During Tuesday's London's Living Treasures Banquet, London Downtown took the time to honor not only four Living Treasures, but also two individuals who have passed away, but made a lasting impact on London. Jack Parman and Jewel Faye Williams were honored as Laurel Legacies.
Jack Parman was born during The Great Depression, which may have been a factor in his work ethic and success as a London businessman.
His ability to talk to people - whether he was well acquainted with them or not - was key to his success in Bob's Ready-to-Wear clothing store on North Main Street, where he became the second generation operator of the family business begun by his father, Bob Parman, in 1935.
The store remained in operation until 2014 when a fire at adjoining Weaver's Hot Dogs damaged the building and inventory and inevitably was closed by Bobby Joe Parman, the third generation operator and Jack's son.
Jack Parman was known for his kind and caring nature, with his friends calling him a caring and personable man.
But he was also an outstanding athlete during his youth, playing basketball and baseball at London High School.
"After high school, he went to LMU (Lincoln Memorial University) and played basketball there," said his son, Bobby Joe Parman. "He met my mom (Georgia) and they were married for 68 years until he died in May 2018."
But even after his marriage and birth of his children, Parman continued to weld his athletic interests.
"He coached basketball in the leagues and he also loved softball," Bobby Joe said. "He played golf and even though he never won a tournament, he was runnerup twice. Actually, he did anything he could to get out of the house!"
Parman was also committed to his church, First Christian Church in London, where he taught Sunday School and served as a deacon.
"He loved that church," Bobby Joe said. "He loved London and Laurel County."
Parman is described as "easy going" by those who knew him.
In a tribute after Parman's death on May 7, 2018, at age 90, long-time friend Roger Schott reflected on Parman's life.
"Jack, his wife Georgia, his father Bob and brother John are a great London family with a rich tradition of being the clothier of thousands of people from their childhood through adulthood," Schott said. "He and his wife Georgia both had a passion for life and a passion for people. He was a great friend to my family and a great London businessman. He was well thought of and he enjoyed his life."
Jim Baker was a cousin who landed his first job at Bob's Ready to Wear while in high school.
"Jack and his family worked young people in good environments. You might not think about it then, but you learned a lot of people skills that you still use," Baker said. "Later, as you went into the world you realized what an impact that had on your life."
Parman remained active into his late 80s although a fall that broke his hip was the health issue that seemingly took the wind out of his sails. The broken hip and confinement from his usual activities instigated some dementia. Some time later, he fell and broke his leg, leaving him mostly immobile. That is what his son said caused his swift decline in health.
But his impact on his family and friends was his own legacy - a life that was honored by those he loved and who loved him.
Jewel Faye Williams
"She loved people, she was a friend to the community," said Kip Jervis, owner of local radio station Light of London WJTE FM. "Her voice was angelic like the heavens opened up and breathed convictions down to everyone in earshot."
Jervis was recounting the life of his late grandmother, Jewel Faye Williams, best known for leading the Williams Family Quartet.
"There's an old local saying that goes 'you ain't heard the gospel sung until you've heard Jewel Faye Williams sing it!'" Jervis continued.
Williams was born in London on Aug. 4, 1925 — four years before the Great Depression.
"She and her family got through the Depression with a lot of prayer and hard work," said Jervis. Williams woke early every morning helping with chores on her family farm. She then walked six miles with her sisters and brother from her childhood home on Old Whitley Road to London Elementary School, regardless of the weather.
Williams later met her husband, Vic Williams, at a skating rink. She started as a member of Corinth Baptist Church, but she switched to Carmichael Community Church because Vic's father founded it and served there as a reverend. Williams stayed home with Vic's parents as he was serving in World War II.
"That's how the singing got started. She and Vic's two sisters started the Williams Family Quartet," explained Jervis. The group would sing at local churches and festivals. Throughout the '40s and '50, Williams' "big alto voice" could be heard live on WFTG Radio.
"It was church Sunday morning, then on to a gospel singing 'Dinner on the Ground' afternoon and back to their home base church, Carmichael Community, on Sunday night," recalled Jervis.
Throughout the group's various incarnations, Jervis estimates that the Williams Family Quartet sang at over 1,000 funerals — all of which for absolutely free.
Williams would continue to sing for 50 years. She performed at the Laurel County Homecoming in the park, as well as for the World Chicken Festival for its first 20 years. Many times she took to the stage with her friend Jeanette Cook, as they both shared her vocal stylings from Dottie Rambo and Vestal Goodman.
Williams' voice can still be heard on several recordings between the '40s and the '70s. Her final project with the quartet was "Generation Next," where Williams and her grandchildren traveled to churches she used to sing at as a group. The Williams Family Quartet continues to this day, with Williams' descendants taking the helm.
Outside of her gospel career, Williams was known for her famous chicken and dumplings, which she prepared for guests on Tuesdays at the London Farmer's Livestock Market. She and her husband owned the market, retaining it until 2004, eight years after Vic's death.
Williams passed away in November of 2011. She never left London, her favorite song was always "Just a Rose Will Do," and she never treated anyone like a stranger.
"Jewel Fay was an everyday hero," said Debbie Cook, family-friend and owner of Cook Tire Inc. "She was kind, humble and loving to everyone she met."
Cook remembered when she and her family first visited Carmichael Church in 1990. The service began with a welcome to the family.
"The music began to play and this amazing voice came from the front of the chapel. It was strong, powerful, and full of grace. Mrs. Jewel Faye Williams was singing 'Amazing Grace,'" said Cook, recalling the chills down her spine.
"She loved to sing for Jesus," said Jervis. "She loved to help people, loved fellowshipping with friends and she never met a stranger."