John's Story

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John Byron Wight Jr., 87, devoted husband, father and friend, died peacefully at home on Thursday, June 1, 2017. John, or "Johnny" as he was affectionately known by so many, was born on June 13, 1929, at Archbold Hospital in Thomasville. His parents were Elizabeth Allen "Lib" Wight and John Byron Wight Sr. of Cairo, who preceded him in death. He is survived by his beloved wife of almost 67 years, Elizabeth VanLandingham "Beth" Wight, his five daughters Mary Wight of Mandeville, Louisiana, Sally Murphy (George) of Atlanta, Georgia, Gretchen McKenzie (Tom) of Jacksonville, Florida, Elizabeth "Lib" Quirk (Neal) of Atlanta, Georgia, Louise Murphy (Rob) of Tallahassee, Florida and his sister, Elizabeth Wight Herbert of Tallahassee, Florida. John was blessed with 14 grandchildren: Todd Ellefson (Stacy), David McKenzie (Anna), Elizabeth Mairs (Jeremy), Wight Murphy, Georgia Murphy, Neal Quirk, John Quirk, Joe Quirk, Elizabeth Quirk, Cullen Byrne (Allyse), Ashley Byrne, William Byrne (Megan), Sarah Murphy and Brian Murphy; and 10 great-grandchildren, all of whom he deeply loved. John was a 1946 graduate of Cairo High School. He attended Emory University in Atlanta where he received his BBA in Marketing in 1950. He was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. After graduation, he married Elizabeth VanLandingham and served in the United States Air Force at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas until December of 1954. Afterwards, John returned to Cairo to join Wight Nurseries, the family business, where he had been working since the age of 10. He worked at the nursery from 1955 until his retirement in 1989. John served as president of Wight Nurseries from 1967-1989, and the nursery became one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the United States. John's service in the nursery industry included six years as a Director of the American Association of Nurserymen (AAN), a number of terms as an AAN governor, President of the Georgia Nurserymen's Association from 1963-64, President of the Big Bend Nurserymen's Association in 1965, member of the National Arboretum Advisory Council from 1971-1978, and President of the American Association of Nurserymen for the 1980-81 year. In 1979, John received the Southern Nursery Association's Slater Wight Award, named after his grandfather and the association's most prestigious award. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the American Association of Nurserymen in 1998. In addition to his many years of dedication and service in the nursery industry, John was very active in his community. He served as Chairman of the Board of First National Bank of Grady County (FNB) from 1978 to 2000. After FNB merged with Capital City Bank Group in 2000, John was on the Board of CCBG, and remained involved at Capital City Bank of Cairo until recently. He was elected Grady County Citizen of the Year in 1981. He was Chairman of the Regional Community Center of Cairo, President of the Rotary Club and of the Chamber of Commerce. He served on the First Methodist Church of Cairo Board, and the Board of Trustees of Archbold Hospital. He was Chairman of the Roddenbery Memorial Library and served on the Board of Trustees of Thomas University. In 2008, Thomas University presented him with the William Cameron Forbes Award in recognition to his support and lifelong contributions to education. Throughout his wonderful life, John served with great energy, humility and gratitude. Along the way he became a trusted and endeared friend to many. It was said of John, if he liked you, he loved you. In business, he sought to follow the Golden Rule, which he believed would make each transaction a win/win. Whether at the beach, in the garden he shared with Beth, in the woods, or the North Carolina mountains, he was an avid outdoorsman. John loved salt and fresh water fishing, hunting, and golfing especially in the company of family and friends. He was a founding member of the Romeos and sailed in the Beachton Yacht Club. A Memorial Service will be held at Cairo First United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 4, 2017, at 2 p.m. with visitation afterwards in the Fellowship Hall. Memorials may be made in Mr. Wight's memory to: Archbold Foundation, Attention Vann Middleton, (designate Hospice of Southwest Georgia), 910 S. Broad St., Thomasville, GA 31792; or Cairo First United Methodist Church Music Ministry, 318 S. Broad St., Cairo, GA 39828. Guests may sign the online register at www.clarkfuneral.com.
Published on June 2, 2017
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