Passing of longtime county official, educator is ‘quite a loss’
A wise man once said the most important things in life are his family and friends, but he finds peace and harmony on his daily visits to his farm like none other.
That man was John Eubanks, 90, who passed away Tuesday night surrounded by his family at Haven Hospice Roberts Care Center in Palatka.
Eubanks was born March 15, 1928, and grew up in a small town in the Panhandle called Greensboro during the Great Depression. His father was a sharecropper, who eventually bought the family tobacco farm.
He came to Putnam County in 1955 as an agricultural teacher at Palatka Senior High School. For a short time, he also served as assistant county agent in Putnam and St. Johns counties, working with then county agent, R.T. “Tommy” Clay.
According to Clay’s wife, Lorene, it was a very happy reunion for them working together.
“It’s quite a loss in many ways,” Clay said of Eubanks’ passing. “You know he had a garden every year. It was more than just a garden. It was so complete with the variety of things he grew. People looked forward to it. When I bought vegetables there, they were just the best.”
Eubanks returned to the Putnam County School District, where he served as director of vocational adult and career education until he retired in 1994.
He also served four terms as a Putnam County commissioner.
C.L. Overturf Jr., who knew Eubanks well, said if he had to describe him in one word, he couldn’t.
“I’ve known John for some 50 years,” said the former superintendent of the Putnam County School District, who later served on the county commission. “He was one of the giant men who has lived in our community. He was an intelligent man, but very humble, steadfast and dedicated.”
Overturf recalled a time when he and Eubanks attended a big vocational conference in St. Augustine and a problem came up.
Dressed in his usual farming clothes in overalls, Eubanks was among others dressed in suits. But he didn’t let it bother him.
“Everyone talked about the problem a bit. And then they talked to John, and he gave them the solution,” Overturf said. “They said, ‘That’s it then.’ John was good at solving problems and he was an excellent educator. He was a truly respected educator in Putnam County and outside.”
Skeet Alford, a Palatka businessman who served on the Putnam County Board of Commission with Eubanks, describes him as a man with integrity.
“He was a mentor to me at that time,” he said. “He was very consistent and very steady on how he handled things when serving on the commission. He was always thoughtful and listened to everybody. He taught me patience and to listen to everything. He was a very dedicated husband and father. He took care of his wife while she was ill. That was very great on his part.”
Eubanks also served as advisor to his oldest son, Brad, who owns Putnam Feed and Farm Supply in Francis.
“Out of all the positions he held here in Putnam County, his passion was for teaching children and encouraging them to follow their passions in this life,” John’s son, Bryan Eubanks, said. “To date, anyone who he taught has shared their love for him, although he may have disciplined them. They knew it was out of love and held the utmost respect for him.”
Brad Eubanks agreed.
“He loved the rural life, small town environment, turkey hunting and farming,” he said. “He was the kind of man whoever he met, he treated them with respect and a genuine sense of care. He was well-written with words and shared so much wisdom with anyone he came in contact with.”
For many, Eubanks would open up the hospitality wagon to come to the farm for cookouts and other family gatherings.
In December 2013, he and some of his friends tried their hands at an old-fashioned cane grinding at the farm. John Eubanks grew the sugar cane, which took about a year to mature after being planted.
He even invited area school children to the farm to see the process for themselves. On the label of the processed syrup are the words: “Knock – Em – Out – John,” Pure Cane Syrup, Palatka, FL.
Poet and lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
The saying describes all things John Eubanks, who was known as an honorable and compassionate man who had a life well lived, Alford said.
“He was very good for the community and will be remembered for all he gave,” Alford said.
“Whatever role he was in – husband, father, neighbor, administrator and teacher – he was an honorable man,” he said. “He was well known as a top-notch, wonderful fellow. He will be missed.”