Notable Deaths of 2009

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 28, 2009 12:00 am  

Marty Roenigk, 66, a former chairman and CEO of Maryland's CompuDyne Corp. who with his wife restored two historic Eureka Springs hotels, died June 18 in an auto crash in Iowa. More than 500 people gathered at his Crescent Hotel & Spa, where he lived, to eulogize him. He and his wife, Elise, also owned the Basin Park Hotel and War Eagle Mill, in Rogers.

July

Andree Layton Roaf, 68, who entered law school at age 34 and rose to become the first black woman on the Arkansas Supreme Court and then the Arkansas Court of Appeals, died July 1 after collapsing at her Little Rock office. The mother of National Football League all-pro tackle Willie Roaf, the one-time bacteriologist impressed Gov. Jim Guy Tucker with her "very quiet, methodical way," and in 1995 he named her the second woman ever to serve on the state's Supreme Court. After her term, Gov. Mike Huckabee appointed her to the Court of Appeals.

Leroy Donald Jr., 73, a longtime Little Rock reporter who wrote the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's weekly "Everybody's Business" column, died July 2. The jazz lover once produced and performed in the biennial Farkleberry Follies, a send-up of Arkansas politicians.

E. Lynn Harris, 54, who drew upon his race (black) and sexuality (gay) to give voice to 12 books with more than 4 million copies in print, unexpectedly died July 23 of heart disease. A former journalism student and cheerleader at the University of Arkansas, he began writing in his mid-30s while working as a computer salesman. He self-published and sold copies out of his car until he was discovered and became, as The New York Times wrote in his obituary, "one of the nation's most popular writers," with 10 consecutive books on the Times best-seller list.

August

Frank E. Robins III, 80, who for 35 years owned and published the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway, died Aug. 29. The Korean War veteran and former president of the Arkansas Press Association touched every facet of civic life in Conway, serving on the city's first planning commission in the 1950s and, for 23 years, on the Conway Corp. Board of Directors, where he was chairman for 21 years.

September

Wayne Hartsfield, 74, a former chairman of Regions Bank at Searcy and former chairman, president and CEO of First National Bank of Searcy, died Sept. 3. He spent his entire 39-year banking career at the same bank, spent four of his 17 years on the Arkansas Board of Education as chairman, and was a past president of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

Ron Blasingame, 60, a founder of Whole Hog Café of Little Rock, died Sept. 21 of multiple organ failure while awaiting a liver transplant. The former Marine dropped out of a sales job to make award-winning barbecue that he then licensed to another dozen locations in several states.

October

William "Bill" McArthur, 71, a criminal defense attorney wrongfully swept up in the investigation into his wife's 1982 murder, died Oct. 3 after collapsing outside his Little Rock apartment. In 1981, the brilliant courtroom lawyer defended Mary Orsini, on trial for the murder of her husband; Orsini then hired two men to kill Alice McArthur in her home and said she conspired with the attorney to do so. Bill McArthur was arrested in his wife's murder, but a grand jury refused to indict. Orsini was convicted of masterminding the whole scheme and died in prison.

 

 

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