Obituaries

Robert Deaton

Robert has departed his Earth. Robert had many, many friends flung far across the Globe. He had a generous and loving heart, and his presence and effervescence will be missed. Robert was fortunate enough to pass in his own home among many that cared about and for him.

Robert was seldom lonely in his home in Old Washington, Arkansas with many who traveled great distances to see him regularly. Robert was born on February 4, 1939 in Arkadelphia, Arkansas to B.L. and Kate Hasley Deaton. Though tragically orphaned at the age of 10, Robert, a descendent of early settlers in South Arkansas was proud of his family heritage and appreciated the kindness of his sister, Doris Deaton Thomas, and the H.W. McMillan family who, among others, took him in and raised him as one of their own. Within these environments, Robert was able to express his immense creativity in Curtis and Arkadelphia, later pursuing his love of dance, theater, and art.

After attending Henderson State Teachers College and Ouachita Baptist University pursuing dance and theater, he honed his skills in a Master’s Program at the University of Michigan where he focused his education on television, directing and acting. Homesick, Robert soon found himself back in Arkansas where he began working as Associate Director at a state foundation for developmentally disabled children. It was within this capacity that he worked tirelessly to help establish the first summer camp in Arkansas for developmentally challenged children.

After working with the foundation, Robert moved to Russellville where he worked for the Arkansas Cultural Enrichment Program and directed plays throughout the Arkansas River Valley. With the support of Governor and later Senator Dale Bumpers, and his wife Betty, he led cultural enrichment tours throughout Europe.

In 1970, Robert moved to Little Rock and taught theater at Central and Parkview High Schools. In 1972, he married Susan Pfeifer, the love of his life, and devoted himself to her and his stepson, Brad Sherman. In 1975, he founded the Stanton Road School, a private school based in inclusivity. The school emphasized the visual and performing arts and recruited teachers from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, and UA Opera Theatre. Robert spent several summers studying with Lee Strasberg at The Actor’s Studio in New York and Los Angeles.

In 1989, Robert moved to Maui and taught Speech and Theater at the University of Hawaii and worked with Bill Clinton on his first presidential campaign. He returned to Little Rock in 1991 and continued his career as a political fundraiser. Retiring in 1998 to Old Washington, Arkansas, Robert continued casting and raising funds for various films, Broadway productions and progressive politicians as well as teaching theater at the University of Arkansas at Hope. Robert was part of a very tight knit community in Old Washington of both friends and caregivers.

Throughout his life, Robert championed education and progressive politics as the keys to improving his beloved Arkansas. Robert chaired the first inaugural ball for Governor Dale Bumpers. He worked tirelessly to advance issues such as civil rights, arts in education, AIDS research and treatment, and Planned Parenthood. Robert loved Democratic politics, the arts, travel, entertaining, and beautiful things. He extolled others to “use your good silver every day!” Robert collected people and beautiful objects and loved being surrounded by both in his home.

Robert said many times that what made him happy was making other people happy. If you were fortunate enough to be in his orbit, your life most certainly would never be the same.

Robert is survived by his beloved stepson Brad Sherman, his wife, Chris, and their family.  He is also survived by nieces Janice Deaton Shirey, Anne Thomas Buck, and Kay Thomas Graham and nephew Larry Thomas and their families. Robert adored his god-daughter, Megan Delamar Schroeder.

The family would like to express so much gratitude to those who supported and cared for Robert in his life and retirement including Julia Peck Mobley, David McMillen, Stephen Brown, and Tim Orchard.  Heartfelt thanks to Mike Malek, Mary Stutten, Julie Roberts, and the devoted staff who cared for Robert in his home.

A private burial will be held at Richwoods Cemetery in Curtis, Arkansas under the direction of Herndon-Fuqua Funeral Home Hope. A celebration of Robert’s life will be held at a safer time to gather in Little Rock.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Southwest Arkansas Arts Council or the Arkansas Arts Center.

During this season of social distancing we invite you to express your public condolences at www.herndonfuquafuneralhomes.com or private Letters of Love at www.herndonfuquafuneralhomes.com/page/letters-of-love.

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