Garrard legacy will last

Published 9:29pm Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The legacy left in Atmore by the late John Garrard will no doubt be one of love and service.

Garrard loved Atmore, the town he relocated to 64 years ago because of another of his great loves – his wife Fonda, who passed away in 2012. Hours after his own passing Sunday afternoon, Garrard’s granddaughter Lori Diller said she knew her grandparents had been reunited.

“My granddad departed this earth and was reunited with my mawmaw in heaven,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I will certainly miss him on this earth, but I know that he is made whole in the presence of our Lord.”

Mayor Jim Staff, who served on Atmore’s City Council for 12 of Garrard’s 16 years as the councilman for District 4, said he was one of the finest men he has ever had the privilege of knowing.

“He was probably as fine a citizen as Atmore’s ever had, bar none,” Staff said. “ He had Atmore at heart and he had his fellow man at heart. He’d do anything he could to help you. He would help you, even if it hurt him.”

Staff said Garrard’s contributions to the Atmore area are too numerous to count – and many of the services he provided may be yet to be uncovered.

“You know he did a prison ministry for years and nobody knew anything about it,” Staff said. “Everything he did, he did it to help people. He didn’t want any recognition.”

Garrard, who was born in Flora, Miss. and graduated as valedictorian from Flora High School in 1944, served in World War II in the U.S. Navy, but not before making a pen pal that would later become his wife and lead him to his adoptive hometown of Atmore.

“I signed up in a comic book to get a pen pal, and Fonda answered my letter,” Garrard said during an interview with the Advance in 2012. “We corresponded over the next several years, including my years in the U.S. Navy. After World War II was over I moved to Atmore and grew to love not only Fonda, but the city of Atmore as well. This is the friendliest town I have ever lived in.”

And Garrard certainly returned the favor to the city of Atmore in spades. After graduating from Millsaps College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and business administration and a minor in secondary education, Garrard taught at Escambia County High School and served in various capacities at First National Bank and Trust for a total of 58 years.

Garrard was also a 30-year member of Atmore’s Rotary Club, a 48-year member of the Atmore Public Library Board, spent 22 years working for Meals on Wheels, as well as 15 years ministering to inmates incarcerated at Fountain Correctional Facility.

In 1981, Garrard was named Atmore Citizen of the Year and in 2011 was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce.

Although the full extent of Garrard’s service to the Atmore area alone may never be known, Staff seemed to sum up the feeling of a community struggling with the loss of one of its most compassionate citizens.

“I’m just proud to have known him,” he said.

Services for John Garrard, Jr. will be held Thursday at 11 a.m. at First United Methodist Church. Burial will follow at Oak Hill Cemetery.

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