Frank Sutterfield: By Laura Timby, Buffalo River Chapter Chair

For many years Frank and Alma Lee Sutterfield were members of the Buffalo River Chapter of the Ozark Society. I met them through their son Terry, also a member of the BRC, who worked as a physician in Marshall. It was always a pleasure to be around the Sutterfields, whether at chapter meetings or outings. Having spent a large part of their lives in Stone and Searcy County they had so many interesting stories to tell. I remember one memorable chapter outing when Terry and Frank led our group into the Clifty Canyon Special Interest Area. It was an incredibly remote and pristine area and I’m pretty sure we never would have found it without their help. We all had a wonderful time and it was made even more special to be with folks who had a personal tie to the area. Frank was a true naturalist and loved these hills he called home. His respect for nature, his true love and appreciation of the Ozark Highlands, and his enduring spirit of conservation stand as an inspiration to all of us. May you rest in peace Frank, together once again with your beloved Alma Lee.

Ellen Compton: By Janet Parsch

When Ellen Compton and I started working in the University of Arkansas Libraries in the early 1980s, our paths seldom crossed since we worked in different departments on different floors: she in archives in Special Collections on Level 1, and I, in various offices on Level 2. I had heard vague descriptions that her father, Neil, had something to do with the Buffalo River, but I didn’t know much more than that. (She was the oldest of Neil and Laurene Compton’s three children.) When our mothers coincidentally passed away at about the same time in 1990, I was touched when Ellen sent me a note saying we shared a special bond in losing our mothers. That was the beginning of a relationship that developed personally and professionally over time.

At one point I was a tad envious when I overheard several of my library colleagues discussing with Ellen a hike through Dismal Hollow’s Bear Crack, they had recently completed with the Ozark “Society.” At the time I thought the “Society” was a select group of blue-blood Arkansans born and bred in the Ozarks.

Dismal Hollow, 2005. Janet Parsch, Ellen Compton

Some time later, in 1999, when Neil Compton passed away, my husband, Luke, and I made a donation to the Ozark Society in Neil’s memory. As a result of this donation, we started receiving the Pack and Paddle. After we had received a couple of issues, I went to Ellen and said, “Ellen, we would love to go on some of the hikes that are announced in the P&P, but we aren’t eager to drive 2.5 hours to Little Rock, then drive to a trailhead that is even farther away, and then hike all day.” Her response: “You mean you haven’t been getting announcements for the Highlands Chapter hikes?! I will get you set up!”

Our first hike with the Ozark Society (Highlands Chapter) was coincidentally led by Ellen—from Pearly Springs to Steel Creek—on October 27, 2001. We were new to hiking and weren’t familiar with hiking guidelines or rules. At one point Ellen explained that if you needed to “separate” from the group, you should leave your backpack in the trail so someone could find you in case you didn’t soon reappear. I thought that “separate” was jargon among serious hikers—only to realize later that it was a wonderful word chosen by discreet Ellen to refer to a “bio break.”

Roaring Falls Cave, Cecil Cove, 2003. Ellen Compton

As I reviewed hiking photos since Ellen’s passing on March 19, I recalled her wonderful camaraderie, stamina, and sense of adventure. There are photos of her being pushed/heaved/hoisted up the rock wall at Indian Creek, and there are photos of her in stylish hiking garb inspecting the wildflowers, geology, or architectural features of historical Ozark structures or cemeteries. There are also photos of our search for the ivory-billed woodpecker in eastern Arkansas; helping Ken Smith scout out trail routes; or helping him confirm facts for the Buffalo River Handbook. She was eager to share her love of the outdoors.

What also became evident, however, was her interest that I become informed about Ozarks culture, history, and people. She made sure I got to meet her father in 1997 when he was doing a book-signing for his Buffalo River in Black and White (the only time I met him). She and I watched all 13 of Neil’s home-made 8mm films from the 1960s promoting the establishment of the BNR, during which she added commentary on every person in those films.

Trail-building BRT Extension, Dillard’s Ferry, 2005. Ellen Compton, Rodger Keesee, Bob Cross, Ken Smith

We worked together to identify materials for the Neil Compton Exhibit Room at Compton Gardens in Bentonville. Together we gathered images for her several PowerPoint presentations on her father’s life in commemoration of what would have been his 100th birthday in 2012. We gathered objects for David Esterly to include in his masterful, hand-carved wooden letter rack depicting a tangible, visual history of Neil Compton that was commissioned by (and now resides at) Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. We negotiated her family’s generous copyright transfer of Neil Compton’s Battle for the Buffalo to the Ozark Society Foundation to support the UA Neil Compton Scholarship in the Biological and Geological Sciences.

What I’ve described is Ellen’s tireless, persistent commitment as a historian to seek out and preserve an important story—one that is personal to her family and her family’s legacy, but one that is also vitally important for Arkansas’s environmental history.

With her gracious, generous spirit Ellen was also relentless in making sure that people around her were being introduced, being connected, being networked in community. She knew that each person has a story to tell and wanted to set up opportunities that their stories could also be told. Ellen created her own legacy as one committed to Arkansas and its people, history, and outdoors, and also as one who engaged others in carrying on that legacy and commitment—all the while sharing a curiosity to learn and connect, and having fun doing so. She was a role model for friendship, mentoring, and advocating Arkansas.
One of the last times Ellen and I talked, she said she was doing fine, but was starting to have some mobility problems. When I last saw her, she had indeed given up her hiking poles for a classy-looking walker with a seat–but she had lent it out to a friend who, she said, needed it more that day than she did….
Rest in peace, Ellen. I will think of you whenever I’m in the archives or on the trails or backroads of Arkansas.

A Poem by Ellen Compton on the Possumhaw

Link to a remembrance of Ellen Compton by UA colleagues can be found at:

Link to David Esterly’s letter rack of Neil Compton: