JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) - The Old Country Store is different now.
It doesn’t look different, and it may not be different for the customers. But there’s a definite difference for those who work there.
Clark Shaw, the man who’s run the restaurant and tourist attraction Casey Jones Village for decades since taking the reins from his mother, Anne, died on Nov. 25 after battling complications from COVID-19 in the hospital for more than a week, including a stroke.
“I keep waiting on him to come through that back door like he always would,” said Johnathan Jenkins, the kitchen manager for the restaurant who’s worked there for 21 years. “Or I keep waiting to get a text message – an encouraging word or a picture of something around here that needs to be done – anything.
“I know he’s not, but every time that door opens, I look up hoping to see him.”
Shaw is survived by his wife, Juanita, his two children Brooks and Elizabeth, a daughter-in-law and granddaughter, Megan and Grace Ann, a sister Deborah Laman and many extended family. But there was a second family Clark is credited with having created.
“It’s what kept me here at the Old Country Store for more than 20 years,” Jenkins said. “The family atmosphere he created by always encouraging us, always being nice and humble and being willing to work with us.
“It started with his faith in God and loving others and serving others the way Jesus Christ did. He wanted us to do that for customers, and it’s easy for us to do that because Clark did it with us.”
CLARK’S FAITH IN GOD
Brooks said Clark’s story of his faith began when he was a young man.
“Dad was saved during a low point in his life when he said, ‘Something about me has to change, but I can’t do it,’” Brooks said. “And he always liked to tell people he couldn’t change himself, but he found out Jesus could, so he turned to Him.
“And he never looked back. He did everything he could to make Jesus the center of every aspect of his life – church, our family, this business, his relationship with others in the community – everything was about Jesus as it should be.”
The Old Country Store, Casey Jones Village and everything associated with them became a part of Clark Shaw’s personal ministry for anyone who visited the village.
“Whether it was adding something to the village like the amphitheater in the back or any of the other features we have here or simply hosting an event here or catering something somewhere else, dad’s question always would be, ‘How can we show the love of Christ and lead people to Him through this?’” Brooks said. “And that wasn’t something for show or to give this place or himself a positive image. That was the thing he wanted to do that was the foundation for everything that’s been done here – pointing people to Jesus.”
Brooks said knowing his father had that faith and seeing him live it out for all 30 years of his life gives him the ability to move on.
“Of course we’re sad and we miss him and I’ve got friends that tell me we won’t really get over his passing but we’ll learn to deal with it and move on,” Brooks said. “But I also know I’ll see him again one day and he’s free of pain or stress that comes with owning a business and he’s with his mom and dad and our cousin, Sarah Beth Whitehead, and so many other friends and loved ones who passed on before he did.”
LEADING OTHERS TO SERVE
Marta Pufahl and Ashley King are two employees at Old Country Store who can attest to Clark’s generosity and Christ-like ability to show grace.
Both have worked at the restaurant for two years or less, but both have quickly risen to positions of leadership within the staff. King manages the Dixie Café, the restaurant’s take-out service option on one end of the building. Pufahl manages the dining room on the other end of the building.
Both Pufahl and King said Clark took a chance on them because they’re both in addiction recovery.
“Clark Shaw gave me a job when no one else would,” Pufahl said. “I’d gone through rehab and made it to recovery, but I wasn’t the most attractive job candidate that others wanted to hire.
“I applied to be a cashier here, and Clark said, ‘Come on. We’ll give you a second chance. Let’s see what you can do.’ And I told my staff the other day that I owe my life to Clark Shaw and this place because they gave me a chance when no one else would.”
King’s story of coming to the Old Country Store is similar to Pufahl’s as it involves her coming to Jackson, checking into the Care Center for rehabilitation purposes. But she made it to Jackson because she was running from law enforcement.
“I’ve got some pretty bad charges on my record, and I’m on probation for a long time,” King said. “When I was getting into recovery, I didn’t know what I would do to support myself, and I heard about job opportunities through the Old Country Store’s catering service.”
King was able to be called to help with a couple of catering events, and the catering manager at the time liked her work ethic and job performance and went to Clark to vouch for her to become a permanent part of the team.
“He called me in and talked to me and asked about me and my story,” King said. “I told him and he let me know he’d give me a second chance because he felt God leading him to give a second chance the way God gives us all second chances and grace and mercy.”
TREATING OTHERS LIKE FAMILY
Jenkins said he remembers seeing Clark from a distance the day before he was admitted into the hospital and the last conversation they had.
“We obviously had lots of conversations about the restaurant and things that needed to be done and things we wanted to do,” Jenkins said. “And the day before he went into the hospital, he’d been out of town for a few days before that and then was staying home with the virus so we hadn’t seen each other.
“His wife, Juanita, was cutting his hair on the back porch of their house behind the restaurant and we yelled at each other across the way. He said, ‘I’ll give you a call and let’s catch up! Looking forward to it!’ And I said I was looking forward to it too, but we never got to catch up.”
King said Clark Shaw wanted to know what was going on with the employees in their personal lives.
“Last year I was pregnant, and I’d had a number of miscarriages before so we were being careful with my baby,” King said. “And there were multiple times he’d pull me aside and ask how I was doing and the baby and then pray with me right where we were standing asking God to keep me and my baby healthy.
“Then at the end when I had to go to the hospital for an emergency C-section, I called Clark and told him what was going on. He said, ‘Can I pray for you real quick before you go in?’ And that was why I called because I knew he would pray over me and my baby.”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions and other issues, Brooks admitted memorial services will look much different from what he’d prefer to do to honor his dad.
“Could we pack a couple thousand people into Englewood Baptist Church or another large facility here and remember dad in a way that seems like the right way? I definitely think we could,” Brooks said. “But COVID-19 is a concern and we’re going to honor dad’s memory and do what he would really want us to do with his funeral service.
“We’re going to let people know where dad is now and how they can be there too by trusting in Jesus Christ as their savior.”
Clark Shaw’s body will lie in state at the Providence House on Saturday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., allowing time for anyone who wants to pay their respects to do so. The family will not be in attendance as they’re staying in isolation.
There will be a virtual funeral service broadcast on E+TV6 and on the Old Country Store’s Facebook page at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
“Yeah this is dad’s funeral service and it will be about him, but it will be more about Jesus and what He did for dad and what He can do for all of us,” Brooks said. “That’s what dad wanted his funeral service to be.”
Brooks said no one in the family is angry or questioning their faith over Clark’s death as they grieve over his passing.
“Dad received the best care at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. I have no doubt of that,” Brooks said. “I think it was his time to go.
“The Bible says our days here on earth our numbered, and dad believed that too. Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 was the day God had marked to call dad home, and if it hadn’t been from COVID, it would’ve been from something else because God is in control of all this. Dad trusted God that He is in control and knows best, and he taught us to trust God that way as well. So we may question why dad had to go, but dad also taught us to trust God even through times like this. We’re doing that, just like he did.”
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