John K. (Jack) Gurner Sr. received the 2008 Braswell Hatcher Service Award at the annual Water Valley Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet Monday night. Presenting the Award was Joe Newman, outgoing chamber president.
The award was presented to Gurner for his contributions to the city and especially area youth through the Boy Scouts as well as his work with the Casey Jones Railroad Museum, Newman said.
(Editor’s Note: This is the information presented Monday night at the Chamber of Commerce Banquet when the Braswell Hatcher Award Recipient was announced.)
The recipient of this year’s Braswell Hatcher Award is John K. Gurner Sr. Jack, as everyone knows him, was born in Water Valley on January 31, 1927. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. B. G. Gurner.
His elder brother, Bruce, received this award in 2002. This is the first time that siblings have received this honor.
Jack attended school in Water Valley until he left for the Army Air Corps in 1945. He was discharged when the war ended. Prior to that and after, he was a member of Boy Scout Troop 14 beginning in 1940. He became a troop leader and eventually Scoutmaster and served from 1947 until 1967.
Jack was a member of the JC’s during the 1950s. This group planned and presented the Tri-Lake Fairs, an annual event from 1953 through 1959. The fairs brought thousands to Water Valley.
In the mid-1950s, he worked on the committee to develop the city park and recreational facilities on Lafayette Street. This included the skating rink and eventually the tennis courts and swimming pool.
As a young man, Jack worked for the Mississippi Highway Department and with The Tri-Lake Music Company alongside Mark Trusty. He spent most of his working life with Gulf Interstate Gas Company that later became the Columbia Gulf Gas System.
His training as an electronics technician benefited Water Valley on several projects such as the installations of sound systems in the city auditorium, city schools, several churches and the youth baseball field.
Over the years, he has assisted the city on various projects including the wiring of the emergency siren system and the airport lights.
Jack has been an active member of the First Methodist Church and served on the board.
Since his retirement, he has involved himself in the Gurner family tradition of preserving Water Valley’s history. Currently he is curator of the Casey Jones Railroad Museum that houses many of the artifacts collected by his brother, Bruce.
He married his childhood sweetheart, Mary Nell Groves, in 1948. Both grew up on Panola Street. They have two sons, Jack Jr. of Water Valley and Doug of Nashville. Their grandson, Jason, is a history professor in Jacksonville, Alabama.
Also, you can click here Talk of the Valley for a story about Gurner.