With his wife and his family at his side, beloved husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, William Arthur Dunning, 97 years old, went to be with his heavenly family on May 10, 2017. Arthur was born on August 16, 1919 in Corning, Arkansas.
Arthur was preceded in death by his dearly beloved granddaughter Kelly; his father Thomas and his mother Sidney; and his siblings Corey, Eulis, Charlie, Juanita, Loren, and Cozette.
Arthur is survived by his wife of 71 years, Neva Ruth Coonce Dunning; his four sons Thomas – wife Linda, William – wife Sue, Stanley, and Jerry. Arthur’s surviving grandchildren are Bill’s children Lisa – husband Mark, Blaine, and Stacie – partner Jeff; Arthur’s grandson-in-law Tony, Kelly’s surviving husband; Stan’s children Cody – wife Athena, Angela – husband Homer, and Melissa – husband Stephen; and Jerry’s daughter Jessica.
Arthur’s step-grandchildren are Tom’s step-daughter Amy – husband Tim; and Bill’s step-son Tom and step-daughter Jenny.
Arthur’s great-grandchildren are Lisa’s and Mark’s children Alexandria, Matthew, and Gabriela; Stacie’s children Benjamin, Lindsay – husband Nate, and Novalee; Kelly’s and Tony’s children Brenden and Kayla; Cody’s and Athena’s daughters Olivia and Autumn; Angie’s and Homer’s daughters Emily, Lexi, and Zoe; and Jessica’s daughter Analysa.
Arthur’s step-great-grandchildren are Amy’s son Orion and Amy’s and Tim’s daughter Paige; and Jenny’s daughter Victoria.
Arthur’s great-great-grandchildren are Alex’s children Payton and Cooper; and Lindsay’s and Nate’s daughter Eden.
Arthur grew up farming. As a boy he was said to be the fastest runner on the Big T, a local road of renown. He both chopped and picked cotton, able to pick over 500 pounds in a day.
When Arthur was in the seventh grade, his father, Tom, was killed in a farm accident. Arthur left school and started working to help provide for his family, from field labor to share-cropping.
Then something wonderful happened. Arthur and Ruth met one another (on the Big T) and fell in love. They considered marriage, but World War II started and they decided to wait until Arthur came back from the war.
While Ruth worked in a factory, Arthur sailed to the South Pacific, becoming an Army combat engineer in General MacArthur’s command. His regiment built air strips through New Guinea and the Philippines. The enemy bombers’ number one target was the air strips. As the Army fought its way through, Arthur won and was awarded FOUR Bronze Star Medals. But in the Philippines Arthur contracted both malaria and dengue fever. After coming home from the war, he still felt their effects.
But Ruth was waiting for him. They were married on July 4, 1945 at Corning, Arkansas. They began their life together in St. Louis, Missouri, where Arthur assembled Chevrolets at the General Motors plant. Their son Tom was born in St. Louis, but they wanted to go home and moved to Doniphan, Missouri, where Bill, Stan and Jerry were born.
Arthur trained as an auto mechanic under the G.I. Bill and worked on cars for years. Ruth worked in the local shoe factory. They bought a 20–acre piece of land, with a house, fields, and woods, east of Doniphan – the home place. Life was good there, with squirrel hunting, swimming in the creek, big chicken dinners with relatives, snow ice cream in the winter, and lightning bugs and whip-poor-will calls in the summer.
But Arthur was still ill from the war, and the VA doctors recommended moving to a warm, dry climate. Arthur’s second-cousin, Gertie, and her husband, Luther, lived in Scottsdale, Arizona, so Arthur and Ruth sold the home place, bought a trailer, and moved with the boys to Scottsdale. Gertie and Luther welcomed the whole family, helping so generously they became as beloved as close family.
Arthur eventually went to work for the Scottsdale Schools Maintenance Department, where he remained until his retirement from being the Master Mason for the Department. Ruth worked at various jobs through the years. And the boys grew from kids to teens to young men.
In 1964 Luther told Arthur and Ruth about a large lot for sale at a good price in east Mesa. They bought the lot, moved their trailer to it, and, through time, built the house they have lived in ever since.
Through the years the boys grew up, left home, married, and had children of their own. Then came the grandchildren, the great-grandchildren, and the great-great-grandchildren. Arthur and Ruth loved the little children, and each generation was warmed by the light of their love.
After Arthur retired, he and Ruth bought a summer cabin in Pine, Arizona, and the children came each summer for fishing, swimming in the East Verde, and the cool days and nights among the whispering pines. Arthur and Ruth loved their summers at the cabin.
As they entered their eighties, the trips back and forth were just too much for Arthur and Ruth, and they lived year-round in Mesa. With their grandson, Blaine, taking care of them in these later years, Arthur and Ruth celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary and a lifetime of love, sharing, partnership, and giving on July 4, 2015.
To their family, Arthur and Ruth will be forever first in their hearts. Their unlimited love and care have helped and healed each and every person in the family.
Arthur will be remembered as the man who always and ever took care of his family, no matter what was needed. We will cherish and miss him, with love and respect, in our hearts and minds, as long as it shall be our portion to live on this earth, until we are joyfully reunited with him and Kelly in Heaven.
Visitation will be on Monday, May 15, 2017, from 5-8:00 pm at Mountain View Funeral Home Chapel, 7900 E Main St., Mesa, AZ (480-832-2850). Arthur’s memorial service will be on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at 10:00 am at Mountain View Funeral Home.