Morrilton community greatly benefits from the service of Dr. Carlene Canady

By Diane Barnes

Carlene Canady, Ph.D., is a woman who exemplifies the memorable quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “A day on, not a day off.” Service, volunteerism and supporting people’s needs are her passions. Canady provides some sort of need or service to another every day.

Canady retired from years of teaching in the classroom and serving as assistant principal. When her husband, Curtis, retired, they moved from Kansas City, Mo to Morrilton (Conway County) and purchased their dream home. Canady said she cried every day for the first month. “After living for 48 years in another state, leaving my children and my grandchildren was certainly not an easy transition,” she said.

Photo by Mike Kemp

Her husband is from a small community called Cleveland that sat along the outskirts of Morrilton. Their plans to return to Arkansas in retirement were known early, but they were young and just beginning their careers, and retirement seemed like centuries away, so it was always nestled in the back of her mind. “But 48 years, two adult children and nine grandchildren later … this was not at all a painless process,” Canady said.

Now ten years later, Canady said they still enjoy going home to Kansas City. “Now we have a four-year-old great-grandson that we just adore,” she said. But Canady admits she loves coming back home to Morrilton. She now calls it her sanctuary because she enjoys the serenity of being away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

She found a church home where the pastor offered her a ministerial position as Assistant to the Pastor. Canady was ecstatic! She had served 35 years as associate pastor at her home church in Grandview, Mo. She knew this was another of God’s plans. She also realized that she would be the first woman allowed in the pulpit at this church and wondered if the pastor’s superiors, as well as the congregation, would accept this break in tradition.

In October 2023, Canady was celebrated by the church and shown appreciation for six years of service in the position. “They broke the tradition,” she said. “Again, my prayers were answered. I’m home.”

Another key role that Canady implements everywhere she goes is that of volunteer. Within the first year of her arrival, she began volunteering at the Morrilton Chamber of Commerce. She felt this connected her to the heart of the city. She learned about the city’s growth and development.

One of Canady’s many aspirations as an African American woman was to see inclusiveness for different social and ethnic backgrounds. She hoped the city’s leaders would provide diverse opportunities to the community.

As she became involved in the community, people quickly realized that she was no wallflower. She spoke on many occasions and at events. She is an active member of the NAACP, the Conway County Democratic Party and the Community Visionaries. After her service with the Morrilton Chamber of Commerce, she became heavily involved at the local Morrilton Senior Adult Center. 

Canady is sometimes asked if she ever gets tired. She’s quick to reply, “No. I’m re-tired. I’m doing what I love.”

In 2021, Canady received the Morrilton Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year award.

That was the moment she realized that the community does act on inclusiveness. “My plan is to see that it continues through encouraging young people and all [people] to step up to volunteerism,” she said. “It’s essential to building unity among community!”