River Valley Remembers Local Legend

Robert Jefferson Denniston lived to be 88-years-old. He was known by many for his achievements as a  state championship basketball coach and teacher of 50 years.

However, those who knew him best said he was known for how close he was to his family. He and his wife Phyliss were married for 66 years. She said 1947, the year they met, was something she will never forget.

“He looked at me and said will you run away with me, I’ll take care of you forever,” Denniston said. “I just looked up at him and I said yes.”

The couple eloped just 6 months after meeting.

“They showed us what love was and how to work through hard times,” Denniston’s granddaughter Maggie Weeks said.

In 2001 the family was preparing to celebrate his 50 years of teaching, most of which were with Mountainburg, but a bus accident changed his life forever. Denniston was driving a bus full of his students.

“That’s where he had the fate of the bus accident,” said Denniston. “That took three of the lives of his students and he never fully recovered from that.”

Records show a semi crashed into the bus trapping Denniston.

“He always carried candy in his pockets for the kindergarten students,” said Denniston. “A little boy had seen the candy fall out of his pocket, because he was upside down in his seat belt the little boy crawled to get the candy and he said son will you push on that button and it unbuckled his seat belt.”

That boy helped saved him that day. The family said times without Denniston will be difficult and they will never forget the man who inspired others, but them as well.

4 comments

  • 70'sDragonFan

    Bob coached us students in football in the mid 70’s. I’ve never forgotten. A great and kind man who thought good of everyone he meet. He left his mark on so many peoples mind and soul. RIP….Job well done sir.

  • Mike and Mildred Sims

    We have known Coach D.(Bob) seems like forever. We can say nothing but good of this man..he was a great Man and never,ever failed to go out of his way to speak to you,even after the horrible accident he had to deal with. He was not only a Great Man, Coach, and Teacher..and Loved his Family Dearly and also his Friends. He and Wife Phyllis was one of the Cutest Couples You would ever see and I know they Loved Each Other With All Their Hearts. Our Condolences go out to you Phyllis and all the Family, I know he will be missed by all of you, As Well as All Of Us Remember Him AS A Great Friend And Person. God Bless You Bob and May You Rest In Peace In Your New Heavenly Home. May God Give All The Family Peace And Comfort In This Time Of Sorrow.Our Love and Prayers To all of You…Mike and Mildred Sims

  • Joshua J.

    My deepest and most sincere condolences to Mr. Denniston’s wife and family. I never had the privilege of meeting him, but it is so obvious that he touched many, many lives in his 88 years on Earth. Mrs. Denniston should feel so proud that her husband left such a positive and loving legacy on the communities that he lived. May the peace and comfort that only God’s love can provide be with all those who are grieving during this time of loss. Rest in eternal peace, Mr. Denniston.

  • Phillip D. Pense

    He was a good honest man, the world would be such a better place with more like him in it. I played football under him the the late 70’s early 80’s he was tough but fair. He demanded your respect and would take nothing less He made me become a much better person on the field an off. My heart goes out to the family, he will be sorely missed. I would often see him walking the sidewalk as I sit in Agri class, all the students and the AG teacher would say ” if He had a six Iron Revolver on his hip he would be Mat Dillon. There was such an authority that consumed him, maybe all the great ones have that. God bless you Coach, we will meet again. D. Pense and family

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