"When I arrived at Harrells in July of 2015, it was made clear to me that I was not the boss - Mrs. Newkirk was the boss. And it was Mrs. Newkirk who informed me of that. In the subsequent months I have come to learn how true a statement that is.
My job is really that of a caretaker - a caretaker who must maintain and grow the vision set forth by our founders and, in a very significant way, by Joseph and Betty Newkirk. In their life together, they exemplified the servant’s walk.
I am told that Mr. Newkirk was a wonderful man, one to be emulated, a man of deep faith with a passion for young people and for this place. And in my effort to emulate that, I only need to glance outside my door to the nest of a desk that resides there. There I see him, because I have no doubt that Mrs. Betty represents all that they were together, and her life exemplifies the mission they helped create and embodies the traits we wish to instill in each child who walks through our doors. She is loyal, she serves with character, she is a person of faith, she is a person of keen intellect, and she gives love - freely and unconditionally.
I probably have known Mrs. Newkirk for as short a time as anyone in the Harrells community. But I know what commitment looks like, and it looks like her. She doesn’t sit out front just to hug every child - she has also wrapped her arms around our entire community for forty years, congratulating us when we have success, and lifting us up when we are down. How many lives have been moved forward, how many physical and emotional wounds nursed, how many souls brought closer to Christ, by this woman? I am not sure we could possibly count, so I will only speak for myself, and I can say that my time in her presence has blessed me and challenged me and grown me. And I know that I am a common story.
1 Corinthians 3:8-9 says, “The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service." If we can say that Mr. Newkirk planted this garden we call HCA, it is Mrs. Newkirk who has tended to it year after year after year, watering the fields with smiles and hugs and peppermints.
And so, on behalf of the HCA community near and far, I wish to express our deep gratitude to Mrs. Betty Newkirk. Her strength and her perseverance give each of us insight into what Christ has called us to be, and continue to inspire us as we take care of the vision she and her husband have set forth. Mrs. Newkirk, we won't will let you down.