Local businessman Jack Frost has risen to the top of his field ever since destiny knocked on his door more than 50 years ago.
Frost, owner of Memorial Park Funeral Homes and Cemeteries in Gainesville, recently received a life time achievement award from The Southern Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association. He was the first recipient of the award, which will now be given each year.
But it all started with a salesman’s knock back in 1956.
When the salesman first rapped on Frost’s door in Elizabethton, Tenn., trying to sell a four-grave cemetery lot, the young Frost was not interested.
“They can bury me in that ditch across the street,” he told the salesman.
But the salesman knew exactly how to get Frost’s attention. Seeing Frost’s son crawl across the floor, the salesman asked if Frost would bury his own son in the ditch.
Then, Frost was sold.
He invited the man inside to complete the transaction and soon learned that the salesman had made $50 from the sale.
“I thought to myself, I’m working for my daddy who owns a flour mill here in Elizabethton, and I make $75 a week and work 60 and 70 hours a week, and here, this man made $50 in 45 minutes. There’s something wrong with this picture.”
From that point forward, Frost began working part time as a door-to-door salesman, rising through the ranks of his company and traveling across the country.
In 1988, Frost bought Memorial Park. Throughout his career, he’s bought and sold more than 100 cemeteries in states such as Montana, Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
He has one piece of advice for aspiring businessmen in the community — never give up.
“You have to be a self motivator,” Frost said. “There’s absolutely no one behind you saying you’ve got to do this; you have to do that. It’s got to be yourself with the determination to succeed.”
Colleague Billy Hendrix described Frost as an innovator.
“He’s an individual who goes to bed with an idea and wakes up with 50,” Hendrix said. “He’s a human being that you don’t run into every day. He’s very unique.”
Some of Frost’s unique ideas include a President’s Room inside of the funeral home and a large replica of Noah’s ark in the cemetery.
And he’s not finished yet.
Frost said Memorial Park holds a special place in his heart, and he wants to expand its services to include a Memorial Park community center, which could provide a space for weddings, meetings or church groups.
“It would be used in countless, countless different ways,” he said. “And it looks like we’re going to do it.”
Local businessman Philip Wilheit has known Frost for 15 years and said this type of service is a normal part of Frost’s life.
“Jack is a good guy, and what I admire about him most is his devotion to giving back to the community and to other people in general,” Wilheit said. “You take that entrepreneurial spirit that he has and add it to the philanthropic streak in him, and that makes him a wonderful individual.”