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Former co-workers Hope Fielder and Susan Read are now Arkansas neighbors. / Courtesy Photo

It’s a small world, former locals now neighbors in Arkansas

Susan Read News Review Staff Writer–

I can almost hear you humming the tune to that “small world” Disney song written by Richard and Robert Sherman in 1964. Fast forward several decades and the phrase and tune are a reality for me. A few weeks ago, I read a News Review story by Bruce Auld, which highlighted the achievements of a Burroughs High School senior, Kailer Bachman. The article reported that Bachman had signed with Arkansas Technical University to play shortstop on the baseball team there. Auld closed the story by saying, “Kailer will report to ATU in early August. Fortunately for Kailer and the Bachman family, longtime Bachman Family Dentistry receptionist Hope Sizemore Fielder now lives an hour’s drive from ATU.”

Hope Fielder. We worked in the same department at the Weapons Division nearly 30 years ago. An hour’s drive away from ATU? Could Hope now live in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, where I make my home? I donned my detective’s hat and researched that this might be the case (aka, check Facebook first).  Hope’s Facebook page made a note of her new location, so I sent her a message to see if she’d even remember me. Her response was exuberant. “Let’s meet for lunch and catch up!” she said, and we did. A Mexican meal overlooking the golf course and six hours of conversation later, we caught up on all things (and people) Ridgecrest.

Hope, her husband Russ, and their children grew up in Ridgecrest, all graduates of Burroughs High (Hope, class of 1981; Russ, class of 1980). After working in the Research Department on base as a summer hire, Hope earned her degree at Cal State Bakersfield and became an analyst for the Sparrow Program. That’s where she and I met as Administrative Officers in the old Code 39 sometime around 1992. Hope left the base shortly after to care for her parents and participate in her children’s lives. Before long, she worked full-time as a dental and patient care assistant for Dr. Michael Bachman’s practice.

Russ retired from the base in 2019 after 39 years, 13 of whom spent as chief engineer of Telemetry Systems in the Airborne Instrumentation Systems Division. Their children graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University and moved on, their son to North Carolina, and their daughter to Arkansas, where her husband’s family is rooted. It caused Hope and Russ to consider a move, the first ever for born-and-raised-in-the-IWV Hope Sizemore Fielder. “It was a big decision,” she said. “We considered where to live by choosing states nearby: Tennessee, Texas, and Arkansas. It wasn’t easy, so we let God direct our path.” They connected with a realtor in            Arkansas, who suggested the gated community of Hot Springs Village. “It had wide open spaces, beautiful woods, houses were not on top of one another, there’s no age restriction to live there,” Fielder said, “and we can travel to see the children and our new granddaughter Ellie!”

Fast forward again, and we find ourselves near neighbors with just about three miles between our houses. My “How I Moved to Arkansas” story takes more of a winding road than Hope’s since my roots are in Rhode Island, with stops in Massachusetts, Georgia, and Texas. But I lived in China Lake and Ridgecrest for 28 years, longer than anywhere else, and my children were primarily raised there. So, you’ll hear me say that’s where I’m “from,” I’m privileged to have known so many wonderful people there, Hope included.

These days, Hope is as busy as she was in California. She was a devoted Burroughs Booster and an active alumna. She continues to telework with Bachman Family Dentistry. She walks weekly with a group of women who call themselves the “Walkie Talkies,” She and Russ are involved in church activities at First Church of the Nazarene, Hot Springs. I had the pleasure of seeing Hope perform at the church’s production of “The Witness,” a play depicting the life of Jesus. Hope shone like a star as part of the chorus among the people of Galilee and Judea.

We immediately recognized our similar perspective that living in a gated community is like being on base and laughed as we both admitted to having said we were “going through the front gate” when entering our neighborhood.

“God has brought us on a pretty big adventure,” Hope said, and I heartily agreed. “What looks and feels like homesickness is not always like it’s portrayed in books or the movies. We’ve been welcomed here with true Southern hospitality, and Susan has been a connection point when homesickness sneaks up on me. I’m grateful for that.”

We look forward to resuming a friendship that is so meaningful at this time in our lives. We still marvel at the serendipity of our reconnecting and can’t help but reiterate what the song has exclaimed – it truly is a small world.