Dr. William “Gene” Stevens passed away peacefully on Sunday morning after a lifetime of service and research. He was 63 years old. Those closest to Gene described him as a humble gentleman. He accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior early in life and served Him faithfully. At home, he was a devoted husband to Leeta, his wife of 40 years, and amidst a busy career, he always took time to invest in his children, Ben and Laura.
His life was filled with contrasts. He was a mentor to youth at church and adviser to billionaire philanthropists. He was happy to do odd jobs around the house, and at work wrote books, patented key innovations, and pioneered approaches to agriculture that have been copied around the world. He penned short stories for his grandchildren and published original research in the world’s leading scientific journals. Having grown up on a small-town farm, he earned a PhD in agriculture and played host to scientists who visited him from all over the world.
“Gene” was born William Eugene Stevens on November 26, 1957 to Ralph and Bettye Stevens of Oakland, Tennessee. In 1980, he married Leeta Thomason from Jackson, Tennessee. After earning his masters from the University of Tennessee and his Ph.D. from Mississippi State University, he settled into a 26-year career at the Delta Research Center of the University of Missouri in Portageville, Missouri.
Dr. Stevens battled kidney cancer and passed away at home with his family at his bedside on January 17, 2021. He is survived by his wife Leeta Stevens from Joplin, Missouri; son Ben (Rebecca) Stevens, and their children Elijah and Caroline from Raleigh, North Carolina; daughter Laura (Stephen) Pointer, and their children Larissa, Tabatha, Olivia, Seth, and Lucy from Joplin, Missouri; and brother John (Marie) Stevens from Lakeland, Tennessee. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ralph and Bettye Stevens.
SERVICES: A private family funeral will be held on Wednesday, January 20th at Arrington Funeral Directors in Jackson, Tennessee. A public graveside service will be at 11:00AM at Ridgecrest Cemetery. Social distancing and masks are required.
Those serving as pallbearers will be John Stevens, Andrew Stevens, Stephen Pointer, Mike Thomason, Jeff Merwin, and Tim Merwin. Honorary pallbearers are Elijah Stevens and Seth Pointer.
Donations in memory of Gene may be directed to Living Stone Baptist Church, c/o “Gene Stevens Memorial Fund”, P.O. Box 378, Portageville, Missouri, 63873.
Please find Dr. Stevens’ work, including his collection of short stories, at
Arrington Funeral Directors, 148 W. University Parkway, Jackson, Tennessee, 38305
The service will be webcast via the above website at 10:00AM Wednesday.