Robert Eugene “Gene” Bell was born on September 6, 1931. He went to be with his Lord and Savior on February 20, 2021. He was preceded in death by his wife of almost 60 years, Betty Jo Bell, his parents, Joseph Fletcher Bell and Mary Elizabeth Bell. He is survived by his four daughters, Debbie (Dan) Deffenbaugh, Barbie (Scott) Curtis, Terri (Ralph) Little, and Robbie Spoon. He is survived by eight grandchildren, Drew (Brandi) Deffenbaugh, Dawn (Josh) Nichols, Danielle (Chris) Ross, Joshua (Sara) Curtis, Morgan Mullens, Jordan Curtis, Tyler (Sarah) Spoon & Malorie (Ryan) Pearson. He is also survived by seven great grandchildren: Lilly Deffenbaugh, Presley Nichols, Anna Belle Deffenbaugh, Kinley Nichols, Sadie Deffenbaugh, Kylie & Kade, Scarlett Jo Spoon, and Aaron Bryant Curtis-due in a couple of weeks. Gene was preceded in death by his brothers, Johnny Bell, Jim Bell and Carl Bell. Gene is survived by one sister, Mary Coble.
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Gene was a 1949 graduate of Van Buren High School and attended Fort Smith Community College until he joined the US Navy from 1951-1955. He was a Korean War Veteran. Gene was an accountant for Evans Coal Company in Fort Smith before going into business with his best friend, Earl Robinson as Robinson-Bell, Inc. He was also Vice-President & Cashier of People’s Bank. He served one term on the Van Buren City Council and then went on to serve as mayor of Van Buren from 1978-1990. Following his role as mayor, he then became the director of the Crawford Sebastian Community Development Council. He served as City Clerk treasurer for 2 years and was also co-owner of Williams Florist & Gifts in Van Buren for over 30 years.
Gene has served his community in many ways including:
Deacon & Chairman of the deacons at First Baptist Church, and served on most every committee at the church at some point in his lifetime.
Executive Board at Arkansas Baptist State Convention & its Board of Directors
Past President of the Crawford County board of Realtors & Realtor of the year in 1971. He was also one of the first graduates of GRI (Graduate Realtor Institute)
Member & past president of the Lion’s Club, board of directors and Department District Governor of Lion’s Club. He received his 50 year pin in 2014 and was awarded the Melvin Jones Fellow in 2016
Van Buren Boys Club board Member and treasurer
Van Buren United Way fund drive and past chairman of the board
Van Buren School Board (Secretary for 5 years)
He was the recipient of the Iverson Riggs Citizen of the year Award in 1990
He was inducted into the Van Buren High School Hall of Fame in 2002
Served as President of the Arkansas Municipal League and served on many boards including the MHBF Board from its inception
Awarded Van Buren’s Living Legend of Crawford County in 1995
Served on the Civil Service Commission for 25 years
Served on the hospital board (Crawford Memorial) for 27 years and served as Chairman of that board for 6 years.
Of all the honors Gene was given, his greatest honor was being a husband to his sweet Betty Jo and daddy to his 4 girls and being Grandpa and Great Grandpa! Gene was probably the most giving and generous man, and if you ever saw him in a restaurant, he probably picked up your ticket a time or two. He loved his country, his city, his many “adopted” sons & daughters, friends, colleagues, and most of all his family. He has set the standard high by showing us what true integrity, leadership, and sacrifice looks like. He always took care of others first! But most importantly, he modeled what it looked like to walk by faith in Jesus Christ every day.
The one piece of advice he kept sharing in his last days was “if you can do something for someone, do it.” Our prayer is that we will be able to carry on the amazing legacy he has left to each of us as his family.
Funeral services will be 10AM, Thursday, February 25, 2021 at First Baptist Church Sanctuary in Van Buren with burial to follow at Gracelawn Cemetery under the direction of Ocker Funeral Home in Van Buren.
Pallbearers will be Drew Deffenbaugh, Josh Nichols, Joshua Curtis, Jordan Curtis, Ryan Pearson, Tyler Spoon and Chris Ross.
Family will visit with relatives and friends Wednesday, February 24, 2021 from 4-6PM at the First Baptist Church in Van Buren.
Memorials are designated to Open Hands Ministry, First Baptist Church 1121 East Main, Van Buren Arkansas 72956
Due to the COVID-19 cases, please wear your mask, your cooperation would be greatly appreciated.