Bert and Cheryl Haralson Honored with Pate Award
Reno, Nev. - Last year’s Wallace Pate Award winner introduced Bert and Cheryl Haralson as the “first family of Elk Arkansas” as they came to the stage to accept the 2007 Wallace Fennell Pate Wildlife Conservation Award at the national convention’s Grand Banquet. Then Pat Gilligan paused and added, “No, the first family of Elk America. The Haralsons are the real thing.”
Gilligan was doubly blessed in recent months. He had the honor of having the Haralsons guide him last fall to the new Arkansas state record non-typical bull, 355-4/8, while Cheryl still holds the Arkansas state-record typical bull, 340-6/8 from her 2002 hunt. And he had the honor of introducing the couple as the next Pate Award winners.
Stepping up to the lectern, Cheryl choked back tears of joy and surprise. “I hate television award shows because of all the stupid things people say when they win,” she said. After a scanning the audience, she added, “Right now, I have a much greater appreciation for those folks.” The crowd laughed, knowing that the Pate award, like on television, is veiled in secret until the winners’ names are announced.
“Mark Twain is one of my favorite folks and he said, ‘It sometimes takes me three weeks to write a good impromptu speech.’ We didn’t have three minutes.”
So far, the Arkansas Elk Lady was scoring big. The Haralsons joined the organization in 1987 and helped establish the Central Arkansas Chapter in Little Rock after attending the Foundation’s 1989 national convention in Seattle.
“This is a long, long way from Seattle,” she said. “We did not know one living soul in this organization. Bugle magazine sold us the mission. Bob Munson empowered us to go back home and do these things they mentioned.”
To date, the Central Arkansas Chapter has raised well over $1.5 million for elk country, and the Haralsons have been there every step of the way. But they didn’t stop at just fundraising.
They took the fledgling elk herd in their state and made it their cause. Today that herd is thriving. Perhaps the finest measure of their success lies in the fact that in 1998, their native state held its first elk hunt since before the Civil War. More than 150 people have now enjoyed the privilege of hunting wild elk on public land in the ancient limestone hills of Arkansas.
“Most people measure the time they’ve volunteered to a cause in hours. This couple would have to reckon the time they’ve given the Elk Foundation in months—and more likely in years,” said Elk Foundation President and CEO J. Dart.
While they have been equally generous with their financial support, what the Haralsons most embody about the Pate award is their willingness to give freely of their hearts—going out of their way time and again to forge connections and touch the lives of countless people in the Elk Foundation family.
They are the definition of gracious.
“If for some reason the committee has seen some of Wallace Pates’ qualities in us, we’re indeed humbled and flattered,” Cheryl said. “We had the privilege of knowing him.
“I’d like to say too, though, that we’re a tag team,” she said of her husband Bert, standing by her side as always. “You see me a lot, but I suspect like a lot of you … there’s a spouse or significant other who quietly supports you from the wings. They’re making a sacrifice, if it’s nothing more than your time away from them and your family. Those are the unsung heroes—the spouses and significant others and family members who allow you to do what we have to do to get our mission accomplished. Our lives are richer for having served the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and we’re humbled by this.”
Bert is definitely the less talkative of the two, but he had a few poignant words to add.
“If Buddy Smith [chairman of the board] says he’s a man of few words, then I guess I’m a man of no words,” Bert said to a blanket of laughter.
But he quickly turned serious.
“This has got to be the Kentucky Derby, the Super Bowl, the inauguration of a president all rolled into one—and then some—to be honored like this by this group. This is the best group in the world as far as we’re concerned.
“I am definitely the tagalong of this tag team,” he said. “But I do appreciate what people have seen in the talent that Cheryl’s got, and I certainly respect that. We’re just beyond words. This is the best thing that could’ve happened to anybody. It’s a dream come true.”
Cheryl will chair the Habitat Council through 2008, which serves as an advisory council to the board of directors. A few other titles they have held include: merchandise chair, chapter chair, state chair, regional chair, member of the board of directors, Life Members, Habitat Partners, member of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission Elk Committee, and Arkansas Elk Lady. Oh, and now, man of no (frivolous) words.
“We’re looking at this award as another challenge,” Cheryl said. “What else can we do? We want everyone to know that if we don’t put something back now, there won’t be anything left for future generations to enjoy.”
Thank you, Cheryl and Bert, for showing us that proximity to Rocky Mountain elk country does not determine the measure of one’s heart when it comes to elk—another thing you have in common with Wallace Pate, who hailed from South Carolina.