Resilience & Humor for the Win
Ask Butterfield resident Marolyn Fields what her recipe for happiness is, and her answer will likely include humor. Humor lightens the load. Self-deprecating humor adds levity to life. Humor is all around us if we are willing to look for it.
Marolyn has firsthand knowledge of the power of humor in large part due to a long, successful career as a booking agent for humorists, motivational speakers and entertainers across the U.S. and Asia.
Owner and principal of her own company, Marolyn’s passion for matching speakers and entertainers with the unique needs of clients has been a great joy in life – one that’s led to bookings for Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, comedian Art Linkletter, pro basketball coach Rick Pitino, horse trainer D. Wayne Lukas, author Mitch Albom, among many others.
A career in a high-profile industry wasn’t initially the plan for Marolyn, who is a self-described “under-the-radar type.” But her successful career has not only been a blessing professionally, it has also provided both her and her family many wonderful opportunities together.
Marolyn is passionate about musical theater, and she’s visited New York City many times to soak up the sights and sounds of Broadway. (It’s extra fun when your daughter and son-in-law are theater people.) Having worked on Broadway in Manhattan for many years, Marolyn’s daughter Heather Fields Stern is an actor turned stage manager, while husband Eric Stern is a veteran conductor of Broadway musicals.
Although she lived for many years in Louisville, Ky., Marolyn is an Arkansas girl and a Springdale native at that. A skilled fisherman, (she cleans them, too) Marolyn has fished in Arkansas’ Little Red River, deep-sea fished in Key West and fly fished in Montana.
Marolyn saw first-hand how her mother’s life was enriched as a Butterfield Trail Village resident, so when she returned to Arkansas in 2013, she decided she would become a member of the Village community someday, too.
“Northwest Arkansas is home to me,” Marolyn said from her BTV home. “I left when I was 18 and returned when I was 77. Returning here is simply returning to my roots, as well as knowing for several years that I ultimately wanted Butterfield to be my address.”
Marolyn Croft grew up in Springdale, the youngest daughter of Walter and Lucille Croft.
Walter and Lucille met as students at Springdale High School and they married after graduation. Walter was a comptroller and retired from Jones Truck Lines.
The Croft family had a home in downtown Springdale along the Rodeo of the Ozarks parade route, and relatives would visit each year. It was a family affair with Marolyn’s twin brothers Bill and Bob and sister Carolyn in attendance.
“We lived on Emma [Avenue] where Arvest Bank is today, and our cousins rode horses and were part of the parade each year,” Marolyn said. “We’d lay blankets out in our front yard and watch the parade go by. Mom would be in the kitchen the entire time, cooking fried chicken, homemade rolls and ice cream. She was a wonderful cook.”
After high school, Marolyn followed her sister Carolyn to Ouachita Baptist University where Marolyn studied Home Economics. She met and fell in love with fellow student Larry Wright of Malvern, and they married while still students. After graduation, Larry soon entered the Army, and the newlyweds were stationed at Fort Sill and Fort Hood before he deployed to Vietnam. He returned to the U.S. and was promoted to captain. After the Army, the couple made their home in Arkadelphia, but over the next few months, Larry became increasingly ill and died. It was determined he’d contracted a rare bacteria in Vietnam and it proved fatal.
Marolyn was a widow at age 26 with a 14-month son, Mitchell.
Eventually, she remarried to George Fields, who came to Arkadelphia as a youth director at First Baptist Church. After they married, George was drafted into the Army. The couple was stationed in New York City, where daughter Heather was born.
After the Army, they moved to Louisville, where George entered the Southern Seminary. Marolyn began working to manage bookings for humorist Grady Nutt, as well as her husband George, who was also a motivational/special occasion speaker.
Grady Nutt gave Marolyn her first job in the business; not only was he a professional mentor, he was a family friend. Nutt was a regular on the TV show Hee Haw in 1982 when he was killed in a plane crash following a speaking engagement.
“Grady had the uncanny ability to see the humor in life and turn those stories into life lessons,” Marolyn said. “He was a master at making people feel worthy – without feeling the need to be perfect in their pursuit.”
In 1990, Marolyn began her company Program Resources in Louisville, booking professional speakers and entertainers around the nation and world.
company owner and principal for 30+ years, Marolyn has worked with a myriad of clients including chambers of commerce, Gulfstream Aerospace, KFC, Microsoft, Prudential Financial, Coco-Cola, Kentucky Farm Bureau and the Salvation Army.
Over the years, she’s booked thousands of speakers and entertainers, including some famous, household names.
“The people I’ve booked are accomplished in their own way,” Marolyn said. “Yes, there have been notable personalities from time-to-time, but mostly these are people who are simply experts in their field. Some used motivation to uplift their audience; some used humor, offering a serious thought or two to take home and ponder. Some spoke [exclusively] to teachers and some to youth. Other specialized in business and leadership or life and relationships.”
One of her most challenging experiences was in September 2001 when Marolyn booked decorated U.S. marine and commentator Oliver North and politician Joseph Kennedy to speak at Affiliated Foods in Little Rock for the second year in a row.
The event was just days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and commercial air travel was grounded. At the last minute, Marolyn’s team was able to charter a private plane for North and Kennedy’s replacement, news commentator Sean Hannity, who made it to Little Rock on time.
One of her most memorable moments was when she received a call from Washington, D.C., looking for entertainment for a World War I reunion being held in Louisville. The budget was tiny, and many of the veterans set to attend had difficulty seeing or hearing. Ultimately, Marolyn booked the Louisville Men’s Chorus whose patriotic performance featured a reenactment of a speech by Gen. John J. Pershing, aka “Black Jack” to his troops. As the chorus sang the various military service songs, veterans from each branch stood and waved flags, many needing assistance. After the event, the veterans had their photos taken with “Black Jack” who was in full WW1 military uniform.
“I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with people in all types of businesses who were at the top of their field,” Marolyn said. “I’ve learned so much from them as a whole as to how to approach life, deal with hardships, live outside of myself and strive to provide encouragement to those around me.”
When Marolyn’s daughter, Heather, was growing up, she accompanied her mom to speaking engagements, consults and conventions. Marolyn and her daughter would have long talks afterward about what Heather had seen and heard.
“I think Heather learned early in life that she could do anything she set her mind to,” Marolyn said. “If she tried something and discovered that was not
for her, she would simply shift gears and go in another direction. Hearing stories of how other people have succeeded despite hardships gave her a sense of knowing she could also succeed with or without hardships.”
Today, Marolyn’s children and their families are a huge source of joy and happiness. Mitchell and his family live in Louisville where he works as an IT Project Manager with Humana. His wife, Jenny, is an attorney, and their children, Ben, 17, and Evelyn, 13, are passionate about their interests. Ben is earning a pilot’s license and wants to go into the Air Force. Evelyn is an accomplished violinist.
Heather and Eric are in Boston, where Heather teaches theater at Suffolk University and Emerson College, while Eric teaches Broadway conducting and orchestrating at Berklee College of Music. After 9/11, Broadway virtually shut down, and Heather and Eric toured for two years with Thoroughly Modern Millie (one of many musicals Marolyn has seen Heather, or Heather and Eric together, perform live).
Heather and Eric’s children are Zachary, 16, a high schooler who loves beating “Grandmama” at UNO, and Madeline, 28, an opera singer.
In 2013, Marolyn moved to Little Rock, returning to her home state, and lived there seven years before moving to the Village in June 2020.
With her mom as a BTV resident before her (Lucille Croft lived at Butterfield until her death in 2008), Marolyn is among a growing number of second-generation Village residents. Incidentally, Lucille’s cousin, Carrie Grimsley, was one of BTV’s first residents in the 1980s.
“I put my name on [Butterfield’s] Carriage Club list when I moved back to Arkansas in 2013,” Marolyn said. “I was called several times whenever an apartment became available, but I always declined – until recently.”
When BTV’s Leann Pacheco called Marolyn in January 2020 with word that a cozy corner apartment was available, it was an offer she had to take.
“Once I looked at the place, I knew in my heart I needed to take it,” Marolyn said. “The location was perfect, and the timing was perfect. Everything worked out, and I’m happy as a lark.”