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.


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