Hayward Leon “Farmer” Kirksey, 86, of Jonesboro died Friday June 29, at the Craighead Nursing Center. He was born on November 18, 1925 in a farm house in the Valley View Community. He grew up on the family farm helping his dad, who was one of the first farmers in the Valley View Community to start raising rice. He graduated from Valley View High School in 1943. Upon graduation, he joined the Navel Aviation Cadet Program at the age of 17. Upon completion of the Cadet Program and two years of college, he was assigned to the U.S.S. Birmingham as an Aviation Tech, and served in battles at Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Ie Shima and earned two Bronze Stars. Preceded in death by his parents, John Thomas “Tom” Kirksey and Myrtle (Davis) Kirksey. After those battles, a Japanese suicide bomber hit the U.S.S. Birmingham mid-ship and exploded. Leon was not hurt in the attack. The U.S.S. Birmingham was awarded eight battle stars for her serving during the Second World War. Leon returned home to Jonesboro after the war but was recalled for the Korean War. He was assigned to a Sky-raider Squadron based in San Diego, California. He served for 18 months on different air craft carriers based in San Diego. After serving in the military, he returned to Jonesboro and the Valley View community. He married the former Marguerite Bailey in 1952, had two children and returned to farming rice and soybeans in the Valley View community. His hobbies were cars, motorcycles and airplanes. He was an aviation enthusiast and obtained his private and commercial pilot’s license. He owned and flew many airplanes throughout his life and restored several antique cars. He also enjoyed keeping bees and jarring honey. He enjoyed visiting with his good friend Pete Yarbrough. Leon was also instrumental in getting a Ruritan Club started in the Valley View community in 1962. Through the years Leon served the Valley View Ruritan Club in various offices including President. He also served Ruritan National Club as Opportunity Land Area Zone Governor and District Governor for many years. Leon served six years on Riceland Foods Inc. and as the Craighead County Farm Bureau Farm Family of the year. In 2001, he was inducted into the Valley View Hall of Honor in appreciation of outstanding service and dedication to the Valley View School and community. Survived by his wife of sixty years, Marguerite (Bailey) Kirksey. Two children, Debra Mangrum and Tom Kirksey (Donna) Kirksey both of Jonesboro. Four grandchildren, Wayne Mangrum (Kristen), Marissa (Mangrum) Richardson (Brian), Martina Mangrum, Elizabeth (Kirksey) Combs (Adam) all of Jonesboro. Three great grandchildren, Alyssa and Ashlyn Combs, and Harper Richardson all of Jonesboro. Funeral service will be at 2:00 P.M. Sunday in Emerson Memorial Chapel, with Chaplin Edward Pruitt officiating. Burial will be at Jonesboro Memorial Park Cemetery with Emerson Funeral Home in charge. Active pallbearers will be, Vance Morrison, Mike Mangrum, Roger Blankenship, Elmo Mayhan, Mark Flemon and Dean Roach. Honorary pallbearers will be Pete Yarbrough, J.D. Salmons, and the members of the Valley View Ruritan Club. Visitation will be from 5 – 7:00 P.M. Saturday at Emerson Memorial Chapel. For lasting memorials the family requests that you consider the Mt. Carmel Methodist Church 4000 sw. Drive Jonesboro, Arkansas 72401.