Gaye Cypert: Advocating for Women’s Health

Gaye Cypert is an optimist, an adventurer, a romantic, an advocate, a teacher, a caregiver and a survivor. She married her high school sweetheart, Jim Cypert, in 1956. Over the next 64 years together, they poured time and energy into the community that raised and nurtured them.

He was everything she wanted: thoughtful, kind and generous, with a great sense of humor. After his death in 2020, she’s navigating this next chapter, spending lots of time with friends and family who live nearby. “I’m happy with the life I’ve had; I really am,” she said.

Gaye was born in Booneville, her parents’ hometown, but the family soon moved to Fayetteville. In 1939, when Gaye was 4, her dad bought a dry cleaning business based in Springdale and they relocated there.

She and her younger sister, Joyce Roberts, enjoyed growing up in the 1940s and ’50s in what was still a small town. They moved to the high, dry climate of New Mexico for one year to help with Joyce’s asthma. Gaye liked to tap dance, took drama classes and was in high school plays, clubs and student council. She was drum major for the Springdale High School band and taught baton twirling in high school and college.

The family was active in church, and she remembers her mother volunteering and helping others. Her mom, who’d been a teacher, was a good cook and skilled seamstress, making all their clothes including Gaye’s formals and wedding gown.


The former Gaye Warren first met Jim Cypert at the only tennis courts in town, at Springdale First United Methodist Church. They also attended high school together — him a year older — and they soon began dating. He was the class of 1952 president.

At the University of Arkansas, he was in Sigma Nu fraternity, and she was in Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and chosen as the Sigma Nu Sweetheart one year. Gaye worked hard and graduated from college at age 20 with a bachelor’s degree in education. By then, Jim was already in law school at the U of A, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business.
On Valentine’s Day 1956, he picked her up at the Zeta Tau Alpha house and drove her to the cross atop Mount Sequoyah to propose. They married that August and honeymooned in New Orleans. They soon moved into their first apartment, a walk-up in a home between Central United Methodist Church and Washington Elementary, where Gaye began teaching first grade, making $176 a month.

Law school was interrupted by the U.S. Army, when Jim served on active duty and then in the Reserves. After college, Jim opened his own law practice in Springdale, but within a few months joined Crouch, Jones, and Blair Law Firm. He became senior partner and practiced for 56 years in the same location.

Gaye taught public elementary school children in Fayetteville and Springdale, as well as in a private kindergarten. Once their daughters came along — Julie in 1959 and Jamie in 1962 — she stayed home to raise them and was very involved with their activities. A bonus was that the girls’ grandparents all were nearby.

Jim and Gaye loved to dance and play bridge, and the entire family are big Razorback fans — most of them U of A alumni. They also both felt the importance of giving back, and they volunteered in leadership positions for many organizations. He taught a Sunday school class for 50 years and served on boards such as the Chamber of Commerce and the United Way. They both served on several nonprofit boards. Another cause would soon become priority for Gaye.


Their daughters were grown and out of college when Gaye was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. She’d gone in at 49 for a baseline mammogram, which was clear. At her regular OB/GYN appointment at 51, her doctor recommended annual mammograms. That screening showed cancer in her breasts that also had spread to her lymph nodes.

“That was kind of the dark ages of breast cancer. Nobody would say the word,” Gaye said. With no oncologist in this region, she went to Dallas, where one of her daughters lived, for extensive surgery, treatment and reconstruction. She was in the hospital nearly a week for her mastectomy.

Not long after her treatment, she began visiting breast cancer patients — in hospital rooms, doctor’s offices and homes. The women could see that someone had survived and was healthy. “That was so rewarding, and I met women I would never have known.”

Gaye and two other women started the area’s first support group. “We started finding other survivors, which was not easy to do because nobody wanted to talk about it,” she said. “Women wanted to share with others and hadn’t had that opportunity.” Race for the Cure, the fundraiser for breast cancer support and research, had started in Dallas in 1983. Considering it a great tool to raise awareness, Gaye worked with others to bring it to Northwest Arkansas. It was the first sanctioned 5K race in the area.

Then Gaye joined with Johnelle Hunt and Sarah Faitak to start the Ozark chapter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Gaye served as the first Komen board president; they soon hired a director.
The Race for the Cure became easier to manage through the local Komen chapter, she said, and race participation reached 18,000 one year. Local companies generously supported the cause, and she and other volunteers also raised funds.

One-fourth of the funds went to research, while three-fourths of the funds supported local services. Grants went to organizations and facilities that provided breast care, treatment and education. As awareness increased, so did the rate of mammograms in the region. Now 87, Gaye still
gets one every year.

Today, she’s concerned that younger women are being diagnosed, many mothers of small children. But the health care and treatments are the best they’ve been. “The statistics are much better, and early diagnosis is the key,” she said.


When their daughters were young, the family traveled extensively across the country and into Canada, meeting new people and trying local cuisines. They shared a Winnebago motor home, with two of Jimmy’s law partners, and went to historical sites, beaches and national parks.

Once their daughters were in college, Gaye got into the travel business, and she organized group travel of all sizes. She and Jim also traveled to China, Russia, Scandinavia, and all of Europe. They enjoyed the riverboat trips in France and taking the train from Switzerland to many European locales. They did an African safari and then sailed to the Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean. Jim took thousands of photos all along the way, and they’d relive the trips later through slides on their home projector.

When she and Jim lived in Springdale, they often entertained to spend time with their friends, and she did much of the cooking. The family frequented Mary Maestri’s in Tontitown for special occasions and family meals. And she’s regularly baking, including cinnamon rolls and hot rolls, and
reading cookbooks.

In her galley kitchen, she enjoys creating and modifying recipes. Each of her six grandchildren has a favorite cookie, and they used to help her bake those when they were young. Now, she often bakes for her great-grandchildren — but healthier versions of the recipes. She’ll substitute applesauce for sugar and some whole wheat flour for all-purpose, or make muffins with carrots and zucchinis or apples, coconut and nuts.


When Jim retired in 2015, they decided to downsize and move to BTV, where Gaye’s mother had lived. They knew many residents when they arrived and enjoyed the overall friendly atmosphere. They started in an apartment, then moved to a Village Home, where they redid the master bath to make it accessible.

Jim had essential tremors for years that worsened. He first used a walker, then a wheelchair. Eventually, they moved him to BTV’s Health Care Center.
Her heart broken, Gaye spent much of her days and weekends there with him, until they shut down access in early 2020 due to the pandemic. For eight
months, she visited him three times a day, and they could only have conversations through the window. Still, she feels fortunate they were living at BTV for the stages of care offered. Then, in November 2020 Jim died from COVID-19.

Gaye has continued on, with the support of family and friends, and so many good memories. The family still gathers each May on Jim’s birthday to make the milkshakes he was famous for, with the great-grandchildren taking orders and prepping ingredients. And they typically get together every other week in Gaye’s home.

At BTV, Gaye represents the Village Homes on the Health Care Committee and has served on the Foundation Board. She’s proud of the fairly new UAMS clinic on site that serves residents. She also likes many services: that the mowing and landscaping are taken care of, and house cleaning comes every other week.

Tai Chi classes, guided hikes, walking on the nearby Razorback Greenway trail or around the neighborhood keep Gaye active. From her living room, she does the exercise programs available on Butterfield’s in-house cable channel. She enjoys hot tea each morning and regularly watches the news, PBS, History Channel and Jeopardy!

Gaye considers her ability to adjust, many longtime friends and steadfast faith among her strengths. “You need your faith to get you through tough times. And I’ve had a lot more happy times than sad times, a lot more, thanks to my wonderful family.”