‘I’ve fooled with it all my life’
SPRUCE PINE – Jim Presnell has lived a long, happy life.
Presnell, a Beech Mountain resident who celebrated his 84th birthday this past Friday, is a military veteran, a woodworker and most importantly, a family man.
Presnell was born and raised in Beech Mountain. As one of six siblings, he had plenty of company on that farm and learned about farming at a young age.
In the early 1950s, Presnell spent time as a farmer in New York.
“Around here, we couldn’t make much money so we went up there and worked during the summer,” Presnell said. “We were near Niagara Falls and we just farmed.”
Presnell’s stay in New York ended in 1953 when he got a call from the United States Army – his services were needed.
Presnell’s uncle came to New York to get him.
“I didn’t have a car,” Presnell recalled. “My uncle brought me home.”
Presnell’s stint in the Army Medical Corps started in 1954. He was stationed at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, before he was moved to Texas, where he stayed for a few weeks before transitioning to Washington for the rest of his term.
Presnell served during the Korean War but didn’t go overseas. He was discharged in 1956.
“It taught me a whole lot,” Presnell said about the Army. “I was raised on a farm so I wasn’t out and around people too much. I learned discipline and how to take orders. It was a great experience.”
Shortly after Presnell returned home, he took a job at the hospital in Spruce Pine. He was a jack of all trades at the hospital, taking care of general housekeeping and various other duties.
More than a decade ago, Presnell retired. Since then, he spends much of his time woodworking – his father had a woodshop and passed along his techniques.
“I’ve fooled with it all my life,” Presnell said about woodworking. “After I retired, I did a lot of cabinet work and built some furniture. I’ve even built a few houses.”
Presnell’s favorite woodworking method is turning.
“I like building things but I really enjoy turning,” he said. “You never know what you’ll come up with. You have to go with the wood.”
Presnell now spends most of his time in his woodshop. That is when he’s not fishing.
“I stay pretty busy trying to keep up with the house anymore,” Presnell said. “In the winter, I stay down here in the shop. I don’t get many big orders anymore but I also love to go fishing.
“When it’s pretty out, we go about once a week. I’ve got a friend that has a boat. We don’t keep anything we catch, we just do it because we love it.”
Between his hobbies, Presnell enjoys spending time with his family. He has one son, two daughters, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
One of Presnell’s grandchildren, Joe Hollifield, lives in Spruce Pine and said Presnell is one of his biggest influences.
“He has influenced me in so many ways,” Hollifield said. “’Be proud of what you do and do it right’ is one thing he has always told me. He always said ‘before it leaves my shop, it better be right.’”
The memories Presnell has made with his family will last a lifetime, Hollifield said.
“When I was small, we went to the beach and fished in a canoe in a freshwater lake with signs saying not to swim because of gators,” Hollifield said. “We caught so many fish we got tired of catching them.”