ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Arkansas reported its first two coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, March 24.
Faulkner County’s deputy coroner reported the first of two deaths from COVID-19 in Arkansas, a man in his 90s. The second death, a man in his 50s, was reported on the same day by State Health Secretary Dr. Nathaniel Smith.
First death, March 24. Bill Benton, 90, of Cleburne County
He was a church greeter at Greers Ferry First Assembly of God. Benton was one of more than three dozens congregants who tested positive for the new coronavirus after a three-day gathering for children over the weekend of March 6-8. He died at Conway Regional Hospital in Faulkner County.
“[Bill Barton] was the first encounter in our First Assembly of God experience. Each Sunday, the door would be opened for you and a white-haired, well-dressed gentlemen would extend a characteristic smile. It had been his post for years. He retired from the position several years ago, but returned after only a few months, saying that he really didn’t want to give it up,” Church Pastor Mark Palenske posted on Facebook.
Second death, March 24. Brian Dill Sr., 59, of Sherwood, in Pulaski County
Pulaski County Chief Deputy Coroner Julie Voegele confirmed Dill’s death was from COVID-19. He is survived by his wife and several family members, according to an obituary from Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.
Third death, March 25. Terry Lee Henderson, 73, of Edgemont, in Cleburne County
He belonged to the Greers Ferry First Assembly of God in Cleburne County. Henderson was one of more than three dozens congregants who tested positive for the new coronavirus after a three-day gathering for children over the weekend of March 6-8. His daughter Rhonda Henderson Mullins posted on Facebook that he died from COVID-19 complications at Baptist Hospital’s ICU in Little Rock. Henderson was in the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam. He worked for nearly three decades at Caterpillar and retired in 2009, according to his daughter and the Little Rock Funeral Home obituary.
Fourth death, March 28. Franklin Ross, 80, of Morrilton, in Conway County
Pulaski County Chief Deputy Coroner Julie Voegele said Franklin Ross, 80, died overnight at St. Vincent Hospital in Little Rock. Voegele said Ross had a history of stroke and high blood pressure. Ross owned several companies and was a 25-year member of the Arkansas Towing Association. He liked to hunt, fish and go to the casino. He’s preceded in death by his wife, Geraldine. He is survived by sons and daughters and has a lot of extended family in Arkansas. Morrilton was his home for 48 years.
Fifth death, March 28. Tanisha Cotton, 42, of Little Rock, in Pulaski County
Latia Wright said her sister who lives in Little Rock, Tanisha Cotton, called her two weeks ago saying she thought she had a sinus infection or cold. Wright, a respiratory therapist, knew Cotton needed to keep an eye on the symptoms. On Tuesday, March 24, Cotton’s health deteriorated. That’s when she tested positive for COVID-19. She was hospitalized and placed in the Intensive Care Unit, then on a ventilator and died Saturday morning. Cotton had no underlying health issues and in fact, “this was her first stay at a hospital,” said Wright.
Sixth death, March 29. Name not released. Fairfield Bay, in both Cleburne/Van Buren counties
Fairfield Mayor Paul Wellenberger Facebook post Sunday, March 29: The Arkansas Department of Health has just informed me that Fairfield Bay has suffered the first death due to the COVID-19 virus. We are not at liberty to provide any personal and confidential details at this time.
Seventh death, March 30. Alice Jett, 83, of Little Rock, in Pulaski County
Jett lived at the Briarwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Little Rock. Dr. Nate Smith said Jett was the first nursing home related death in the state. On Sunday, she was transferred from her nursing home to St. Vincent Hospital in Little Rock where she later died, according to the coroners office.