Gene Franklin Stewart, age 71, died Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in Batesville, Arkansas of complications from surgery.
He was born at Batesville on November 12, 1942 and was the son of Russell and Alice (Linebarger) Stewart, who preceded him in death.
He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Paula Brent Stewart; his sister, Sandra Stewart Jenkins and her husband, Bill Young; his nieces and nephews, Derick Jenkins and wife Sharon, Amanda Jenkins Cothren and husband Russell, Josh Jenkins and wife Katie, Laura Jenkins Caldwell and husband Justin, Melody Cagle Qualls and husband Bo; and eight great-nieces and nephews. He is also survived by his favorite dog, Toot, and Chocolate, Julie, Pumpkin, Chevy, Sweetie and Deamer; and his cats, Bo Diddly and Little Bo.
Gene graduated from Oil Trough High School in 1959 and attended Harding University and Arkansas State Teachers College (now UCA).
Gene was deejay and news director at KBTA in Batesville and KCON in Conway, then the “Mighty 1090, 50,000 watts KAAY in Little Rock,” where he was Gene Stewart to music fans and Frank Woods, news director to Comex News.
Early on, Gene developed a keen interest in police, fire and emergency work and flying. He was a firefighter for the Batesville and Conway fire departments and a first responder for the J&J Ambulance Service of Conway.
Gene was a graduate of the Little Rock Police Recruit School No. 25. He was the police and fire reporter, a producer, writer and news editor for Eyewitness News 4, KARK, and a reporter for the Sky 4 Eyewitness News helicopter. In 1977, Gene left Channel 4 to accept the job as patrol sergeant and information officer for the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department. For several years, Gene flew the daily traffic watch over Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County in all types of weather. The reports were carried on several Little Rock area radio stations, and “Sgt. Gene’s” air traffic reports were depended on by thousands of motorists.
In the 1980s he went back to his police reporting job at Channel 4.
Gene was also a former news director of the WRD Entertainment group of radio stations.
Gene received numerous awards for his reporting and video production. Working with his longtime friend and fellow photographer and Channel 4 chief photographer, Lewis Short, they took home a first place national award for a video produced for the Arkansas State Police promoting traffic safety.
Gene was a former vice president of the Humane Society of Pulaski County, a current member of the board of directors of the Humane Society of Independence County and was recognized by the Arkansas Veterinary Association for his work to help homeless and helpless animals.
At one point Gene was selected as police officer of the month for a unique program he designed, making it easier for emergency personnel to obtain medical information about a patient at the scene of a medical emergency. The information was placed in a container called the “vial of life” and was put in a common spot in homes.
At one time Gene had more than 50,000 of the vials in homes and businesses in the central Arkansas area. They were actually plastic vials, parts of equipment donated (recycled) by the V.A. Hospital. This turned out to be one of the early recycling programs.
Gene was also the first nationally certified legal video specialist in Arkansas with training in Nashville, Tenn., Kansas City, Mo., and Chicago, Ill.
He once was selected to produce a music program with Jimmy Driftwood featuring Mountain View “mountain-type” music. It was played around the world on the “Voice of America.” Gene was a local reporter for the Associated Press and United Press International.
Gene was selected to fly to New York and, with a group of reporters and dignitaries, met the Concorde Supersonic Jetliner when it flew in from England and flew back to Arkansas on it, documenting the flight on video for a travel agency which sponsored the trip.
While working at KARK, Gene founded Gene Stewart Video, a tv news clipping, media tracking and video production service. At the time of his death, he was working on plans for an internet radio station.
It was Gene’s wish to be cremated. At his request, there will be no visitation and no funeral service.
Memorials may be made in his memory to the Humane Society of Independence County, PO Box 3477, Batesville, AR 72503
Arrangements are by Roller-Crouch Funeral Home of Batesville.