Butler County Times Gazette
  • Rotary takes trip through John Prigmore's life at banquet

  • The El Dorado Rotary Club took a trip through Rotarian John Prigmore's life with their own version of “This is Your Life...John Prigmore” during their mid-winter banquet Tuesday evening.
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  • The El Dorado Rotary Club took a trip through Rotarian John Prigmore's life with their own version of "This is Your Life...John Prigmore" during their mid-winter banquet Tuesday evening.
    Following entertainment by the Butler Notables and Smorgaschords and a welcome to the event, Dave Stewart took the stage, reminding people of the 1950s television show "This is Your Life," which was put on live with the premise of surprising someone.
    For their version of the show, Prigmore was called to the stage to meet his four special guests who would share memories and stories of Prigmore.
    The first special guest was Louise Prigmore, John's wife. They were high school sweethearts.
    "We were juniors in high school," Louise said. "I saw him at a track meet. He was a pole vaulter. I decided right then he was the one for me. He didn't stand a chance."
    They have now been married for 66 years.
    Before they were married, John served in the Navy Air Corp.
    "I wrote a letter every night," she said.
    She said that was the only for of communication with those deployed they had at that time.
    John had enlisted in October 1943.
    "Louise and I were not married until I got out of the Air Force," John said, with Louise adding that it was not allowed.
    "I got out and went to architectural school," John said.
    Soon after that they were married.
    After college, they moved to Salt Lake City where he worked at the largest firm between the MIssissippi and West Coast. They stayed there two years, then decided to move back to El Dorado.
    Louise made the trip back by train with their first son, while, as John joked, 10 months pregnant with their second.
    "It was a good experience," John said of Salt Lake City, "but being a Methodist amongst the LDS (Latter-day Saints) people really didn't give me the opportunity to start a practice.
    "We decided we had to make the move and El Dorado did not have a practice at that time," he said.
    One thing it did have was the first school bond issue that had just been passed, and John hoped to be a part of that project.
    The second guest to take John further through his life was Morgan Metcalf.
    The story started with Louise still being pregnant and needing a physical, so they went to Dr. Metcalf, Morgan's father, who was on the school board at the time.
    This association led to John's first architectural project.
    Dr. Metcalf had a screened-in porch that he wanted to be closed-in to be made into a TV room.
    Page 2 of 3 - "It was job number 100," John said, explaining he didn't want to start with number one because he wanted to sound like he had more experience.
    Morgan talked about two other influential members of the community and Rotary, Justus O'Reilly and Cliff Stone.
    He went on to talk about John's time growing up in rural Leon but attending El Dorado High School and playing on the football team.
    "John has been a stalwart of this community and certainly of this club," Morgan said.
    The third guest was past district governor Dick Hartwell, who also is a structural engineer.
    He began by sharing the story behind the nicknames they had for one another.
    "He called me an old man and the only thing I could do was reciprocate and call him a young kid," Hartwell said. "Our birthdays are one day apart."
    Hartwell has known John since the early 1950s and said a lot has changed in their profession.
    "When we started you had a drafting table, t-square, triangle, wood pencils and slide rule," Hartwell said. "Now they have all this electronic equipment you can use."
    Of course some things have not changed.
    "This 'young man' is still using a t-square and triangles and he has none of the electronic equipment," Hartwell said. "He's one of the few, in not only one, who is still doing that.
    "Looking at the drawings really reflects John's personality and ability. I think this reflects through to the people in your office."
    They went on to talk about some of their jobs together.
    The fourth guest was Vince Haines.
    He was asked why John hired him.
    Haines had gone to Butler a couple years, then on to drafting trade school in Arizona. From there, he returned to El Dorado and was looking for a job. He was told he should go down and talk to John.
    John had him come in "just to talk," so Haines didn't think it was actually an interview.
    "I was so relaxed because I wasn't looking for a job (with Prigmore)," Haines said.
    But John was looking for an employee.
    "We were looking for some help and I was impressed with the school you went to and the work you presented," John said. "Vince hadn't been working for me very long before it was obvious he was capable of much more than bending over a drafting table eight hours a day."
    So John encouraged him to go to college, although Haines said it was a little more than encouraging.
    Page 3 of 3 - "I told him I would fire him if I didn't go," John recalled.
    "As it turns out that was my second wisest, second to choosing my bride, decision in rehiring Vince," he said.
    Haines said the strongest lessons he has learned from John is honesty and client service.
    "One of the things about the practice of architecture is you can't imagine the amount of satisfaction one gets from sitting down with a client," John said. "I can't think of another profession that would offer more satisfaction. I'm forever thankful I made the decision to stop flying and start drawing."
    "Your influence," Haines said, "changed the way I and we approach community."
    Haines said they have threatened several times to put a computer in front of John but he always responds with a threat of retirement papers.
    "The drawing table will be there as long as you want it," Haines said.
    The final person to speak about John was Stewart, who is the newest partner at PKHLS Architects, having worked with John for 10 years.
    He recalled one of their projects together, the tornado memorial.
    John was in the area when the tornado passed through and he and Louise watched it from an overpass outside of town until it began heading their direction.
    "We just want to thank you from the bottom of our heart as a town and community for your service," Stewart said.
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