NEWKIRK, OKLA. — Robert Charles Rodgers, Sr., passed peacefully into eternity with his Heavenly Father on January 31, 2014, at his home in Newkirk. He was 88.
The ninth of ten surviving children, two siblings having died in infancy, Robert was born June 9, 1925, on the Jefferson/Lincoln county line near the town of Tarry, Ark., the son of William A. and Roberta (Bertrand) Rodgers.
He was raised on a large cotton farm where his father was manager of production which included several “sharecropper” families. While attending Star City Schools, he was 15 when he started driving the school bus, a Ford Model T truck converted to a bus, on which the water had to be drained each night in winter since antifreeze was not yet produced. He served as bus driver, and he graduated in 1943 after completing the 11th grade.
Robert was extremely proud of his heritage and compiled a book listing the history of his paternal Rodgers family and his maternal Bertrand family. Ancestors include top aide-de-camp to Napoleon Bonaparte who followed Napoleon to both exiles. Key figures in territorial Arkansas included the first Caucasian woman and first Caucasian child born in Little Rock, then a French/Indian trading post, and the first mayor of Little Rock. After high school Robert remained on the farm until receiving the call from his country as he was drafted into the Army during World War II.
He trained at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, AR. and was shipped to Co. L, 411 Regiment, 103rd Infantry Division. While serving in the Rhineland, Central Europe campaign, he was wounded and spent the rest of the war at hospitals in England. Decorations and Citations included European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon with 2 Bronze Stars, WWII Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Purple Heart and 2 Overseas Bars. He was Honorably Discharged May 17, 1946. After returning to Arkansas he joined the accounting department for Arkansas Power and Light Company in Pine Bluff. Offices were located at the time in the Simmons First National Bank building, and he soon caught the eye of bank-teller Mildred Woodfield. They were married on February 11, 1950 in Pine Bluff, and the honeymoon lasted until her death May 26, 2010.
Robert was an avid gardener, growing and canning much of the vegetables they consumed during the year. He and Mildred also made quilts with Mildred piecing the tops and Robert doing the quilting. They made dozens of beautiful quilts for family and friends. He also liked to fish and was very active in his church, serving on the Session and as Music Director. His very special activity was singing Shaped Note Gospel Music.
He had, as a youth, learned to sing and read shaped notes through a Stamp-Baxter Publishing Company Singing School. He was in a gospel quartet that sang at various venues and served as President of the Arkansas Gospel Singing Convention. After moving to Newkirk in 2006, he and his wife were members of the First United Methodist Church of Newkirk, and he sang with the chancel choir.
Robert is survived by one son and daughter-in-law, Robert (Bob) , Jr. and Sarah Rodgers of Newkirk, three grandchildren, Rosalie and Steve Maltby of Norman, Spc. James Rodgers, 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Humphrey, S. Korea, and Thomas Rodgers of Newkirk; and two great-grandchildren, Jonathan and Adrienne Maltby of Norman. He was preceeded in death by Mildred, his wife of 60 years; parents; and five brothers and four sisters and two infant siblings.
Graveside services will be Friday, February 7, 2014, at 1:30 p.m. in Shell Chapel Cemetery by Ralph Robinson & Son Funeral Directors with Mr. Roger Glover officiating. The family will receive friends at Robinson’s Thursday evening from 5:00-7:30 p.m. Memorial may take the form of contributions to the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 3110 Highway 425, Pine Bluff, Arkansas 71601. Online register: www.ralphrobinsonandson.com.