Region 8 Remembers the Loss of Leaders and Loved Ones in '06

December 28, 2006 -- Posted at 6:00 p.m. CST

Jonesboro, AR -- Region 8 lost some great leaders and family members this past year.

In February, after a battle with Non Hodgkin's Lumphoma, 72-year old veteran State Senator Jerry Bookout passed away.

A Democrat from Rector, Bookout previously served three terms in the State House in the 60's and the 70's, but was best known for serving 12 terms as a State Senator. He stood for education and health care and helped make Arkansas State University what it is today.

June of 2006 brought heartache to Region 8 and to KAIT with the loss of a dear friend, Al Blanks.

"He was Mr. Versatility and if I had to say who is Mr. KAIT, it would be Al Blanks."

Dick Clay, Former KAIT Sports Director, was a long time friend of Blanks' and said he never met a stranger.

Al joined the KAIT team in 1965, just two years after the station first went on the air. He did it all throughout the years... from weather, to news, to sales. After 35 years, he retired in 2001, spending the rest of his days with family and firends. Al Blanks was 69.

Just a month later, Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller passed away from a rare blood disorder. Gov. Mike Huckabee stated, "He showed kindness and thoughfullness in the way that he lived and he demonstrated courage and faith in the way he died."

Rockefeller focused his efforts on pushing for greater economic development, education, and literacy throughout the state. He was also a sponsor of the National Firearm Safety program which distributed free trigger locks in the wake of the Westside School Shooting. Winthrop Rockefeller was 57.

In August, the "Voice of the Razorbacks", Paul Eells was killed in a car accident. Paul was the Sports Director at KATV in Little Rock, and had been there since 1978. Many will remember Paul Eells for his trademark phrase, "Touchdown Arkansas". He will always be a part of Razorback sports.

For over 19 years we've enjoyed the holiday displays of Winter Wonderland in downtown Jonesboro. This year, the visionary that made these scenes come to life, died of cancer.

Donna Chetister passed away before she could see the Winter Wonderland open for it's 2006 season, but as a tribute to her, friend Libby Donahue says it will be open for years to come.

"Donna's passion for Winter Wonderland made us want to continue, now it's more for Donna than anything else."

They touched the lives of many... Donna Chetister, Win Rockefeller, Al Blanks, Jerry Bookout, and Paul Eells will be missed.