'Jackson Lake legend' Van Kersey passes



Butts County lost longtime businessman and "Jackson Lake legend" Van Kersey on Monday, May 10. He was 81. Kersey owned and operated Kersey's Marina, situated on Barnett's Bridge, for over four decades.

Kersey, family members, close neighbors, and relatives operated the marina.

"Kersey's Marina began as a fish camp," Gerald Kersey told the Progress-Argus. Gerald Kersey is Van Kersey's nephew.

"Van left Snapper in McDonough to work at the marina," Gerald Kersey continued. "I worked at the marina, and my son and daughter worked there, too."

Van Kersey opened his marina in nearly the same place he grew up -- on the Tussahaw Creek arm of Jackson Lake. One of nine children, Kersey worked the farm plow on land leased from Georgia Power Company. The land was barren then, with neither trees nor houses.

"There weren't any houses or cabins on this part of the lake then," Van Kersey told the Macon Telegraph in 1998. "People fished, but not for fun like they do today. They fished to have something to eat. We put out trotlines and fish baskets. Life on a farm with nine kids and you eat whatever you can get. We never went hungry, always had enough to eat."

Kersey had his father's help when he started the marina, and his wife Frankie ran the snack bar and store.

"We served a lot of food," Kersey told the Progress-Argus in 1998. "My wife did 99 percent of the cooking." The menu included hot dogs, the famous "Kersey Burger," and sandwiches. Customers could call-in orders, drive in on their boats and pick up lunch or dinner.

"The best thing about summer vacation was going to Jackson Lake, and the highlight was going to Kersey's," Jackson Lake resident Tom Eads said. "Ms. Frankie cooked the best hamburger in the state: the Kersey Burger. Life was good."

According to Gerald Kersey, the marina grew to be a large Johnson Evinrude dealer.

"Van was a skilled Johnson Evinrude mechanic," Gerald Kersey said. "He was also an accomplished guitar player that had his own style. Van wasn't a one-string picker. He was great.

"Van was more like a brother than an uncle," Kersey continued. "I don't think I ever called him ‘uncle.' He was a good man, a legend on the lake who had the patience of Job."

The Board of Commissioners paid tribute to Kersey in May 2007, by naming the bridge then situated at the Barnett's Bridge Road and Tussahaw Creek portion of Jackson Lake the "Van Kersey Bridge."

Please see page 6A for a complete obituary.

[The Macon Telegraph piece on Van Kersey, "Kersey retiring; closing marina after 42 years at Jackson Lake," was written by Chuck Thompson.]