Antoine “tireless champion”, defender of the community

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Retired local radio personality Dick Antoine, a “tireless champion” of dozens of community events who was known for his larger-than-life portrayals of Santa Claus and the world’s tallest elf, died Sunday morning after a long battle with cancer, his family confirmed. through a spokesperson.

Antoine retired from his daily talk radio show on KZNG, “Talk of the Town” in May 2019 after informing and entertaining listeners for 31 years.

“I am so saddened by the death of my good friend Dick Antoine, one of the bravest men I have ever known,” said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, on Sunday.

“Dick fought his illness with grace and good humor, while continuing his countless activities on behalf of Hot Springs, which he loved so much.”

Antoine portrayed the tallest leprechaun in the world in the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade at Visit Hot Springs. Arrison noted that Antoine continued his high-spirited performance for years as he battled cancer.

“If there was an activity promoting Hot Springs National Park, Ark., You would find Dick Antoine there, from the annual Christmas parade and Oktoberfest celebrations to his interviews on his radio show. He continued all of his activities for years after it became physically difficult for him to do so, ”said Arrison.

“He was a great friend and he will be sadly missed by me and his city.”

The world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade Facebook page also posted its “heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of our beloved friend, the tallest leprechaun in the world, Dick Antoine.”

“His presence and impact on our community, and this event in particular, is irreplaceable. He has served Hot Springs as a tireless champion and leader, as a founding member of this great event, and helped make his legacy a piece. hinge in the history of the city. You will remember forever when we walk these 98 feet again, Dick. Thank you for all you have done and rest peacefully, dear friend, “the message said.

In 2018, Antoine received the inaugural Excellence in Public Service Award to recognize him for his decades of service and contributions to the town of Hot Springs, created by his longtime friend and frequent co-contributor, Tom Wilkins.

According to the award, some of the accomplishments on Antoine’s long list of community contributions include the co-creation of Spa Blast, an annual July 4th celebration at Oaklawn Park; co-organization of the Hot Springs Farmers and Artisans Market; work with the FACES Foundation; fundraising and participation in the Garland County Veterans Memorial Committee; fundraising for the Fallen Heroes Memorial; hosting the annual Hot Springs Christmas Parade for over 25 years and the Hot Springs Veterans Day Parade for 17 years; and serving on the Salvation Army’s board of directors.

In addition to serving the community locally, Antoine served in the US Air Force from 1969 to 1973 during the Vietnam War, depending on the award.

The portrayal of the characters by Antoine over the years has become a holiday legend. In addition to The World’s Tallest Leprechaun, Antoine played the role of Santa Claus for over 30 years, was known as the Neatness Man for the former Hot Springs / Garland County Beautification Commission, and donned a costume chicken each year as an Oktoberfest Ambassador.

Antoine’s awards over the years include the 2005 Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year award and the 2006 Bobby Beavers Tourism Award.

Antoine has also organized local cancer fundraisers and served as co-chair and past chair of the Garland County Relay For Life.

He was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. He went into remission but returned in early 2018.


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