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Hester L. Bell

March 28, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Hester L. Bell - Submitted photo

Hester Lavan Bell, 86, of Hot Springs, passed from this life on Saturday, March 18, 2023. He expired peacefully at home, surrounded by his loving family, following a three-month illness.

Van was born on March 29, 1936, in Foreman, Ark., the only son of William Hester Bell and Katie Belle Irvin. He had two sisters, Mary Inez Bell Hill and Thelma Lorene Bell Newton. Van played cornet in the Hot Springs High School Band and sang in the men's chorus. He graduated in the class of 1954 and immediately joined the U.S. Army. While in training at Fort McClellan, Ala., he met the love of his life, Joyce Jeroldine Morton, at a dance on post -- one that she had been forbidden by her mother to attend. They were married in Anniston, Ala., about a month later on March 24, 1955. Van and Joyce had two daughters, Susan Kay Bell and Mary Frances Bell. Together, they embarked on a lifetime adventure that took them around the globe.

Van spent 20 years in the Army, rising to the rank of chief warrant officer 2. He served in air defense artillery and specialized in radar support for the Nike Ajax and Hawk surface-to-air missile systems. He was posted to South Korea, Germany, Okinawa and numerous facilities around the United States. After retirement from the military in September 1974, he returned to Hot Springs and became an electronics repair technician. He graduated from Garland County Community College in May 1977 with an Associate of Science degree. He worked for the City of Hot Springs from 1974 to 1983, then worked for the City of Fayetteville, Ark., in 1984. In 1985, he was hired in the F-111 Radar Systems Group at General Dynamics Fort Worth Division. While there, he was assigned to F-111 field support at Sacramento Air Logistics Center, F-16 radar support at Rome Air Development Center in New York, and F-16 radar support at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah. He retired from GDFW in 1997 and established "Bell Ringer Farm" in Clarksville, Tenn. Van and Joyce moved back to Hot Springs in 2005 to be nearer family.

Van was preceded in death by his parents, sisters, and son-in-law, Mike Dugan.

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Joyce, and daughters, Susan Dugan and Mary Bell Hill, son-in-law, Tom Hill; granddaughter, Mary Kate Dugan Whitmire and her husband, Colton; as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

His laughter was contagious and he was generous to everyone. He was adept at water skiing, skateboarding and snow sledding. Van's excellent woodworking skills produced furniture that resides in all of his family's homes. He loved fishing, gardening and bird watching. Most of all, Van loved his family and we loved him.

Graveside military services were held 10 a.m. Thursday, March 23, 2023, at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery.

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