OBITUARY: Pat Lea, former bank executive and ‘Candy Man,’ 91


Harrison P. (Pat) Lea, 91, of Batesville passed away Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020.

He was born Nov. 25, 1928, in Wooster, Ark. to James Henry Lea and Beryl (Patton) Lea.

Pat Lea began his business career at the age of 8, selling newspapers on the street corners of Conway, Ark. He worked in the fields of North Dakota and the shipyards of Texas during his high school days. He was a graduate of Conway High School. He attended Arkansas State and graduated from Arkansas Law School.

After entering commercial banking, he graduated from the School of Banking of the South – LSU, where he later served on the faculty for four years as section leader in problem loans, capital adequacy, and agriculture. He organized the Arkansas Valley Bank, in Dardanelle, Ark., where he served as chief executive officer. Later he was CEO of six other banks, heading two banks simultaneously on three different occasions in six different cities. He served president of the Missouri Bankers Association, chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party and vice president of the American Bankers Association.

Pat Lea is a veteran, having served in the U.S. Army for 44 months during the Korean War. He is also 32nd degree Mason and a Shriner.

He was on the board of the first funded “HMO” in Missouri and has served as chairman of a 24 county area health systems corporation. He has also served on the board of White River Medical Center in Batesville and was the president of a corporation that owns a 60-bed skilled nursing center in Booneville, Mo.

In Arkansas, he organized the first Regional Planning Council and Economic Development District and served as its chairman and executive director. For thirteen years he was chairman of the six-county Bootheel Region Planning Commission. He served on the board of Public Utilities that built a $360 million power plant in Sikeston, Mo. For twelve years he was a registered representative with the firm of Edward Jones and UVEST Financial Services.

He has served as president of the Kiwanis Clubs of Conway and Sikeston, Mo. He served as president of the Rotary Club in Dardanelle. He was past president of the Batesville AARP and past President of the Independence County Scottish Rite Masons. He has also served as past president of the Lyon College Booster Club.

He was a member of First Baptist Church of Batesville. He was the youngest ever Deacon in the First Baptist Church in Conway. He was active with B.T.A in that church and helped at the Baptist Student Union on the campus of A.S.T.C (Now U.C.A). He also taught high school age boys in Sunday school in Sikeston, Mo.

Pat Lea was known as the “Candy Man” all over Batesville and beyond. He handed out candies and/or treats to everyone and never met a stranger.

Survivors include his wife of 62 years, Mary Elizabeth (Lewis) Lea; daughter, Melissa Lea of Woodland, Cal.; and one granddaughter, Elizabeth Telle of Phoenix, Ariz.

He was preceded in death by his parents; nine brothers and sisters; and one daughter, Laura Lea Cook.

Honorary pallbearers will be Bob Cook, Jim Telle, Larry Gaston Jr., Lee Crouse, and Jonathan Wehmeyer.

Graveside services with viewing will begin at 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, at Pleasant Valley Cemetery in Wooster, Ark. under the direction of Roller-Crouch Funeral Home with David Crouse and Ancil Lea III officiating.

Memorials may be made in his honor to First Baptist Church of Batesville, 610 E. Main Street, Batesville, AR 72501 or Humane Society of Independence County, 5 Environmental Drive, Batesville, AR 72501.

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