In a blink of an eye, my hunny was gone. We never got to say goodbye.
Johnny Frey of 2708 Pleasant Hill Road in the Sims Community went to be with the Lord on November 2, 2021.
Frey, as he was called by most, was born in Minot, North Dakota. As a young boy of 13, he would hire out to farmers in other towns and even states to work on the ranches, helping families on their farms. He would live with them and their families and work for them all summer. When school would start, he would go back home and to school. He did that every summer until he was 16. They paid him about $1.00 a day, room and board. He saved about every penny he made and was known as the young boy who always had money. He would work from daylight to dark.
After quitting school at 16, he wanted to work and make money. He started out working with a combine crew in North Dakota. He worked and became friends with a guy from Alabama. His name was Alton Sparks. They became good friends working on that combine crew. Their next job took them to Texas. At the young age of 16, they put him driving all the way across the United States from North Dakota to Texas with a long trailer carrying a combine. After that job was finished and they were ready to go to the next one, Alton asked if he wanted to come to Alabama. He said “yes” and that’s where he would spend the remainder of his life.
Needing to work and support himself, he met a family that he lived with: Jerome and Juanita Nailer. At 16 years old, he moved in with the Nailer family. Jerome was a commercial fisherman, along with Jerome’s uncle, Wayne Foster. The three quickly became good friends and started fishing alongside them both. They fished Lake Guntersville, the Coosa River and many more. That’s how they made their living. That river was good to them. He also crawled all over that river diving for mussels for a short time.
In the summer, as we would drive by the river and see all the boats out, he would laugh and say, “Get off my river,” jokingly, of course.
Just as he was getting settled into his new home at 18 years old, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He proudly served his country. When his service was over, he came back to Alabama, starting commercial fishing again.
He started his family and had two children, Marnie and John Paul with Shelia Pendergrass of Grant. In 1985, he met his wife of 37 years, Debbie Wilson Frey. They soon married and started raising their blended family together.
Knowing he needed benefits, he started working at Webb Wheel in Albertville and worked there for 15 years. He would work second shift at Webb and would continue to fish in the daytime. He worked two jobs most of his life. He just couldn’t get totally away from fishing, it was in his blood. It didn’t matter how hot or cold it was, he never complained. He just loved fishing.
He loved raising game chickens. He would breed certain kinds together and was well-known for having good breeds. He sold some to different people, some worth thousands of dollars.
As time went on, his health began to fail and he was in and out of the hospital all the time, four or five times a year every year. A couple times, he almost didn’t make it home. But for the last 12 months, he hasn’t had to go to the hospital. Although he didn’t feel good most of the time, he managed to stay out of the hospital. He hadn’t been sick, just had a bad cold.
He was a good man; honest, loyal, a good friend, great father and husband, great papa, and a hard worker. He loved his kids, my kid, his grandchildren and great granddaughter.
He also worked at Guntersville Ice Plant for a while, working with a good friend of the late Sam Cobb, Sr.
If you knew him, you loved him. If you didn’t like him, you didn’t know him.
He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Debbie Frey; daughter, Marnnie Nelson (Tim); son, John Paul Frey (Christy); stepson, Bradley Mims (Valorie); and grandchildren, Dakota Nelson, Rissa Caldwell, John Gunner Brown, John Braylen, Lukas Frey, Ava Grace, Mason Mims, Destiny Reyes; great granddaughter, Hadleigh Rae Nelson; sister, Marla Smith; brothers, Lonnie and Mick Frey; all of Kalispell, Montana; sister-in-law, Teresa Silas of Guntersville.
He is preceded in death by parents, Marlys and John Frey of Kalispell, Montana; three brothers, Rodney, Ronnie and Donnie Frey; one sister, Gloria Craford.
The funeral service was held on Sunday, November 7, 2021, at Guntersville Memorial Chapel with burial at Pleasant Hill #2 Church in the Sims Community. The service was officiated by Pastors Rickey Bell and Freeman Kelley. The singer was Lowell Shirey and a poem was read by great-niece, Audrina Mayfield, and emotional support granddaughter, Rissa Caldwell.
Pallbearers were Jeff Cornelius, Wayne Foster, John Corbin, Rodney Doss, Ronald Parrish, Johnny Kelley and Jeff Mosley.
Special friends included Jerry Wayne Cornelius, Ronnie Vaughn, Buddy Bevil, Larry Pendergrass, Gary Childress, Junior Kitchens, Billy Swords, Bro. Hal Mahan, and Zack Iffland.
To our amazing family and friends, thank you for the outpouring of love and support during this sad time. God bless you all.
Debbie, Marnnie, John Paul, Bradley and Dakota.
I thank the late Alton Sparks for bringing him to Alabama to later be my precious husband.