People, Places & Events


Texas teacher completes Japanese bike tour for charity
Monitor Staff Reports
SHIKOKU ISLAND, Japan–The granddaughter of long-time Cedar Creek Lake area residents Billy and Dortha Arnold recently completed a bicycling trip completely around Shikoku Island, visiting 88 Buddhist temples during Golden Week.
A former Gun Barrel City resident, Ashley DeAnn Hamilton now teaches in Japan.
Billy and Dortha Arnold lived where the Arnold Hills subdivision is now located between Seven Points and Tool, and their daughters, Dell Hamilton (Ashley’s mom) and Debra Gunderson, continue to live in the same area.
Ashley Hamilton and neighbor Neil, a Boston-area engineer, had the idea to complete the 1,647-kilometer (988.2 miles) tour around the island, located off the southeast coast of Japan, to raise money for charity.
According to her blog, neither Hamilton nor Neil are Buddhist, and chose to make the ride to benefit the Alzheimer’s Society (Hamilton), and the Lymphoma Society (Neil).
“This journey was incredibly challenging,” Hamilton wrote in an e-mail to The Monitor.
“We covered 1,400 kilometers in less than nine days, and visited 88 temples,” she wrote. “We slept in tents in parks, on the grounds of temples, and in high school baseball fields – only to be awakened at 5:30 a.m. by the team leaving for an away game! Needless to say, they had confused looks on their faces.”
In her blog, Hamilton said Neil was raising money for the Lymphoma Society because he had Hodgkin’s Disease a couple of years ago.
“I will be raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society to honor my maternal grandparents’ memories, who had the disease and passed away in the last couple of months,” she wrote.
The journey around the island was first made by Kobo Dashi, also known as Kukai (774-835 A.D.), an infamous figure in Japanese history, who roamed the island in search of spiritual truth and enlightenment while visiting the 88 temples.
Dashi is considered the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, and is also credited with introducing Chinese medicines, tea and architectural knowledge to Japan, Hamilton wrote in her blog.
Nowadays, thousands of Shingon followers make the same pilgrimage, visiting the 88 temples, by foot (which usually takes a couple of months or longer) or by other means.
The number 88 represents the number of evil passions, as defined by Buddhist doctrine, and it is believed that one aspect of evil can be removed with a visit to each temple, Hamilton explained.
“So, after this grueling 10-day bike ride, we will either have a pure soul, an enlightened mind, or a missing belly,” she wrote.
The pair began their trek April 28 and finished May 7, completing the journey in less than nine days, averaging 156 kilometers (100 miles) in eight hours of riding per day.
During the eight-day journey, Hamilton kept a running account in her blog,, and also commented at,
“We climbed 1,000-meter mountain ranges, coasted along the white beaches and sloshed through the pouring rain,” she wrote The Monitor.
“The journey was arduous, grueling and one of the most fantastic experiences of my life,” she added. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of myself for finishing, raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society, and now being able to share a little slice of Japan with Texas.”

Shafer inducted into honor society
Special to The Monitor
MABANK–Donald L. Shafer of Mabank was one of 43 students inducted into The University of Texas at Tyler Beta Gamma Sigma chapter.
It is a business honor society in the College of Business and Technology.
Dr. Marlyn Young, professor of management and president of BGS performed the ceremony.
One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service.


Mabank High School seniors awarded for achievement
Special to The Monitor
MABANK–The “High Schools That Work” award of educational achievement has been presented to 14 students in the Mabank High School class of 2006.
Recipients receive personalized certificates and congratulatory letters from the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB).
The recipients are Nancy Barker, Devin Carter, Beau Champagne, Sarah Duckett, Cassandra Estrada, Sadie Guiter, Sasha Lamadrid, Christopher Perdue, Jeremy Prescott, Danielle Price, James Threadgill, Kristin Tucker and Forrest Welling.
The award is presented to high school seniors who demonstrate readiness for employment and college studies.
The awards were presented to the recipients at the annual Seniors Award and Recognition Banquet held May 8 in the Mabank Middle School gym.
“We are very proud of these young people,” Mabank High School Principal Tommy Wallis said.
“They have demonstrated that taking challenging courses in high school and scoring high on rigorous exams can lead to individual recognition and increased likelihood of success in the workplace and further education,” he added.
To qualify for the award, students must complete a college-preparatory course of study in at least two of three subject areas. They are English, mathematics and/or science, complete a concentration in a career/technical area, mathematics/science or the humanities and meet performance goals in all three subjects areas on the “High Schools That Work” assessment.
Students can grant SREB permission to share their names and addresses with the school’s local business and industry partners who may be interested in hiring them and with admissions officers who may waive postsecondary placement exams.
The goal of the program is that local businesses or employers will give priority in hiring to recent high school graduates who earned the Award of Educational Achievement.
Some community colleges or other postsecondary institutions may waive placement exams for Award of Educational Achievement recipients.
“The award is a powerful way to communicate to young people that taking challenging high school courses can pay off in the future,” senior vice president of the SREB and director of “High Schools That Work,” Gene Bottoms said.