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Many notable area residents died in 2013

POSTED: January 2, 2014 12:21 a.m.

Hall County said goodbye to many influential community members in 2013.


Bryan Shuler

Shuler, former Gainesville city manager, was serving as Colquitt County administrator when he died at his home in Moultrie in South Georgia. He was 55. He had served in Colquitt since February 2009.

Previously, Shuler worked for Gainesville for 11 years, first as director of development services, then as assistant city manager and finally city manager.

Shuler left in November 2008 under allegations of sexual harassment. Later, officials found no evidence he violated city policy, and City Council voted to give Shuler 11 weeks of severance pay.

William Newton “W.N.” Oliver Jr.

Oliver, 91, father of former Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver, founded Chesnut Mountain Egg Farms in 1948.

His family remembered him as an independent businessman and pillar of the Chestnut Mountain community.


Dick Taylor

Taylor, 65, served as Gainesville fire chief from 2001-2007 and was fire marshal for the city from 1997 to 2001. He also served as fire chief for Hall County from 1980-1983.

Taylor was known for his devotion to public safety. He had also served in the Navy as a peace officer and as chief of security at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.


Durward Pennington

Pennington was known for his involvement with Gainesville High athletics.

His association with the Red Elephants covered all sports seasons, even though he left the school as a faculty member nearly 40 years ago.

Pennington, 73, died unexpectedly while returning from his vacation home in Amelia Island, Fla., with his wife.

When Pennington taught industrial arts at Gainesville High from 1965-74, he coached girls basketball, track and field and was an assistant football coach with defensive backs and kickers. In 1974, he left the education field to pursue a career owning hotels in Gainesville and Gwinnett County, according to Wayne Vickery, Gainesville High athletic director.

Pennington also had a standout athletic career of his own, serving as a kicker at the University of Georgia (1959-1961) and professionally with the Dallas Texans (now the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs) from 1962-64.


Thomas Fielder Hardman

Hardman, 59, of Gainesville was an anesthesiologist and bench press world record-holder. He also initiated one of the first acute pain management services in the Southeast.

He was a nine-time world record holder for a bench press of 614.5 pounds, or 278.5 kilograms.

Hardman’s records were published in the Guinness Book of World Records and Sports Illustrated, and he was inducted into the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.


John H. Lloyd Jr.

Lloyd, 79, was a South Georgia native who went on to become the first leader in 1965 of what is now known as Lanier Technical College.

He had served as a vo-tech administrator in Marietta, where he had also worked for Lockheed, according to newspaper clippings at the time.

He later earned his doctorate in education leadership from Georgia State University in Atlanta and retired as deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Technical & Adult Education, now known as the Technical College System of Georgia.

William Henry Maxey

Maxey, 82, was known for his Dry Dock seafood restaurant on Washington Street in downtown Gainesville. Maxey worked in the restaurant business for much of his life.

While opening his own business was considered a feat by many, some said it was that much more inspiring as an African-American man.

Maxey made it a point to integrate his restaurant by employing a staff that was 50 percent black and 50 percent white, according to his obituary. The establishment was destroyed by fire in 1988.

Robert S. Tether Jr.

Tether, 84, was a surgeon, former chief of staff at Northeast Georgia Medical Center and a co-founder of Lakeview Academy.

He practiced medicine for more than 25 years in the Gainesville area.

Tether also started a practice with Dr. Robert H. Anderson, later adding Dr. Jim Leigh and Dr. Greg Delong. He retired from medicine in 1987.

One of his passions was steam engines, and Northeast Georgia Medical in 2012 dedicated Bob’s Trains in the pediatric unit of the hospital from Tether’s donated trains.


Carl Lawson

Lawson was one of the keepers of Gainesville’s history after spending almost a century in the city before dying at age 95.

By trade, he was an insurance and real estate salesman. One of his lasting landmarks in Gainesville is the pyramid-shaped office building on Academy Street that served as headquarters for his business for 30 years.

In his free time, Lawson was heavily involved with organizations such as the Jaycees and the community chest, now United Way of Hall County.

Lawson was also one of the men who flipped the switch on Buford Dam, creating the area’s largest tourist destination, Lake Lanier. Lawson was later given the switch, which he displayed on a wall in his home.

Dick Leet

Leet, 86, was a member of Brenau University’s Board of Trustees and a noted philanthropist.

Some of his contributions to Brenau include funding for development of a modern chemistry laboratory; support for undergraduate research and other physical sciences activities; a perpetual endowment for a named professorship, the Richard and Phyllis Leet Distinguished Chair of Biological Science at Brenau; establishment of funds to support administration and marketing for the university’s proposed $60 million capital campaign Leet helped plan; and annual fund contributions in the tens of thousands of dollars.

He also supported the Boys Scouts of America, Elachee Nature Science Center, The Arts Council, Quinlan Visual Arts Center, Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Gainesville First Methodist Church.

Leet, a native of Maryville, Mo., served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He worked for Standard Oil Co. in Indiana as a research chemist and in several management positions for 39 years. He retired as vice chairman of Amoco Corp.


Loyd Strickland

Strickland, 87, of Chestnut Mountain was a poultry pioneer and key player in Hall County’s development in education and transportation.

He devoted much of his life to the poultry business as founder of Chestnut Mountain Hatchery in 1947. It later became Crystal Farms, one of the state’s top egg producers. He sold the company in 1987 to three of his top managers.

Strickland also was a member of the Hall County Task Force in the early 1960s that obtained permission for the Board of Regents to build a junior college, which became Gainesville State College and now the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus.

He was a key player in the development of Interstate 985, too, which provided a gateway to the college.


Zachariah “Zak” Jones McConnell

McConnell, 26, was founder of the Dahlonega-based bluegrass band The Fiddleheads and died unexpectedly of a heart condition.

McConnell, a lifelong resident of Dahlonega, played mandolin in the band that garnered national attention on the sixth season of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”

It went on to headline The Kentucky Bluegrass Festival in Louisville, Ky., opened for Tim McGraw and Phil Vasser at The Opry House in Nashville, Tenn., and performed at a Braves game at Turner Field. The group frequently performed at area venues such as The Crimson Moon in Dahlonega and released its first studio album “Goodbye L.A.” in 2012.

McConnell was a teaching assistant working toward earning a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Georgia.


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