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Ron Gifford remembered

Ron Gifford remembered
Ron Gifford remembered | Ron Gifford, county mayor
A GOOD LAUGH – Former county mayor Ron Gifford shares a laugh with a University of Tennessee at Martin student after a candidate forum held on campus in 2006 while Gifford sought to retain his seat as head of the county. File Photo Friends and family will say goodbye to former Weakley County Mayor Ron Gifford during a memorial service in his honor on Saturday. Gifford died April 12 at his brother’s home in Las Vegas, Nev. of an apparent heart attack. The 54-year-old served not only the people of Weakley County as head of the county for 12 years; he also served the children. Gifford taught school from 1978 until 1994, when he was elected as the county executive. After three terms in office, Gifford was defeated in 2006 by Houston Patrick. “To be able to describe Ron Gifford is just a few words is difficult to do,” Doris Nanney shared. Nanney served as Gifford’s secretary throughout his three terms in office. “It feels like it’s a dream. I considered him a good friend and I feel like I lost a good friend,” Nanney added. Nanney had seven children and Gifford was one year younger than Nanney’s youngest child. She remembered how even though she had been in her office longer than Gifford, he was still the boss. “He was intelligent and I respected his opinions. It was interesting to hear him talk because he was so educated about a lot of things and I was amazed by how much he knew,” Nanney said. Even though Gifford served as Nanney’s boss, she said there was a mutual respect between one another. “Ron was easy to work with. He was real nice and respectable to me. He always said he had been taught that it was proper to be friendly. It wasn’t a stressful environment at all when I worked for him, even though he always had something going on,” Nanney remembered. Gifford and the board of county commissioners did not always see eye to eye while he was in office, but that was one quality that some admired about the former county mayor. “Ron was always one to do what he thought was best for the county. He tried to please the majority of the people in the county, because he knew he would never please all of the people in the county,” Nanney said. Toward the end of his political career, Gifford’s health began to decline. Nanney said his heart trouble and Graves Disease did not offer him a chance to recover completely. Gifford suffered pneumonia at the end of his last term and spent some time in a Madison County hospital in 2006. “The last time I talked to him I knew he wasn’t feeling well. His voice was weak and he didn’t have much strength. He never could bounce back from getting sick,” Nanney remembered. Gifford had picked up qualifying papers for the county mayor’s seat earlier this year. He never returned his papers for that seat, reportedly at the advice of his doctor. Gifford was a certified art teacher who had a love of history. Those who knew Gifford would say he also had a love of words. WCMT News Director Dave Chaffin said he met Gifford in 1997 and remembers him fondly. “I remember he was always quoting Robert E. Lee,” Chaffin said. Gifford wrote poetry and served as an English teacher. He taught school at Palmersville, Dresden High School and Sharon. “He had a way with words. It was always interesting to hear him talk. He liked people and he liked to talk to people. He will be missed,” Nanney said. Nanney retired from the office after Gifford lost his re-election bid. After learning of Gifford’s death, Weakley County Mayor Houston Patrick ordered the courthouse flags at half-staff. A memorial service for Gifford is planned for 10 a.m. on Saturday at First Baptist Church in Dresden. For his complete obituary, see Page 10. Editor’s note: I had an opportunity to get to know Ron Gifford while working at The Press office. On a personal level, he always had something to say and was never afraid to share his opinion. I always appreciated how Gifford would never waver from those opinions as well as his willingness to share it with others. Gifford stood behind what he said and fought for what he believed in. WCP 4.22.10

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