James David “Dave” Manner, age 70, of Burchett Blvd., Morehead, retired District Ranger of Daniel Boone National Forest, community leader, and devoted husband, father, and grandfather, passed away Sunday, May 17, 2020, at St. Joseph Hospital in Mt. Sterling following an apparent heart attack while playing golf with friends.
Born October 21, 1949, in Milan, TN, he was the son of the late James and Donnie Mae Hudspeth Manner. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by one son, Blake David Manner, on August 28, 2006.
Dave will be lovingly remembered by his wife of 43 years, Lynn Varnado Manner, whom he wed August 7, 1976; one son, Kyle Manner and his fiancée Ania Hammar, both of Nashville, TN; one grandson, Lucas Michael Manner of Morehead; and mother-in-law, Phyllis Pittman Varnado, also of Morehead.
Other survivors include two sisters and their husbands, Janice and Mike Terry of Maize, KS, and Judy and Donnie Weant of Dozier, AL, as well as beloved nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, extended family and friends.
Dave and Lynn moved to Rowan County with Blake and Kyle in 1988. They immediately immersed themselves in the community and Dave continued his career with the U.S. Forest Service.
He received the Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Belhaven College in Jackson, MS, and the Master of Science Degree in Wildlife Biology from Mississippi State University. Dave began his career in Forest Service as a wildlife biologist for the national forests in Mississippi; followed by Alabama (Talladega National Forest); Tennessee (Cherokee National Forest); and Kentucky. He came to the Daniel Boone National Forest as District Ranger for the Morehead Ranger District (now known as the Cumberland Ranger District) and served 26 years. In 2014, he retired after 42 years with the U.S. Forest Service.
Under his watch, the Morehead Ranger District received the Forest Service Region 8 “Ranger District of the Year” award in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Runner-up and 2003. During Dave’s oversight of the management of popular tourist attractions Cave Run Lake and Red River Gorge, campground operations at Cave Run were expanded and enhanced to include utility hookups and rental cabins were increased. Dave assisted in implementing major tourism initiatives in the region, such as the Cave Run Storytelling Festival and Living Archaeology Weekend. Under his leadership and innovation, the Morehead Visitor Center was established to provide public information services, interpret Forest Service natural resource management, and extend conservation education to forest visitors. In addition, extensive wetland and stream restoration projects, such as Slabcamp and Stonecoal Creek, were accomplished with regional and national recognition. In support of Forest Service firefighting efforts, Dave served as a member of the Region 8 Blue Team for many years. During forest reorganization efforts in 2005, Dave oversaw the successful merger of the Stanton and Morehead districts, resulting in today’s Cumberland Ranger District. One of his most recent achievements was completion of the Cave Run Trails Initiative, an effort to improve trail management for multiple non-motorized trail users. He recently received an award from the Sheltowee Trace Association in recognition of his support of national recreation trail management.
Dave consistently served his local community by providing leadership and support in various organizations. He served as President of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce and was a commissioner for the Morehead Tourism Commission for a number of years as well as a long-time member of Morehead Kiwanis Club.
Although Dave was successful in many endeavors, his love for family and church were paramount in his life. Always available, he enjoyed teaching life lessons to Blake and Kyle and later Lucas while hunting, fishing, or coaching sports. He was extremely involved in their day-to-day activities and special events. Dave always anticipated family vacations—visiting historical sights and especially spending time at Santa Rosa Beach. He loved sports and cheering on the Alabama Crimson Tide. He also found time to golf with family and friends, many he considered family, and to plan the annual Dave’s Alabama Golf Trip.
As a member of the First Baptist Church since 1988, he served on numerous committees and held various leadership positions, including Deacon. Always a loyal and devout member, Dave’s retirement afforded him additional time for a hands-on approach. Whether changing light bulbs in the sanctuary, working on Habitat houses, offering his truck for a move, or calling and/or visiting those in need, his commitment never wavered. He exemplified through his daily walk the importance of Jesus in his life.
Following COVID-19 restrictions, a private family visitation and celebration of life will be held 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 20, 2020, at Northcutt & Son Home for Funerals Memorial Chapel with the Rev. Alex Lockridge officiating. (Those who wish to participate may join live streaming of the service at 11 a.m. on Northcutt & Son Facebook page.) Interment will follow at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Dave’s special causes: Rowan County Christmas, P. O. Box 1323, Morehead, KY 40351; Gateway Helping Hands, P. O. Box 316, Morehead, KY 40351; or First Baptist Church, 123 E. Main Street 40351.
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