The last time Jerry Hill of Murrayville saw Warren S. Jackson was on July Fourth.
The pair, with a friendship spanning more than three decades, watched fireworks from Jackson’s boat dock off Lake Lanier. The two had visited frequently since Hill began as a teenager working at Jackson’s Western Sizzlin restaurant in Gainesville.
“My family and I will be talking about him and will be thankful for him and his lessons for the rest of our lives,” Hill said.
Jackson, 81, of Gainesville, died Saturday at his home following a sudden illness.
Funeral services are set for 11 a.m. Tuesday at Gainesville First United Methodist Church, with burial to follow in the Memorial Park Cemetery. Visitation is planned for 6-9 tonight at Memorial Park Funeral Home North-Riverside Chapel.
Jackson, a native of Centralhatchee in West Georgia, served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. After graduating from the University of Georgia in 1955, he worked in pharmaceutical sales for almost 20 years.
He then moved from Duluth to Gainesville to build and operate Western Sizzlin restaurants in Gainesville and Toccoa.
Jackson retired in 1993.
The location off Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville was the only remaining Western Sizzlin in Northeast Georgia when it closed in 2004. The Toccoa site had closed two years earlier.
A convenience store-gas station now sits at the Gainesville location across from Lakeshore Mall.
In his retirement years, Jackson volunteered at his church and cooked meals for Good News At Noon, a homeless ministry in Gainesville.
Hill, a Gainesville native, was 14 when he went to work for Jackson, working at Western Sizzlin through high school and into college.
“Mr. Jackson taught me very early in my life how to work, a lesson that I cherish today,” he said. “I remember once when he came into the dish washing area and looked around and said, ‘Jerry, I have never had anyone who kept this area as clean as you do. You do a real good job.’”
The compliment stuck with Hill.
“I was determined to do the best job I could do so that I could hear those words of encouragement as often as I could,” he said.
Hill makes ink pens by hand and gave one to Jackson on one of his visits to his home.
On July Fourth, Jackson held up the pen and told Hill he keeps the pen “sitting right here by my Bible and, every time I look at it, I think of you.”
“That night, I had my son to shake his hand and I told (him) ... this man is why you have a house to live in and something to eat,” Hill said.
“Mr. Jackson just laughed and returned the compliment that I was one of his best employee that he had ever had.”