Hospital volunteer loved helping people, spending time with family

Saturday, August 10, 2013 | 5:53 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A volunteer and employee at University Hospital, Arby Gearhart spent 13 years helping the people of Columbia.

Mr. Gearhart died Friday, August 9, 2013. He was 50.

He was born July 4, 1963, in Chester Ill. His parents, John and Glenda (O’Dell) Gearhart, moved from Illinois to rural Missouri where Mr. Gearhart and his sister, Mary DeClue, and their other siblings, were raised on the family farm.

“He liked to go and play in the dirt," DeClue said. "He always had dirt on him."

DeClue said it would often fall to her to clean up her brother. “He had so much dirt on his body, every time I put a rag on him it turned into mud," she said. "I still see that little boy standing on that commode."

Mr. Gearhart met Maria Ratcliff in Fulton, and they married in 1994. The couple had been living in Columbia since 2006.

After recovering from an aneurysm at 37, Mr. Gearhart decided he wanted to volunteer at the hospital.

“He wanted to go out and help other people,” Mrs. Gearhart said. Often interacting with patients and families visiting, she said he wanted to give them the same support he had experienced all those years ago.

“He was always there to listen,” she said.

Mr. Gearhart loved his family. He taught his youngest grandchild, Emma, how to eat ice cream and give his oldest nephew, Tate, his first taste of liquor.

“He loved all of his nieces and nephews,” DeClue said. “They’d go and spend time with him because they just loved being with him.”

An avid fan of MU volleyball, Mr. Gearhart was a member of the Golden Tigers. DeClue felt certain that had he been able to play the sport when he was younger, he would have loved it. “It would have been one of his passions.”

He was also a member of the Masons.

Mr. Gearhart was devoted to the city of Columbia, especially the hospital and sand volleyball courts. He was the country boy who moved to the big city, DeClue said.

“He was raised in the county and moved up here, and when he got here he fell in love with Columbia," DeClue said. "He loved this town. He didn’t want to move.”

Mr. Gearhart is survived by his wife, Maria Gearhart; two sons, David Ratcliff and his wife, Jackie, and Donald Frazee and his wife, Celena; four siblings, Mary DeClue and her husband, Randy, Rose Brooks and her husband, Randy, Debrah Laughlin and her husband, Leroy, and John Gearhart; and four grandchildren, Rasahae Cline, Dolores Ratcliff, Jamie Ratcliff and Emma Frazee.

A brother, David O'Dell; two nephews, Tate and Benjamin DeClue; and his parents died earlier.

There will be a family service from 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at University Hospital, Room GL-11.

Memorial donations may be made to the Children’s Miracle Network, c/o Children's Hospital, 404 Keene St., Columbia, MO 65203.

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