Each man had a different story to tell, but their paths to business success in Hall County all started humbly.
Milton Robson sold chicken from the back of his El Camino. Jack Frost sold cemetery plots door to door. Jan Cooley held down a variety of jobs in family-owned poultry businesses.
On Thursday, they were being honored as “local legacies” at the Northeast Georgia History Center’s annual Taste of History Luncheon at First Baptist Church on Green Street.
“One thing that stands out about self-made men and women is that they tell you the truth,” said Cheryl Vandiver, chairwoman of the fundraising event, in introducing Robson.
“Anybody who knows Milton knows where you stand with him.”
Vandiver, vice president of development for the North Georgia Community Foundation, went on to tell several stories about Robson, as did the others introducing Frost and Cooley.
She talked about Robson’s love for unique cars and country music, relating how Robson, donning a cowboy hat, sang at a food festival in Oakwood a couple of decades ago.
Robson opened Milton’s Portioned Packed Meats in 1972, which became Prime Pak in 1985.
He also founded Milton’s Institutional Foods, now known as PFG-Milton’s, which he sold in the 1990s.
Robson said he wished schools today would “preach hard work and determination” to students.
Longtime newspaper executive Phil Hudgins introduced Cooley, calling him “a great guy, who is humble about his success and is generous.”
Cooley, a native of Burlington, N.C., is president of J&B Property Management.
From 2002 to 2007, he managed commercial properties, including three poultry processing plants.
In January, after opening and later selling Pro View Foods, Cooley bought two spring water bottling plants in Blue Ridge to begin his newest venture.
“You’re only as good as the people around you,” he said in a brief acceptance speech.
In introducing Frost, the Rev. Bill Coates, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, talked about a couple of their adventures together, including a bungee jump in New Zealand.
“Jack … did a swan dive,” Coates said, drawing a huge laugh from the audience.
Frost owns Memorial Park Funeral Home, which has locations off Memorial Park Road and Riverside Drive in Gainesville and Falcon Parkway in Flowery Branch.
He bought his first cemetery in College Park in 1961. Over the next 50 years he bought, developed and sold more than 100 cemeteries and funeral homes in several states.
Frost spoke about big plans he has for Memorial Park, including developing a new cemetery in Braselton.
But he quickly turned his attention to the cause involved with the event — raising money for the history center, which is at 322 Academy St. N.E., Gainesville.
“The history center needs your help,” Frost said. “There’s not a better venue … in any city that I’ve ever been in.”