Taylor Ford was young when the Blizzard of ’93 hit the area. He was a student at Pleasant Valley Elementary School. He remembers being at his home with his parents and sister and having plenty to eat. He heard about others though, who didn’t fare as well. Stores were closed and those who didn’t have the ever-popular snow items of milk and bread or other items, did without.
Ford is now manager of Buckhorn Marketplace on the Jacksonville-Alexandria Highway. When he began hearing news reports about the impending snow, rain and ice on Jan. 6, he knew he wouldn’t let his customers do without. He packed a bag, complete with pillow and blanket, and took to work with him. He spent the night at the store so everyone would have access to groceries the next day. A customer brought him an air mattress.
“I wanted to be sure we’d be open Saturday for anyone who needed us,” he said.
A few weeks before, Cary Hurst, who lives in the Buckhorn community and jokingly calls himself the mayor of Buckhorn, met a man who had been married 67 years. His wife had died a few months earlier. The man told Hurst it would be a lonely Christmas for him, because he had no family here. The man’s words touched Hurst and he began thinking about others who would be alone on the holiday. He decided to do something about it.
He arranged for Zoe’s on the Lake to be open on Christmas Day and those who had nowhere else to go, were invited to eat there free. One hundred showed up to eat turkey, ham, cornbread, dressing, cranberry sauce, gravy, green beans, mashed potatoes, banana pudding, cupcakes and pecan pies.
For their concern for others, Ford and Hurst were each presented the Weaver Citizenship Award by Weaver Mayor Wayne Willis and were recognized at the Weaver City Council meeting Thursday night. Willis shops at Ford’s store.
“Taylor told me if I needed something to come by and he would be open,” Willis said. “I asked him about the weather and he told me he’d packed a bag and would be there all night.”
Customers were in and out of the store, the only grocery store in Weaver, all day. Ford said it was business as usually, despite the weather. Just as many customers as normal shopped. Some of them drove ATVs to get there.
Ford is the son of Anita and Tom Kilgore and the late Ronnie Ford.
“The suicide rate is always up at this time of the year,” Hurst said. “Christmas is a sad time. I got to thinking about how many people are by themselves and I thought, ‘We’re gonna open up.’ ”
His wife, June, who “makes the best cornbread, dressing and banana pudding in the world” cooked up those items. Brenda Angel made the pecan pies.
Hurst, who owns Hurst Dynamic Solutions, and his son, Luke, one of the owners, and others arranged to get the food. They ended up with five turkeys, two hams and he doesn’t know how many Boston butts.
“I couldn’t have done this without my wife,” Hurst said. “She’s a nurse and came in to help after long shifts.”
Hurst said several waitresses cried after hearing stories from some of those attending, one of whom drove up on a motorcycle. This particular diner said he didn’t know where he was going to eat that day. He said life had been hard on him.”
Hurst said he was happy he could offer the man a nice, comfortable place to sit, enjoy food and be around other people.
“Some of them sat there for hours,” he said. “It was an interesting day.”
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