After graduating from Deering High School in 1954 and attending Arkansas State University, he served in the US Army from 1958-1960.
He married Peggy Sue Hulse in 1961. A long-time Deering postmaster, she proceeded Alton in death in 2006.
Alton is remembered for his dry, sharp wit and long memory. History, particularly that of his fading community, obsessed him. As time passed, when families moved and old structures disappeared, he was determined to recall each old home place and the stories of those who once lived there.
Driving his truck along now-empty backroads, he conjured up a vibrant world filled with the laughter of kids playing marbles in dusty yards (now lost under the waters of a rice field), illicit card games and big bowls of banana pudding. And he also vividly recollected the hard realities of inequality, repatched clothes, and bad-crop-disappointment.
Alton was a skilled outdoorsman who loved hunting and fishing. To him, crappie was inarguably the best fish and the deer woods were heaven on earth. He was also crazy about baseball and played on several local leagues. With Peggy, he spent many happy hours sifting through cast-off history at flea markets and yard sales. They were avid collectors of just about any old found-object with an interesting story.
His devotion to Peggy during her last years will not be forgotten. Alton learned all he could about her rare condition and became her dialysis technician. He stepped up and stubbornly showed his capacity for single-minded loyalty and deep, abiding love.
He is survived by his two daughters, Shelly McDonald of Seattle, Wash., and Sheila Roselle (Scott), of Spokane, Wash.; sisters, Aloma Nash (Curtis), of Bixby and Naomi Shestack (Ron), of Philadelphia, Penn.; and brothers, Perry (Fern), of Caruthersville, Mo., and Kenneth (Linda), of San Antonio, Texas. His youngest sister, Carolyn, died in childhood, struck by lightning as she chopped cotton in one of those now-lost fields.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 29, at the Bakerville Church of Christ. All are invited.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Alton's name to the American Cancer Society.