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Former mayor, longtime historian passes away

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Magoffin said goodbye to former Salyersville mayor, former Magoffin County School Board member, and longtime local historian, Roy Jack "Todd" Preston, who passed away last Friday at the age of 89.

Roy Jack “Todd” Preston was born June 1, 1928 on the Burton Fork of Mash Fork on a forty-acre hillside farm in Magoffin County, Kentucky, the son of William Moses “Curtis” Preston and Mary Jane “Mollie” Helton, being the sixth child of a family of ten.

Todd was a loving brother to John Redmond Preston, Henry Ford Preston, Anna Preston Kelley, Ralph Preston, Luva Preston Connelley, Roger Preston, Ida Jane Preston Conley, Walker Preston and Glenna Sue Preston Howard.

His family grew up helping each other, their relatives and neighbors.  Todd had a strong work ethic from childhood throughout life.  He farmed, was a mail carrier, worked at service stations, the oil fields and coal mines, whatever work he could find to take care of his family.  

He always felt a deep sense of patriotism and when he became of age, he volunteered to serve in the Army in October of 1946.

He worked as a Magoffin County conservation officer, was a member of the school board and was a Mayor of Salyersville.  

One of his achievements as Conservation Officer was to aid in organizing Junior Conservation Clubs for youngsters which escalated into an annual 4th of July celebration at the Connelley Farm for the people of Magoffin County and the surrounding area.

Todd was a devoted member of the Prater Memorial Methodist Church, serving in many capacities, including Sunday School Superintendent, and using every opportunity that arose throughout his life to tell people of the saving grace of Jesus.

He will be remembered for his work with many civic organizations such as Chapter 15 DAV, the Magoffin County Muzzleloaders, Eastern Star and the Masonic Lodge.  He served on many committees, among them the Civil War Reenactment group and Magoffin County’s 150th Birthday Celebration board. 

He was a man with a reverence for the past but a vision for a better future for the children and people of our area.  His message to the children he came in contact with through his school visits and historical society events was to stay in school and obtain the best education possible.  

His love of the people of our area and the history of Magoffin County led him to be a leader in organizing the Magoffin County Historical Society.  His dream of “preserving the past for the future” became a reality as his enthusiasm drew many volunteers who joined together to help build a research library and reconstruct log cabins into a Pioneer Village.  Their efforts attracted many visitors from far and near who came to view a glimpse into the past of their ancestors.  

A suggestion that our county could emulate other areas and have a “festival” of our own sparked his imagination and so Magoffin County Founder’s Days were begun, an annual event that was held in our county for 35 years based on history and family reunions.  He always wanted to have events that would give opportunities for our young people to “showcase their talents”.

A passion of Todd’s was to locate and adequately mark the gravesites of many of our citizens of long ago.  He delighted in making trips to these sometimes forgotten sacred places and recording the names and dates of those buried there. Afterwards he researched their genealogy and so became familiar with nearly all the families of Magoffin County.  

Untold hours were spent on research for the visitors who came to our county. He always made an effort to help those who visited or wrote to the Magoffin County Historical Society for family research help.  Through the years, thousands of letters were written with genealogy information. 

The historical society became a place known for its collection of history and the help they could receive.  Todd would personally escort many of those visitors to the cemeteries and home places of their ancestors.  All of his work was without thought of compensation or rewards but for the pleasure of helping others.  

Todd always urged everyone to record their family history and remembrances on paper.  Throughout the years he wrote about his recollections of life and the people he knew.  He also wrote a weekly column for the local Salyersville Independent newspaper over a span of about 40 years.  He was amazed at what could be done with computers but would never work with one; he preferred his No. 2 pencils and college-ruled notebook paper.

Todd received many awards and accolades from a great many organizations and always appreciated them but was not one to “rest on his laurels”; he continued at the same work pace as before.  At many events he was the first to begin setting out the chairs and the last on the grounds to do the clean-up chores.

Todd married Phyllis Joy Prater, the daughter of Glenn M. Prater and Jessie Patrick. They were the loving parents of five children and their spouses: Toddie Preston and his wife Lisa, Theresa Dotson and her husband Larry, Jessica Howard and her husband Jarrod, Roy Neil Preston and his wife Kaye and Abbie Annette Conley and her husband Brian.  

Their son Roy Neil died in 1978.  His beloved wife Phyllis died in 2001.

Todd took much pride in his grandchildren, Jason Preston, Nicholas Preston, Haley Preston Patton, Cory Dotson, Kellie Dotson Elam, Curtis Neil Preston and Preston Scott Conley.      

His great-grandchildren, Jesse Brown and his brother Weston Allen, Avery Preston, Emery Preston and her brother Owen Preston added great joy to his life.

Todd Preston departed this life on Friday, June 9, 2017 at the age of 89 years and 8 days. We will always be saddened that he is no longer a part of our lives but will forever be grateful that he lived upon this earth and helped make it a better place for his generation and all those to come.  

His character, his vision for the future and his faith are all part of his legacy to us.

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