BY LEANN DILBECK –
Local businessman and philanthropist Ed Stevenson was laid to rest Friday, August 4, following a service in which he was honored for his devotion to his family, friends, and community. Although a member of Christ Community Fellowship, the funeral services were held at Grace Bible Church to accommodate the scores of people who wanted to pay tribute to a man who had spent his life giving back to the county in which he was grateful to have spent his life.
Stevenson was known as a devoted family man, a businessman who had worked in the timber/sawmill industry as well as radio and banking, not to mention, an avid Razorback fan. More notably, Stevenson was remembered as a very generous man who remained humble, never forgetting his roots. Sub-stations, gyms, and reception halls all bear his family’s name, as well as countless scholarships awarded each year, all serving as reminders of the family’s generosity and investment into the people of a small, rural western Arkansas county.
Grandchildren, Drew, Grant, and Katherine, each read scripture from Ecclesiastes 3:1-7, Jeremiah 17:7-8, and II Timothy 4:6b-8, followed by a tribute from Stevenson’s oldest son, Phil, who shared that Stevenson was born as an only child in Hatton in 1936. His father owned Hatton Lumber Company. His mother worked at the lumber mill and ran a store the family owned in town. Stevenson started his education in a little two-room school, attending first to fifth grade in Hatton. He would later graduate from Van-Cove High School in 1954 and attend the University of Arkansas to earn a Business Administration degree. There, he also served as editor and sports editor of the Arkansas Traveler newspaper. In 1960, Ed married the love of his life, Dorothy Ann Spratlin of DeWitt, Arkansas. He would then join his family’s timber business, Hatton Lumber Company, which had been established by his father and grandfather in 1932. Phil shared that in a world full of contracts, his father had shared with him the importance of a simple handshake and giving someone your word in business transactions.
Stevenson and his parents operated Hatton Lumber Company until 1987. He continued his involvement in the Polk County timber industry for the remainder of his life by expanding Stevenson Tree Farms, founded by his father in 1944. In 1987, Stevenson purchased KENA radio station and operated it until 1999 upon its sale.
In 1973, Ed was elected to the Board of Directors of the Union Bank of Mena, which began his 44-year involvement with the bank. In 1988 he was elected Chairman of the Board when he and a group of local businessmen purchased the bank in an effort to keep the bank locally owned. Ed remained Chairman of the Union Bank and Union Bankshares until 2016 when he became Senior Chairman.
Union Bank President Phillip Hensley shared with The Pulse his respect for Stevenson, “I knew Ed from the day I was born… almost 60 years. I was around him when he was first associated with First National Bank and for the past 17 years as co-workers at Union Bank. When I had to make tough decisions, I knew I could always count on him to have my back. He was a joy to be around at the bank. He truly loved being associated with Union Bank and was proud to be a part of our team. I will miss him as a co-worker, but more as a great friend.”