John Mack Renfro
September 21, 1936 – January 23, 2017
John Mac Renfro was born on September 21, 1936 to Robert Hubert Renfro and Carrie Davis Renfro in Erwin, TN. He lived on 236 N. Elm Street from birth until he joined the USMC in September, 1954.
John had two older brothers, Robert Stark Renfro and Charles Hubert Renfro. Both brothers have preceded him in death.
As an active and curious young boy who valued participation John spent his childhood at the Erwin YMCA, First Baptist Church, Unicoi County High School, and Boy Scouts where he immersed himself in becoming more than proficient in activities as diverse as basketball to Glee Club, bowling to drums, and camping to sheet metal work which he learned from the Tinsmith who worked for his father, owner of Liberty Lumber and Manufacturing Company.
John was unique. He looked for challenges and never gave up. A fond memory of family and friends is his rebuilding of a T-Model Ford given to him, and close childhood friend, Joe Reeves by a neighbor. This included fabrication of parts on the kinds of machines that he would later learn to design and maintain at E.I. DuPont. The inaugural test drive of the old buggy was of mixed results: “A drive to Myrtle Beach, NC and a push back from NC”. Lessons learned that would shape him. In his middle years he restored down to the nuts and bolts a vintage Triumph Spitfire complete with a British Racing Green finish. And a triumph it was.
A USMC veteran, John joined the service in 1954 at the encouragement of the same neighbor who gifted him the T-Model, Jack Keesecker where he was stationed at Lejeune, NC but spent much of his time in training on ships and at bases throughout the Caribbean and Europe.
It was during his short break between basic training and base assignment that he married his childhood sweetheart, Audree Hope McFarland.
After he was discharged from the USMC, he spent the next year working as a machinist’s apprentice at the Clinchfield Railroad in Erwin. It was during this time, he recognized he truly wanted to be a Mechanical Engineer. He and Audree scooped up their two little boys, Richard Mark Renfro and Robert Michael Renfro and headed for Tennessee Polytechnic Institute (Tennessee Tech) in Cookeville, TN in 1958. During his four years at Tennessee Tech, on the GI Bill, and working as a surveyor during the summer months, Ronald Marshal Renfro was born.
In 1961, John graduated and immediately went to work for E.I. DuPont in Aiken, SC. as a Mechanical Engineer. Their fourth son, Russell Matthew Renfro was born. He was transferred to Parkersburg, WV in 1964.
An active outdoor enthusiast John taught his family, and any friend who cared to learn, how to water ski. Summer vacations were always camping and skiing, and every weekend possible was spent on the boat with family and friends. His boys had an amazing and active childhood.
John and Audree were divorced in November, 1980.
On January 1, 1982 John became remarried to Dorothy Epler Burnside of Parkersburg, WV. Dorothy brought into the marriage two beautiful children Douglas Epler Burnside age 9 and Hannah Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Burnside-McDonald, age 9 both whom John loved, adored, and raised as his own. And yes, taught to ski!
Throughout his time in Parkersburg John was deeply involved at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Boy Scouts, as well as Rotary International. He served on various area boards including the Parkersburg Airport Authority. He even started a water ski club and wrote the curriculum and qualifications standards for what was to become the Water Skiing Merit Badge for the Boy Scouts.
John remained with DuPont until his retirement in 1999 where his final assignment was as a Management and Maintenance Practices consultant to DuPont corporate traveling nationally. Shortly after, in 2002, John and Dorothy moved to Melbourne, FL to live closer to his sons and allow Dorothy a little sunshine and warmth in their retirement where they attended Suntree United Methodist Church. On September 15, 2011 Dorothy passed away leaving John a widower and shortly thereafter his struggle with Alzheimer’s began.
But that’s not the end of the story. After Audree’s second husband passed away John and she reconnected through their children and began a new chapter in their lives. Though his struggles with Alzheimer’s deepened over the following years so did the love and affection that previously defined this amazing relationship. Audree provided the emotional caregiving to her first love in what can only be described in a storybook way.
John passed peacefully in his room at Autumn House, a wonderful and loving memory care facility in Viera, FL on Monday January 23, 2017.
John was adored and respected by his parents, siblings, wives, sons, stepchildren, grandchildren, great grandchildren, friends, fellow Marines, neighbors, co-workers, and church friends in a life that spanned one career, two and a half marriages, two families, four states, and left a wake of love in its path.
We love you John Mack, Johnny Mack, John, Dad, Grand John.
A Memorial service will be held February 18th 4:30 PM at River Run Christian Church located at 1660 Croton Road, Melbourne, FL. You may sign John’s guestbook at www.beckmanwilliamsonviera.com.