- [S23] Atchley Funeral Home, (http://www.atchleyfuneralhome.com/), 17 Nov 2004.
James Ray McMahan obituary
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 22 Nov 2004.
SEVIERVILLE - The procession of wrecker trucks maneuvering the streets of the city Saturday afternoon was not on its way to a serious accident.
The drivers' mission was a much more personal one, as they towed saddened hearts and accompanied their good friend, James Ray McMahan, to his final resting place.
McMahan, 61, who died Wednesday as a result of a single-car accident in Pigeon Forge, was remembered as a great friend, employer and humanitarian.
Pigeon Forge Fire Chief Denny Clabo noted McMahan's 20-year career as a member of the Pigeon Forge Volunteer Fire Department.
"He was a great asset to the community," Clabo said. "Any time you needed him, he was there - not just for fires, but for any reason."
McMahan also owned McMahan's Garage and Wrecker Service, and his employees led the funeral procession in the company's vehicles adorned with yellow ribbons in honor of the man for whom they worked.
"He was a real good person to work for," said an emotional Jerry Collier, who worked for McMahan for six years. "He was always kidding around with you, especially if he liked you."
The Rev. Bill Maples, McMahan's pastor and lifelong friend, said McMahan loved everyone "unconditionally - even if you didn't love him."
"He was my brother in Christ, a brother fireman, and a brother soldier," Maples said. Maples, Clabo and McMahan all served in Vietnam during the same few years.
McMahan's medals were placed on his flag-draped casket, which served as a reminder of his time as a soldier.
Maples said that recalling stories about McMahan would take "a real big book, and that wouldn't begin to touch everything."
He told a crowded chapel at Atchley Funeral Home that while McMahan was not a perfect person, he was a man of faith.
"If he was standing here today, he would tell you, 'I didn't go to church, but I filled one up here today,'" Maples said.
The pastor recalled serving in the fire department with McMahan in the days when firefighters would race to be at the fire hall first.
"I would be the first there," Maples said, "then he would tell us he had slept there the night before."
He also recalled this being one of McMahan's favorite times of the year, when he would bring fruit to the fire hall and make sure all of his colleagues took home enough for their families.
The procession to Little Cove Cemetery included more than 20 wrecker trucks from other wrecker services as a tribute to one of their competitors, and a Pigeon Forge fire truck was included as an honor to his work with the fire department.
"He was always there to the rescue," Maples said. "We'll certainly miss him."