On an afternoon in the BTV Lodge, Alice Talbert is teaching a line dancing class, leading a group of residents through a series of heel switches and hip bumps to the sounds of two-step anthems like “Achy Breaky Heart” and “Elvira.”
In jeans and a pair of Mary Janes, Alice calls out steps while her husband Ron, in khaki shorts and sneakers, alternately spins iTunes from a laptop setup, then jumps back in line to join the other dancers.
BTV residents since 2017, Ron and Alice Talbert caught the line dancing bug in South Texas, where they vacation for three months out of every year. Back home at Butterfield, they pitched the idea of starting a line dancing class for BTV residents.
“We thought if we learned how to line dance well enough in Texas, we could bring it back to BTV and have the best of both worlds,” Ron said with a chuckle. “We’d teach the class and still be able to keep dancing.”
Active retirement looks different on everyone, and on the Talberts the look is multi-faceted. Dancers, campers, Razorback fans, travelers, exercisers, parents, mentors – they do it all.
Ask them and the Talberts will say their top priority is spending time with friends and family, including three grown children, four grandchildren and four great-granddaughters – while making the most of life.
This includes traveling to places like Destin, Florida, and camping on the beach, taking their RV to the Missouri State Fair every year in Sedalia, and tailgating at Arkansas Razorback games. With strong connections to the UA – Ron is a retired UA professor with a notable career in Weed Science – Ron and Alice have been season ticket holders for Hogs football, basketball and baseball for many years.
They are such avid fans, in fact, that one year during football season, they, along with longtime friends Jim and Doris Barrentine, drove their motorhomes to every single out-of-town stadium in the Southeastern Conference.
You could say that Ron and Alice Talbert are renaissance retirees. Life is their oyster and they are thriving in their Golden Years.
Living at Butterfield gives residents like the Talberts added flexibility, the ability to travel more, be on the move and wake up in a new place whenever they want. When they are home, they love taking part in Village activities — tai chi, chair yoga, swimming, water aerobics, ping-pong, hiking, Margarita Monday, and now line dancing.
But, they are often on the road. Each year after the Christmas holidays, the Talberts pack up and head to Weslaco, Texas, to their part-time home in the breezy, balmy locale of the Rio Grande Valley.
Part of an annual wave of retirees who spend the winter in South Texas, the Talberts own a manufactured home in a trailer home resort in Weslaco. They spend a leisurely January through March relaxing and playing in the company of longtime friends they’ve known through their 22 years of visiting. Friends Ed and Jane Piper, also BTV residents, have accompanied them several times to Texas.
“The trailer resort we live in has all kinds of entertainment, card games, happy hour, line dancing, pot lucks, lots of socializing,” Ron said. “This part of Texas is only about an hour’s drive from Padre Island. It’s on the same latitude as South Florida, so you can imagine how warm and soothing it is.”
Since they returned home from Texas this spring, the Talberts haven’t exactly laid low. In June, they joined a group of residents on a BTV Village Tours river boat cruise in France along the Seine River between Paris and Normandy. The group experienced a celebration of a lifetime by attending ceremonies to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the beaches of Normandy.
The Talberts have also managed to squeeze in a few long weekends in their RV, while spending precious time with their children and their children’s families, many of whom live in the area.
Daughter Vickie and husband David live in Vandalia, Mo. Her two grown children, son Ryan, his wife Jennifer and their three daughters, Ava, Lila and Isabelle, and daughter Brandy and boyfriend Josh, all live in Northwest Arkansas. So do son Philip, wife Lisa and their son, Christopher, his wife Gisela, and their new daughter, Annika. Daughter Cheryl, her husband Steven and their daughter, April, a high school junior, live a bit farther away in Prairieville, La., but the families visit often.
ONE CHILD PER DEGREE
The Talberts arrived in Arkansas in 1963 when Ron accepted a position at the University of Arkansas as Professor of Weed Science in the UA’s Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences.
As a young person, Ron became interested in agriculture, specifically soil and crop science, growing up on his family’s farms in Toulon, Il., and near Vandalia, Mo. He earned an undergraduate degree in Soil Science at the University of Missouri, and stayed on at Columbia to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Weed Science.
Alice, who was raised in Mexico, Mo., was introduced to Ron by her cousin. Ron’s friend, Jerry Maxwell was dating Janie at the time, so the two couples double dated. Both couples later married and remain close friends and travel buddies today. Ron and Alice were married on June 19, 1955.
When Ron was at Columbia, Alice worked at the University of Missouri’s Library Catalogue Department. Once their three children were born, she stayed home. Alice belonged to the agri-wives Ph.T. Club (Putting Hubby Through Club) and typed both his master’s and doctoral theses on a manual typewriter.
“I was so pregnant for one that I could hardly sit and reach the keys of the typewriter,” Alice said with a laugh.
“We like to say we had one child for each degree,” Ron added.
At the UA, Ron enjoyed a 42-year career as a successful weed scientist. His research included the behavior of herbicides in the environment and practical use of herbicides to control weeds in the variety of crops grown in Arkansas, such as soybeans, cotton, corn, sorghum and vegetables and fruits.
Internationally, Ron was part of a team of scientists who traveled to Egypt to conduct weed control in rice crops. And he worked in the Philippines teaching local farmers in underdeveloped areas how to apply herbicides to their mountainside corn crops.
Ron also taught undergraduate and graduate courses at the UA’s internationally recognized Weed Science program. He and his students received many honors and awards over the years.
The Ronald and Alice Talbert Endowed Weed Science Scholarship is awarded to the most outstanding graduate student in Weed Science at the UA each year.
Alice has her own connection to the University of Arkansas. Once their children were in school, she accepted a position at the UA Athletic Department providing administrative support for the baseball and football teams.
To an avid Razorback fan like Alice, it was a dream job! She worked under various head football coaches, including Lou Holtz, and helped establish the coveted Diamond Dolls program for the UA baseball team. The Diamond Dolls are a select group of young women who help in the baseball program, sell media guides at home games and serve as bat girls.
“Coach (Norm) Debriyn asked me to help with the Diamond Dolls, and it was such a rewarding experience,” Alice remembered. “To be part of the program at its inception and to see the group just keep getting better each year.”
The Talberts were also active in youth center sports in Fayetteville, Ron with basketball, volleyball and men’s slow pitch baseball. Alice played on a ladies softball team coached by Bill Brunner, who was a legendary Fayetteville High School coach and also a Butterfield resident. She is also a 26+ year member of the Butterfield Extension Homemakers Club.
To fulfill their spiritual needs, the Talberts are active members of First United Presbyterian Church, where they have served as elders, Sunday School teachers and youth sponsors.
Ron has also served as a Stephen Minister, a Christian layperson who becomes trained to provide one-on-one care to others in crisis. A Stephen Minister establishes a relationship with the person in need, visits and gets better acquainted with them and listens.
“Alice and I have both learned how to be around people and listen when people seem like they need it,” Ron said. “We try to live good lives ourselves and be responsible in our space.”
NEVER LOOKED BETTER
It was through their church affiliation that the Talberts first learned of Butterfield. First United Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville was one of the five area churches that founded Butterfield Trail Village in 1986. Seeking to secure a worry-free future for themselves, with access to medical care and recreation, the Talberts set their sights on Butterfield.
“Because of our church, we knew about BTV’s development and planned to move here since its inception,” Ron said. “When the church was involved in the feasibility study, we were interested bystanders. We knew from the beginning this was where we wanted to be. We are now living the dream.”
Recently, Alice and Ron’s line dancing class performed for residents at the BTV Health Care Center. Health Care residents had a great time, clapping and stomping their feet with the music. Some of the nursing staff got up and danced in the line, too.
“I’ve never seen our dancers looking better,” Alice said. “We encourage everyone to come out. It’s good to move and good for the mind.”
It’s no surprise that Ron still loves to garden. He has a gardening plot at BTV where he incorporates the “no-till” gardening method.
“I’m a unique gardener in that I like to grow weeds,” he said. “It’s better ecologically not to destroy the organic matter with tillage. You let the vegetation remain on the soil surface to decompose naturally.”
He tells a funny story about when he and Alice first moved to Butterfield. He signed up for a garden plot, but the only one available was currently overgrown and in need of attention.
“I was told, ‘It’s a weed patch’,” Ron said. “And I said, ‘Well, I’m the perfect man for that.”