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Our People: Gardner laid strong roots

Bestella Gardner was known for 32 years as the first person you saw at Lincoln-Jackson Elementary. Somewhere in the last six years, she became more known as former Clovis High and Texas Tech basketball standout Jaye Crockett’s grandmother.

The mother of two, grandmother of five, great grandmother of one and military wife retired in 2010 from Lincoln-Jackson Center in Clovis, but stays busy. In her house are countless photos of her children and grandchildren, both in sports uniforms and graduation gowns.

The family has a dinner every Sunday with as many relatives as can make it, but she admits she wouldn’t mind having Oprah Winfrey as a guest, too.

Gardner answered a few questions while she was caring for her great-granddaughter, Love Shelby Crockett.

link Staff photo: Kevin Wilson

Bestella Gardner stands in front of accolades from her grandchildren while holding great-granddaughter Love Shelby Crockett. Gardner worked for 32 years as a secretary at Lincoln-Jackson Center in Clovis.

What was growing up in Louisiana like? I went to school, finished at Estitudes High in 1960, and then went to business college in Monroe in 1962.

In the ’60s, we were beginning to change a lot. There were a lot of things different, like the black — or we said, colored — water fountain we had to drink out of. If you go to the bus station, you had to ride in the back. I had three brothers; two of them have passed away, and my baby brother is still in Louisiana and a director of special education at Ridgewood High School in Monroe.

As far as growing up, my mom did a good job raising us up. We all went to high school. We all went to college. She did housework; she worked in a white home. She brought leftover food, and we survived. They’d give us leftover clothes from their kids. My mother was always determined for us to get an education. We didn’t have to go and pick cotton like other kids. She made sure we went to school every day.

How did you end up at Lincoln-Jackson? I wanted to work. My husband told me, “I’ll make a deal with you. If you can find a job where you’ll be here when the kids leave in the morning and come back when they do, you can work.” That’s a southern man. He worked in the Air Force. I said, “That’s a deal. I went to school, and I don’t want to be sitting around here all the time.”

So when my youngest, Denise, started at Ranchvale, I went to Mr. McDaniel. I went in for an interview. The person up front was rude, said, “We don’t have anything open.” I said, “I don’t care, I want an application.” McDaniel asked me to come in after I was done with the application; he had heard what happened. He told me to put down for everything, because that’s the kind of people we need here. I did, and within a day or so they called me. I started subbing, because he told me to sub first. A few days later, I was asked to come in for an interview at Lincoln-Jackson with B.J. Pierce. I started off working half a day as a teacher’s aide in September 1978.

Joyce Pollard was the secretary at the time, and when she went to school I took over there. I was there from 1978 to 2010.

How did you end up retiring? I loved my job, but Jaye told me, “Nana, I hate you coming to my games at night and then you going home to get up early in the morning.” I said I like my job. Jaye insisted, and I went to talk to the retirement office. He told me, “Mrs. Gardner, I hate to tell you this, but you’re working for nothing.” So I put my papers in for September, but the school told me no. I said I would stay until December, and they gave me the same routine ... “you oughta just wait until school is out.” I knew if I didn’t do it then, I’d be there today. But I wanted to travel to Jaye’s game, and go to some of his out-of-town games.

But I loved my job. I love the community. They have love for me, and I have love for them.

What was it like when people knew you less as the Lincoln-Jackson secretary and more as Jaye Crockett’s grandmother? Jaye grew up with Lincoln-Jackson too, so they knew Jaye. All of my grandkids, everybody knew them because I would leave to go to their games. I enjoyed that Jaye was doing something good, and I still push him to do things right and take care of business. He took care of everything I wanted him to do. Probably did a lot of things I didn’t know about and don’t want to know. When I go to Lubbock, the people always talk so nice about Jaye.

We’d always wait for Jaye to come out. I felt proud to say he was my grandson. I’m still proud of him, and he calls me every night. Well, not now because he’s in Italy, but always in Lubbock.

We would tell him, “Keep your head up, don’t give up. Keep the faith no matter what. Believe in yourself.” Sometimes, it would be so tough for Jaye; the public doesn’t know (the Red Raiders had five coaches in Crockett’s four seasons). The people at Tech said Jaye had more people come out for him ... from Louisiana, California. He always had more people to support him, and that’s what Coach Tubby (Smith) would say.

Tell us about your husband: We’ll be married 50 years Dec. 19, and Jaye is making sure we go to Italy for our anniversary. The girls are going too.

He’s a good father, a good husband, a great grandfather and a super great-grandfather.

He was a basketball player. I was scorekeeper. He’s from Alto, and they would come play us. One day we were at a tournament, and I guess he liked my hair. I was walking down the steps and he said hey. I acted like I didn’t hear him. He asked me my name, and I threw the scorebook down figuring he wouldn’t pronounce my name right. But he did, and that surprised me. We met up in college ... and when I went to Reno, he was in the service and we met up again.

What’s a perfect day for you? A perfect day is any day I can get up with no pains. The Lord has been good to us. My husband’s still at work today. There are so many people our age that it’s frightening to see how many are passing on. I get to go anywhere; take care of my great-granddaughter.

— Compiled by staff writer Kevin Wilson

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