Gerard "Milt" Milton Earnhart was born on April 1, 1918, in St. Louis to Stanley and Ann Earnhart. At the age of 12, Milt moved three states east with his family to the sprawling Earnhart farm in Lebanon, Ohio. He eventually became a star football player at Lebanon High School, where he was fondly known as "Ace." When not on the football field, Milt could often be found playing Glenn Miller tunes on the saxophone.
In September 1939, Milt met Mary Robben at the Schuster-Martin School of Drama in Cincinnati. They wed four years later in Joplin, Mo., while Milt was serving in the Signal Corps division of the U.S. Army. The couple remained happily married for 62 years, until Mary's death in 2005.
During World War II, Milt was sent to serve in the European theatre, an area of heavy fighting across France, Germany, Belgium, Holland and England, where he witnessed the first crossing of the Rhine River at Oppenheim and the Battle of the Bulge. While stationed in Weimar, Germany, in 1945, Milt was among the first to visit the Buchenwald Concentration Camp — one of the largest concentration camps in Germany. It is most fitting that he chose to leave this life for his next adventure on the 76th anniversary of D-Day.
At the war's end, Milt and Mary relocated to California so that Milt could pursue his dream of becoming an actor. However, missing family, friends and the comforts of home, they returned to Ohio a few years later.
In May 1950, Milt and Mary accompanied Mary's parents, Ed and Julia Robben, to Fort Smith, where Mr. Robben had purchased the limousine manufacturing plant Armbruster & Company. Milt joined the family business and remained there as vice president for 33 years, until he left to become Arkansas' first TV weatherman, enthusiastically providing viewers with the forecast and occasionally delivering the news on KFSA for over two decades.
Milt next decided to pursue his interest in politics, serving first as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives and later as an Arkansas state senator from 1959-81. During his 22-year tenure, Milt introduced legislation in the House to establish AETN in Arkansas. In the Senate, Milt introduced landmark legislation making it possible for Hiram Walker to establish a major bottling and packaging plant in Fort Smith.
Following his retirement from the Senate, Milt spent considerable time in California. In 2011, he became a member of the Screen Actors Guild, which led to numerous modeling and commercial opportunities. In addition to performing on the stage in New York, he acted in a number of Hallmark movies and won a feature role on ER's final episode.
Milt was actively engaged in community events and organizations and was a loyal, longtime member of the Fort Smith Noon Lions Club, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Knights of Columbus and Christ the King Catholic Church. To the end, he reveled in his love of music, listening to big band and playing his beloved saxophone. He also enjoyed studying Spanish and German.
Milt is survived by three children, Anne, Tom and David. He had five grandchildren, Rachel Deneen and Matthew Rifat (Anne), Kristen Wilkerson and Bryan Earnhart (Tom) and the late Shannon Earnhart (David). He also had 10 great-grandchildren, Birdie (Rachel), Holden, Josh, Helen (Matthew), Charlotte, Peter, Grant (Kristen), Barrett, Lilly and Bennett (Bryan).
The family will have a private committal of cremains at Holy Cross Cemetery. Services and cremation are under the direction of Edwards Funeral Home.
The Earnhart family wishes to acknowledge the kind words and condolences from his many good friends.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Fort Smith Museum of History, 320 Rogers Ave., Fort Smith, AR 72901; or Fort Smith Little Theatre, 401 N. Sixth St., Fort Smith, AR 72901; or Christ the King Catholic Church, 1920 S. Greenwood Ave., Fort Smith, AR 72901.
Online condolences may be sent to www.edwardsfuneralhome.com