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story.lead_photo.caption Bob and Cathi Coleman visited the Siloam Springs Public Library last week, where serve as Santa and Mrs. Claus for Santa at the Library and where Cathi is involved with Friends of the Library. The Colemans will be honored as Pioneer Citizens, along with Raquel Beck, at the 89th annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet on Thursday. - Photo by Janelle Jessen

"I don't know who else you've talked to, but I'd expect from most people that you'd get comments about them being visible in the community and what they do in public, and they are visible. But I'd like to approach it from a different angle, that is, they are great neighbors. He's the kind of guy who'd mow my lawn without me asking in the middle of the summer while I'm on vacation, and she's the kind of person who picks up our mail and papers if they're on the ground. We just do those things when we know the other couple's gone. We take care of each other, that is very scarce and hard to find."

These were the initial words of Wayne Mays, CEO and president of the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce, when asked to describe the character of his next door neighbors -- Bob and Cathi Coleman.

Since they first moved to Siloam Springs in 2005, the Colemans have both demonstrated a capacity for leadership, integrity and a devotion to public service. For many, they have been a source of inspiration and optimism, and on Thursday night, their contributions to the community will be celebrated.

The Colemans were selected as this year's recipients of the Pioneer Citizen Award, which will be presented at the 89th annual Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce Banquet, marking the first time in which a husband-wife duo has been chosen for the accolade, Mays said. The banquet will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday in the Qualla Ballroom of the Cherokee Casino and the Colemans will be joining a third recipient for the award, Raquel Beck.

The intent of the award is to recognize members of the community who have gone above and beyond what's been asked of them, while asserting both influence and humility along the way. The honorees are chosen by a committee that is comprised of individuals who have received it in years past. Although it is unusual, the reason that both Bob and Cathi were selected for it simultaneously is because they are well known in the community and do a lot together, and so the circumstances just seemed to be fitting for such an occasion, Mays said.

'Well done, good and faithful servant'

Bob Coleman was born in Washington, D.C., grew up in Lorton, Va., and graduated from Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Va., he said. He went on to earn an accounting degree from George Washington University and spent 10 years working in the accounting departments of George Washington University and Georgetown University.

Since then, he's worked in a number of different capacities, with three years at a Volkswagen dealership and two years on the council of economic advisers working on the federal government's "economic stabilization program," he said. He also spent 25 years as a financial advisor for A.G. Edwards/Wells Fargo as well as 10 years as a partial owner of a surgical supply company, which was a venture he and Cathi Coleman were both a part of. From this experience, Bob Coleman noted that the importance of a strong work ethic and a reverence for obedience are virtues that have resonated with him throughout his life.

"(What's important is) honesty and sincerity with all people, and that you give a full day's work if you're employed," Bob Coleman said. "I always look for that phrase 'well done, good and faithful servant,' which is a biblical phrase. I want people to know that I feel like God has a plan for their life. Did I do everything right? No. But, God does have a plan for you and if you seek to find that plan, he's faithful to keep you on the right track."

Regarding public service, Bob Coleman is currently serving his second term on the Siloam Springs City Board of Directors, is on the economic advisory board for the Arkansas Municipal League and is the former secretary and now incoming president of the Siloam Springs Chapter of Gideons International, he said. Volunteer work includes three years as a member of the Singing Men of Arkansas, and he is also a member of the hospitality committee of Sager Creek Community Church and sings with the Sager Singers.

Perhaps what he is best known for in the public sphere, however, is filling the role of the community's own Santa Claus each Christmas. In doing so, Bob Coleman has come to play a vital role in helping the Heritage League facilitate the annual Christmas Parade and Breakfast With Santa, as well as helping Friends of the Library host Santa at the Library.

'We're blessed to be here'

Cathi Coleman was born in Marlin, Texas, where she spent the better part of her childhood before moving to Arkansas during her junior year of high school after her father accepted a consulting position with Simmons, Georges and Petersen Industries, she said. She graduated from Siloam Springs High School and went on to earn a business degree from John Brown University.

After college, Cathi Coleman worked in the accounting department of Georgetown University for two and a half years after college, she said. This is where she first met Bob Coleman, as he was the one who interviewed her for the position, and he said that he didn't originally intend on hiring her because, although she had an impressive resume, she hadn't yet completed a portion of her CPA exam.

Despite this, Bob Coleman's supervisor decided to give her a chance at the job. About a year later, Bob and Cathi Coleman decided to get married and recently celebrated their 40th anniversary. Aside from Georgetown, other elements of Cathi Coleman's work experience include four years at Shiloh Christian School as an elementary secretary before being promoted to business administrator, five years at Ervin and Company, CPAs, and two-and-a-half years as an administrative assistant at First United Methodist Church.

She was the partial owner of a surgical supply company with Bob Coleman, had partial ownership in Broadway Antiques for 10 years and spent a year as a bookkeeper for Ron Drake Renovations before she retired. Cathi Coleman has extensive volunteer experience as well, as she has helped to facilitate Bible studies for different women's ministries, and is currently a kindergarten Sunday school teacher and hospitality volunteer at Sager Creek Community Church.

In addition, she is the president of the Siloam Springs chapter of the Gideons (International) Auxiliary unit, is the corresponding and recording secretary for P.E.O. Sisterhood and a member of the Primavera Garden Club. Cathi Coleman has also been a tutor at Dogwood Literacy Council, is currently a volunteer reader to students at Northside Elementary school and is a representative for Friends of the Library at the Christmas Parade.

In the parade, Santa at the Library and Breakfast with Santa, Cathi Coleman fills the role of Mrs. Claus alongside Santa, aka her husband. Nonetheless, none of this would be possible without her faith, she said.

"Siloam Springs has been so very good to me," Cathi Coleman said. "I appreciate the people and this is where the joy in my life has come from. We tried to buy a house here when our daughter was a baby and there was nothing we could find or afford at the time, and I sometimes regret not being able to raise my children here, but that's how things have worked out.

"I think the most important thing to me is whatever we do, we do it for the Lord. Even our house, when we built this, we want people to feel like they can come in and put their feet up, take off their shoes and sit down and relax. I think we both feel like all of the blessings we have have come from the Lord and it took us awhile to be walking with the Lord, but we did, and we're blessed to be here."

Moving to Arkansas

Prior to making the move to Arkansas, the Colemans lived in the Arlington, Va., area, and moved to Prairie Grove, Ark., in the late 1990s to early 2000s after vacationing here. Their reasoning for doing so stemmed from the idea that it would be an ideal location due to a lower cost of living for themselves and their daughter, Kelli. The Colemans moved to Siloam Springs from Springdale in 2005 once their kids went off to college and built a house on Elm Street, where they still reside today.

The decision was one that neither one would come to regret, largely due to the amount of opportunities to get involved in the community and the welcoming embrace they experienced at the time and continue to experience today, Bob Coleman said. Cathi Coleman echoed a similar sentiment, saying that the abundance of opportunities in which she has been encouraged to become a part of makes her feel like there is a considerable degree of inclusion in Siloam Springs.

The friends and colleagues who commented on the nomination of the Colemans to receive the award include Jerry Cavness. Cavness is a former recipient of the award and the Public Relations Officer for the American Legion Siloam Post 29. He also worked with Bob Coleman for a period of time on the city board of directors when an unexpected vacancy arose and he was chosen to fill the vacancy.

"They're just a great asset for the community, for our town," Cavness said. "I just think people like Bob and Cathi and Raquel (Beck), all of those folks just have such a good heart and a caring heart for the people in Siloam Springs and are always involved, whatever it might be, they're there. We need people like that in our community."

Another is a longtime friend of the Colemans is Joallen Moose. Moose accentuated that the reason she admires the Colemans so much is not really so much for what they have done or strived to accomplish, but more so what is in their hearts that drive them to do the things they do and accomplish what they have.

"They're very into teaching the Word and facilitating it, and then their faith expresses itself to everybody in sight," Moose said. "They are just kind and good, approachable and loving, always doing something to help. Before my husband died, they were just so helpful during that time with food and all sorts of things. ... I just love them very much, so when I saw they were to be honored I just couldn't think of anybody that could better illustrate people who have strong, strong faith. They express it in their church, in their family and in their community.

"And, I know there's an emphasis here on (their contributions to the community) and my goodness, I don't know how they could be more involved. ... I have been amazed and am so thankful they've had good health and been able to travel, because their energy just goes off in all different directions, I've been amazed that they could do so many things, but it comes from the heart. They absolutely do it out of love, and that's the best motivation."

General News on 02/06/2019

Print Headline: 2019 Pioneer Citizens

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