Bayou Icon | A Little Goes a Long Way
article by GEORGIANN POTTS
photography by KELLY MOORE CLARK
There are some people who are destined to make the world a better place. Dewana Little is one of those people. Her motto perfectly reflects her character: “Just be nice and treat people with kindness and respect because everyone deserves that.”
It isn’t long after someone meets Dewana Farrar Little that they realize that her parents have been major influences in her life. Their example taught her important lessons about living life to the fullest while respecting others. “Our parents taught us that everyone has something to give or contribute to their community,” Dewana explains. “And they also emphasized the importance of volunteerism.”
Dewana’s father, Boots Farrar, was born in Marion, Louisiana. He graduated from Bastrop High School and then earned a degree in banking and finance from Louisiana State University. He had an outstanding career in banking, serving as a bank executive and on the Board of Directors at Bastrop National Bank, Hibernia Bank, and then Capital One Bank until his retirement in 1994.
On July 4, 1953, Boots married his true love, Francis “Nell” Panquin. She was born in Hamburg, Arkansas, and graduated from Hamburg High School. Nell worked first as a switch board operator for Bell South Telephone Company, and later as retail clothing store manager at Shainburgs in Bastrop. She especially enjoyed her favorite job – making a home for Boots and their family.
The marriage was a true love match. “My parents had a lifelong love for each other, and I never remember them having a disagreement or cross word,” Dewanna says. “They taught us by example just what marriage could – and should – be.”
A Close-Knit Family
Dewana’s parents lived in Bastrop and reared their family there until they moved to Azalea Estates in Monroe in 2018. They were blessed with two children during their marriage – Dewana and her younger brother, Michael.
Dewana has countless fond memories of her parents. “Dad was very civic-minded, and loved politics!” she recalls. “He never met a stranger, and I don’t think there was ever anyone he could not engage in a conversation. He loved people, and loved being involved with Mother in their community and church.” They were lifelong members of Christ Episcopal Church in Bastrop and were active at both the diocesan and parish levels for many years until their move to Monroe.
Her father served several terms as member and president of the Morehouse Parish School Board. Boots also served on the North Louisiana Fair Board for years. There is a pavilion at the Morehouse Parish fairgrounds that is named for him, honoring his many years of service.
A passion that Dewana’s parents shared was orchids. They were active members of the Northeast Louisiana Orchid Society for many years, happily sharing their love for those beautiful flowers with others. This hobby enlarged exponentially when they acquired a commercial style greenhouse. Together they raised many orchid plants – some won awards from the American Orchid Society. A special joy came when they shared their orchids with others, especially brides.
Dewana remembers the family’s summer vacations during her childhood. They would stop at a roadside park for lunch, breaking the journey with special fun. Her father would haul out the heavy metal ice chest. Then her mother made sandwiches on the picnic table. “There were no fast-food restaurants around back then,” Dewana explains. “We enjoyed a delicious picnic that was a part of the vacation fun!”
Summer weekends were spent at the family’s lake house on Lake D’Arbonne. If the fish were biting, they could be found on Lake Enterprise, fishing and water skiing. Holidays were always spent with family at Dewana’s paternal grandparents’ home. Walter and Gertie Farrar did everything to make those holidays special. Her grandmother began baking and cooking days before a family holiday gathering because she prepared everyone’s favorite dish to include. “That meant a lot of cooking because we had a large extended family!” Dewana recalls.
Growing Up in Bastrop
Dewana attended Bastrop High School and Northeast Louisiana University (now The University of Louisiana Monroe). While in high school, Dewana was active in the band and the orchestra (where she played flute and viola), and the cheer squad. Her favorite subjects were art and Louisiana history. Wayne Horton was her favorite teacher. “He was a very talented artist, and a great educator,” Dewana remembers. “He loved teaching and sharing his skills.”
While at NLU, Dewana took courses related to healthcare and entered the AIT Program to become a Louisiana licensed nursing facility administrator. She has practiced for 35 years. Dewana had always wanted to work in some capacity in the healthcare field. Her parents encouraged her to pursue that dream. “My parents told me that I had a heart to care for others, and no matter where life might take me, people would always need healthcare,” Dewana remembers.
It was from Mrs. Wanda Cathey that Dewana learned firsthand the importance of a strong work ethic. Cathey managed Pay Less Shoes where Dewana had her first job. Dewana was 16 years old, and worked for Cathey after school and on Saturdays. Cathey took Dewana under her wing and taught her how to do the work properly. “Mrs. Cathey was one of the kindest, most hardworking ladies I have ever known,” Dewana remembers. “Even so, without a doubt you knew exactly what she expected of you, and you were scared to death not to meet her expectations.”
All throughout her “growing up” years, Dewana’s parents’ constant message to her was to remember that they were only a phone call away, anytime day or night, and no matter where she was or what she was doing. They made sure that she always had a nickel in her pocket to make that call and they promised to come. “That reassurance was a wonderful gift from them,” Dewana says. “And, yes, I used that nickel several times and they were right there, no questions asked, just as they had promised.”
Fulfilling a Dream
After finishing her education, Dewana worked for Dr. Flood Garrett and Dr. Robert Holmes in their medical office in Bastrop. There she learned the basics about a private medical practice. Next, she worked for a time at Morehouse General Hospital in their Emergency Room. Still later, Dewana accepted a position from the Louisiana Peer Review Organization as a Peer Review and Quality Assurance Coordinator. Each of these steps added to Dewana’s knowledge of the healthcare field and its many components.
In 1986, Dewana began what she says is one of the most interesting and rewarding careers anyone can have. She began working with West Carroll Health Systems in Oak Grove, Louisiana, becoming a Nursing Facility Administrator in long term care. “I cannot imagine being anywhere else. I love the work and involvement with our residents, family, and staff,” Dewana explains. “Long term care is not a field for everyone, but it has been perfect for me. I have enjoyed every day, and look forward to many more ahead.”
Love Enters the Picture
Dewana married Reese Little in 1975 at Christ Episcopal Church in Bastrop. She describes Reese as “. . . the love of my life and the partner I cannot imagine being without!” They both grew up in Bastrop and began dating in high school. They attended different high schools, but still managed to be high school sweethearts.
They had two children, both very successful. Daughter Frannie is married to Rusty Landry and lives in Mountain Home, Arkansas, where she owns an insurance agency. Son Rusty is also married. He and wife Angie live in Monroe where he is the manager of the family’s UPS Store.
Reese and Dewana have three grandsons who they cherish – and spoil, when possible! They call Blake, Tanner, and Chapman their “superstars.” Blake and Tanner are at college (Blake: Delta Community College; Tanner: LSU) and Chapman will be a freshman at Neville High School next year.
Dewana loves to share a favorite story about Chapman. Before he was born, Chapman was expected to be a precious, redheaded little girl to be named Mary Margaret and who would be Dewana’s “little girlie girl.” “Instead, Chapman was born with blond hair and is 100% all boy!” Dewana says with a chuckle. “I love him just as much as the other boys, and am thrilled that he is my shopper. He loves to shop with me more than any little redheaded girl ever could. I call “Mary Margaret” often to go shopping!”
Making Their Home in Monroe
Reese and Dewana moved to Monroe from Bastrop in 1986 and immediately began searching for a new church home. One afternoon they spotted St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in their neighborhood. They stopped to look it over and met John and June Eby. The Eby’s invited them to join them the next morning and they accepted. Within two hours of getting back home, Reese and Dewana received a phone call from Sandry Eby (John and June’s daughter-in-law) also inviting them to please come and visit St. Alban’s. They attended church there the next day and immediately felt at home.
As a member of St. Alban’s, Dewana has been an active volunteer. She has served as a member of the Vestry as Junior Warden, Chairperson of the Altar Guild, member of the Search Committee for a Priest, a member of the Board of Trustees for the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana, and as a member of Daughters of the King.
Combining Work with Fun
In 2012, Reese and Dewana — together with son Rusty – opened the UPS Store in Monroe. Rusty manages the store and they all enjoy sharing the family business. It has done so well that just last year they had to expand and relocate.
Work is not the only thing that Reese and Dewana share. They love traveling! Many of their trips involve flying somewhere, renting a car, and then driving with no plans other than the day they will have to return to the airport to fly home. “Our travel includes no interstate highways whatsoever, if possible!” Dewana says. “We enjoy staying off the beaten path. That way we find the most wonderful and unique places just tucked away in the countryside.”
The couple, like most Louisianans, love both LSU Tiger football and the New Orleans Saints. Fall weekends will usually find the two in their motor home, tailgating at LSU’s Tiger Stadium and then cruising down to New Orleans to catch a Saints game. Although retirement isn’t on their radar just yet, they do plan to take longer extended road trips in that motorhome – with no planned agenda when that does happen.
Just Doing a Friend a Favor
In 1998, Dewana’s close friend, Nancy Mulhearn, called her and asked a favor – a big one and one that changed Dewana’s life. Nancy was in a jam because the Miss Louisiana pageant was approaching and a dorm hostess volunteer had to back out at the last minute. She asked Dewana to fill in. Dewana agreed, and then found out that she would be needed the very next week when she would have to move into a NLU dormitory on campus and live there with the girls for the entire week. Oh, and she would also have to bring her sheets, towels, and everything she would need for the stay. “With a little reluctance, I agreed to help – but for just that week,” Dewana says. “I had no idea what adventures were ahead of me!”
Today, 25 years later, Dewana is very much a part of the Miss Louisiana Organization. She has served on the national level as a member of the Miss America Advisory Council, the Miss Louisiana Board of Directors as Executive Secretary, and as Executive Director of that body for the past 18 years. “After realizing what a dedicated group of volunteers were involved in this organization that exists to provide scholarship funds and educational opportunities to young women, I knew that it was an organization I wanted to become a part of,” she says.
Over the years, Dewana has witnessed the personal and professional growth of many young women who have competed at Miss Louisiana. “Many are now physicians, judges, attorneys, professional entertainers, educators, accountants, and the list goes on,” Dewana says. “These young women have had a major impact across our state.”
The most uplifting comment Dewana says she hears from former contestant or title holders is “I graduated debt free because of the scholarship monies earned through this organization.” That’s when Dewana stops to think about all of the work involved in raising those scholarship funds and realizes that it is all worth the effort. “We have truly helped make a difference,” she says.
Facing Life’s Challenges
In just 5 years, the Littles experienced great sadness. Dewana’s younger brother had an established career in law enforcement when he died from cancer in 2015. “One of the hardest things in my life was seeing my parents’ grief at losing their son,” Dewana remembers. “I felt so helpless because there was nothing I – or anyone — could do to take away or ease their pain.”
Tragedy struck again in 2020. In April of that year, Dewana’s father lost his life to COVID. His was one of the first COVID-related deaths in Ouachita Parish. “There were truly dark days that were sustained only by prayer and support for each other,” Dewana says.
As a healthcare administrator during the pandemic, Dewana was trying to support her staff, her facility’s residents, and families and friends. She describes those days as a “blur.” “We have emerged from COVID as a different world,” she explains. “Some things for the better, some for the worse, and accepting some things will never be the same. We continue to count our blessings and are thankful for our health and the opportunities each new day brings to us.”
Even so, for this complex, very busy woman who hates snakes (“I am absolutely mortified by them!”) but is fascinated by alligators, life continues to be a delight. She loves fresh flowers and trying her hand at arranging. She has placed seeing the Kentucky Derby in person at the top of her Bucket List.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948) — one of the 20th century’s most respected political and spiritual leaders — wrote, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others.” Dewana Little has done just that, and we are fortunate that she has “found herself” right here among us.