From young widow to first WH alderwoman, Janice Grider earned status as a ‘special lady’

WHITE HALL — Janice Sue Grider made success look easy as a White Hall pacesetter, from being elected to seven terms as the city’s first alderwoman to helping organize and then directing the city’s historical museum while championing a challenging effort that netted an impressive monument for local military veterans.

But her greatest accomplishment came far from the public spotlight, when she was widowed as a young mother and had to manage with a meager income to finish raising her two teenage sons, who both proceeded to college and wound up as successful husbands and fathers.

“She had to make sacrifices for us,” her youngest son, Billy John “BJ” Grider said of his mother, who died Friday in White Hall at the age of 89. “She probably saved the first dollar she ever made, and taught my brother (Murrey L. Grider) and me that it’s not how much you need, but how much you need to save. She managed money better than anyone I knew.”

“I remember all the struggles we had,” Murrey L. Grider said in looking back on the 1958 death of his father, Pine Bluff Arsenal civilian security officer Murrey J. Grider. “My mother was making $3,600 a year when dad died. My brother and I both learned to cook because we all had to help one another. We wore patches on our jeans — didn’t want to and sometimes we were embarrassed, but we survived. When I first started college, she gave me extra help so I could focus on my grades as I was getting started.”

“We had some hard times,” said BJ Grider, “but Mom did such a great job that we never knew we were poor.”

Janice Grider eventually retired after a 30-year career with the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, but she never quit working.

“She was always working on some community cause or task to help somebody,” said former White Hall mayor James “Jitters” Morgan, who praised Grider as “one of my most influential friends.” Morgan said Grider was a “natural leader” who had a gift for “knowing when and how to offer assistance and guidance.”

“She inspired others,” Morgan said. “She was quietly effective. She wasn’t the kind of person who would tell others what to do without pitching in and getting involved herself. She had a hand in so many of the good things about White Hall. But I think that what I may remember most about her is something I always admired her for — being such a lady. She always looked picture-perfect and behaved with nothing but grace and class. She was truly a special lady.”

Murrey L. Grider said he and his brother and their mother’s many extended family members received a number of similar compliments at her funeral service Monday morning at White Hall First Baptist Church.

“Most everyone said she was a true lady and always presented herself and acted in that way,” he said as his voice quivered with emotion. “I know she was one of the best friends to this city that White Hall could ever know, but to my brother and me, she was that and a lot more. I don’t think there are any words to describe just how much she’s done for us and how much she’s meant to us.”