Even those in Hall County who never knew Jack Frost have seen traces of his legacy memorialized in marble.
The 89-year-old owner of Memorial Park Funeral Home, who died following a sudden illness on Jan. 20, commissioned the statue of Lyman Hall, Hall County’s namesake, on the grounds of Hall’s government center; delivered a monument to the Hall County Sheriff's Office to honor its fallen officers, at no cost to the community; and recently donated a Vietnam War veterans memorial to the Rock Creek Veterans Park in Gainesville.
“He was just a great man and a great American,” Johnny Hulsey, local Vietnam War veteran, said.
Bill Coates, who has been friends with Frost for over 30 years, described the man as “extremely strong-willed” and “deeply compassionate.”
“He was a bold man in everything he did,” Coates said. “He lived life to the fullest as much as anybody I’ve ever known.”
Frost grew up in Sevierville, Tennessee, and several of his friends have reported that he attended the same high school as famous country singer Dolly Parton.
Coates said Frost came from an impoverished family and helped his father run a gristmill.
“He (Frost) just said, ‘I’ve got to do something more with my life than this,’” Coates said. “So he did. He really was a self-made man.”
Even though he owned and operated Memorial Park Funeral Home, which has four different locations, Ron Quinn, longtime friend of Frost, said the man “had a lot bigger heart than a purse.”
If anyone remembers one thing about Frost, Quinn said he hopes they’ll never forget that he loved the people of Gainesville and Hall County.
“I don’t think his legacy will ever be forgotten,” he said. “When he first moved up here, he said, ‘I’m going to make Memorial Park the showplace of the nation, the most beautiful cemetery in the country.’ He has.”
Frost has been commemorated throughout the years, including being named Northeast Georgia Business Hall of Fame laureate, a Master of Innovation by Brenau University and a “local legacy” by the Northeast Georgia History Center. He was also awarded with the Daughters of the American Revolution Medal of Honor and bestowed with the lifetime achievement award from The Southern Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association.
Giving behind the scenes
Despite his many achievements, Quinn said many of Frost’s good deeds will never be put in the spotlight because the man preferred being behind the scenes.
Tabitha Truelove, a Gainesville resident, said she feels emotional every time she thinks of one moment she shared with Frost four years ago.
While attending one of Frost’s annual pastor appreciation dinners, Truelove said she found herself stricken with anxiety, worrying about her daughter’s health and several challenges facing her church family.
Noticing Truelove, Frost walked up and put an arm around her.
“I remember him saying really softly that he always picks one person to bless,” Truelove recounted. “And he said, ‘I picked you tonight,’ and handed me something. As he walked off he said, ‘Thank you and your husband for everything you do.’”
Truelove said she looked down and saw $100 in her hand.
“There was no way he could’ve ever known that we needed that right then,” she said. “When God laid on his heart something to do for somebody, he did it.”
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office offered a statement on social media about Frost Thursday, Jan. 21, sharing a glimpse into the man’s support of law enforcement and others in the community.
Each year, Frost hosted a Fourth of July barbecue to honor first responders, opening up his funeral home’s dining area for the occasion. The sheriff's office also remarked how Frost headed up the installation of the 5-foot-tall monument that sits outside its headquarters today.
“Jack was always there for the Sheriff’s Office,” Sheriff Gerald Couch stated. “Not only did he show the Sheriff’s Office kindness and support, he was a great contributor to the community as a whole. I will miss him greatly.”
Bungee jumping, $2 bills and helping those in need
Marion Merck, Hall County coroner and manager of Memorial Park Funeral Home in Gainesville, said he first went to work for Frost in 1989.
Over the years, Merck said he watched as the man spread his compassion throughout the county, whether by helping local charities or handing $2 bills to children who visited the funeral home.
“I’m going to miss him walking into my office and always saying, ‘Merck, I need you, and I love you,’” Merck said with emotion. “He always made people feel like they were loved. I just hope the community remembers that Jack loved each and every person in Hall County. I loved him, and I will always have him in my heart.”
Coates said he can’t begin to explain Frost’s “larger-than-life” personality.
Frost had a passion for traveling across the globe, and even went on excursions with Coates to New Zealand, Vietnam and Tibet.
While gearing up for a mission trip with Frost in Vietnam, Coates said he noticed that the man was wearing a large gold ring and a Rolex watch.
“I looked at him and said, ‘I don’t think somebody like you wants to be doing what we’re doing in Vietnam,’” Coates recounted. “He said, ‘Don’t let my looks fool you young man. I’m going on this trip, and you’re not going to stop me.’”
When they arrived in Vietnam, Coates said they had to change their original plan of building an orphanage because “historic floods” swept through the area. Instead, they ended up bringing food to those in need.
“Jack Frost and I, and our group, waded through water to carry food supplies to people out there,” Coates said. “When we saw what pitiful conditions existed, he (Frost) pulled a roll of money out of his pocket and started sharing them with everyone he saw. He gave everything away that he had in his pocket.”
When Frost was 78, Coates said he traveled with him to New Zealand. Knowing the man’s adventurous spirit, Coates dared Frost to bungee jump off the Queenston Bridge.
Frost didn’t back down from the challenge.
“When he jumped from it, he had no fear and did a swan dive off it,” Coates said. “I couldn’t believe it. He was bold.”
Celebration of life services for Frost will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, in the chapel of Memorial Park Funeral Home with burial in The Chapel of Memories Mausoleum in Memorial Park Cemetery.
Frost is survived by his wife, Janice, and many other family members and friends.
Reporter Jeff Gill contributed to this report.