The family and friends of a longtime Taylorsville pastor set aside two days for people in Alexander County to pay their respects.
The body of the Rev. Gary Jennings was available for public viewing at East Taylorsville Baptist Church on Tuesday. Folks were able to pay their respects from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The same schedule will be followed Wednesday.
Jennings, 73, died Sunday, Jan. 10, after a battle with COVID-19. He was a longtime resident of Alexander County and well-known in the Taylorsville community.
According to his obituary on the Alexander Funeral and Cremation Service website, Jennings moved from Tennessee to Taylorsville to become the pastor of East Taylorsville Baptist Church. He served there for 30 years. He was also involved with the Taylorsville Fire Department for 29 years.
“Anything you needed, you could always depend on Gary. He’s a notable person in this community,” said Charlie Marshall, Taylorsville Fire Department Assistant Chief. Dedicated and hard-working is how he described Jennings.
Marshall said he and Jennings began working with the department around the same time, back in the 1970s. “Back in his heyday, anytime the whistle would blow he would be there. Day or night,” he said.
Up until a few months ago, Marshall said Jennings would still run calls with the department. “He would show up in his personal vehicle just to see if you needed anything. He didn’t want you to be out there by yourself,” Marshall said.
Jennings also served on the board of directors at Taylorsville Savings Bank and was president of Alexander Funeral Service for the past 26 years.
“I’ve served with Gary Jennings on the bank board for the past 36 years,” said Tim Keever, Taylorsville Savings Bank Executive Officer. “He was very influential. He had been involved with a lot of things in the community. Anybody’s name we would bring up, he always knew something about them. He was very helpful in his knowledge of the people of Alexander County and what they needed.”
Keever said when he learned of Jennings passing, he couldn’t believe it. “Gary always had the image of someone who was going to live forever,” he said. “He was a little bit older than I am, but I’ve always thought that Gary would help with my funeral — I didn’t think he may go before I would. It’s hard to imagine that he’s gone.”
Funeral services for Jennings will be held Thursday, Jan. 14, at 4 p.m. at East Taylorsville Baptist Church and his body will be placed in the sanctuary an hour before the service. Family will be in the sanctuary, with a socially distanced service. You can also watch the service via "Live Stream" in the Jennings Family Life Building or you can listen in the parking lot on radio station 92.5 FM.
The Rev. Phil Hoskins, the Rev. Mitch King, the Rev. Jamie Steele and the Rev. Mark Marshall will be officiating. The family requests that everyone strictly adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols. A private graveside service will be held in the Taylorsville City Cemetery at a later date.
Emily Willis is a general assignment and education reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.