Edgar Gene Arnn was born November 20, 1927 to Edgar Montgomery Arnn and Hattie Harrison Hamilton in Sidney, Arkansas. He and his younger sister, Geraldine, lost their mother to illness in 1932. Even so, their father, Aunt Clara (Hamilton), her husband Hubert Weaver, Uncle Cecil Hamilton and his wife Onyx, and the people of Sidney surrounded the children with love. When Edgar’s widowed father married Opal Bruce, Edgar’s family expanded even further to include the Bruce clan.
After graduating valedictorian of his class in 1945, Edgar joined the Navy. When the war was over, he studied engineering at the University of Arkansas, where he met his future wife. Helen Pitts was the youngest of nine and the only girl; she loved her large extended family and even though she was the youngest, she grew to be a leader. Edgar and Helen were married by David Conyers, the brother of Edgar’s first grade teacher Miss Atalee Pounders. In the coming years, Helen and Edgar were to welcome four children: Sammye, Janell, Bruce, and Sarah.
Edgar led the growing family from Sidney to Fayetteville, then Little Rock, Arkansas, and then El Paso, Texas before returning to University of Arkansas to complete his Agricultural Engineering degree in 1959. He chose to specialize in rural electrification and his career led Edgar and family to Thompson, IA; Columbia City, IN, and then Orleans, IN. In 1973, the USAID invited him to become a consultant in the Philippines. While the family lived in Manila, Edgar crisscrossed the islands helping new rural electric co-ops operate effectively. In 1978, Edgar and Helen returned to the States and settled in Geneseo, Illinois where Edgar once again managed a rural electric co-op. In each new home, Edgar and Helen became involved with the local United Methodist Church as well as community support organizations such as Lions Club, PTA, and Boy Scouts of America.
At different times through the years, Edgar and Helen shared their home with their mothers. While in Geneseo, Helen’s mother, Phebe Pitts, lived with them for a short time, and not long after her passing, Edgar’s beloved Aunt Clara Weaver became increasingly affected by dementia. Edgar and Helen welcomed her into their home and cared for her until her death in 1993.
Upon retiring from his last career position as manager of the Geneseo REMC, Edgar had more time to devote to his family. He and Helen moved to Indianapolis to be closer to daughters and grandchildren. Edgar’s retirement also brought more freedom to pursue his broad interests and projects. He studied the stock market, built curious devices and made ingenious repairs! He established a small peach orchard that became remarkably productive. Meanwhile, Helen became an entrepreneur, buying and selling antiques and marketing her own crafts. Edgar gave his wife his full support. He worked tirelessly setting up antique booths and repairing all kinds of antiques. When Helen went into business online, Edgar became expert in packing and shipping.
Much as Helen and Edgar enjoyed the challenges of building a small business, their most important activity was nurturing their grandchildren: Hamilton and Harriet Baker, Emily and Lauren Watson, Allison and Kara Arnn, and Matthew Edgar Pickle. Helen often claimed that “the only thing better than grandchildren is great-grandchildren!” Edgar and Helen were blessed with nine great-grandchildren: Malley, Karma, Presley, Hart, Walter, Edgar, Jack, Bolt, and Ender.
After nearly 65 years of marriage, Helen’s health began to fail. Always willing to learn new skills, Edgar allowed daughter Sarah, an experienced R.N., to teach him the nursing skills he needed to care for Helen. His love and devotion to Helen inspired new admiration and gratitude from all of Edgar’s children and grandchildren. Anyone could see that Edgar gave Helen the best possible care in the final years of her life.
When Helen passed away in 2016, Edgar continued to maintain their home and to offer support to their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. In his final years, Edgar enjoyed sharing his home with great grandson Malley while Malley attended college in Indianapolis. There were very few days when Edgar did not enjoy personal visits with Indianapolis family and neighbors, as well as telephone and text visits with more distant family members and old friends. He never stopped enjoying planning and executing inventive home “projects” as well as learning about stock market investing.
On March 9, 2018, Edgar Gene Arnn, age 90, died at his home in Indianapolis, Indiana following a following a short illness. Family and close friends gathered to celebrate the of lives of Edgar and Helen (Pitts) Arnn, on April 28 at Holliday Park Nature Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. Each of the couple’s five granddaughters: Harriet Baker, Emily Watson, Allison Cason, and Kara Goeke spoke about their beloved grandparents. Josh Goeke provided music.
Edgar was preceded in death by his wife of 67 years, Helen Marie Pitts Arnn, his youngest daughter Sarah Arnn Pickle, his parents Edgar Montgomery Arnn, Hattie Hamilton Arnn, and Opal Bruce Arnn, his sister Geraldine Roberts, and his loving uncles and aunts Onyx and Cecil Hamilton, Clara and Hubert Weaver, and Cora Winfree.
Edgar Gene Arnn will be remembered with great love and respect by his children and their families. He is survived by daughters, Sammye Arnn Broline (Duane), Janell Arnn Watson (Lee), and son Edgar Bruce Arnn (Kristie) as well as seven grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren.
Edgar Arnn always treated others with care and respect. He was the kind of parent who asked for very little, and was always, always a source of support. In fact, he supported all who knew him—family, friends, employees and colleagues—with kindness, wisdom, and quiet strength. Throughout his life, wherever he went, Edgar devoted himself to making life easier and better for others. He left the world a better place and he will live on in our memories as a role model and as a source of inspiration and hope.