Couple of the Month: Jimmy and Rita Thomas

Jimmy and Rita Thomas enjoy their life in Mount Vernon. (Mike Kemp photo)

HIS STORY: Jimmy Thomas

Resident of: Mount Vernon

Native of: Conway

Job: Complaints investigator for the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board, bi-vocational associate pastor at Mountain Top Cowboy Church in Heber Springs, where he oversees the arena ministry. 

Parents: The late A. J. Thomas and the late Margaret Yancey Thomas of Greenbrier.

Community activities: North Arkansas Western Association (NAWA) board member, and various activities through the MTCC Arena Ministries including community horse show series, cowboy challenge, barrel clinics, dummy roping events, barrel races, and the Community School of Cleburne County Cowboy/girl for a Day, and more. 

What is one thing people don’t know about you: Despite being called into the ministry, which puts me in front of people regularly, I am truly a pretty shy person. 

favorite weekend activity: Horse showing with my daughter and deer hunting.

BEST THING ABOUT life in the 501: 

The 501 has some of the most beautiful scenery and genuine, “salt-of-the-earth” kind of people. There is also always something to do: hiking, biking, boating, hunting, etc.

HER STORY: Rita Halter Thomas

Resident of: Mount Vernon.

Where did you grow up: First 11 years in Conway, then Vilonia.

Job: Dayside, Rita works in the business office for Halter’s Body Shop, a family business established in 1965 by her father – and the business she swore to avoid all her life. She works with two of her three siblings and a daughter. Outside of that, she is an awarding-winning writer, author, ghostwriter and freelance editor for primarily Christian authors as “The Write Editor” ( She is a staff writer for Stand Firm Ministries and editor of “Mid-Ark Christian Voice.” She is a pastor’s wife and supports her husband in ministry at Mountain Top Cowboy Church in Heber Springs, where he is a bi-vocational associate pastor and oversees the arena ministry. 

Parents: Ferdinand Halter, of Morrilton, and the late Neta Maynard Halter; and the late Betty Moore Halter, stepmother.

Community activities: Supporting Jimmy’s ministry and the events they host at Mountain Top Cowboy Church in Heber Springs, which includes:  an annual community horse show series, cowboy challenge, barrel clinics, dummy roping events, barrel races, the annual Community School of Cleburne County Cowboy/girl for a Day, and more.

Church activities: Member of the music worship team, attends a ladies’ Bible study taught by their daughter; keeps the church website updated; assists with the church’s social media presence, publicity and record keeping for the arena ministry events.

What is your motto: Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping it kills someone else. Forgiveness is crucial to healthy relationships because no one is perfect.

BEST THING ABOUT life in the 501: Beyond the beauty, and the people, it’s HOME. My roots run deep in the 501. We moved away for a short time, and there truly is no place like home.


When/how we met:

Rita: Sept. 14, 1985. We met at my sister’s wedding reception and he was my best friend’s date.

Jimmy: Before we met, I spent many weekends looking for some girl named Rita with a buddy of mine who happened to be her ex-boyfriend. I was so sick of hearing her name weekend after weekend. Rita this. Rita that. Then I met her, married her, and will spend the rest of my life hearing her name. LOL!

Rita:Oh, and a short version to the rest of the story: That ex-boyfriend ended up marrying my best friend (his date from my sister’s wedding reception), and we’re great friends to this day. 

The proposal:

Rita: It was sweet, and intimate, just the two of us. We both knew we would eventually get married.  We talked about it often, so it wasn’t a big production like so many today.  

Jimmy:  It was short and to the point.

Rita: Yes, very direct, no beating around the bush.

Wedding bells: Friday, April 3, 1987, at Oak Bowery Baptist Church in Conway.

Children: A daughter, Marinna Danielle Thomas, now 24.

Pets: Five horses (who act like pets), a blue heeler named Pickles, a Lab mix named Sadie, and a “granddog” named Charlie: who is a Boston terrier-boxer mix, and is fondly the “shop dog” at Halter’s Body Shop.

Family activities enjoyed together: 

Horseback riding; movie nights; game nights; cookouts; and, serving in ministry together.


Rita: While I’ve enjoyed a great career in publishing, serving the Lord is by far my greatest joy. I once served on a discussion panel with then-president of USA Today, met the owner/founder of USA Today Al Neuharth, and served on the Al Neuharth Freedom Forum Board of Directors. I am a founding member of South Dakotans for Open Government and was even recognized as one of the Top Ten Young Outstanding South Dakotans. I’ve even met a handful of famous people, but none of that holds a candle to being in the center of His will and serving the Lord with my family. There is way more to life than money, position and recognition.

Jimmy: We both joke and say, “God is the only reason we’re still together,” but it’s really a true statement. God put us together for a reason. We aren’t perfect, and certainly neither of us is particularly easy to live with, but God makes all the difference, and He IS the reason we are together.