GAINESVILLE, Ark. (BNC) — Joe Yeargain was a tall, big man, a no-nonsense kind of man, as a school principal had to be. He served for longer than my young mind could remember, but my passing 11 years in the same rural school building tends to blur what happened when and how long things lasted.
After those 11 years of grade school, middle school, and high school at Lafe, Ark., I was transferring out to spend my last year in the Marmaduke system.
On one of my last days, perhaps the very last, Joe called me into his office.
He offered me a small book.
“We give these books to graduating seniors,” he said. “But since you almost finished here, take this with you.”
I still have that book, on having a positive and successful life, tucked away somewhere. I was touched by his gesture and felt honored that Joe would recognize me in this way.
Joe passed away Sunday, June 5, at 76.
He was a patient and soft-spoken man, which in some ways made him more ominous to students. Often, a look was all it took to settle a situation. But, in an age when corporal punishment effectively settled discipline problems, Joe wasn’t afraid to use the paddle either. And a small paddle it was not.
Joe exemplified the positive male role for students, with all fairness and a kind strictness that kept the school running smoothly.
In my return visits to the area, I only ran into Joe once or twice in the remaining years. But I have always remembered him fondly.
Joe also taught and coached the basketball team at Lafe for a time. In a social media group, former students remembered his sense of humor and commented how much he was loved and respected by the student body.
Joe and his wife Jeannie were part of the Gainesville congregation.
Photo of the Yeargains: Denise Knuckles. School building photo is an old picture digitalized and posted on the Lafe school group page.