12 women honored as 'Stars Over Longview'

Published: Jan. 12, 2010 at 10:12 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2010 at 3:42 PM CST
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By Anissa Centers - bio | email

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - Longview honored this year's 12 Stars Over Longview - 12 women who have made the Longview area a better place. Scroll down to read about each woman and learn what makes them all unique.

Iris Counts says her crowning achievement lies in the success of the students she teaches. She is pretty modest about all she has done but there are plenty of people willing to speak on her behalf. Those who wrote letters about her say she's not just a special needs teacher. Peggy Mallory said, 'She's the North Star for the deaf children of East Texas.' Bob and Jo Ruth Maness wrote that they watched as she saved a frustrated from a life of isolation. They said she not only showed him how to communicate with the world around. She took the time to teach others how to communicate with him. Each letter says the same thing: Yes, Iris Counts teaches children sign language but she does so much more than that. She gently guides the whole family down an unfamiliar road and helps them realize their story can have a happy ending.

Joycelyne Fadojutimi is the publisher of the East Texas Review. She uses words to build bridges in her community. She also introduced KIDSPRESS. It's a newspaper for elementary schools and it doesn't cost the schools a thing! Even though publishing is a fulltime job for Joycelyne, she still volunteers in other areas. She's been a Mentor at Judson Middle School and teaches Bible Knowledge to local children. She's also a trained volunteer Chaplain and comforts those in need at a local hospice.

Former Speaker of the House, Jim Wright, said our next honoree is the teacher who 'had the greatest influence on his life.' When you hear just a sampling of Faye Field's accomplishments, you may understand why. She's published more than 600 articles in more than 200 magazines and newspapers. You'll recognize some of the names: Guideposts, Upper Room, Christian Science Monitor. She has taught Sunday school at First United Methodist Church for 60 years. The city of Longview even honored her with her own day in January 2001. Those she's touched say her steady dedication to serve others makes her a woman to admire.

You may not have had the chance to meet Nan Gardner, yet, but there's a good chance you've seen her handiwork. She and her husband developed the Haverty's Angel Tree. It started with students at Forest Park Middle School but, quickly grew to include all of the Longview School District. She retired from teaching in 2003 and only increased her volunteer work. She's active in Welcome Home Soldiers, being there to send off and greet soldiers serving our country. She has volunteered in Belize, South Dakota and closer to home in Beaumont, showing people love at the Distribution Center for victims of Hurricane Katrina and Rita.

Mabelle Henderson is a great example of how much you can help your community by quietly helping others through the years. She teaches at the Chrisman School and works with her church but the thing that stands out when you read what people wrote about Mrs. Henderson is her dedication to making sure no one feels alone. She says she loves visiting the sick and shut in and feeling she's made their day a little brighter. Her friends say she's done that and more. Emily Myers told the committee how Mrs. Henderson visited a friend with Alzheimer's every Friday for two years, even though the lady didn't really know she was there. In addition to that, this teacher of 30 years volunteers extensively with her church.

When you read Simone Kibbe's biography, the first thing that comes to mind is "Where does she find the time to do all of this?!" Mrs. Kibbe has spent 39 years working with the Junior League of Longview. She's a past Bargain Box chairman, member of the funding and charity ball committee. She's a driving force of the Longview Museum of Fine Arts, even planning art tours to other cities and helping plan museum openings. In addition to that, she served three, two-year terms studying and researching the needs of local low to moderate income citizens to help figure out the best way to use federal money to help them.

Brenda Crisman Liverman obviously lives to serve her community. She's a founding member of the Good Shepherd Guild at Good Shepherd Medical Center. She wrote a learning disability article for the Longview News Journal for more than 20 years. Mrs. Liverman also serves as a board member for the Newgate Mission. When you see all she has done, you understand the quote she says she lives by: "With God's help, you can find something positive in situations that can be trying, which will help you through it."

Eunice Morton is a teacher at Pine Tree high School, where she has spent 27 years introducing students to the wonders of science. Her peers recognize her dedication to that mission. For 12 of those years, she has been the lead science teacher; responsible for guiding and budgeting for 21 teachers. If you want to understand how incredible Eunice Morton is, just visit her webpage for Pine Tree. It is amazing. Her love for teaching shines through. Here is what Ms. Morton said in part of her biography:

"One year in the middle of a lesson, when I was deep into trying to make a point clear, a student raised his hand and asked me out of the blue why I did not go to medical school, I responded that I chose to be a teacher because I love teaching, I love biology and I love young people. He then said, "Mrs. Morton, just think how much good you could do and how many people you could help if you were a doctor." She told him, "Every year, I teach 100 plus students and if only one per year becomes a doctor, a nurse, a dentist, a veterinarian, a teacher a lawyer or a parent, then I am able to influence not a hundred lives per year in my classroom but hundreds more through my students."

Our next honoree saw a need in Longview and filled it in a big way. Dr. Christine Moulds-Merritt has practiced as a general surgeon for many years. She realized that women who needed breast care often had to go to one place for testing, another for things like biopsies and yet another for treatment. As a woman, she knew that added stress to an already stressful situation. So, in January of 2009, she opened the Diagnostic Clinic Center for Breast Care. This way, once a woman starts the process in a place she feels comfortable, she can stay there for the entire journey.

Sharon Sanders is the co-founder of BECAUSE I CARE. It's an organization that works to raise awareness of the need for potential stem cell donors to register to be a donor. Every year, thousands of people of all ages are diagnosed with leukemia and other life-threatening diseases. Many of them will die unless they get a bone marrow or cord blood transplant from a matching donor. BECAUSE I CARE has already registered more than 15,000 potential donors; 60 of those have become donors. They've given the gift of life. In addition to that life-saving work, Mrs. Sanders volunteers with many other groups, too many to mention in our brief time.

If you had to come up with one word to describe what Ms. Dorothy Walker does to make her community better, it would be love. She's known for loving children. She works with the Rainbow Room. It's a program associated with Child Protective Services. It provides new clothes, toiletries, and school supplies to children going through very tough times. I'm told Ms. Walker cried when she learned she was being honored and said she didn't understand why she was getting the award because she hadn't done anything she thought was extraordinary. Ms. Walker, those you've touched disagree. You've done something very important. You've loved them when, sometimes, no one else did.

Melinda Whitehurst works hard to make difficult times easier for others. She has been with Longview Regional Medical Center for almost 15 years. She's the manager of Senior Circle and Volunteer Services. She's charged with recruiting and training the dozens of Yellow Jacket volunteers, who put in four-hour shifts. One of the people who nominated Mrs. Whitehurst said, 'Without her hard work with the Senior Circle, many seniors would be sitting at home lonely, with no friends and nothing to do.' Her fans say her upbeat personality and smile always lift your mood. I'm told she also draws a smile or two when she performs at nursing homes with the hula girls!