Saturday service to honor retired accountant who devoted life to helping others

jwarren@herald-leader.comMarch 8, 2013 

Juanita Callahan from Jackson, Ky, died recently at age 84, widely known as a volunteer for numerous programs in E. Ky. to help needy people. Photo Provided.

Friends and relatives of Juanita King Callahan will gather Saturday at the Guerrant Memorial Presbyterian Church in Jackson to remember the retired accountant who devoted herself to serving others.

Mrs. Callahan, who died Jan. 31 at age 84, was a longtime member of the church. The memorial service is to begin at 2 p.m.

Mrs. Callahan had several careers, including wife, mother and college business manager. But she touched more lives volunteering for numerous organizations, particularly the Presbytery of Transylvania, which covers about 90 Kentucky counties.

"She worked on disaster relief and all kinds of projects," said Richard Smith, the presbytery's general presbyter. "She was just a fireball of energy."

Karen May of Lexington, a longtime friend, said Mrs. Callahan "spent her life making other people's lives better."

Another friend, Ollie Deaton-Turner of Breathitt County, said "there was no limit" to projects that Mrs. Callahan would tackle.

"Any disaster that occurred up here, Juanita was the first to volunteer," Deaton-Turner said. "She would do legwork, even go out in the field to deliver things people needed. She had a four-wheel-drive truck, and she would just load it up and go."

Deaton-Turner said that even in the final year of her life, Mrs. Callahan was busy helping to get assistance to victims of the March 2, 2012, tornado in Morgan County.

Mrs. Callahan was born Dec. 17, 1928, in West Virginia, a daughter of Frankie Pierce and Veva Mitchell King.

She met and married Sam Callahan, who was in the hardware business. After they moved to Jackson, Mrs. Callahan became business manager at nearby Lees College, now part of the Hazard Community and Technical College.

"She was an aggressive worker, with the attitude of 'Let's move along and get things done,'" said Fred Landrum of Jackson, the former academic dean at Lees College. "She was always trying to do good for people, and never asked anything in return."

Mrs. Callahan volunteered to help Morris Fork Crafts, an organization to generate income for rural Breathitt County residents by selling crafts they made. She managed the books and helped create a website for the crafts group.

Mrs. Callahan's volunteerism continued after her husband's death.

"She was a terrific fundraiser," said Peggy Payne of Lexington. "We all used to laugh, because she could get money out of a stone. If you needed to raise money for a project, Juanita was your girl."

Mrs. Callahan remained active until November, when her health suddenly declined.

"I've never known anyone else like her," Payne said. "She was a saint ... and the dearest friend you could ever have."

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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