The front page of The Town Crier in 1980 carried the tragic story of the June 19 farm accident that claimed the lives of two prominent Leachville citizens, Bernard Milligan, 49, and J.W. Sharp, 57.
June 19, 1980, was on Thursday and the accident happened in the early hours on the Milligan farm about three miles south of the Carmi community.
Mr. Sharp was on the Milligan farm to haul grain which was to be unloaded from a bin. Mr. Milligan's young sons were pushing a portable grain auger when the machine's 40-foot boom came in contact with a high-tension wire severely shocking and burning the two men. It is believed that Mr. Milligan drove up and was trying to help the men when he backed into the wires and was electrocuted.
As the 25th anniversary of the accident falls on Father's Day this year, Milligan's daughters, Suzanne Milligan Griffin, of Flippin, and Beth Milligan Qualls, of Jonesboro, met at the Leachville Cemetery to place a special wreath of flowers and John Deere hat at the gravesite of their father.
Mr. Milligan was born April 9, 1931, to Lones and Lorene Milligan Sr. of Lake City. He was the oldest of six children. They are Joy Rapert of Jonesboro; Major Milligan of Lake City; Jerry Milligan, Sr. of Lake City; Ruth Reece of Warren, Mich.; and Don Elliott (deceased).
Mr. Milligan graduated from Lake City High School in 1949. He and the former Milladine Fortenberry of Leachville, daughter of Douglas and Minnie Fortenberry, were married on July 28, 1951.
Milligan answered the call to the military and served during the Korean War. The Milligans had been married about nine months at that time.
After returning home from the service, he began farming with his father-in-law and later took over the farming operation with his two sons, Bryce and Doug.
"Mother and Daddy grew up during hard times like most folks their age. They learned early the importance of hard work and a strong Christian background," Suzanne said. "I'm proud to have had parents with their values. It has helped us to overcome the sadness knowing that bad things happen to good people. Babies are born and life goes on, and I know that our Dad would have been proud of his family. Mother lived 21 years after Daddy died but was never really herself without him. The affects of the accident are still apparent, still with us, but we were young at the time."
At the time of the accident, Suzanne was 25, Bryce 23, Doug 20 and Beth 13.
Today Suzanne is a retired speech therapist from the Flippin Public schools and is currently employed at Ranger Boats in Flippin. She is married to Garry Griffin, Sr., and they have one daughter, Leeanne Spence Hooker, of Leachville. Leeanne is married to Heath Hooker, and they have a daughter, Abbylee Carole Hooker, who is 15-months-old.
Bryce Milligan lives in Lake City and has two sons, Michael Milligan of Jonesboro and Chad Milligan of Harrison.
Douglas Milligan lives in Monette and is married to the former Tammy Gathright of Monette. Their children are Morgan Milligan Taylor of Searcy and Austin Milligan. Morgan is expecting the second great-grandchild of the late Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Milligan in September.
Beth Milligan-Qualls of Jonesboro is director of the pre-kindergarten program with the Trumann Public Schools. She is married to Danny D. Qualls and together they have six children, Terry Qualls 18, of Jonesboro; Kolten Puckett 13, eighth grader at Valley View Junior High; Madallyn Puckett 8, third grader at Valley View Elementary; Gage Qualls 13, eighth grader at Valley View Junior High; Jacob Qualls 3; and Matt Qualls who was killed March 3, 2004, in a tragic car crash.
The younger generation of the Milligan family never had the opportunity to know their grandfather but their parents share their memories of him.
On Mr. Milligan's headstone the words, "The Greatest of these Is Love."
Most fathers are quick to say they would gladly lay down their lives for their children and it is apparent Mr. Milligan did not hesitate when he saw his sons and friend in trouble.
Suzanne said she is sure Mr. Sharp's children also have fond memories of their dad. She and the Sharp's daughter, Gina (now Gina Koone of Morrilton), grew up together. She was the youngest of Mr. Sharp's three children. Mr. Sharp's wife, "Mrs. Lilly," died about two years ago.
Twenty-five years have passed but Mr. Milligan and Mr. Sharp left a legacy in their children and grandchildren and the community.