Friends and family of John Hunt gathered Sunday to celebrate the life of the man credited with building Cullman’s Parks and Recreation Department. Hunt died on March 16, but a public memorial was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Sunday afternoon, his friends and family filled the gymnasium at the Cullman Aquatic Center as they paid tribute to him as a husband, father, brother, friend and coworker.
Hunt, who served as Parks director for 30 years, helped the city oversee a massive expansion in the role that Parks & Rec played in the community. Under his watch, the city built Heritage Park, the Field of Miracles, and the Cullman Wellness and Aquatic Center.
Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs choked up as he remembered Hunt both as a friend and member of Desperation Church, and the legacy he left in Cullman.
“His memory will live on with us and in our community,” he said.
Following his retirement from the Cullman’s Parks and Rec Department in 2014, Hunt worked as golf director at Terri Pines Country Club, before taking a job with the City of Albertville in Marshall County.
Patrick O’Brian with the Sand Mountain Parks and Amphitheater in Albertville recalled Hunt’s “devotion to serving others,” and noted, “We got better from day one when John joined our team. His passion for service, the kindness he brought to that service, was extremely impactful for us.”
O’Brian also said that Hunt talked often, and always with pride, of his wife Elizabeth and their children Ryan and Kayla. “Family to John was one of his driving forces,” he said. “Just the way he talked about that, you could tell how important his family was.”
Paul Morton met Hunt through the Parks and Rec Association and the two became friends. “Friends, real friends, are hard to come by,” he said. “John was a real friend.”
Morton noted that Hunt loved reading, Auburn football, God and his family. He also noted that his friend was one of the most honest and ethical people he knew. “He was one of the most selfless people I knew,” said Morton.
“Obviously, he left his mark on a whole lot of hearts like he did mine,” he said.
Hunt’s younger brother Scott, joked that he had “no idea who you’re talking about,” but went on to share stories of growing up with John. “My earliest memories were trying to keep up with John,” he said.
When John Hunt was injured in the accident at his home that claimed his life, his younger brother said everyone in the family dropped everything and went to the hospital. “We’re very fortunate as a family to have [closeness] that because not every family does,” he said.
Prior to the service, Hunt’s wife Elizabeth distributed cards thanking mourners for their attendance and for coming “to laugh, cry and share some of your memories with us. God has blessed our family by placing each of you in our lives.”