Gem of a Man: Pyron remembered for community involvement, love of history
The train whistle will sound a little more lonesome around Carroll County with the passing of Jewell Ray Pyron, longtime member of the Carroll County Historical and Genealogical Society.
Pyron, a Green Forest resident, died Saturday, Dec. 31. He was 84.
Members of the historical society recall how Pyron assumed the role of honorary conductor and curator of the train room at the Heritage Center Museum.
Julie Clark, the society's treasurer, said Pyron kept up the train room and maintained the scale trains, fixing them any time one needed repairs.
"He was responsible for the train room. I believe it was his favorite," Clark said. "If the trains tore up, he would fix them, and, if he wasn't able to, he would have somebody come in and fix them."
Mark Gifford, president of the society, said Pyron looked after the train room as if it were his child.
"The train room was certainly his child," Gifford said. "He knew the history of the orphan train that used to run through Carroll County and how to run the trains. The exhibit was his baby, I guess you could say."
Gifford said Pyron's knowledge about the county's history ran beyond the train tracks, noting that the historical society lost a great teacher and a wealth of knowledge with Pyron's passing.
"He was a member for a long, long time and was very knowledgeable about the museum," Gifford said. "It's kind of sad. I had a question I was wanting to ask the other day about the
building, and he is probably the only one who could've answered it. I'll have to figure it out the hard way now."
He continued, "Jewell was great. He got along with everybody and was a great teacher."
Clark said Pyron and his wife, Shirley Pyron, have been a driving force behind the historical society and the Heritage Center Museum.
"He and Shirley have kept the historical society going. I've been on the board five years now, and they've been involved ever since it started," she said. "Jewell did a lot of maintenance on the building."
"They were certainly key to all of it," Gifford said. "Jewell was Shirley's right-hand man and left-hand man sometimes."
Clark said she is glad she got to know Pyron better through working with the historical society and the Heritage Center Museum.
"I've known Jewell all of my life, and I really got to know him through the historical museum," she said. "He's a good man. He was always very energetic and willing to do whatever he could to help out. He's going to be greatly missed."
Clark noted that Pyron played an active role in the community, serving as a member of many organizations apart from the historical society. One of his biggest contributions, she said, was as a member of the Berryville Fire Department for 40 years.
Former Berryville fire chief Gene Chafin, who served with Pyron for much of his time with the department, said Pyron was a good firefighter.
"He was just like the rest of us. He was a volunteer and a good fireman," Chafin said. "Everybody is on duty 24 hours a day seven days a week. Jewell always showed up."
He said he remembered Pyron liked to tinker with the old firetruck at the station.
"He was always tinkering with the old firetruck," Chafin said. "I think they're going to try to take him to the cemetery in it."
He said Pyron always got along well with others and helped out whenever we could.
"He was good to get along with and a good person," Chafin said. "He was well-appreciated. I know he will be missed."
Pyron was also a member of the Lions Club, the VFW and a longtime active member of the hospital auxiliary. He served in the United States Army during the Korean War. He was a civil defense officer and later became the county's coordinator of emergency services.
Pyron is survived by his wife, Shirley Mae (Hamby) Pyron; his son, Greg Pyron, and wife, Meg, of Branson, Mo.; grandson, Christopher Pyron, and wife, Kate, of Tulsa, Okla.; granddaughter, Megan Rice, and husband, 2nd Lt. Julius Rice, of Little Rock; five great-grandchildren and several very close friends.
Pyron's funeral service was held Friday, Jan. 6, at Charles M. Nelson Memorial Chapel with Pastor Thomas N. Willcox officiating. Memorial donations may be made to the Carroll County Historical Society at 403 Public Square, Berryville, AR 72616. Online condolences may be sent to the family at NelsonFuneral.com.