Funeral services set for Marked Tree Mayor

MARKED TREE, AR (KAIT) - According to a post on the Marked Tree city Facebook page, Marked Tree Mayor Mary Ann Arnold died Thursday.

"This afternoon our town lost a great lady. A woman that loved Marked Tree with all of her heart. A lady who gave generously to every cause with out any expectations. We are very blessed to have called her "Our Mayor". She worked up until the very last and always had our city on her mind. A sad day but this town is very blessed to have had her as our Mayor and friend. We will miss you Mayor," the post noted.

Arnold was an early trendsetter in both business and politics in Poinsett County. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, Arnold was born in April 1927 just after the 1927 Mississippi River flood that hit the region.

Arnold became president of E. Ritter & Company in 1976, was the first female mayor of Marked Tree and was inducted into the Arkansas Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1998.

She was also inducted into the Arkansas Women's Hall of Fame in 2015, the encyclopedia noted.

Arnold was a stay-at-home mother for her three children when her husband, Sidney, got an offer to teach at the University of Tennessee Medical School in Memphis, the posting from Cindy Grisham noted.

"The family moved again. After her mother died in 1974, Arnold and her family moved back to Marked Tree into her parents' large home, Rittwood, on the St. Francis River. As her children grew up and moved away, Arnold decided to learn the family business," Grisham wrote.

The article noted Arnold used real-life examples to explain that she knew the inner workings of running a business while not having a business degree or formal training.

"When the family gathered to select a new leader, Arnold made her pitch: although she had no formal training or experience in business management, she had sent a husband through medical school and had done all the budgeting and managing it took to raise a family. They decided to give her a chance, and she assumed the presidency," Grisham wrote.

Before she won the Marked Tree mayor's race in a 2013 special election, Arnold said her experience on the Poinsett County Quorum Court prepared her for the road ahead.

"I was on the quorum court for 22 years. So, I'm knowledgeable of the different challenges that come along your way, the demands that are made, and the fact that you need to budget and pretty well stick with your budget. If you don't have the money, then you don't buy things," Arnold said. "We're all going to work together. We're all desirous of getting these things accomplished and we're all going to be positive and we're going to have fun along the way."

Earlier this year, Arnold told Memphis television station WATN that she wanted to be remembered as someone who worked to make her hometown a better place.

"Life is to be lived to its fullest. We have a lot of responsibilities regardless of who we are in life and you can either live it to its fullest and be happy with your situation, or you can be miserable," Arnold said.

Citizens of Marked Tree reacted to Mayor Arnold's passing, saying she will be missed dearly.

"She had a great personality," Mary Louise Smith said. "She was just a wonderful soul, a good spirit."

"I just love her," Polly Wooten Norman said. "She was a kind lady, and I believe she loved people and she loved Marked Tree."

"She was a great mayor," James Adam said. "She got a lot of things done here in Marked Tree."

We also reached out to Marked Tree Police Chief Michael Matlock who said Mayor Arnold was more than just a boss.

"She taught, nurtured, counseled and corrected me," Chief Matlock said. "Most of all, she loved me, as I do her."

According to a posting on the Emerson Funeral Home website, a memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church in Marked Tree with Rev. Danny Partlow, Rev. Ron Williams, Brother Dale Noe and Pastor Willie Brown officiating.

The posting also asks that people interesting in leaving lasting memorials to consider Arkansas Children's Foundation, 1 Children's Way, Slot 661, Little Rock, Arkansas 72202; First United Methodist Church of Marked Tree, 304 Frisco Street, Marked Tree, Arkansas 72365; or Trumann Animal Clinic, Helping PAWS Fund, 1121 Hwy 69W, Trumann, Arkansas 72472.

Region 8 News will have more information as details emerge. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for up to the minute updates.

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