher” were Lois K. Page, Vickie Lowe DeShazer, Janada Young Williams and Steve Tattitch. Others had unique memories:
Cathy Carver: “I learned a lot of good life lessons from her - and not just at school. I still remember the joy of making mud pies at her house, and learning why snapdragons were called snapdragons.”
Kathleen Gorrell Collins: “Shem was an absolute jewel. She made me have faith in myself and I will always hold her dear to my heart.”
Lindy Kemmis: “I thought she was the best. I thoroughly enjoyed her literature classes and she was such a hoot. She had a great sense of humor and a terrific laugh. Mrs. Flowers was a super person and really cared about all her students.”
The principal under whom she taught at LCHS, Bob Birdwhistell, wrote, “One of the nicest, most entertaining women I ever had the opportunity to work with I am sure she influenced the lives of many.”
The LoJo
Another educator who has influenced many has been honored while she is very much among us. Russellville schools bestowed a number of recognitions on the recently retired Kaye Warren Wilkins at a reception held in her honor May 15.
The highest honor she received was having the preschool at Stevenson Elementary School named for her. That’s rare around here. No buildings or institutions are named for anyone in the Logan County School District. This is just the fourth one in the city system, joining R.E. Stevenson Elementary School, Jim Young Gymnasium, and Kelly Russell (baseball) Field. Young and the late Mr. Stevenson were legendary superintendents. Kelly lost his life while representing RHS in baseball.
The first day I ever taught school, Kaye Warren was one of the sophomores in my English classes. She was the same person that day that she is today-sweet, caring and generous-although her hair is a tad grayer now.
She has served in countless roles in the Russellville School System during her three decades-plus as a professional educator. A few times she was passed over when new superintendents were being chosen. It aggravated some of her friends and colleagues, but Kaye never let her frustrations show or her job performance suffer. She was the ultimate company gal.
Kaye is her parents reincarnated. Her dad, long-time County Agent Aubrey Warren, was the consummate gentleman. He was always kind and caring, never pushing himself or his own agendas but always trying to serve Logan County’s vast agriculture community to the best of his ability. Her mother was always ready to help but never tried to promote anything about herself. She was one of those women who never was known by her own first name; she was “Mrs. Warren.”
Kaye wrote the following for The LoJo in December 2009: “We moved to Russellville in 1958, when I was five years old; and Daddy did not retire until after I had married. Therefore, the majority of my childhood memories center around Daddy working as the Logan County Extension Agent. Daddy worked in Extension for almost 40 years, with his work beginning in Muhlenberg County. This is where he met my mother, as my grandfather Cecil Lovell operated the Experiment Station for the University of Kentucky.
“When thinking back on Daddy's tenure, I recall that he never seemed too busy to take a call from someone, go visit a farmer who wanted him to come look at a crop, or attend a night meeting which was related to some area that would be of a help to someone.”
Mrs. Warren was a widow for a long time after Aubrey’s too-early death. The same has been true for Kaye. Her husband, Charles Wilkins (brother-in-law of another sweet successful lady, Circuit Clerk Sherry Wilkins), died as a young man. When our own children were young, Elaine and I watched Kaye work unbelievably long hours as principal of Stevenson Elementary. We thought then most of it was because she was so dedicated to her job and her students. But part of it had to be fueled by loneliness at home.
It’s good that her beloved daughter, Kayela, and her husband, fellow RHS grad Spencer Clark, not only are attentive to her, but it was revealed Sunday that they are expecting Kaye’s first grandchild.
Life’s good for this wonderful lady.

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