01 Feb 2024 Couple of the Month: Joe and Brenda Waldrum
I am a people person. I enjoy helping people and working with people. My entire career has been helping people in Arkansas one way or another. I’m an eternal optimist, and I try to stay connected with God on a regular basis.
hometown: Little Rock
Children: Benjamin and Elizabeth (twins).
Education: I graduated from Little Rock Central High School in 1964, then graduated from Hendrix College with a B.A. in biology 1968. Then I earned a Master of Science in botany in 1971 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and then attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and earned a PhD in botany (Plant Physiology) in 1976.
Retired from: University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service for 39 years (1976-2015). Positions held in order: Area Soybean Specialist, Pesticide Assessment Specialist, State Leader of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Economic Development, Director of Staff and Leadership Development, Professor of Leadership Development (LeadAR), Assistant Director of Community and Economic Development.
Military: Army National Guard (Nebraska and Arkansas) from 1968-1990. The highest rank I achieved was First Sergeant.
Honors: My proudest work: Director of the Lead Arkansas (LeadAR) program for 22 years. I’m also proud to have won the Outstanding Leadership Director Award from the International Association of Programs for Agricultural Leaders in 2007.
Community activities: I am currently the Chair of the Church Council, Asbury United Methodist Church, Vice President of the board of Cooperative Extension Service Federal Credit Union, Secretary of the Madison Valley Property Owners Association, Executive Secretary of the International Association of Programs for Agricultural Leaders, and a member of Lead Arkansas (LeadAR) Advisory Council (University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture).
special interests: Genealogy, reading, walking, cooking, traveling, church work.
the secret to a happy marriage: Listening to your spouse, resolving issues as they arise and not delaying the discussion, actively looking for ways to serve your spouse, and telling your spouse you love them every day.
I am inquisitive, compassionate, dependable, spiritual, a critical thinker and self-reliant.
hometown: I was born in Memphis, Tenn., but as an Air Force “brat,” moved every two to three years, including to Japan and Ankara, Turkey, where I graduated from high school.
Children: My daughter is Sarah Elizabeth Throckmorton.
Education: I earned a Bachelor of Art in English from McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, in 1970. I earned a Master of Business Administration in finance from Pace University in New York City in 1979 while working full-time.
Retired from: After college, I moved to New York City and started my career on Wall Street as a bond analyst and underwriting manager. In 2000, I retired from Wall Street and moved to Arkansas to be close to my family. I was a financial advisor with Edward Jones and Merrill Lynch until 2002. In 2003, I was an adjunct professor at John Brown University for one semester. Because I thought it was important to give back to the community, I took an executive director position with Women and Children First and volunteered with the United Way’s 2007 fundraising campaign. In 2009, I took a program associate position with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service to work on a grant-funded initiative. When the grant funds ran out, I took a position at DHS in the Medicaid Department. In 2011, I returned to the Extension Service in a grants management position. I retired from the Extension Service in 2017.
HONORS: Being executive director of Women and Children First to bring awareness to domestic violence in Arkansas.
Community activities: Serving on the Finance Committee, the Stewardship Committee and being involved in several missions of Asbury United Methodist Church, including the food and diaper pantries.
special interests: Reading, walking, watercolor painting, gardening, traveling, church missions, puzzles and crosswords.
Your advice for newlyweds: Be friends and like each other before getting married. It also helps to make a marriage stronger when you have similar religious and political beliefs.
They were introduced by mutual friends in 2008. Joe recommended Brenda for the program associate position in the same department of the Cooperative Extension Service where he worked. When the grant funds ran out for Brenda’s position, Joe recommended some outdoor therapy by suggesting a canoe trip on the Buffalo River. After they floated the Buffalo River, Joe started going to Brenda’s home almost every day for four years. On Valentine’s Day 2014, Joe proposed after making a special dinner ending with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. When he proposed, Brenda felt it was natural to say “yes!” When they picked up her engagement ring at the jeweler’s, they were surprised with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries, which the couple saw as a good omen. They were married on May 2, 2015, and celebrate their engagement on Valentines’ Day every year with Joe cooking Brenda’s favorite meals followed by champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries.
The Waldrums like to walk together, read and spend the evening watching movies. They also like to travel and spend time with friends and family. “Our marriage has been strengthened by attending our church and Sunday school class and serving our community,” said Brenda. “It has been a very blessed marriage, and we hope we’ll have many more years together!”