William “Bill” Scearce, a businessman who served four terms on the Joplin City Council, died Saturday at Freeman Hospital West. He was 81.
Scearce, a native of Georgia, moved to Joplin in 1969 when he accepted the job as parks and recreation director for the city of Joplin. He held that job until 1978, when he went into business. In 2001, he became district manager of Design Benefits Inc. and worked in that capacity 22 years.
After a number of years in business and as a volunteer on city committees, Scearce was elected to the City Council in 1982 and served until 1990. He was returned by voters for two more terms from 2008 through 2016, according to records of the city clerk’s office. He also had held the office of mayor pro tem for a time on the council.
“Bill loved the city and invested a lot of his own life to it,” Mayor Doug Lawson said. “He continued to serve the city on boards and commissions even after his terms on council. He made a difference in Joplin, and he will be missed.”
Scearce’s volunteer service with city boards goes back to 1983, when he served on the Joplin Historical Society Committee. He then assisted with an Enterprise Zone Tax Abatement Study committee and the former Joplin Marketing Committee in 1985. He was appointed to the city’s Personnel Board in 1998 and served until 2004. He served on the Joplin Industrial Development Authority from 1991 until 2003, city clerk records show.
In 2002, Scearce was appointed to the Capital Improvement Oversight Sales Tax Committee and served six years. Most recently, he served on the board of the Joplin Redevelopment Corp., which was established in connection with the town’s effort to recover from the 2011 tornado.
Current council member and former Mayor Gary Shaw recalled being a customer of Scearce’s in the 1970s when Scearce owned the former Shank Army Surplus Store at 1312 S. Main St. Shaw said he bought military clothing and supplies there when he was in the Army Reserves.
“We didn’t always agree, but you always knew where he stood,” Shaw said. “He had a heart for the city and for children and people who needed help. There were times he asked me to pray for people.”
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Joplin with private family burial to follow. Visitation will be from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday* at Thornhill-Dillon Mortuary in Joplin.
Memorial contributions may be made to Children’s Haven of Joplin or to the Multiple Sclerosis Society in care of the mortuary.
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