Robert Emerson Stephens

Published 4:56 pm Thursday, December 30, 2021

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Robert Emerson Stephens, 66, transitioned at his home on Dec. 21, 2021. He was born in Marianna, Ark. the son of the late Rowena Stephens and Robert Harrell. He was predeceased by his sister, Glenda Williams. Robert served in the United States Coast Guard. He later went on to become CEO and President of Genesis Development & Consulting Services. He served as an Education and Training Consultant for the U.S. Department of Labor and served as an Advisor/Consultant to a former U.S. President as well as the Clinton Global Initiative. He attended Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Suffolk and Main Street Baptist Church in Smithfield. He was a past Mason of the Metropolitan Lodge No. 56 in Oakland, Calif. 

Robert was deeply influential in Suffolk and was very active in the community. He served on numerous boards such as the Suffolk Cultural Arts Center, Western Tidewater Free Clinic and Suffolk Humane Society. He was a member of the Suffolk Rotary Club, Rotary International and served as a past president of the Laurel Rotary Club, Laurel, Md. He helped lead the Healthy Suffolk Initiative. In 2012, he received the National FBI Directors Leadership Award. In 2014, he received the Community Hero Award from the Suffolk Democratic Committee for his work with the Be Fight Free campaign in Suffolk Public Schools. He was a former board member for VMI’s Board of Visitors and currently served on the College Orientation Workshop (COW) Board of Directors. His most recent organization where he actively served until his death was with the St. Paul’s Community Development Corporation (SPCDC), which he co-founded.

Robert is survived by his wife of 27 years, Karen Walden Stephens; sons, Fletcher Kyle Stephens and Frank Haywood (Lisa) of Whittier, Calif.; grandchildren, Jayce Haywood and Kezia Haywood; great-grandchildren, Charles, Avan, Benzi, Ayana and Zion; sister, Brenda Stephens of Memphis, Tenn.; brothers, Bobby Harrell and Marcell Harrell of Berlin, Germany; mother-in-law, Sarah Jean Walden; sisters-in-law, Marita Walden Cotten and Pamela Walden; numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins; and two loving and faithful fur companions, Lexi and Annie.

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A celebration of life service with military honors will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, at Parr Funeral Home & Crematory, 3515 Robs Drive with the Rev. Dr. William L. Lang officiating. Due to the rise in Covid cases, the family is limiting attendance to 100 guests and they are requesting everyone to wear a mask. Those wanting to watch the service live can watch through this link Memorial donations may be made to the St. Paul’s Community Development Corporation and mailed to 1851 Cherry Grove Road N., Suffolk, VA 23432 (  Condolences may be registered online at