How did two people who spent the bulk of their professional careers testing materials and compounds end up residing on Rock Street in White Hall?
Pat Freeman, a Texas native, and his wife, Mary Kay, who hails from Nebraska, explained they “decided to split the difference” when they were looking for a place to live in late 1970s. It helped that Pat was offered a job at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, where Mary Kay later worked as a physical science technician.
They are now retired, but they stay busy volunteering and working on tasks they enjoy.
Each time they thought their activities were outgrowing their home, they just added another room, Pat said with a chortle.
Mary Kay worked at the arsenal in quality control testing incoming materials from 1982 until she retired in 2005. She majored in home economics and journalism in college.
Pat worked at the arsenal for two years, and then shifted to the FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research near the Jefferson community in 1979, staying busy identifying organic compounds, and then retiring in 2007. He holds a doctorate in analytical chemistry.
They stay so busy in retirement that they need a calendar to schedule their activities, Mary Kay said.
“It helps,” she explained with a smile.
In 2006, with retirement nearing, Pat said he began thinking about a hobby and recalled riding a motorcycle while in the military.
“We rode ‘two up’ for quite a while,” interjected Mary Kay.
Pat has a Honda VTR250 motorcycle and also acquired a larger two-wheel ride. He rides 30-50 miles twice a week.
Mary Kay has a Kymco 250 scooter and rides once a week.
The motorcycles got them involved in Arkansas Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE) because of the organization’s motorcycle safety involvement. Pat is now the District 20 president of ABATE over Grant, Lincoln and Jefferson counties.
The volunteering didn’t stop with motorcycles. Both work with the Friends of the Library at the White Hall branch library, helping stock bookcases with books for sale and other needs at the facility.
Because of their work ABATE, Mary Lou Mauldin convinced them to work at the White Hall Museum and round up motorcycle riders for the museum’s annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs.
“If you ask for help, they will be among the first ones to arrive and the last to leave,” said Mauldin, museum director.
Pat is a member of the American Legion and Mary Kay is a member of the Legion Auxiliary. They help put out flags at a local cemetery for Memorial Day.
The auxiliary, added Mary Kay, has a gift shop at a Department of Veterans Affairs facility in North Little Rock and wrap gift packages for veterans at the VA’s Little Rock medical center at no charge.
Their volunteering, Pat explained, stems from “people getting in a situation where they need help.”
Mary Kay has a room in their home occupied by a large quilt loom. She also collects sewing machines.
Pat is a habitual “piddler” and helps clean up, repair and adjust timing sewing machines. They have been known to stop on a roadside and pick up a sewing machine that has been discarded.
“We make house calls,” Mary Kay said of the machines.
Her quilting hobby resulted in her being asked to lead a quilting class at the Delta Rivers Nature Center when the scheduled leader changed jobs.
That lead to Pat becoming involved in plant swaps and working as a volunteer at the Nature Center.
They have made themselves feel welcome and needed in White Hall, Mauldin observed.