Updated 6-29-20 at 12:57 p.m.
CULLMAN, Ala. – Sunday was an emotional day at Cullman Wellness & Aquatic Center as friends, family and colleagues gathered in the main gymnasium to celebrate the life of longtime Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism Director John Hunt. Hunt passed away in March from injuries sustained in at accident at his home. Hunt served as parks & rec director in Cullman for 22 years before retiring from the department in 2014. He also spent time as the golf director at Terri Pines Country Club before accepting a job with Sand Mountain Park in Albertville.
After a song to begin the service, Desperation Church Lead Pastor Andy Heis was the first speaker to make his way to the podium and share some thoughts and memories about Hunt. Heis touched on some of his experiences with Hunt and what made him such a positive influence on the people around him.
“John is one of the most loving guys I’ve ever met. He was always laughing, always upbeat, loved peace. About the only time I ever saw him without peace was when he played golf, but every other time, absolutely,” Heis joked. “And the main legacy he has left in everyone’s life in some way, form or fashion is his kindness. That is one thing that sticks out about John as much as anything else. You never really caught him without a smile. He was always kind and loving everywhere he went.”
Hunt’s wife, Elizabeth, shared several thoughts and memories with the crowd, closing her time at the podium with a statement for her late husband.
“I will be forever thankful for saying yes to John when he asked me out on our first date, and we went to an Auburn football game. We love each other deeply, not only as husband and wife, but we were best friends,” she smiled. “I would not change anything in our lives that has happened. I’m sorry that you went too soon. So, what I would like to say to John, is that you will always be in my heart, I love you and I will see you soon.”
Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs took some time to talk about Hunt’s professional legacy in Cullman, elaborating on just some of the major projects he helped lead to make Cullman the community it is today.
“Heritage Park was the beginning of turning Cullman Parks and Recreation from a rec league, into a sports tourism department known throughout the southeastern United States. It wasn’t an easy project because no one understood it and pretty much no one believed what it would become,” Jacobs said. “But, after the success of Heritage Park, other projects followed. It’s easier to get people to believe in you after you’ve had a success. So, John came up with Chester (Freeman) and we built Field of Miracles. The facility that you’re in today took a few years, but with John and Chester’s persuasion, it became a reality and with his leadership, Cullman became an important parks and recreation department, for all citizens. He strived to build something that everyone can enjoy, from a child of all abilities to senior adults. All of the departments he tried to make top notch. This is his professional legacy, and Cullman is a much better place.”
Hunt’s brother, Scott Hunt, made his way to the podium as well and shared a lot of laughs with the crowd, recalling several of his favorite memories of his big brother.
“My earliest memory was always just trying to be like John. He didn’t know it and I really didn’t know it at that time either. I was always trying to keep up with him. He rode a bicycle so what did I have to do? I had to go ride the same bicycle,” Scott Hunt said. “Playing ball, I can remember the first team that he every played on in Gurley and I cried because I couldn’t be on the team. Mom and Dad, along with (John), talked to them and they let me be on the team because I was the little brother. That’s what little brothers do, and big brothers take care of little brothers.”
Hunt’s son, Ryan, was the final speaker at Sunday afternoon’s service and he was joined at the podium by his wife, Hannah. After sharing an emotional speech with those in attendance, Ryan Hunt encouraged everyone to live their lives having fun with a smile on their faces just like his dad always did.
“Dad believed in hard work, but he also believed in having fun. As you all know, you never saw him without smiling. He always had something nice to say and I can tell from all of your stories that he always put a smile on your faces. Dad was always a people person, he could make a friend out of just about anyone, especially if they were an Auburn fan,” Hunt said. “I’ve never met someone that didn’t have a nice thing to say about him. He made sure every child that wanted to play a sport was given the opportunity and made sure everyone was well fed on Thanksgiving when he helped with meals at the church. He gave me many wonderful memories that I will cherish forever. Memories like going to Auburn football games in the fall, white water rafting on the Ocoee in the summer and watching James Bond movies together in the basement. Dad was always there to make sure I was having a good time and was just happy to be there with me.”
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