Notable passings in Cherokee County
by Rebecca Johnston
December 31, 2013 09:10 PM | 3447 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Rep. Calvin Hill speaks with Woodstock resident Pat Wallace during a past meet-and-greet with new district congressman Phil Gingrey. Hill died Oct. 30 after he was diagnosed with leukemia in August.<br>Staff/file
Rep. Calvin Hill speaks with Woodstock resident Pat Wallace during a past meet-and-greet with new district congressman Phil Gingrey. Hill died Oct. 30 after he was diagnosed with leukemia in August.
Today we take a final look back at community leaders, congressmen, a police officer, a dentist and a basketball coach.

* Veteran state Rep. Calvin Hill dies after battle with cancer

State Rep. Calvin Hill, 66, died Oct. 30 after a brief battle with cancer. He was diagnosed with leukemia in August.

Hill had served in the state House of Representatives for 12 years after being first elected in 2002. He also served two terms as mayor of Ball Ground before entering state politics.

A former U.S. Marine, Hill was a successful businessman, founding director of Cherokee Bank and involved in the community.

He has served on the boards of the YMCA, March of Dimes, United Way, the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, the Anna Crawford Children’s Advocacy Center and the Rotary Club of Canton.

During his years in the Legislature, Hill was recognized by his peers as one who passed meaningful legislation and worked with both sides of the Capitol in getting things done.

He served as vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and Banks and Banking Committee. He was also on the Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight Committee, State Institutions and Property and Special Rules committees.

* Bill Jarrard led county zoning board

Longtime member and first chairman of the Cherokee County Municipal Planning Commission, William J. “Bill” Jarrard, 86, died July 4.

Jarrard helped organize the county Planning Commission in 1965 under then-Cherokee County Commissioner Trammel Carmichael.

The community leader served for the next 42 years on numerous committees and boards for Cherokee County, including the Impact Fee Study Committee, Citizens Round Table, Impact Fee Appeal Board and the Planning Commission until his retirement in February 2007.

In recognition of his service, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners named April 5, 2007, Bill Jarrard Day, the 42nd anniversary of his civic involvement.

“Bill was a good friend, and a good citizen in Cherokee County. Bill was very knowledgeable about county issues, and helped start the zoning process that has helped the county maintain its rural appeal sought by so many,” said former county commissioner Jim Hubbard. “His work on the Planning and Zoning Board set the tone for the development process, much of which is still used today.”

Jarrard grew up in Birmingham, graduated from the University of Alabama with a law degree and served in the U.S. Navy. He then worked in management for Texaco Oil for 10 years before locating to Hickory Flat community in 1964.

At that time he founded Jarrard and Associates Inc., a commercial real estate company based in Sandy Springs.

Jarrard, an Eagle Scout, served many years as committee chairman for Troop 465 in Hickory Flat.

* Dr. Edwin Swords left his mark

Well-known dentist and community leader Dr. Edwin Swords of Canton died Dec. 11 at the age of 92. An influential, fun-loving local businessman, Swords had a big impact on the community.

He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, owned the Burger Chief restaurant and was a respected dentist in Canton for decades.

Along with his work in the community, Swords traveled to Peru many times to build and work with an orphanage there.

Swords provided dental care for the children while in Peru on the mission trips, which were through the First Baptist Church of Canton.

Most recently, Swords became the oldest person to ever complete the Peachtree Road Race two years in a row, and was an inspiration to many. He completed more than a dozen of the July 4 races.

Swords was the first person to graduate from Emory University’s four-year school of dentistry in 1950 and was a prominent dentist in the Canton area, retiring from dentistry in his mid-80s.

Swords also served in the U.S. Army. Deployed to the Philippines during World War II shortly after the invasion, as a veteran Swords was buried in the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton.

* Library patron Elizabeth Johnston recalled

Well-known Woodstock community leader Elizabeth Davis Johnston died Dec. 4 at the age of 94, leaving behind a legacy of love, leadership, service and achievement.

One of Johnston’s greatest achievements was her role in creating and founding the Woodstock Public Library. Along with her work for the library, Johnston served the community in many capacities, friends and family said, leaving Woodstock better than she found it.

She served as president of the Young Matrons Circle for Tallulah Falls School. She was instrumental in founding the Woodstock Public Library and served as Chairman of its Board of Trustees.

She served on Cherokee County library boards from 1964 until 1991. For most of that time, she served concurrently on the Woodstock Public Library Board, R.T. Jones Memorial Library Board and the Sequoyah Regional Library Board.

She participated in organizing and served with the R.T. Jones Memorial Hospital Auxiliary and was its president for two years.

Johnston was one of the founders of the South Cherokee Recreation Association and was its secretary for five years. She was president of the Woodstock Elementary School PTA and was active in the Cherokee High School PTA.

She was president for four years of the Cherokee County Historical Society and secretary of the Cherokee County Planning and Building Commission.

She served as a director of the Bank of Woodstock from 1974 to 1984. Elizabeth was an active member of the Woodstock United Methodist Church, serving as a Sunday school teacher, President of the United Methodist Women and as a Lay Delegate to the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

* Johnny Nelson was a familiar face at courthouse

A familiar and respected face around the Cherokee County courthouse and Sheriff’s Office was missed following the death of a man with a long career in law enforcement, who also was a bailiff.

Former Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Johnny Nelson, 82, died April 6, and those who worked with him prior to his retirement remembered him as a police officer’s policeman, one who always gave good advice.

Nelson was a Cherokee County native, born in Ball Ground, and served in the Korean War, where he received a Purple Heart and was awarded the Bronze Star after being wounded on a rescue mission in active combat.

Nelson began his law enforcement career in 1956 with the Dade County Florida Sheriff’s Office, later to become Miami Dade, where he became the fourth person ever in the nation to make a live radio broadcast on traffic conditions from a helicopter.

In his early years, he was an excellent baseball player and was approached by a scout with the Atlanta Crackers and offered a position with the team.

Nelson retired in 2000 from the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office at the age of 69. He then became a bailiff at the Cherokee County Justice Center, retiring again in 2010.

During his years with the Sheriff’s Office, Nelson was the commander of the Evidence Unit where he kept meticulous records of thousands of pieces of evidence.

* Former Canton Police officer Ezra Waters dies

Ezra Lee Waters, 76, of Canton died Nov. 5 after a short battle with leukemia.

Waters began his law enforcement career with the city of Canton after returning from serving in the U.S. Army as an MP in Germany.

He later joined the City of Atlanta Police Department. As the Fulton County Police Department was formed, he joined their ranks where he retired as a major in 1991.

During his retirement, he was honored when asked to serve as interim Police Chief for the City of Alpharetta. After 36 years of faithful service to law enforcement, he finally retired for good.

He was also a Master Mason in the Canton Masonic Lodge #77 and a member of the Cherokee Shrine Club No. 18.

* Native James Denney went on to have star career as coach

A former Cherokee High School basketball coach and member of the Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame died Feb. 6 at the age of 80.

James E. “Jim” Denney of Cochran died at the Bleckley Memorial Hospital.

Denney is remembered locally for coaching the last Cherokee County elementary boys championship basketball team at Hickory Flat Elementary in 1986 and for being a member of the 1951 Georgia Boys State basketball championship team.

Denney was born in Canton and had resided in Cochran for 37 years. He was educated in the Cherokee County School System and graduated from Canton High School in 1951.

The gifted athlete attended college on a full athletic scholarship at Georgia Southern University, Brewton-Parker College and University of Georgia, where he played basketball for renowned coach Red Lawson.

He began his coaching career at Cochran High School as the assistant basketball coach to Shelly Hayes. He was a member of the House of David Professional Basketball Team from 1958 to 1959.

He was named Coach of the Year in 1965, coaching winning Class A basketball team from Cochran High School.

He then returned to Cherokee High School and later coached at Hickory Flat Elementary, which included seventh and eighth grades at the time.

He was inducted to the Hall of Fame at Brewton-Parker College and into the Cherokee Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.

The former coach returned to Cochran in 1994 to make his home.

He was also a U.S. Army veteran.

* Garden club leader Frances Fincher dies

Life-long and well-known Cherokee County resident Frances Carpenter Fincher, 95, of Canton died July 24.

Fincher is best remembered for her love of flowers, and was an accredited state flower show judge and member of the Trayletaah Garden Club since 1952.

She was active in the First United Methodist Church and was credited with making more than 2,000 fresh flower arrangements for services there over the years.

Fellow Trayletaah Garden Club member Joan Anderson said when the garden club celebrated its 65th anniversary in April, Fincher was there.

“She had the knowledge to teach flower arrangement and I learned many things from her,” Anderson said. “She had so much knowledge because of what she had done to become a state judge. She loved the meetings, the socialization. For the last 10 years, I would pick her up every month and take her to the garden club meeting.”

When Jim Gibbs first started working at Gibbs Gardens in north Cherokee County, Fincher was asked for her advice on the project, Anderson said.

Fincher was born in 1918 in Waleska, where she later attended Reinhardt Normal College from first grade through junior college. She graduated in 1936 and taught for a short time at Sharp Top in Waleska.

She married Robert D. Fincher Jr. in 1938, they bought the Western Auto Store, which they ran for 35 years.

Fincher was a founding member of the Pink Ladies Auxiliary at R.T. Jones Memorial Hospital.

* Well-loved doctor Harry Davis remembered

Dr. Harry Davis, 68, of Canton, a local family physician who is remembered as a fine man and a great doctor, died Nov. 18 after a battle with cancer.

Davis and his wife, Catherine, moved with their family to Canton in 1977 where he entered medical practice with Dr. William Nichols and Dr. H. L. Gold. In 1994, he became a partner in Medical Associates of North Georgia where he worked as a family practitioner until his retirement.

“Not only have we lost a great physician, but Cherokee County has lost a truly great man, a man above reproach,” said partner and longtime friend Dr. William Early. “Harry Davis was the doctor’s doctor. You never heard anyone say anything bad about him and you never heard him say anything bad about anyone else.”

Davis was a board certified family practitioner for 30 years.

Davis was one of the founding members of New Covenant Bible Church in the mid-1980s and he had been an elder since that time.

He was a strong advocate for Georgia Right to Life, the Hope Center and was on various boards.

He taught Sunday school and had led mission teams to Guatemala to work with the Medical Missions Ministry.

* Jeannie Adams remembered for jail ministry

Jeannie Lathem Adams, 60, of Canton, died Feb. 26 after a brave battle with breast cancer.

Adams was known for starting a ministry at the Cherokee County jail where she has volunteered for the last nine years to help women earn their GED.

She was a lifelong Cherokee County resident, a beloved mother, daughter, sister and friend, and a respected and active member of the community.

She was a special education teacher and testing diagnostician with the Cherokee County school system for 30 years and continued to educate other special education teachers and work within the school system part-time following her retirement.

In 2008, she was chosen teacher of the year at Clayton Elementary School. She also taught at Canton Elementary School for many years during her career.

A graduate of the University of Georgia, she received her master’s degree from North Georgia College.

Adams was an honorary member of the Service League of Cherokee County, a lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church where she started the pager ministry.

Adams was involved in her hometown, the city of Canton, and was involved on committees and in numerous efforts to make the community a better place to live.

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