Thursday, April 11, 2013
Friends, family honor Garrison
By SUE WATSON
John Garrison, funeral director at the Holly Springs Funeral Home, recently celebrated his 80th birthday.
Friends and family at the funeral home honored him with a dinner and birthday cake. Garrison has been with the funeral home 20 years and also serves as deputy coroner. He was elected and served one term as county coroner.
Garrison was employed by Sears in Memphis, Tenn., for many years while his wife, Nancy, worked for Marshall County dispatch. He also was a volunteer firefighter at the Red Banks Fire Department for 17 years.
Former county coroner Chuck Thomas said he met Garrison when they both ran for coroner. They became friends at a political rally, and after the election, Thomas asked Garrison to work for the funeral home and to serve as deputy coroner during his tenure as coroner. When Thomas ran for and was elected as Marshall County chancery clerk, Garrison ran again for coroner and won. After he was defeated in a second bid for coroner by James Richard Anderson, Anderson asked Garrison to serve as his deputy coroner.
The Garrisons moved to Red Banks in July 1969. Nancy Garrison was born in Arkansas and was raised in Missouri, while John Garrison is from New Albany. They are members of Red Bank Baptist Church.
Juanita Thomas said Garrison, a man of steely nerves, is a tender-hearted man who privately sheds tears for families who are burying loved ones.
“You have to love this work and to love people,” she said. “He does.”
Chuck Thomas explained Garrison has always gotten out of bed to respond at a scene, no matter the conditions or the hour. Many time coroners may receive several different calls in one night.
“He goes day and night,” Chuck Thomas said. “He doesn’t say no. He hits the ground running.”
Thomas told a story of a night that Garrison got a call from Memphis. On his way to the funeral home to get the hearse, a horse ran out in front of his vehicle and came over into the front seat after shattering the windshield.
Garrison was picked up by deputies and taken to the funeral home where he got in the hearse and continued to Memphis. In Memphis, the hospital workers asked Garrison, “Man, what happened to you?”
Thomas said Garrison had windshield glass all over him.
“He will get up three or four times a night, if it is necessary,” Juanita Thomas said.
Key character traits she finds in Garrison are altruism, willingness to endure hardships and dedication to helping people.
Garrison has a dry wit and often utters wisecracks under his breath.
“He drives us crazy, but we love him anyway,” said Janna Stanton. “He will just quietly do it and we will say, ‘what did you say?’ ”
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