Charlene Knight Prock found her way to her heavenly home on Wednesday, August 2, 2023, when she passed from this life on earth following a short illness. She was 92 years old at her passing, but much younger in mind and spirit.
To properly chronicle Charlene’s life story, one might expect to see it play out on a movie screen. She was born June 1, 1931, in Fort Worth, Texas, to Odell Martin. While Odell worked to support her newborn, her neighbors Jim and Viola Knight babysat infant Charlene. No one knows for sure whether the Knights took Charlene without Odell’s blessing or she relinquished guardianship, but the Knights became Charlene’s parents who raised her after they moved to Oklahoma.
Charlene had no recollection of her birth mother and didn’t even know her mother’s name or her own birthdate until 1995 when she finally received a copy of her birth certificate. Many efforts to discover her heritage proved fruitless, but the tide of the mystery turned in 2007 when her son Cam found a possible link to her background on the Internet. He shared a name and number and said it might lead to information about her past.
“I called the number and said I was searching for my heritage, and the voice on the other end of the phone said, ‘Yes, Charlene, I’ve known about you all of my life.’ It was my half-sister, Sheila. You can imagine the emotion we both felt. It was unbelievable.”
Sheila Creamer Nowell and her daughters Melanie McCune and Sherry Thompson soon drove from Texas to Arkansas to meet Charlene and her family. The emotional meeting between Charlene, Sheila and their families drew media attention around Arkansas. TV and newspaper reporters shared with their audiences and readers the remarkable story of the half-sisters’ first meeting.
The Knights were like most families in Oklahoma during the depression. Work was scarce and so were the simple necessities of life. They moved frequently as migrant farm workers assisting farmers with their crops. In 1944 they settled in a two-room house in Hollis, where they lived through Charlene’s high school years. She soon found her niche at Hollis High School and participated in a wide array of extracurricular activities including basketball, volleyball and band; she was a flag twirler as a sophomore and a baton twirler her junior and senior years.
She went on a date with Clifford John Prock when she was a junior and he was a senior at Hollis High School. Less than two years later they were married on July 5, 1948 in Wellington, Texas. Clifford was an all-star football player who earned a scholarship to Northeastern State College, but their time there was cut short when funds were low and his father convinced him to return to Hollis to help run a gas station.
To earn extra money, Clifford joined the National Guard and soon was deployed to South Korea to build bridges for allied troops fighting in the Korean Conflict. Daughter Martina was born in 1949 before his departure, which meant Charlene stayed behind with her infant child. Fifteen months later, in summer 1952, he returned home. That fall he was offered a scholarship to play football at Southwestern State College in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Daughter Mona was born in 1953.
Soon after his graduation in 1955, former Oklahoma Sooner great Carl Allison recruited John to serve as his assistant coach at Clinton (Oklahoma) High School. Allison left Clinton in 1959 to help restart the football program at Harding College (now University), and the Procks followed a year later. While in Clinton, son Cam was born in 1957.
When Allison left Harding in 1963 to return to OU as an assistant coach, Prock was promoted to head coach. For the next 24 years, he led the Bison program with a primary focus on developing the hearts and minds of young men, teaching them about Jesus Christ. It was a partnership ministry for both John and Charlene.
Charlene embraced her role as a football coach’s wife and surrogate mother to homesick athletes who needed a homecooked meal to soothe their anxiety. She worked in the university’s Student Life office as an administrative assistant and was recognized by students as one of the chapel seat checkers.
Known in the Searcy community for her culinary skills, Charlene won the Arkansas State Poultry Cooking Queen competition in 1976 and traveled the state promoting the poultry industry. Later she opened and managed her own catering business to earn money for the family. John converted their garage into a restaurant-quality kitchen, from which Charlene served dignitaries and celebrities including Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, Arkansas governors Dale Bumpers, Bill Clinton, Jim Guy Tucker, Mike Huckabee and Mike Beebe, and entertainers Don Williams, The Judds, Lee Greenwood and Kathy Mattea among others.
She was a charter member of Associated Women for Harding (now Women for Harding), receiving the organization’s lifetime achievement award. A cookbook featuring her many recipes was published in 2014. She was also a longtime member of the Westside Church of Christ.
Following John’s retirement from coaching and teaching in 1996, the Procks traveled extensively as he pursued his passion for woodcarving. Their retirement years were upended when John began showing symptoms of a neurological disease around 1999. As his condition quickly deteriorated, he was diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia. Charlene loyally served as his caretaker, even to the demise of her own health. John passed away on July 12, 2012. Less than a year later on April 28, 2013, daughter Martina died due to complications from breast cancer.
Charlene’s final years were filled with visits from family and friends, travel and opportunities to share her stories. She is remembered for her flair for fashion, her spunky attitude and zest for life and adventure. Age and health slowed her down but never diminished her spirit. She loved the Lord, her family and friends with an unmatched passion. Her passing leaves a massive void in the lives of those who knew her, but they know she is finally with the love of her life, Clifford John, and her daughter, Martina.
Charlene was preceded in death by her birth mother Odell Martin, parents Jim and Viola Knight, husband Clifford John Prock, and daughter Martina Prock Peacock. She is survived by daughter Mona Prock Daniel Thompson (Marty), son Cam (Robbin), son in law, Ronnie Peacock, sister Sheila Nowell, grandchildren Daysha Peacock Sanford (Nate), Dane Peacock (Jennifer), Dru Peacock Wiser (Andrew), Summer Daniel Wright, Slade Daniel (Kendra), Spenser Daniel (Heather), Casey Prock Blakeman (Josh) and Chaney Prock Black (Daniel), 24 great grandchildren and two nieces.
Charlene will be memorialized and remembered on Saturday, August 12 at 1 p.m. at Westside Church of Christ, 709 Arch Street in Searcy, Arkansas. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory can be made to Women for Harding online (www.harding.edu/give) or by check (HU 10768, Searcy, AR 72149). As she requested, a meal will be provided following the service to attendees featuring her recipes.