PRINCETON — Individuals who served Princeton and the rest of Mercer County throughout their lives were among the people who were lost as the year 2021 progressed.

On Jan. 24, southern West Virginia’s first responders community was informed that Mercer County Emergency Services Director and Chief of the Bluestone Valley Volunteer Fire Department Tim Farley had passed away suddenly of cardiac arrest.

“Tim has been stalwart in all aspects of emergency service,” Mercer County Commissioner Greg Puckett said then, noting he has worked with Farley in many different situations ranging from floods to providing basic care.

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Mercer County, Farley played a crucial role during the outbreak by making sure local clinics, hospitals and the county health department had personal protective equipment (PPE) and other needed supplies they needed.

“He was a calm voice in a time of crisis,” Puckett recalled. “He worked with everyone, and he made sure everyone had what they needed.”

In December, Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security announced that Farley was among the 2021 honorees receiving the West Virginia Freedom Award.

Launched in 2020, the awards recognize emergency officials in six categories: lifesaving, innovation, teamwork, perseverance, leadership and lifetime achievement.

Farley was posthumously presented the award in the lifesaving category. He was the Mercer County Emergency Services Director from 2005 until he passed away in January. He worked tirelessly as an emergency manager and fire chief to help protect and save the lives of those in Mercer County and across the state, state officials said. He was instrumental in establishing the Bluestone Valley Volunteer Fire Department, serving as a founding charter member.

In February, the Mercer County community lost two residents who were known for their service and for inspiring other people.

World War II veteran Jake Hatcher, 103, of Princeton passed away Feb. 20 as he was approaching the age of 104. Hatcher was a familiar sight on Veterans Day when he would put on his Uncle Sam suit and walk in Princeton’s annual Veterans Day Parade as he passed out candy and often stopped to pose for photographs with onlookers.

A native of Princeton, Hatcher was born on Aug. 10, 1917. In 1941, he joined the U.S. Navy for the same reason many young men joined the service – he wanted to travel and see the world. He remarked during an interview with the Bluefield Daily Telegraph that he indeed got to see the world, “but it was over a gun barrel.”

The Navy first sent him to torpedo school at Rhode Island. After graduating, Hatcher was assigned to the ship U.S.S. Ellison and sailed in Atlantic convoys to help guard against German submarines, known then as U-boats. He was later transferred to the South Pacific where he served on destroyers that bombarded Iwo Jima and other islands held by the Japanese. Combat took him as far as the Aleutian Islands near Alaska; islands there were the only United States territory held by Japan during the war.

On April 10, 1945 – the same day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died – a Japanese warplane loaded with explosives, better known as a kamikaze, crashed into the forward section of Hatcher’s ship while it was near the island of Okinawa. Hatcher, then the ship’s chief torpedo man, was in the after part of the ship.

Hatcher stayed in the Navy after World War II ended, and later served in the Korean War. He was a commander aboard the U.S.S. Orleck when the ship bombarded the North Korean coast on July 14 and 15, 1952, and destroyed an enemy supply train.

After Hatcher left the Navy, he was Mercer County’s director of welfare services for two years and later sold real estate. He served on the local Salvation Army’s board of directors for more than 20 years.

Hatcher was also known for painting decorative rocks and seashells that he would either give away or sell to benefit the Salvation Army.

County Commissioner Bill Archer remembered when he met Jake Hatcher in 1989. Archer had just performed a concert with his friend, Karl Miller, at what was to become Dick Copeland Square on Mercer Street.

“He came up to me and gave me a painted stone, and that was the first of many,” Archer recalled. “He would do that to recognize you for doing something.”

“It was just an honor to call him my friend,” Archer added then. “I was deeply honored to know him. Even as he got on in years, he always had a positive outlook on life.”

Hatcher would speak about his Navy career when asked, but it was not the only thing that defined his life.

“I think his life was on doing service to his country, state and community,” Archer said.

Tony Whitlow of the Those Who Served War Museum in Princeton said that when Hatcher met a person, “he never forgot you.”

“He was an amazing man,” Whitlow stated. “I came remember him when we had our Veterans Day parades. He would walk through town up to the museum even after he turned 100, I think. He was a man among men and he was of the greatest generation. He was a person who was a real model for everyone. He was just an amazing and remarkable man. He really was.”

In 2018, Hatcher was recognized by the Chamber of Commerce of the Two Virginias as Mercer County’s Citizen of the Year. Even a Bobblehead of Hatcher wearing his well-known Uncle Sam suit has become a coveted collectible.

Another prominent member of the Mercer County community passed away Feb. 20, the same day as Jake Hatcher. Members of Mercer County’s legal community were soon sharing memories of a retired prosecuting attorney and circuit court judge who mentored many of them.

David Wesley Knight, 85, of Princeton was a native of Mercer County. He was an attorney in private practice for several years before being elected as Mercer County’s prosecuting attorney. He served in that office for 21 years before then-Gov. Gaston Caperton appointed him as a circuit court judge. Knight served on the circuit court bench for 12 years and later served as a senior status judge who filled the bench when needed in West Virginia’s courts.

For many in the local legal community, Knight was an inspiration.

“Let me tell you, David Knight was a legal giant,” Circuit Court Judge William Sadler stated. “He was almost a larger-than-life figure in Mercer County. I grew up in Mercer County, and at a somewhat young age, I wanted to be an attorney.”

Sadler recalled how he read stories in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph about Knight’s work in court. These accounts, written by the late Barbara Hawkins, helped him decide on a career with the law.

“He became an almost mythological figure in my eyes and an inspiration to pursue a legal career,” Sadler said.

Knight served as an example both as a prosecutor and a judge.

“He was well known for his cross examinations and his courtroom theatrics,” Sadler added. “We’ve lost a legend.”

Circuit Court Judge Derek Swope also worked with Knight.

“I would say that with his passing, we lost one of the best if not the best public servant Mercer County and the state of West Virginia ever had,” Swope stated. “He was a formidable prosecutor, but he also had one of the most innate senses of fairness as anyone I’ve ever known. He was obviously a truly outstanding trial lawyer, but he was also one of the most compassionate people I have ever known in my life.”

Knight brought his diligence and fairness with him when he became a judge.

“He was really one of those people who taught me the most about trials and courtroom work as well as the work you need to go into. For every hour you spend in court, you spend many more outside getting ready,” Swope said.

Knight also had a photographic memory that helped him recall the contents of police reports regardless of their length and complexity. He was also known for his humor and his devotion to his family.

“He was just an all-around excellent human being,” Swope stated. “ He was also a very spiritual person. He didn’t wear his faith on his sleeve, but he had a deep abiding faith in God and in Jesus.”

Circuit Court Judge Mark Wills recalled Knight both as a prosecuting attorney and a judge.

“He was a great human being, a great prosecuting attorney,” Wills said. “When I practiced law, I always dreaded going up against him. He was so good when he tried criminal cases. He would give his closing argument, then he would go out in the hallway while the defense was presenting their closing argument. He had so much confidence in his ability. He was great, and he was a great judge as well. I’m going to miss him. He had a great sense of humor, and he was a great prosecutor. He was always fair and honest. He was an excellent attorney, gentleman, and a great human being.”

Attorney John Feuchtenberger of Bluefield worked with Knight the prosecuting attorney and Knight the judge.

“He was brilliant. One thing he enjoyed doing was speaking with a hill country accent. I’m convinced that he practiced it,” Feuchtenberger said. “I think he was one of the most brilliant attorneys I’ve ever worked with or practiced in front of when he was a judge.”

Knight could tell the difference between a defendant “who was truly wicked” and one who had made a poor decision.

“He was sympathetic with the foolish and severe with the criminally minded,” Feuchtenberger said.

Every attorney who worked with David Knight has a favorite story about him. Knight was known for his closing arguments. Knight could deliver “zingers” as a judge, too, Feuchtenberger added.

“In a trial where the residency of a person in a case was in question, I grandly produced in evidence a certified Swiss police residency permit showing that the guy lived in Switzerland rather than Bluefield as was claimed,” Feuchtenberger said. “Judge Knight reviewed it and said ‘I can’t read this--it’s not in English.’ I responded ‘Your Honor, I read and write the French language, and can translate it for you.’ He narrowed his eyes, leaned over the bench, and said, ‘Feuchtenberger, I don’t believe you in English.’ We settled that one.”

In late November, a Mercer County resident known to many people as “The Candy Man” passed away at thet age of 96.

Jack Wade “Jack” Sarver, Sr., 96, was born in Bluefield on April 5, 1925. Sarver graduated from the old Beaver High School Class of 1943 and started his business career in sales with the Sarver Candy Company, which his father founded in 1927. He became the company’s CEO and treasurer in 1963 during his 38th birthday.

Sarver led the company his father established for 58 year, earning numerous awards including West Virginia Distributor of the Year multiple times. Under his leadership, Sarver Candy was among the preeminent suppliers to grocery stores and retail customers across southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

He was a life member of Westminster Presbyterian Church and member of the Board of Deacons. While serving with his church, Sarver was nicknamed The Coffee Man. For his 64 years, he served coffee and frozen Coca-Colas to the congregation each Sunday beginning in 1957 and continued until ill health forced his retirement October 2021. He performed this weekend tradition for more than 6,000 Sundays.

On Dec. 21, a Mercer County resident who served for years as Mercer County Sheriff, Assessor of Mercer County and a county magistrate passed away at the age of 94.

Wintfrey “Wimpy” Shrewsbury of Princeton graduated from Matoaka High School and went on to enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard. He served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters during World War II.

Following his discharge from the military, Shrewsbury worked in the coal mines for six years with Turkey Gap Coal and Coke Company. He was also worked for 10 years with Maidenform, Inc. of Princeton.

Wintfrey later dedicated decades of his life to civil service in his community. He was Assessor of Mercer County for 18 years. He helped move the county from a Class III county to a Class I county to help acquire funding for schools as well as area police and fire departments. His efforts also helped stimulate economic development for the City of Princeton.

Wintfrey was Mercer County Sheriff from 1969 until 1972. Prior to being elected sheriff , he was elected and served eight years as constable from the East River District. Wintfrey was one of the first magistrates in Mercer County, serving nearly two years under appointment by Mercer County Commission. Besides serving in elected office, Winfrey served his county in other ways.

Wintfrey also served as treasurer for the West Virginia Sheriff’s Association and was a member of the United Mine Workers Union No. 6039. He was a long-standing member of Immanuel Baptist Church, Princeton Masonic Lodge, Princeton Royal Arch Masons No. 44, Eastern Star Chapter No. 513, Princeton Moose Lodge, the Fraternal Order of Police and Riley Vest Post No. 9 of Bluefield. He was named as Mercer County’s “Outstanding Democrat” in 1990.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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