2020: Notable deaths in NWA, Fort Smith

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,438 views 

Terry Siebenmorgen, an international leader in rice research, died Nov. 22. He was inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2019.

Significant contributors to the Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith metro business community died in 2020.

David Glass, 84, Jan. 9 — Glass was the former CEO of Walmart and owner of the Kansas City Royals. He died due to complications from pneumonia. (For more, click here).

Marilyn Bogle, 88, Jan. 23 — Bogle and her husband — retired Walmart exec Bob Bogle— were ardent financial supporters of the University of Arkansas and Razorback athletic programs.

In addition to the UA, Bogle supported numerous charitable causes and organizations including the Walton Arts Center, Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, AR Care, the NWA Children’s Shelter, Bentonville Public Schools and the Bentonville Public Library.

Sam Fiser, 72, Jan. 31 — Fiser opened accounting firm S.F. Fiser & Co. in 1985, with offices in Springdale and Batesville. His career dated to 1971 when he went to work for Russell Brown & Co. in Little Rock. He became a partner in 1981 and remained a partner when the firm merged with Arthur Young & Co. in 1982.

Fiser contributed to several civic groups and was a past chairman of the Springdale Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

When he died, he was serving as an Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch trustee, and as a director of the Schmieding Foundation.

Ralph Overstreet, 103, Feb. 3 — Overstreet started Overstreet’s Jewelry on the north side of the downtown square in Bentonville in 1948. A Springdale native, Overstreet graduated from the University of Arkansas, started a watch repair shop in Kentucky and furthered his training by graduating from the Elgin Watchmakers College in Elgin, Ill.

Overstreet wrote a check for $4,000 to buy what was then a watch repair shop in Bentonville in 1948.

Overstreet was honored by the city of Bentonville with a dinner for his 100th birthday and again in October 2019 at his 103rd birthday, with Mayor Stephanie Orman giving him the key to the city.

Dick Latta, 73, Feb. 11 — Latta was the owner and founder of poultry equipment and construction supplier Latco Truss Co. of Lincoln.

In 1973, Latta bought Prince Manufacturing Co. in Lincoln from his father-in-law, S.E. Prince, and renamed it Latco Inc. In 1984, he formed Latco Truss and built poultry houses from Colorado to Florida.

Latta also built commercial egg production facilities in Iowa and Utah. Delta Egg Farm was the second largest employer in Miller County, Utah.

Latta was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2018.

William R. “Bill” Fields, 70, Feb. 16 — Fields worked for Walmart from 1971 to 1996. He held various executive positions, which included assistant to Sam Walton, senior vice president of distribution & transportation, executive vice president of Walmart and president & CEO of the company’s flagship Stores division, now known as Walmart U.S.

He left the retailer to become CEO of Blockbuster and was later CEO of Hudson’s Bay Co., Canada’s largest department store chain.

B.G. Hendrix, 97, March 21 — Hendrix was a World War II veteran and former Arkansas Speaker of the House from Fort Smith. He probably spent more years in public service than anyone in western Arkansas.

Hendrix served two years on the Quorum Court, four years as county coroner, and six weeks as sheriff when the incumbent died. He also served 34 years as a state representative (1963-1997) and was Speaker of the House (1989-90) in the 77th General Assembly.

Hendrix also established the first ambulance service in Fort Smith, called Twin City Ambulance Co.

Larry Baggett, 88, April 12 — Baggett owned and operated numerous businesses in Northwest Arkansas, including convenience stores, car washes and a motorcycle dealership. One of the most notable was the Fayetteville Lumber Co., off the corner of Dickson and School streets.

Baggett served several years on the board of First National Bank, with its main location on the Fayetteville square. He resigned from that position to participate, along with John Lewis and others, in the charter and establishment of the Bank of Fayetteville in 1987.

He then served for 24 years on the board of the Bank of Fayetteville. He also served on the loan committee and as chairman of the trust committee. He retired from his position on that board in September 2012.

Baggett served on the board of Ozarks Electric Cooperative from July 1973 until his death. He also served on the board of Arkansas Electrics Cooperatives Inc., from June 1983 until his death.

Paul Parks, 74, April 18 — Parks founded the Rogers firm Benchmark Group, one of the state’s largest architecture and engineering providers. He started Benchmark Group — solely as an electrical engineering firm called Paul C. Parks Engineering — in 1978, working from his house. He and his wife, Janet, were the employees. It was renamed in 1987 to reflect an expanded range of services, from architectural design to mechanical and electrical engineering services. The firm now also offers interior design, fire protection and refrigeration engineering.

Parks transitioned from president to board chairman in 2018.

Brent Myers, 78, April 25 — Meyers, a Republican who represented District 14, was a member of the Benton County Quorum Court. He was elected to the court in 2012 and served until resigning in April 2020. He had been battling cancer.

Ed Yeager, 78, April 27 — Yeager owned four Yeager Hardware stores in the Fort Smith and Van Buren area and was a son of the company’s founder. He also was co-owner and operator of the Shamrock Liquor Warehouse in Fort Smith.

Ernest Yeager founded Yeager Hardware in 1959 in Van Buren. He sold the business to his son in 1982. Ed Yeager opened Fort Smith stores in 1987 and 1992. In 2001, Yeager opened a hardware store and lumberyard in Greenwood.

Milt Earnhart, 102, June 6 — Earnhart was a Democratic state legislator in Arkansas from 1959 to 1980, representing Fort Smith. Before entering politics, Earnhart was a broadcaster and the first weatherman for CBS-affiliate KFSM-TV.

Tom Keith, 81, June 23 — Keith completed law school at the University of Arkansas in 1973 and began private practice before eventually becoming Benton County’s first public defender. In 1981, he decided to seek the judgeship for Rogers Municipal Court. His bid was successful, and four years later he switched courtrooms when he was elected as a circuit judge.

He retired from the bench in 2008.

Jill Arnold Bright, 53, July 11 — Bright was senior vice president and business development officer at Grand Savings Bank in Rogers.

A Rogers High School graduate in 1985, she began her banking career at First National Bank in Rogers in 1988, working there for 17 years. She later worked for Parkway Bank and Grand Savings Bank.

Cyndi Bilyeu, 47, July 18 — Bilyeu was CEO of Sunshine School and Development Center in Rogers since 2012. Before that, she worked for Hope Cancer Resources for almost a decade. Bilyeu said her passion for nonprofit work started after she completed her master’s degree in political science at the University of Arkansas in 1999.

She spent the next two years in AmeriCorps service. Through that job she was assigned to work in the Bentonville and Springdale schools on violence prevention programs through the Arkansas Crisis Center. She was director of volunteer services there until joining Hope Cancer Resources in 2003.

Bruce Barnes, 64, July 28 — Barnes (Mister B) and his wife, Pamela, owned Mister B’s Steakhouse in Rogers. Mister B’s opened in November 2000.

For 10 years before that, the Barneses managed Herman’s Ribhouse in Fayetteville.

Tommy Granata, 65, Aug. 29 — A longtime civic leader in Tontitown died just days after suffering a heart attack. Granata was serving his third term as alderman for the city and was running unopposed for a fourth term. Granata had also served as mayor for two years.

Walter Cox, 79, Sept. 12 — Cox practiced law in Fayetteville for 54 years and specialized in medical malpractice defense. A Forrest City native, he obtained a dual bachelor’s degree and Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas in 1966. He immediately joined the Fayetteville firm of Putman, Davis and Bassett, where he made partner in 1970. The firm was later known as Davis, Cox & Wright.

In August 2020, Cox established the firm of Cox, Cox & Estes PLLC. He was a frequent guest lecturer to medical groups on issues involving risk management and litigation.

Larry Clark, 77, Sept. 13 — A Eureka Springs native, Clark graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1964, and was hired by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. In 1965, he accepted a job as assistant manager of the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce, where he helped recruit many of Fort Smith’s largest employers. In 1972, he entered the insurance business with his friend Sam Hiller.

They created Brown-Hiller-Clark & Associates, one of the largest insurance agencies in Arkansas, now known as BHC Insurance. Clark was an inductee into the second-ever class of the Arkansas Insurance Hall of Fame in 2016.

Clark served in several civic leadership roles. He was formerly the board chairman at Westark College (University of Arkansas at Fort Smith) for 18 years, former member of the Fort Smith city board of directors and spent 30 years on the board of the Arkansas Oklahoma Regional Education and Promotion Association (Rodeo/Fair board).

Bobby Lee Odom, 81, Oct. 10 —Odom was a practicing attorney since 1970 and founder of Odom Law Firm in Fayetteville.

He focused his practice primarily on personal injury and medical malpractice matters and nursing home litigation. He earned a law degree from the University of Arkansas in 1970, then clerked for the Arkansas Supreme Court in Little Rock for one year.

Arriving back in Fayetteville, Odom worked with attorney Walter Niblock until 1982 when he started his law firm — Odom, Elliott, Lee and Martin.

Odom was also known for launching one of the region’s longest-running social events. He started the Seafood Jubilee in the 1970s. The inaugural gathering, partly a political fundraiser for judicial candidate David Stewart, was held at a pizza restaurant on Dickson Street in Fayetteville.

The annual event grew through the years to welcome hundreds of attorneys, politicos and business leaders from around the state for an afternoon and evening of socializing, music, shrimp and crawfish. It was held every summer until this year, a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gerald Harp, 80, Oct. 16 — Gerald Harp was one of four children of Harps Food Stores Inc. founders Harvard and Floy Harp, and he was a retired chief executive of the Springdale-based company.

Harp worked for 45 years at Harps Food Stores, which started in 1930 as Harps Cash Grocery and was largely a family-owned business for decades, although management owned some of the stock. Harp spent his last seven years with the company as chief executive officer and chairman, starting in 1995 following the retirement of his older brother, Don Harp.

Gerald Harp was instrumental in selling the 70-year-old company to its employees in 2001, according to his obituary. He gave 10% of his share of the sale to the company’s long-term employees.

James Modisette, 88, Nov. 3 — Modisette, former chair of the accounting department at the University of Arkansas, died Nov. 3 in Fayetteville. He was 88.

Modisette joined the accounting department in 1963 as an assistant professor. He retired in 1996. He succeeded Nolan Williams as department head in 1971 and served until 1985, according to the UA.

Terry Siebenmorgen, 63, Nov. 22 — Siebenmorgen was an international leader in rice research. He served as distinguished professor and director of the University of Arkansas Rice Processing Program, which he started in 1994. Siebenmorgen began his faculty career at the UA in 1984 as a food engineer, working in several areas of food processing. A native of Scranton (Logan County), he was inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2019.

Candy Clark, 64, Dec. 4 — Clark was a Washington County Quorum Court member for six years (2009-2014) and served on the Fayetteville Planning Commission in 2003. Clark ran as a Democrat for the District 12 seat on the Washington County Quorum Court in 2020 but withdrew from the race in September, citing serious personal illness.

Clark unsuccessfully ran for the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2014. Incumbent Charlie Collins (R) defeated her 58% to 42%.

Clark also was the first executive director of the Humane Society of the Ozarks, where she created its fundraiser, the Dogwood Walk.

Clark was co-owner of Fayetteville business C&C Services, a commercial and industrial cleaning service.

Collins Haynes, 70, Dec. 8 — Haynes, an architect by trade, relocated from Memphis to Rogers in 1980. His reputation was bolstered by his work as a developer in Rogers’ Pinnacle Hills area. He was instrumental in the design and development of Pinnacle Point and Metro Park office parks. He was also instrumental in the Springwoods development in west Fayetteville.

Haynes was an original partner in real estate investment group The Pinnacle Group and the original developer of Pinnacle Point, along with Dave Watson. The rest of the Pinnacle Group investors bought into the firm later. Bill Schwyhart invested in 1999, while J.B. Hunt, Tim Graham and Robert Thornton joined in 2003. Haynes sold his interests in The Pinnacle Group the following year.