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Stephen "Steve" Owen Stephens

of Little Rock, AR, 1930 - 2021

STEVE STEPHENS departed this life on Friday, January 29, 2021. This is his story and his obituary.
Throughout his lifetime, Steve was known for his distinctive voice, which he used to narrate countless radio and television commercials, film documentaries and video tributes. In his early days in radio as "The Voice Of The White River Valley" at KNBY in Newport, he earned his first-class radiotelephone operator certificate in order to operate his own control board without an engineer being present.
Later, as the host and producer of "Steve's Show", a popular television program in the late '50s and early '60s, he was seen for almost a decade on the Little Rock television affiliate of the CBS television network. He was also the 6 and 10 o'clock weatherman and reputed to be the first TV weatherman in the U.S. to show Santa Claus on Radar entering the state on Christmas Eve. He took Arkansas television viewers on the first filmed tour of the Governor's Mansion with then First Lady Alta Faubus. During his television career, he was voted "Arkansas' Top Television Personality."
At the invitation of U.S. Senior Senator John McClellan, he left television to join the Senator's staff in Washington as his Special Assistant in charge of media relations, where he was instrumental in introducing new television techniques to the Senator's political campaigns. He was later elected founding vice president of the U.S. Senate Press Secretaries Association.
Following his Washington tenure, he returned to Arkansas, where he founded his own advertising, public relations and travel agency. It was during this time that he also became Chairman of the Arkansas Chapter of the Partners of the Americans, leading delegations to hemispheric conferences in Lima, Peru, San Jose, Costa Rica, and La Paz, Bolivia, where he met individually with the Presidents of each of those countries to initiate humanitarian missions between Arkansas and their countries.
10 years later, after selling his companies, he became a licensed investment banking principal. During this time, he was approached by financier Jack Stephens to become a member of his personal staff as director of communications, and later assistant to the Chairman of the Board of Stephens Inc. His duties also included serving as a governmental representative for the firm in Washington, D.C. alongside Vernon Weaver, who became Ambassador to the European Economic Union in Belgium. Later, he was named the president of Stephens Entertainment, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Stephens, Inc., managing investments for various entertainment figures, including actor Burt Reynolds and industry executives in Hollywood. His admiration and respect for Jack Stephens continued throughout the rest of his life.
Steve was a true renaissance man with an adventurous spirit, who took a peripatetic stroll through life, maintaining an interest in a variety of professional and community causes.
He founded the Little Rock Motion Picture and Television Commission (now known as ICE), was Chairman of the Little Rock City Beautiful Commission, and was a founding member of the Mayor's Commission on Tourism. His varied interests included broadcasting, advertising, public relations, tennis (he was a member of the 1999 National Men's Senior Doubles Tennis Championship team), photography (he was a member of the Freelance Photographers Hall of Fame), a historical buff, and a world traveler who, as he was fond of saying, was on a never-ending search for what he facetiously called, "The meaning of life."
Steve had many friends and a family who loved him for his wit, wisdom, generosity, and kindness. Hopefully, he will be remembered as a man who was blessed with a genuine nature, leading him to friendships in many walks of life. Once, when asked about his legion of friends and acquaintances he said, "I've always tried to make friends before I've needed them."
Later in life, he created and co-produced with his longtime friend Clyde Snider, a highly acclaimed radio series, "Biography Arkansas," as well as a newspaper column "Notable Arkansans, "and was honored by a retrospective of his television and broadcasting career by the Little Rock Central Library System, which showcased his work in television and radio. Although he was known for his public relations persona, he once said that when he walked into a recording studio, he felt as if he had returned home. Out of gratitude for what broadcasting had done for him, he created and endowed the "Golden Mike" award at UALR's School of Mass Communication.
He was inducted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Walk of Fame, alongside General Wesley Clark, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, former President Clinton and other notable Arkansans. Subsequently, Governor Huckabee appointed him to the Board of Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame and was later re-appointed by Governor Beebe, whom he greatly admired.
In 2010, the Arkansas House of Representative issued a Citation of Excellence to Steve, recognizing "a lifetime of achievement, by maintaining a high degree of professionalism and integrity during his 50 years in television, radio and business community of Arkansas." In 2011, he was inducted into his hometown (Newport, Arkansas) Hall of Fame, joining earlier inductee's, including Governor Mike Beebe, et al.
He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree from Southwestern College in Oklahoma City. Additionally, he was given a Paul Harris Fellowship and was a founding board member of the Arkansas FBI Citizens Academy Foundation and the Vision of Hope Society.
Throughout his life, Steve maintained a wide range of interesting experiences and continued to devote a considerable portion of his time to pro bono consulting for various charitable organizations. This resulted in a record of public service and a spirit of volunteerism, spanning five decades of fundraising for numerous charities. This gave him a heightened sense of awareness for their missions, and prompted him to create and produce major fund-raising events, including the annual March of Dimes "Arkansas Citizens of the Year Award" for 20 years, "The Vision Award," and the "Sid McMath Lifetime Achievement Award."
As a founding member of the Arkansas Cancer Research Foundation Board, which later became the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Research Institute, he created and produced the initial fund-raising galas for UAMS, and at the invitation of his dear friend Dr. Harry Ward, became a member of the Chancellor's Circle.
As if to validate his commitment to volunteerism, he was awarded the "Jonas Salk Lifetime Achievement Award," for his fund-raising efforts on behalf of the Arkansas Chapter of the March of Dimes Foundation and the International Council of the Salk Institute, on whose International board he served for 11 years. He also served as an Honorary Life Trustee of the March of Dimes Foundation, along with his friends Beverly Sills and P.X. Kelley, former Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Steve loved what he fondly referred to as his "mini-adventures, "which offered him the challenges of roaring down the highway of life, stretching his mind, trying new things. A friend once said, "Saying Steve loved life is like saying Mother Teresa was a kind lady."
Each year he would try to attempt something different. He rafted down the Colorado River, swam with the Sting Ray's in the Cayman Islands, climbed the Great Wall of China with his grandson Owen, acted in a motion picture, had dinner in the White House, lunched with Dr. Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb, interviewed countless entertainment luminaries, helped start a cellular phone business in Vietnam, hiked the Swiss Alpes, sailed the Aegean Sea through the Greek Islands, realized a boyhood dream of standing on the Acropolis and viewing the Greek Parthenon, watched the sunrise on the island of Bali, snorkeled in the Sea of Cortez, explored the sacred home of the Navajo Indian Nation in Monument Valley, and once rode in an 18 wheeler to the West Coast, all in his continuing search for the next adventure. He often said, "Life was meant to be enjoyed, not endured."
As if to confirm this, he celebrated his 75th birthday by parasailing with his 12 year-old granddaughter Stephanie in the Dominican Republic. On his 78th birthday, he helicoptered to a glacier in Alaska to dog sled with his youngest grandson, Seth. On his 79th birthday, he and Seth explored Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, Custer's Battlefield at Little Big Horn, and floated the Snake River through the Grand Tetons. He celebrated his 80th birthday by sailing the Caribbean waters with the entire Stephens clan, including his one-year-old (and first) great-grandson, Owen Josef.
Despite these so-called mini-adventures, he said his greatest adventures came with his Marine Corps service, which in his words, was a defining moment on his life, and his "rite of passage" into the brotherhood of man.
As a decorated Marine Corps combat veteran, he earned three battle stars serving with the famed 1st Marine Division in Korea, was awarded the Marine Corps Expert Rifleman's medal, and was discharged as a Sergeant of Marines. In 2007, he and a select group of other former Marines were flown by the Korean government to the capital city of Seoul, where Roh Moo-hyun, the President of the Republic of Korea, awarded him and his comrades the Presidential Peace Medal, naming them Ambassadors of Peace for their service during the Korean Conflict. His name is inscribed on the MacArthur Military Museum's Walk of Honor, and the Korean War Memorial in MacArthur Park.
Steve also had a distinguished Masonic history, beginning in high school at the urging of his father, and lasted over 50 years, which included the DeMolay Legion of Honor, and the Rainbow Grand Cross of Color. His final and highest degree of Masonry was achieved when he was given the coveted 33rd degree.
His historical favorites were Robert E. Lee, Winston Churchill, and Ernest Hemingway, although his mother was the strongest influence throughout his life. He once described her in a Mother's Day tribute as, "gentle as a dove and as brave as a lioness. A true Steel Magnolia."
During his lifetime, he served as media advisor to U.S. Senator John McClellan, financiers Jack Stephens, Jess Odom, Frank Lyon, and the Moody family in Texas.
Later in life, he enjoyed being a part of the series of so-called, "Luncheon Legionnaire's" who had such names as "The Dukes of Hustle," "The Olde Foxes," "The Wise Olde Goats," "The Fearsome Foursome," and "The Princeton Three Plus One" (he was the one who didn't attend Princeton.)
In 2018, Steve was honored by the National Academy of Arts and Sciences Mid-America with a lifetime achievement award honoring individuals who have represented the very best of television, while making a significant contribution to television.
He obtained his formal education at Castle Heights Military Academy, Newport High School, and the University of Arkansas, where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity (whose spiritual leader was Robert E. Lee).
The late author Chuck Cunning wrote a book about Steve entitled, "Fate Has Been My Friend," and in 2010, Steve loaned his personal papers, mementos, and memorabilia to the Arkansas Studies Institute, which in partnership with UALR, is the state's largest free-standing facility dedicated to the study of Arkansas and its history.
Steve was a life-long Christian, who was baptized at 14 and taught a young people's bible class as a high school senior. He was the only son of Owen and Allie Stephens, who were descendants of pioneer Jackson County families. His son Stanton Owen preceded him in death, and he is survived by his beloved son Steele; four grandchildren: Owen, Sarah, Stephanie and Seth; three great grandsons: Owen Josef, Hudson Wyatt, Jacob Peter; and his great-granddaughter, Georgia, all of whom loved "Popi". He is also survived by his daughter-in-law, Sherry; his former daughter-in-law, Megan; his granddaughter-in-law, Petra; and his treasured late in life gift, Belinda. The embodiment of what every woman should be…talented, smart, curious about life, with a tenderness of heart, and a richness of mind and spirit. The most intriguing person he ever met.
Steve took a big bite out of life, and now his sense of adventure has taken him to the farthest destination…one final time.
In lieu of flowers or other condolences, Steve requested that you look for an opportunity to render a random act of kindness to someone. Private services will be held at Walnut Grove Cemetery in Newport, Ark.
For those who have fond memories of Steve, there will be a celebration of his life at Pleasant Valley Country Club at a later date due to COVID-19 restrictions.
To sign the online guest book, please visit www.rollerfuneralhomes.com/chenal

Published January 31, 2021

OBITUARY SUBMITTED BY:
Roller-Chenal Funeral Home
13801 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, AR
Phone: 501-224-8300
http://www.rollerfuneralhomes.com/chenal

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