No matter if you’ve lived in Laurel Fork all your life or just stopped there one time, chances are Delmon C. Nester left a positive impression on you of the rural Carroll County community and its people.
Nester, owner of Laurel Fork’s most recognizable business, Nester’s Store, passed away Thursday. Opening the business on Sept. 17, 1946, Nester has not only been the most recognizable face in Laurel Fork’s most prominent business for the past 69 years, during that time he made an impact on the community and leaves a legacy that will never be forgotten nor replaced.
“Delmon Nester is Laurel Fork. Anybody that thinks about Laurel Fork, they think about Delmon,” said Glenn Jackson, another Laurel Fork icon in his own right, who has run Hillsville’s Family Shoe Store for the past 65 years. “Delmon is one of the finest people you will ever meet and he was as honest as the day was long. He would do anything in the world for people.”
Jackson said it was common for Nester to get up in the middle of the night and open the store when somebody needed something. He would give many people credit in the store, even though many would never repay the debt.
“He was too good for his own good sometimes. He would give you the shirt off his back, do anything for anybody,” Jackson said. “You couldn’t beat him. He was so accommodating and would go out of his way for people. We will never know another one like him. My son Jerry worked for him when he was growing up and Jerry will tell you he is the best fellow he ever worked for.”
And while those in Laurel Fork and Carroll County loved Nester for the traits Jackson mentioned, that same smile and caring attitude also rubbed off on outsiders. As one of the only service stations on U.S. 58 from Stuart to Hillsville, Nester most certainly left a positive impression on many visitors to the area. The new Nester’s Store was built in 1984.
“People just coming through would stop just to see him, just to say hi to him,” Jackson said.
“Just from stopping there, they left with a good taste in their mouth of the Laurel Fork community I believe,” added Lowell Stanley.
Sam Terry can remember when the school buses used to transfer at the store when he was going to school. That would give the kids a chance to “get a bottle of pop,” he said.
“He has been a very, very accommodating man. He has been mighty good to me and he is going to be missed,” Terry said. “He helped a lot of people out of a lot of tough times.”
Terry noted Nester was once a Southern States agent, saying the amount of merchandise he has sold at Nester’s Store would have to be an unbelievable number. Terry said Nester built his business on being cheaper than his competition. Through it all, he said Nester was a strong supporter of the Laurel Fork Fire Department and the Laurel Fork Community Center.
“He’s been a supporter of them since day one. He would accommodate you any way in the world he could and not want any reimbursement for it,” Terry said. “He gave people credit when they needed credit. Naturally, a lot of people abused it, but he kept doing it anyway.”
And of course, Terry remembers whenever you left Nester’s Store, you left with that smile and trademark phrase, “Come back again.”
Lowell Stanley said Nester was as fair a person as there could be. He was always smiling and tried to speak to everybody that came into the store.
“He was just an unusual man to care about people as much as I believe he did. We don’t have many people like that as we one time did,” Stanley said. “And he was a good friend. Years ago we took farm tours from the agriculture office in Carroll County. A lot of people might have thought he was all business, but he was the life of the party a lot of times. He would get up and tell you things when the bus got quiet on those tours that would have everybody laughing.”
Nester’s Store originally was called E.M. Nester and Son and began with Nester and his father. While Delmon’s father was a fine man, Stanley said, Delmon was the reason the business turned into the Laurel Fork landmark it eventually became.
“Delmon had a business head and the ability to get along with people the way he did,” Stanley said. “Delmon was the reason the business grew. He is just a part of the community and I hope that it will go on just like it has without him, but it will be a big loss.”
A charter member of the Laurel Fork Fire Department, Blaine Barnard called Nester “a one of a kind.” He was good to everybody and greeted everyone with a smile.
“I don’t reckon he forgot anybody’s name. And we was always good to the fire department and the organizations down here,” Barnard said. “If you bought something, he would cut you some slack. And he was real good to the farmers. If you wanted something and couldn’t find it, he could go out and get it for you. He knew where everything was and we will really miss him down here. I can’t say enough good things about the man.”
As a high school student, Derek Jackson went to work for Nester’s Store as a cashier in the 1990s. Eventually, he ended up moving to the garage at Nester’s, working approximately 15 years for Delmon.
“He was a good man. He helped everybody, it didn’t matter if you needed horse feed or a water pump. He was the man,” Jackson said. “He will definitely be missed. I never heard anybody say a bad word about him and I never heard him say a bad word about anybody else. He was just a happy-go-lucky guy that wanted to help everybody.”
Janet Nester, Delmon’s daughter-in-law, said Nester’s Store would be closed Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 10 and 11. After that, it would be back to business as usual, just as Delmon wanted it.
“He actually had everything done so that we have the people to take care of everything,” she said. “Our intent is to carry on just like he would have wanted us.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN