BY JACLYN ROSE –
As the daughter of legendary Mena Bearcat Coach, Jim Rackley, Marilyn Davenport was raised at Bearcat sporting events. “I spent a lot of time growing up cheering for the Bearcats. My dad was a well-loved Bearcat coach and I spent my childhood at ballgames. I know that’s why I love sports and the Bearcats so much. I graduated from Mena High School and I was a Bearcat cheerleader. I had such a fun childhood,” explained Davenport.
After completing high school, Davenport went on to obtain her teaching degree from the University of the Ozarks. It was there that she met her husband of almost 41 years, John, whom everyone calls Jumper. “John and I love each other and we are also good friends. We respect each other and love to spend time together but we also have our own hobbies, which I believe is important. We have attended the First United Methodist Church for our entire marriage and raised our family in the church. Our faith in God is very important to us,” Davenport said.
The Davenports have three children, Kelly Wallart, Lindsey French, and John Allen Davenport. They also now have four grandsons, Jack, James, and twins, Layton and Logan. “We loved raising our family in Mena. It is the best place for children; our school system is wonderful. Now that I’m retired I’ve been able to spend a lot more time taking care of my baby boys. Three of my four grandsons have been born in the past six months,” said Davenport.
Early on, Davenport knew she wanted to become a school teacher and went to work for Mena Schools immediately upon graduating college. She taught, mostly third grade, very successfully for 31 years before retiring. “I loved teaching. I love kids and I still love seeing them as they grow up. The reward for teaching them is that when they grow up they become your friends, and their families become your friends. It’s so wonderful. I always wanted to make learning fun. I think I probably laughed louder than the kids,” said Davenport with a smile.
In their retirement, the Davenports have spent a lot of their time traveling and enjoying their grown children and their grandsons. “We love to travel. We were able to spend three months in Europe last year, where Kelly and her family were living, and have traveled to Hawaii and Canada and the Smokey Mountains. It has been wonderful. We also have lots of good friends in Mena that we enjoy hanging out and spending time with,” explained Davenport.
Davenport also enjoys spending time working in her yard with her flowers and has dedicated her Wednesday nights for the past 10 years to the children’s program at her church.
“I feel very blessed. I’ve had a blessed life. We love Mena. We moved here after we were married and we didn’t plan on staying for long, but we’ve been here for almost 41 years,” said Davenport with a laugh. “It’s been a wonderful place for us to live.”