Earl Q. Shipley, former Fort Smith businessman and beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend, passed away Jan. 6, 2012, at his home in Oro Valley, Ariz., with his loving wife of 53 years, Sharon, at his bedside.
The second-generation owner of Shipley Motor Equipment Co., Earl helped lead the Mack Truck dealership’s expansion from its original Fort Smith, Ark., location to include facilities in Eastern Oklahoma, Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas River Valley. He was a member of the National Truck Dealer Council, a nominee for Newsweek’s Dealer of the Year, a member of the Arkansas and Fort Smith Chambers of Commerce and the Arkansas Trucking Association.
He was also an active philanthropist, supporting the Salvation Army, St. Judes’ Children’s Hospital, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Custer, S.D., Storehouse Program.
As successful as Earl’s business career was, his real accomplishment was as a husband, a father, a father-in-law, a friend and a “Poppy” to his five grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.
Born Feb. 28, 1938, in Oklahoma City, he was the second of Carl and Arlene Shipley’s three children, and is preceded in death by his parents, his brother, Grady D. Shipley, and his sister, Carlene Shipley Sullivan.
He is survived by a host of friends and relatives, including his wife, Sharon L. Shipley; his daughter, Kerry L. Smith and husband, Gary, of Rogers, Ark.; and his son, Carl H. Shipley II and wife, Tammy, of Fayetteville, Ark. He also leaves behind grandchildren, Sara Smith Driggs and her husband, Randy, of Bella Vista, Ark., Jackson Smith of Fayetteville, Ark., Savannah and Noah Smith of Rogers; Brittany Shipley of Fayetteville; and Tammy’s children, Evan and Isaac Johnson of Springdale, Ark.
Earl came to Fort Smith as a child when his father moved the family to start Shipley Motor Equipment Co. Earl graduated from Fort Smith High School, where he was a drum major in the marching band, in 1956 and attended the University of Arkansas where he was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. It was a special moment for Earl when he passed his Lambda Chi pen on to his grandson when Jackson became a member of that fraternity.
Earl bought Shipley Motor Co. from his father in 1982. He earned a reputation for integrity throughout the area, and was as fair and honest with representatives of some of the largest corporations in Arkansas as he was with the smallest owner-operators working with their trucks every day.
As one contemporary in Fort Smith said, “If Earl Shipley said something, you could put your foot on it. It was solid.”
After forging a successful career, Earl sold the family business to his son, Carl, and continued his passion for travel and experiencing new things and cultures. He and Sharon eventually settled in Custer, S.D. and began to winter in Oro Valley before his battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) limited his travel.
Earl loved life. He loved golf. He loved to travel, he loved a good meal, a good time and his Razorbacks. He was famous for his hearty chuckle and for sharing his favorite places in Destin, Fla., or the Cayman Islands with his family.
He was always up for an adventure, whether tubing around the bay in Destin, fishing off his boat, “Nanny’s Navy,” picnicking in Custer State Park or motoring family and friends along the Needles Highway and through Mount Rushmore in his convertible P.T. Cruiser.
But most of all, he loved his family and, in the end, the love of his family helped sustain him and remains with us today.
In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to the ALS Association (www.alsa.org ) or the Muscular Dystrophy Association (www.mda.org ).
A celebration of Earl’s life will be held from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 22, at the First Christian Church at 3501 Rogers Ave., in Fort Smith.
Cremation services were handled by Rancho Vistoso Funeral Home, Oro Valley, Ariz.
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