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Former Van Buren Mayor Gene Bell dies at age 89

Bell served one term on the Van Buren City Council and then went on to serve as Mayor of Van Buren from 1978-1990.

VAN BUREN, Ark. — Former Van Buren Mayor Robert Eugene “Gene” Bell has passed away at age 89.

According to his obituary, Bell passed away on Feb. 20, 2021.

He 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. 

He 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. 

Bell 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 two years and was also co-owner of Williams Florist & Gifts in Van Buren for over 30 years.

According to his obituary, Bell 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.

According to his obituary, the one piece of advice he kept sharing in his last days was “if you can do something for someone, do it.”

Funeral services will be 10 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 25, 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.

The family will visit with relatives and friends Wednesday, Feb. 24 from 4-6 p.m. 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, the family asks that you please wear your mask if you plan to attend. 

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