Joe Neal Jernigan, 86 of Center

Joe Neal Jernigan, 86, of Center, passed away May 22, 2018 after a lengthy illness. 

Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m., Thursday, May 24, 2018 at Watson & Sons Funeral Home with Bro. Chris Collins and Rev. Arvie Jernigan officiating. Visitation will be prior to the funeral from 12 p.m. - 2 p.m. Interment will follow at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Center.

Mr. Jernigan was born March 25, 1932 in Shelby County to Emanuel and Melba Jernigan. He was the oldest of seven children. Joe enlisted in the United States Army in the 1950's and served for four years. Shortly after his release, he married Ruth Earlene "Patty" Samford and together they had five children. The couple was married for 53 years before Patty's passing in 2006.

The couple moved to Shelby County in 1970 to raise their family where Joe grew up. He worked as a truck driver for REA Railroad and earned the Million Mile Award. Shortly after moving to Center, the couple purchased a Fina station on San Augustine Street. Joe continued to drive a truck, while his wife and children ran the business. During the years of owning their station, he developed a passion for wolf hunting. On Friday nights he could be found hunting with friends and swapping tales.

The family left their days as business owners behind after a number of years and Joe retired as a truck driver. Joe's friend and former police chief, Jimmy Matthews, convinced him to take a job with the Center Police Department as a dispatcher. For nine years the family enjoyed hearing stories from Joe's job and watching him make long lasting friendships with law enforcement officers across this area. He retired from the police department in 1994.

After his retirement, Joe and Patty spent their days laughing and spending time with their family and grandchildren. Joe, "Podge" as he was referred to by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, enjoyed reloading ammunition. This became a large hobby for Joe that allowed him to continue his friendship with many of the friends he made while working for the police department.

He attended McClelland Community Church.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Ruth Earlene "Patty" Jernigan; his parents, Emanuel and Melba Jernigan; brothers, Tommy Jernigan, O'Neal Jernigan; and sister, Marie Shelton.

He is survived by his children, Zandra Akridge and husband, Gene, of Nacogdoches, Debbi Gragg and husband, Ronnie, of Center, Jody Jernigan and wife, Annette, of Huxley, John Jernigan and wife, Cassie, of Huxley and James Jernigan and wife, Melissa of Shelbyville; grandchildren, Amy Spraggins, Shiloh Denney, Leah Chase, Jessica Hopkins, Ashley Akridge, Hannah Collins, Jimbo Akridge, Taylor Bragg, Michael Jernigan and Morgan Jernigan; 15 great-grandchildren; brothers, Arvie Jernigan, Billy Jernigan, Wayne Jernigan; faithful and devoted friend, Linda Brittain; and a host of friends and extended family.

Pallbearers will be Ronnie Gragg, Cole Mooney, Michael Jernigan, Blane Tapley, Walter Shofner, Bryan Slocum, Cory Collins and James McDonald. 

Honorary pallbearers will be Brian Chase, Odell Wiggins, Greg Hooper, Paul Ross and David Sigler.

The family would like to extend their thanks to the staff at Pine Grove Nursing Home that loved, cared and went out of their way to care for our dad. Your compassion will always be remembered and forever appreciated. 

To the staff at Heart to Heart Hospice, there are no words to describe the love we have for you. Ms. Cecelia, Keisha and Shelley - You were sent to us straight from God. Thank you for everything. We will always cherish the wonderful memories and final days each of you shared with us. 

Online condolences & tributes can be sent at www.watsonandsonsfh.com