Sunshine passed over Christmas and carried us warmly into the weekend before more rain threatened our hometown—perched days away from the New Year with its matching numbers: 2020.
Several months ago while walking in Walmart I crossed paths with a fellow known to many for his Herculean efforts coaching and refereeing county sports in Cocke County.
I planned to do a feature soon in Just Plain Talk because John F. Frazier was getting up in years. This past Thursday we met again about 5 p.m. but I had already been at his house the same day after we met at the Plain Talk late that morning. “You jinxed me,” said John at our second meeting by chance.
We must have crossed paths when I began covering county sports in 1974 for the Plain Talk; John had already been involved for years in coaching starting with many of the elementary schools. But lets take a look at his family and go back in time.
His parents were Robert and Juanita (Ramsey) Frazier of Northport, and the family was so embedded in that area that at one point they owned many acres in Greggs Chapel.
A quick connection for you: The Kaye of Kaye’s Drive-in off West Broadway, her father was a brother to Juanita. The Fraziers had seven children of which John is oldest being born Nov. 14, 1936. Deceased are Myra, Freda, and Bobby Frazier. Still living are Anna Taylor, who lives in Illinois; Theta Williams, disabled because of a stroke is married to Theodore Williams; and Terri Cody married to Dale.
Robert was a hard worker at A. C. Lawrence Leather Company most of his life. He lived to be 92 despite a mild heart condition. His father, Fred Simpson “Simp” Frazier worked at Duncan & Greer and more about this fellow soon.
We jumped around in our long chat so I hope not to lose you. I do plan to revisit John because of the many stories and sports history he can tell us. When talking about Theta, former police captain Williams’ wife, he noted she was a talented athlete. In the late 1960s she played for Cocke County High School for Coach Ron Bargetzi. You might recall me talking about former Plain Talk publisher Nancy Petrey’s daughters Jeannie and Becky also playing basketball. Becky played on the same team. Theta played forward and guard and got started playing at Northport.
One thing that quickly caught my eye was a fragile and yellowed Newport Plain Talk dated Tuesday, Feb. 1, 1938. John pointed out the article: “Frazier Found Dead at State Garage”¬— this being Fred S. Frazier, Robert’s brother. I will quote from it to include names of people you might have known or heard of years since.
Fred “Simp” was a bookkeeper for the state garage located then where Wood Products stood east of Newport. You recall I visited there to write of the Fred Myers family recycling center at the former Wood Products plant.
John said that Fred had been to a democrat meeting before going to the garage. Later his body was found by a son of Lone Mantooth, a janitor. The “alarm” was sounded and Coroner John Cogdill arrived with Dr. W. E. McGaha and others. They found a wound on Fred’s head and speculated he had fallen down steps.
Apparently Fred was so popular many people started gathering at the funeral home but the body was taken to the home of Squire W. L. Lovell, Fred’s father-in-law. The funeral took place at Bybee M. E. Church South, Rev. Lewis Turner officiating.
Mr. Frazier was buried at Union Cemetery. His pallbearers reported in the newspaper were James Lillard, Ben Ray, G. W. Prater, Lyde Stokely, Carl McMahan, and John Williams.
The obit listed his widow as Edith Lovell Frazier, brother, Robert Frazier. Fred was preceded in death by his parents Mr. and Mrs. Simp Frazier. Fred was 35 years old.
Before Fred worked for the state at the garage he was with Duncan & Greer Hardware. John said that Fred was well liked in the district.
The Frazier family had also clipped from the Plain Talk the obit for Robert’s and Fred’s Dad, W. C. S. “Simp” Frazier, who died in San Antonio, Texas, and is buried in Union Cemetery. He spent 35 years with Duncan & Greer. He apparently died of a heart attack.
John said that atrial fibrillation (AF) runs in the family and John suffers with it to little consequence. Simp apparently died from AF and it is thought that Fred also had AF and some speculation that this made him ill causing his fall and death.
I plan to revisit some of John’s memories of growing up in Northport but now jump to graduation from Cocke County High School in 1954. He and his school friend of many years, Scott McClure, enlisted for Korea under the Buddy Plan. Fortunately the Korean War was over. They hoped to stay stateside but were shipped to South Korea for almost two years.
Both boarded the USNS Marine Phoenix at Seattle, Washington, after a few weeks seeing the sights such as Mt. St. Helens. There were about 2,200 soldiers on the ship. “We were packed like sardines. I got sick and weak and could barely walk.” He was about 19.
It was a tough tour of duty but memorable and most educational, he said. He wouldn’t trade anything for the experience. Scott left some weeks ahead of John for the US. Back in Newport John went to work at Wall Tube with Bob Pack, when Robert Kisabeth was engineer. He stayed there for almost four years. Next week we will talk about his sports and coaching interests and friends made over decades.
To be continued...