GREENWOOD — Barb Stewart is sitting in her comfortable chair-back seat on the front row in an arena named for her late husband, H.B. Stewart. The 23-year-old building set the standard for other arenas that would follow.
There are 3-pointers, turnovers and free throws — it's basketball season at Greenwood High School.
Below the bleachers, on makeshift tables, in a room specifically built to feed hungry basketball fans, alumni, school officials and coaches, Lisa Heydenreich is guarding Stewart's famed banana pudding.
It won't last long.
"She's always brought food, snacks and dessert, and made sure Greenwood had a hospitality room, and still does," Heydenreich said. "She still brings a dessert to every basketball game. She's the nicest person you'll ever meet.
"She's kind of carrying on what H.B. (Stewart) started."
In 2019, a month shy of her 84th birthday, Barb Stewart is still giving back to Greenwood's athletic program the way she did six decades ago.
Back then, when H.B. Stewart was coaching four nights a week, a basketball tradition carried on today by small-school coaches throughout the country, snacks and desserts were served up on a desk in the coaches' office.
Sometimes they used Grady Robinson's office, recalls Barb Stewart. Other times they made use of a storage closet.
But there was always something to eat. The hospitality room was born.
"It's was Grady's office or a storage closet," Stewart said. "It's where it started out."
Coaches, family and officials ate whatever was served. Chocolate cake, banana pudding. Nothing was left behind.
"We brought whatever we could," Stewart said. "We fixed grill chicken, and we brought sandwiches, and we brought a lot of deserts. We didn't really have a lot of space."
Today, Heydenreich proudly carries the torch left by others — almost too many to name.
Stewart, Clema Jean Nichols, Dean Evans, Ann Caudle, Michele Grandstaff, Detra Pearcy, Sandy Atkins, Danny Burton and Phil Hicks (grilling), and countless administrators, coaches and parents who have always brought food during tournaments, Heydenreich said.
Heydenreich became involved after her oldest daughter, Randi, started cheering for Greenwood's former cheer sponsor, the late Martina Peacock.
"You didn't have a choice whether you wanted to volunteer; you didn't have a choice," Heydenreich said. "If your daughter was going to cheer for her, you had to work. The state tournament (1998) came around and I said, 'I love food, I'll help.'"
Back in 1956, just three years after graduating from high school, a spry Halton Baxter Stewart thought coaching seemed like a better profession than mining the coal fields over in Hartford. He didn't yet have a teacher's certificate, but he knew he wanted to coach.
"The superintendent at the time told him, 'That's not really an honorable profession to get into — you just need to be a teacher.' H.B. told him, 'Well, I think I'd like to do it.' The superintendent relented," explains Assistant Greenwood Superintendent Kevin Hesslin. "H.B. told him, 'If I lose more games than I coach, I'll quit.' Stewart had just one losing season over his career, the last one. He didn't have the greatest won-loss record (273-148), but he didn't have many losing seasons, either."
Stewart earned his college degree from Arkansas Tech and spent 43 years working for Greenwood Public Schools.
A seven-time Arkansas High School Athletic Association Athletic Director of the Year, Stewart passed away in January 2014.
Greenwood moved into its new digs, the H.B. Stewart Arena, halfway through the 1995-96 season. They hosted the their first state tournament that March.
Lance Taylor was the boys coach and Gregg Grant, currently the superintendent at Danville, coached the girls.
"In this room, we had sponsors like Hardy's, who are no longer even in Greenwood, but our sponsors have always fed here," Hesslin said. "Those first state tournaments, when we opened this thing, we had huge support. We had Danny Burton; he would provide a lot of meals."
Heydenreich helped, too, as far back as 1998.
"It really started with older ladies, like Barb Stewart and Clema Jean Nichols, I just kind of learned from them and it went from there and it kind of went from there," Heydeneich said. "Then it went back down."
Lisa takes over
By the mid-2000s, Greenwood's by-now famed hospitality room was evolving.
"By the time Rusti (Heydenreich's oldest daughter) was here, we were down to a couple of sandwich trays," Heydenreich said. "I was like, 'This isn't going to work for me.' This isn't going to work for Greenwood, so I started cooking."
Heydenreich took the bulls by the horns.
"Barb, Clema Jean Nichols, Ann Ann Caudle, Michele Grandstaff, Detra Pearcy, Sandy Atkins — they were the pioneers; I'm just keeping the tradition going," Heydenreich said. "I helped with the state tournament here in 1998. Back then it would blow your mind the food they had. The tables were so full they had the drinks, iced tea and lemonade and cokes, on the front table."
Eight years ago, Heydenreich started "cooking" for home football games. Meat, potatoes, green beans ... and mounds of sweats like cupcakes, pie and Hershey candy bars.
"I originally started out doing basketball, because I had a daughter (Rusti Green) who played," Heydenreich said. "Football always got everything, and that way I made it nice for basketball, too."
By the time Heydenreich served up Greenwood's main course Friday, she had put in 15 hours of cooking. On top of that, she's busy lining up things to cook for the H.B. Stewart basketball classic.
On top of that, Thursday she got a phone call to whip out mashed potatoes and green beans to help feed the Bulldogs football team.
"Mr. (Jerry) Cecil gave me whatever I wanted, and I love to cook," Heydenreich said. "I was raised to do service; you just do things for other people, and you give back."
It's 6:37 p.m. and Tim Terry is playing background music as the Lady Bulldogs return to the court to get loose for the third quarter. Lipps Inc.'s timeless hit "Funkytown" is taking fans on a trip to the late 1970s. In her perch on the front row, so is Barb Stewart.
She is greeting well-wishers, young and old, many of whom she saw play in this arena or in Greenwood's old gym.
"I've always loved the (Greenwood) program; it's just been a part of our lives," Stewart said. "I enjoy watching the kids, the boys and the girls. You see them out here, and then you keep up with them when they're gone, especially if they stay around here close."
Pass it forward
"Oh my goodness, she has a lot to do now," Stewart says of Heydenreich. "It's different. We worked hard at it, but we didn't have a lot of room. What she does now is a big job, and she does a good job."
"Lisa kind of carries on what's been going on here for years — a great spirit and attitude about service and providing our community an opportunity to come in here and have a meal," Hesslin said. "It's more of a family atmosphere, and Lisa does a great job of maintaining that."