Edna Mae Freeman, 89, of Monette, was inducted into the Arkansas Chapter National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials Hall of Fame last month for her lifetime of service to her community and service as a director on the Monette Housing Authority Board since 1985.
Mrs. Freeman was unable to attend the formal presentation of the award held in Eureka Springs in September, but her niece, Billie Layne, accepted the award on her behalf.
Monette Housing Authority Board of Directors gathered on Thursday, Oct. 9, in a special celebration of her award. Those present included Barbara Suber, MHA executive director, and board members, Skip Layne, Betty Cole and Raye Finley. Board member Terry Edwards joined the group later to congratulate Mrs. Freeman.
"It was such a pleasure to nominate Mrs. Freeman for the NAHRO Hall of Fame award, as I don't know of anyone else who deserves it any more than she does," Suber said. "Mrs. Freeman has made an outstanding contribution to the quality of life for countless individuals throughout her lifetime.
"She is known and respected for her 44 years of service in public education, both here in Monette as a teacher and high school principal, and later on as county school supervisor. She was just the spark that our MHA board needed to get the job done. She has served as our chairperson since 1988.
"Mrs. Freeman is the most active member of our board. She signs and approves all checks, talks with us about everything, and never misses a board meeting, whether regular or special, unless she is in the hospital."
Mrs. Freeman is credited in being instrumental in setting up the original four county programs in 1969 to provide services for senior citizens through the Crowley's Ridge Development Council, and served as chairman of the board for this agency for two years. Today, this program has expanded to service eight counties in Northeast Arkansas and boasts of a $16,000,000 budget and 400 employees.
"Mrs. Freeman's entire life reflects her concern for her fellowman," Suber continued. "The many awards she has received throughout her career demonstrates what a caring, compassionate and fair person she has always been in every aspect of her personal and professional life."
Mrs. Freeman was named the Outstanding Personality of the South in 1978, the year she helped to develop and fund the Adult Education Program for Craighead County. In 1979, "The Lady Journalists" named Mrs. Freeman one of 100 outstanding Arkansas Women of Achievement. Mrs. Freeman received the Masonic Lodge Community Service Award in 1996 and in 2000 she received the Monette Centennial Award. In 1972 The Edna Mae Freeman Scholarship award was established to honor a graduating senior and continues annually. She is a lifetime member of Alpha Delta Kappa honorary teachers sorority and for more than 40 plus years has taken every opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the youth she has served.
Mrs. Freeman has received many letters from former students and coworkers, throughout the years, many of which she can recite word for word. She keeps up with her former students and is always interested in what is going on in their lives.
"There were so many of my students that I just knew were going to be such successes in life, if they could just get a good start," Mrs. Freeman said. "There is so much potential out there in young people, and everyone needs to do what we can to help them and encourage them along the way."
"Mrs. Freeman didn't stop encouraging after she retired from teaching," Suber said. "She has continued her legacy of service through her association with the MHA by striving daily to make a difference in the lives of our residents here. She inspires and encourages everyone she knows to seek self sufficiency through education and hard work."
"I have always loved the elderly, even before I became one myself," Mrs. Freeman said. "I think it is important that they can live their life in dignity and safety, surrounded by people who are friends. The tenants at the MHA love to live there and take pride in their dwellings and the landscape outside. They do everything in their power to keep it a nice place to live."
People of Mrs. Freeman's caliber are rare treasures indeed, and worthy to be honored in a hall of fame. She has devoted her lifetime to lifting up others and giving them hope of something better, from the youngest student to the oldest citizen. Many people in this fast paced world today seem quite content to acquire execrated creature comforts, large bank accounts, and vast estates, but not Mrs. Freeman, she has invested everything she has or hopes to have in others. Mrs. Freeman epitomizes what William Faulkner wrote, so many years ago, "The purpose of life is to be happy, to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all."