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Community mourns John Austin Edmondson, Gainesville native and longtime businessman
Austin Edmondson.jpg
Austin Edmondson

The crowds may have been thick, but Audrey Ivester always knew where to find her father, John Austin Edmondson, at Gainesville High School football games.

“He kept the same two seats at Bobby Gruhn Stadium for like 50 years,” she said.

The Red Elephants was far from Edmondson’s lone passion. The longtime Gainesville businessman also was devoted to his church, St. Michael Roman Catholic Church, and several area causes, including Eagle Ranch and United Way of Hall County.

“My dad was very interested in being a help to the community,” Ivester said.

She, her family, friends and others he worked with in the area are mourning Edmondson, who died Friday, June 17, at Lanier Village Estates, a North Hall retirement community. He was 83.

“I asked Austin to serve on the Eagle Ranch board shortly after North Carolina State won the national championship in basketball,” said Eddie Staub, founder of the faith-based center that serves youth in crisis and their families. “He said he would do it because he wanted to experience two miracles in his lifetime.”

Staub was referring to another of Edmondson’s passions — keeping up with his college, where, after graduation, he “remained a dedicated Wolfpacker throughout his life,” according to his obituary.

“Austin’s early involvement contributed greatly to the success of the Eagle Ranch mission,” Staub said. “His ongoing passion and support for the ranch was a great encouragement.”

A Gainesville native, Edmondson didn’t stray far from his hometown.

Austin, as he was known around town, returned to Gainesville after the Army and joined his father in the management group at Georgia Chair, a furniture manufacturing company started by his grandfather in 1914. He sold his ownership in the company in 2004.

The business closed in 2016.

“He was a good fellow, pretty even-keeled and did a great job,” said Harry Bagwell, president of Georgia Chair when the business closed.

Outside his work, Edmondson also was involved with the United Way of Hall County, the Boys Club of Gainesville and the Housing Authority Board, according to his obituary. He also was a longtime Kiwanis member, participating in the club’s Read Aloud program.

“Austin always had a heart for this community and would stop by my office at United Way regularly to offer his support and encouragement,” said Joy Griffin, former United Way president, adding that the board room at the organization was named in his honor.

She also served with Edmondson in Kiwanis.

“He was always the first to raise his hand to support a service project and offer encouragement to club leadership,” Griffin said. “He will be dearly missed. Gainesville is special because of leaders like Austin who truly invested in the community with his time, wisdom and resources.”

Edmondson will be remembered on Wednesday in a Mass at St. Michael and a service at Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville.

Little & Davenport Funeral Home and Crematory in Gainesville is handling arrangements.