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PEA RIDGE -- Former mayor, businessman and director on the Arvest Bank Pea Ridge board of directors John Easley died Friday.

"John has been and will continue to be Pea Ridge," Jeff Neil, president of the Arvest Bank, Pea Ridge.

Easley served on the board of the bank for more than 40 years. He was appointed to the bank board by Sam Walton. Neil said that after he and other Arvest officials done some checking, "we believe he is the longest serving member on any Arvest board of directors."

Carl Baggett, president and chief executive officer of the bank from 1972-1975, said: "As a banker, John Easley was one of the best kind of people you could possibly pick to be director of a small bank in a small town.

"He was well respected, well liked ... he was ideal. At some point in time, John actually ran the bank for a while. Of course, he was a perfect fit and the bank certainly prospered," Baggett said, adding "Robbie and I were personal friends with June and John.

"He was the perfect small town, small bank director because of his character and business sense," Baggett said.

"John is one of the men who built this community," Neil said. "Not only did he build this community, but he was an instrumental part of it. There were many kids who didn't have to worry about a flat tire because John Easley gave them credit."

"In general the thing that stands out about John, he was a walking encyclopedia about Pea Ridge," Greg Stanfill, Regional Director of Community banks for Arvest, said. "He was always telling stories in our board meetings about something from the past -- school, city. He was on the committee that helped build the original football field, on the committee that raised money to get that thing built, he actually worked at the bank in the 1960s.

"He was just a good man. He was kind, when we built the new bank there and we tore down the old building and we were building the new building and working out of a trailer, John came every day and basically greeted customers and helped steer them in the right direction -- he was kind of our concierge when we were in that trailer. We always appreciated him doing that. He was one a kind," Stanfill said, adding that he's been going to the board meetings at Pea Ridge for 20 years.

Easley owned White's Auto, later Ace Hardware, for 43 years, served on the City Council from 1996 until 2002 and served as mayor from 1965-1966. He also served on the Pea Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

Former mayor Mary (Rogers) Durand, said of Easley: "He was such a good and faithful citizens of the city. I hate that we have lost another one of the old-timers. We're losing history. We're losing patriotism to our country, state and city.

"I just feel like it's a great loss to Pea Ridge," Durand, who also serves on the Pea Ridge Historical Society, said. "When he came to historical society meetings, he was a wealth of information about the school and the city."

Current mayor Jackie Crabtree praised Easley.

"Where do I start? He was a businessman, council member, mayor, friend!

"What is there you can say that John didn't do for our community. He was an amazing individual and his contributions helped us get to here we are today," Crabtree said.

"Many people obviously don't realize how much he helped individuals and families," Crabtree said, referring to Easley giving credit at his store to help young families get established. "There's no telling how many people that man has touched!"

John and June Easley were honored as grand marshals of the 57th annual Pea Ridge Fair Parade in 2007.

Both natives of Pea Ridge, John Easley and June Stroud attended Pea Ridge schools and were married May 25, 1951.

Together, they opened White's Auto Store in December 1963 in the 1928 building on the southwest corner of North Curtis Avenue and West Pickens Road. Over the years, the store expanded west into the other adjacent buildings. In 1985, the business changed from White's Home and Auto Store to Ace Hardware and in 1988, the Easleys built a lumber barn on the south portion of the property.

Since its establishment in 1936, 13 men and one woman have served the city as mayor. There are four surviving mayors.

Annette Beard may be reached by email at [email protected]

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