© Holmes-Coffey-Murray Funeral Home
Submitted by: Becky Rodgers
Join us in the celebration of the life of our father Fred Etheridge Arnett. On February 25, 2009 another member of America’s greatest generation passed away. Fred was born as the ninth child of Jesse Garrett Arnett and Effie Fadonia Smith Arnett. He was born into a hard working, farming family from Midland, Texas in March 25, 1924. He grew up during the Depression and Dust Bowl days of West Texas. His family remained close through the decades and miles of separation by their monthly “Family Letter” and annual Family reunion. (An event that is now in its 38th consecutive year.
Fred graduated from Midland Lee High School in 1941 and, he enlisted in the Army Air Corp upon his eighteenth birthday in 1942. He served his country as a radio/gunner on the “Gremlin’s Holiday” a B-25 Mitchell Bomber in the South Pacific during World War II. His plane was shot down Feb. 15, 1944 on his 48th mission, two missions short of the 50 required to rotate back to the states. During his service, he reached the rank of Tech Sergeant and was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation with two oak clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two service stars, the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, and was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds suffered when his plane was shot down.
Upon returning from the South Pacific, Fred married his high school sweetheart Patsy Collins on May 21, 1944. During their 52 years of marriage, they raised five children Becky, Butch, Gary, Spencer, and Susan. Becky passed away in 1958 at the age of 13 after a long illness. The children were brought up to believe in God, to work hard, and take responsibility for their actions. Pat preceded Fred in death in 1996. He married Betty Tidwell of Durant in 1997. Most people recognize Fred and Pat Arnett as the founders and long-time owners of Arnett Insurance in Durant, OK. However, prior to moving to Durant in 1963, they had been cotton farmers in Midland, TX and moved to Idabel, OK in 1953 to take over a Dairy. After 17 years of a farming life, that was filled with more challenges than most people will face in a lifetime, they wanted their children to have an opportunity to do something other than be farmers. They decided on moving to Durant because of Southeastern State College, and the opportunity that the school held for their children’s future. As a testament to that decision, their first home was a rental just three houses down from the campus. Fred and Pat moved the family to Durant with little more that $500 dollars and their personal possessions. Fred took part-time and night shift jobs to provide for the family, and began studying to become an insurance salesperson. Fred and Pat soon moved the family to a two-story house on Fourth and Locust that would be the family home for the next two decades. They took over a lease space at 123 North 3rd, and started the business that would become Arnett Insurance Agency. Part of the hard work that Fred taught played itself out as Butch and Gary would put out advertising flyers for the new business on cars parked around the square downtown. Over the next 3 decades, the agency grew from Fred and Pat in a rented office to add son Butch, daughter Susan and staff members that were more like family than mere employees. Fred retired from the business in 1998 and sold the business to Butch.
Fred and Pat were members of Fairview Baptist Church, where three of their children; Gary, Spencer and Susan were baptized. Butch and Becky had accepted Jesus and were baptized prior to moving to Durant. Over the years, Fred had been a Sunday School Teacher and Deacon in the churches he attended. He was been a supporter of the Baptist Children’s Home, and other faith based organizations.
Fred was a lifelong member of the Masonic Lodge, having joined under the tutoring of his uncle in Midland, and being a member in good standing of Lodges in Idabel and Durant. He was a member of the Little Dixie Shrine Club and actively involved in their charitable projects. He was a past member of the Durant High School Booster Club and served a term or two as its president. He was elected to the Business & Professional Women’s Boss of the Year in 1968. He was also a member of many civic and community clubs; and a supporter of most every event, raffle, or program in Durant that presented itself in need of his support.
Fred was preceded in death by: his wife Patricia Collins Arnett, daughter Becky, father, mother, four brothers, and three sisters. Fred is survived by his wife Betty of Durant. His children, son Butch and wife Carolyn of Durant. grandson Michael Arnett and wife Kristen, great grandsons Collins, and MacLean of Houston, Texas, granddaughter Vickie Piearcy and husband Rob, great granddaughter Taylor, and great grandson Tanner of Durant; son Gary and wife Melissa granddaughters Sara, and Bobbie of Pottsboro Texas; son Spencer of the home, grandsons Tye, Thomas, and granddaughter Debbie of Dallas, Texas; daughter Susan Rice and husband Maurice, granddaughter Becky Ellis, step granddaughters Krystal and Ginni Rice of Durant. He is also survived by his two sisters; Joan Nichols of Denton, and Lillian Jones of McKinney, as well as a host of nieces and nephews.
Funeral services for Fred will be at 3 pm Saturday February 28, 2009 at Dalton Homes Funeral Chapel officiating will be Reverend Ross Kirven. Interment will follow at Highland Cemetery in Durant. Pallbearers will include Dennis Smith, Jerry Thomason, Junior Manners, Larry Nabors, John Buchanan and, Tom Criswell.
The family request memorials be made to Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children 3800 N May Ave. Oklahoma City, OK 73112. Condolences may be sent to the family at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dalton-Holmes Funeral Home is in charge of all arrangements.
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