Thomas Shea


DUMAS––Mr. Thomas McKennon “Ken” Shea, 58, a prominent Dumas civic, agricultural and business leader, died Thursday, November 29, 2012, at St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock.

Born August 9, 1954, in Dumas, he was the son of the late Thomas Francis “Tommy” Shea Jr. and Matsy Warrick Shea.

A lifelong Dumas resident, he was a 1972 graduate of Dumas High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University, where he was a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity. He remained active with the fraternity and had recently attended the LSU chapter’s 125th anniversary celebration in Baton Rouge, La.

Mr. Shea returned to Dumas after graduating from LSU to become associated with his father at McKennon Implement Co. Inc, the family’s John Deere farm equipment dealership, and served as president and sales manager there while helping to oversee his family’s farming interests.

Following the sale of the McKennon dealerships in Dumas and McGehee to Arkansas Ag in 2011, he was Location Manager for Arkansas Ag in McGehee. He was a past president of the Southeast Equipment Dealers Association.

Mr. Shea is past president of the Dumas Chamber of Commerce, Dumas Lions Club, Walnut Lake Country Club Board and is past chairman of the First United Methodist Church Administrative Board, where he was a member of the governing council and a Sunday School teacher.

An Eagle Scout, he had been active in Boy Scout leadership.

He was well-known as a cook for a variety of civic and church events ranging from the Methodist Men’s Pancake Breakfast at Ding Dong Days to chamber fund raisers.

Mr. Shea was also an accomplished pilot, serving as chairman of the Dumas Airport Commission, and was instrumental in developing Billy Free Memorial Airport. He had also served on the Chicot-Desha Metropolitan Port Authority (Yellow Bend Port) and on the Dumas School Board and represented the Dumas area on the Southeast Arkansas Levee District Board.

He was a board member of the Southeast Arkansas Levee District and Drainage District No. 5 and had been a member of the AgHeritage Farm Credit Services Board of Directors since 1993. He represented the Southern Region for AgHeritage FCS and had served on the organization’s Member Relations Committee and the Audit Committee.

A former co-chair of the annual Farmers Appreciation Barbecue during the Ding Dong Days Festival, Mr. Shea was chosen as the Ding Dong Daddy of Dumas for 1996.

Chairman of the Dumas Economic Development Committee, he was a member of the chamber’s board of directors and was named Dumas Lions Club Man of the Year in 1993, the same year his wife Debbie was honored as Woman of the Year at the annual Dumas Chamber of Commerce banquet.

Mr. Shea had been co-chair of the DeshaForward economic development effort in partnership with the Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED), based out of the University of Central Arkansas’ Division of Academic Outreach, and Connect Arkansas, a private, non-profit group seeking to implement a community-based initiative that will link all Arkansans, especially in rural areas, to the Internet.

He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Debra Wolfe “Debbie” Shea of Dumas; one son, the Rev. Thomas McKennon Shea Jr. and wife Anna Collins Shea of Durham, N.C.; one daughter, Sarah Helen Shea Studebaker and husband Peyton Mills Studebaker of Richmond, Va.; one brother, William Warrick “Bill” Shea of Dumas; one sister, Anne Shea Carroll of Fripp Island, S.C.; and two grandchildren, Jackson Reade Studebaker of Richmond, Va., and Thomas McKennon “Mac” Shea III of Durham, N.C.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, December 2, at the First United Methodist Church in Dumas with the Rev. Buddy Ratliff and the Rev. Tandy Hanson officiating.

Burial will follow at Walnut Lake Cemetery in Pickens with arrangements by Griffin Funeral Home of Dumas.

Memorials made be made to the Dumas First United Methodist Church, 230 Court Street, Dumas, AR 71639, Delta Area Community Foundation, P.O. Box 894, Dumas, AR 71639 and Arkansas Children’s Hospital, P.O. Box 2222, Little Rock, AR 72203.