Mary Lou Deaton of Manila was the guest of honor for her 80th birthday celebration. The event was held at the Manila Depot on Saturday, July 16, with friends and family from several states gathering to wish her many more birthdays.
She fell in love with basketball when she was a teenager playing for her high school team in Cardwell, Mo. She said in those days they could only play during the high school years but she played during her 10th, 11th and 12th grade and enjoyed every minute of it.
She married Paul Deaton in 1948 during her senior year of high school. They married in December and she graduated in May. They moved to Manila in 1949 and it became her lifelong home.
She has five sons and one daughter, Michael, Randy, David Joe, Keith, John, and Carol.
When Michael started playing ball, Mrs. Deaton became the Manila Lions number one fan and has remained so for almost 50 years. All of her sons played basketball for Manila and Carol was in the band.
She has expanded her area through the years cheering for the teams her grandchildren were on or the teams her sons were coaching. She has three sons who chose coaching as a career, and another who was a referee.
She has five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
For almost a half century Mrs. Deaton has never missed a basketball season. One year she had knee surgery but was back in the gym before she could climb the bleachers.
Basketball was family time for the Deaton family.
"When John, our youngest son was born, everyone teased me saying I'd have to go to his ballgames in a wheelchair but he graduated in 1990 and I never missed a game," she said.
John coaches Manila junior high boys basketball team and she is still one of the number one fans of the Manila Lions. She also makes it to most of the Lady Lions games.
Next to the Manila Lions, she is a Cardinal fan. She is a true fan if they are losing or winning. She doesn't go to as many Cardinal games but she certainly enjoys watching them in her recliner in a cool room.
She looks forward each year to the NEA basketball tournaments held at Arkansas State University. She would never think of missing one.
Her husband, Paul, loved ball games as much as she did.
"We attended the NEA Tournaments in Indian Field House," she said. "They were building the Convocation Center when he passed away. He never got to see the inside."
She enjoys following the Manila Lions wherever they go and did not miss a game of the state tournaments the last two years.
In addition to encouraging the teams through the years, Mrs. Deaton had a hand in feeding the players as well as the other students as she worked in the Manila school cafeteria for over 20 years.
"I had good people to work with and I enjoyed working at the school," she said.
She loved cooking for her children and she carried that same enthusiasm to the cafeteria every day cooking for all of the children. She retired in 1997.
When it came to cooking, she spoiled her children and grandchildren.
"I cook what they like," she said. "I still do today when I know they are going to be here."
The Deaton home always had an open door policy for family, friends and neighbors and it is still open today.
She and Carol prepare breakfast every Saturday morning to any of the family and their friends who wants to come. They make a big skillet of gravy, 25 biscuits, bacon and sausage and much more.
Carol retired from teaching last year and they are enjoyed their free time together.
Mrs. Deaton has also attended her share of baseball games watching her children and grandchildren. She also goes to football games since Manila has started football, but basketball is still her favorite sport.
She is a longtime member of Brown's Chapel Baptist Church. Mrs. Deaton serves as song leader and Carol plays the piano. Her nephew serves as pastor.
Mrs. Deaton turned 80 on Monday, July 18. She enjoyed her party on Saturday and is looking forward to the 2011-12 basketball season, but for now she is following her Cardinals.