Haley Set for Well-Earned Retirement
On those Sunday afternoons and evenings, when the weather is perfect on the lake, that gnawing, unsettled feeling insists that the brain gear up for Monday morning's work schedule. Donna Haley will handle the situation a bit differently than she has in the past. She will smile and say, "Not this time. I'm retired."
After over 30 years with Clay County Abstract and Community Title, Haley will shut down her computer, turn over decades of paperwork and walk into another phase of life that focuses on husband, family and a little extra personal time. This week is her last as a full-time employee.
Haley is the history keeper, the one who knows the back story and who uses her calm demeanor to assure clients that everything will be taken care of. That's why many clients say, "You can't retire. What will I do if you aren't here?" Of course, Haley assures them that all the employees at Clay County Abstract and Title will step up and maintain the level of service she supplied.
"It does make me feel appreciated and happy that they have trusted me so much," she shares.
From the windows looking onto The Square in Piggott, Haley has been privileged to witness life unfold for generations of Clay County residents.
"Mostly from this eastern district, just about every property has come through this office," she said.
Born in Pollard to Adrian and Betty Lewis and married to Rickey Haley for 40 years this past December, Haley's roots are deeply planted here, as is her family's flower and vegetable garden located on six acres outside of town. She looks forward to devoting herself to a few home projects this spring.
It will be even more relaxing when the family gets some "away time" at their Mountain Home lake house. Her husband and son-in-law, Michael Harrell, built the house "larger than we need, but the deck is wonderful," she says. "It's beautiful there and while just three hours away, the stress of life evaporates."
Looking back to her initial interview with the late Jim Winton, the original owner of the agency, she recalls his statement to her and says it has been exactly the truth. He promised, "It's not just a job --- it's a career."
Winton's wife, Lucy, who continues her association with Donna and those in the office, made Haley's move from the Sherriff and Collector Office at the Courthouse easy, welcoming her into a family business. It was just the three of them in the early years of Clay County Abstract.
In fact, learning the abstract procedures provided Haley with insight that explains the whats, whys and wherefores of the title insurance and closing protocol. Learning everything about closings has offered an opportunity for professional growth; it has been challenging and enjoyable.
Haley's philosophy, which emanates throughout the office, is one of ease and pleasant experiences.
"We've been privileged to assist generations of first-time homebuyers. That's a thrill for everyone. We also keep a box of tissues handy because sometimes the closing involves a family selling a homeplace and the emotions can't help but surface. We try to understand each situation and meet the needs of the individuals involved."
The people who conduct business with Clay County Abstract and Title will notice Haley's absence from the office. She insists, however, they will miss her no more than she will miss them. She enjoys daily interaction with her co-workers, realtors, bank officers, courthouse office employees and insurance officers, having established a friendly working relationship over the years.
Thriving on a routine, Haley says she also will miss the insistence of regular hours and the obligations of working full-time.
"I can't sleep late," she insists, noting that if she waits too late to get her day started, "nothing will get done."
And there's much to do --- many items populate her "to-do" list.
She does, however, look forward to more time with daughter, Amber Harrell, high school counselor, and her husband, Michael, PHS football coach, as well as daughter Heather Masingale, an RN with the Health Department, and her husband, Jason, who works at AMMC in Paragould. Though the grandchildren, Cade Harrell, age 15, and Micha Harrell, age 11, are older now, Haley still looks forward to taking some of the grandmother duties in stride.
It was not an easy decision to retire; in fact, she had thought about it for a few years, but it had been not "the right time." With the industry changing so rapidly and with all the family's health being good, "now is the time," she says.
"When I told him (Van Winton) that I'd set a deadline, I realized it was a relief."
She remembers that when Lucy Winton, Van's mother, retired, Donna had told her, "I'll be close behind you."
While she loves the people part of the job, the opportunity to see friends' grandchildren buy a house, it's time to go into another phase of life, she said.
"They have my phone number and will probably call me some at first. Mrs. Lucy may drop in more often to close some gaps."
"With a wealth of knowledge," says Van Winton, "Donna has been an integral part of our growth in service area --- from one county to four counties. With her integrity, accuracy and care for people, she already has the key to the city."
Donna Haley occupies a special place in the business and in the Clay County Abstract and Title family.
"When Jim Winton approached me and offered this opportunity over 30 years ago, it was the best move I ever made," Haley says with a smile and a nod. "I'll miss it."
A retirement reception for Donna Haley will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, March 27, at Clay County Abstract, Inc. in Piggott. The open house is being held in Haley's honor as she retires from the company after 30 years of service. The public is invited to attend, and the office is located at 146 South Second Avenue in Piggott.