William J. “W.J.” McKiever, 81, of Monticello passed away September 19, 2017.
W. J. was born the youngest child into the loving home of George William and Bessie Lee Jordan McKiever on July 20, 1936 in the Prairie Grove Community.
He was nicknamed “Jay” by his parents and siblings, attended Prairie Grove School through the 7th grade until he transferred to Drew Central. He graduated with honors in 1954, lettering in baseball, basketball and track.
In the 9th grade, W.J. found a part-time job and his future vocation at the Corner Drug Store, downtown on the square in Monticello. He enrolled in Arkansas A&M (UAM) as a pre-Pharmacy major and attended A&M until he gained early admittance into the University of Tennessee Pharmacy School. He was a member of the Phi Delta Chi Fraternity, serving as vice-president his senior year. In 1959, W.J. graduated with a Doctorate Degree in Pharmacy. Local Monticello physicians encouraged and recruited him to return home, and with a young wife, son and another child on the way, he purchased City Rexall Drug. He was the youngest registered pharmacist to own a pharmacy in the State of Arkansas at the time.
W.J., at the tail end of his 7-year service in the Army National Guard, quickly saw his fledging business career in jeopardy as the Berlin Crisis forced President Kennedy to mobilize the Army National Guard 404th Ordinance Company, Company B, 217th Engineer Battalion in the fall of 1961. W.J and all of Company B were deployed for nearly a year. Upon his return, W.J served as a pharmacist to Monticello and Southeast Arkansas for the next 55 years. In addition to his own pharmacy, W.J. served as the first hospital pharmacist in Drew Memorial Hospital and assisted in establishing the first ICU unit and obtaining the hospital’s first accreditation. He served as pharmacist for the SEAHDC for 23 years, was a preceptor for interning pharmacy students, was a member of and chaired the Pharmaceutical Association and the Southeast Arkansas Pharmacy Association.
W.J. had a strong commitment to civic duty and he loved politics. He was a member and chairman of the Monticello Retail Merchants, Monticello Youth Council, and Babe Ruth Board. He was a past member of the Lions Club, Jaycees, Optimist Club, a past vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce. He was chairman of the Rural Water Association. W.J. often said that one of the best days of his life was when water service became available in Lone Prairie so he didn’t have to haul water in barrels from Monticello. He served as a Monticello City Councilman for ten years and a term as Justice of the Peace on the Drew County Quorum Court. W.J. was of a generation that believed that the duty of an elected official was to loyally serve the public that elected him. He was tenacious in his desire to make Monticello and Drew County a place that people were proud to call home.
W.J. loved his family, and faithfully attended baseball, football, softball games, track meets, golf tournaments, ballet recitals, band concerts, and all of his children’s school activities. He was a Dad helper for the Girl Scouts for 11 years. He welcomed his children and grandchildren in his store after school for snacks and homework. He found the time to help at least one of his children memorize the periodic table. W.J. faithfully ate with his father and mother every Sunday until their death, and he was always available to his siblings and his many aunts, uncles and cousins. W.J. has been a faithful attendant to his great-grandchildren’s birthday parties and other important milestones, and in the past year he often visited his newest great – grandchild in the afternoon for knee bouncing.
After being raised in poor rural Drew County, W.J. saw the essential need for education, and after seeing his own three children college-educated and his elder son, Dr. William R. McKiever complete medical school, W.J. worked tirelessly for the Earl Willis Memorial Scholarship to be awarded to a Drew Central student to attend UAM. He proudly attended his grandchildren‘s college graduations with the exception of the three that are currently attending college.
W.J.’s father, William, gave his son a love of horses, and W.J. was truly a drugstore cowboy. He was a 53 year member of the National Cutting Association and the American Quarter Horse Association and a nationally ranked judge for the National Cutting Horse Association. W.J. competed in a national cutting horse in the brand new Astrodome in Houston.
W.J. was preceded in death by his parents and brothers, Dewey and Harold McKiever.
He is survived by his wife of 27 years, Charlotte Jones McKiever; a sister, Wanda and her husband W.L. Chester; sons, Dr. William R. McKiever of Monticello and Jay Bartley McKiever and wife Sharon of Corydon, In; daughter, Leslie McKiever of Monticello; and sons, Eric and Will Fredriksson, and daughter, Sarah Fredriksson Isbell.
His grandchildren are: William J. (Josh) McKiever and wife Amanda, Jay Randall McKiever, Jon Daniel McKiever, Jeffery Spraggins, Monica McKiever Lee and husband Zach, and Randi McKiever; Cole Bartley McKiever, Conner McKiever, and Kendall McKiever; Andrew Bentz and wife Karonica, and Bradley Bentz; Collins, Gunner, and Erica Fredriksson, Emily Mederios, Molly Fredriksson, Ashley and Kim Portenier; Zack and Macade Isbell.
W.J.‘s great- grandchildren are: Addee McKiever, Marley and Mercer Spraggins, Slade and Maeme Lee and Andrew (AJ) Bentz.
W.J. is also survived by Randy, Leslie and Jay’s mother, LaNell Sanderlin McKiever, a special nephew, Stanley Chester and wife, Patty, and niece, Karen McKiever Leggett and husband Thomas, as well as many other nieces, nephews, cousins and scores of friends.
Visitation is 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday September 21, 2017 at Stephenson Dearman Funeral Home.
Funeral Service will be held on Friday September 22, 2017 at 11 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church with burial in Prairie Grove Cemetery.
Memorials may be given to the Earl Willis Scholarship Fund, Drew Central Schools, 250 University Drive, Monticello, AR 71655 and First United Methodist Church, 317 South Main, Monticello, AR, 71655.