Leon Payton, age 76, of Heber Springs, Arkansas passed away Friday, November 27, 2020 at the VA Hospital in Little Rock. He was born in Pelham, Alabama on June 11, 1944, the son of the late Vassel Edward Payton and Ruby Louise Horne Payton. Mr. Payton was a member of New Life Church in Heber Springs. Sgt. Payton was a decorated US Marine veteran serving three tours in Vietnam on the front lines and diplomatic duty as well, being fluent in Vietnamese. He was an active member of the American Legion, VFW, and the Order of the Purple Heart. He was also active in providing service dogs to veterans.
Leon coached little league, high school, and college baseball, putting to use his impressive athletic skills that had earned him an offer from a minor league team in his youth. He was a coach to his children and grandchildren as well. His family stated he never missed a sports or school event of his children and grandchildren. If someone knew him as a coach, they also knew him as a friend.
He had been a teacher with a Master’s Degree in education. He was active in the Special Olympics and the head start program in Helena, Arkansas. Leon enjoyed using his teaching skills and sharing his love of the outdoors as a trout fishing guide on the Little Red River, even securing multiple catch and release world records. Leon’s life was defined by his ability to love, support, and nurture.
Mr. Payton was preceded in death by his parents; daughter, Kathy Deona Miller; grandchild, Tara Landers and a great-grandchild, Gracie Landers and four sisters.
Survivors include his wife, Hazel Karlene Wright Payton whom he married July 5, 1969; one son, Leon “Pete” Payton II and wife Lindsey of Greenbrier, Arkansas; one daughter, Kristin LaVenna Kimbrell and husband Christopher of Jonesboro, Arkansas; one step-daughter, Katrina Wright; six grandchildren, Camden Kimbrell, Paris Payton, Caleb Payton, Cole Payton, Tanner Rackley and Carter McElhany; one great-grandchild, Makaylah Landers and many friends.
There will be a visitation at Heber Springs Funeral Home Saturday, December 5, 2020 from 12:00 to 2:00 pm immediately followed by Memorial Service at 2:00 pm with Jim Staggs officiating. The American Legion Post 64 will conduct Military Honors.
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