Edward Grady Maggard Jr., better known by his nickname, Sonny, had a hand in the practical side of life for decades for countless customers at his appliance store in Dade City.
But he also was involved in helping others develop their spiritual life, once serving as a Sunday School director and growing the program from about 100 participants to more than 1,200.
His Sept. 23 memorial service, filled to capacity, was held in the chapel at Hodges Family Funeral Home and Cremation Center, on U.S. 301, just down the road from Sonny’s Discount Appliances Inc., a business Maggard founded well over a half-century ago.
The store has been a community fixture for people needing dishwashers, refrigerators, washing machines, stoves, or other household appliances.
Maggard worked alongside his sons, Dale and Randy, and still came to the store long after his sons took over the day-to-day operations.
On the company’s website, the family attributes the appliance store’s longevity to this belief: “If you take care of the customer, the customer will take care of you!”
The Maggards experienced that firsthand when a fire destroyed the business on Nov. 28, 2001.
Dozens of firefighters tried to put out the blaze but were impeded by insufficient water supplies, according to news accounts at the time. Investigators said the fire began in some cardboard boxes in the back of the store, but did not determine the cause.
The 16,000-square-foot, one-story store, the warehouse and the buildings’ contents were destroyed.
But no one was hurt and no jobs were lost.
And, thanks to the business’ suppliers, and the community it had served for so long, Sonny’s started back up with a fledgling operation less than 24 hours after the fire, according to published reports.
In the midst of it all, Maggard told a reporter that he wanted to thank the more than 500 people — including competitors — who had stopped by or called his home since the fire to express sympathies or to offer help.
Three years later, the store reopened on the same spot where the former store had been destroyed.
Throughout his life, faith was important to Maggard, the funeral home’s obituary says. He was a lifelong follower of Jesus, and devoted a lot of time and service to his church. He dearly loved his family and enjoyed spending as much time as he could with them.
The write-up also describes him as “a true southern gentleman, who never met a stranger.”
Besides faith, family and business, Maggard had other interests.
He was a dedicated cattleman, outdoorsman and lifelong, respected member of the National Wild Turkey Federation, his obituary says.
He was involved in the Second Amendment Club and supported gun safety lessons for youths. He was treasurer on the volunteer board of the CARES Zephyrhills Senior Center, according to news reports.
Turkey hunting was one of his greatest passions.
It was so important that he started the Gulf Coast Limbhangers National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) chapter in Pasco County in 1994, according to a post on the NWTF’s website. The chapter now bears Maggard’s name.
In recognition of his love for the pursuit, his hunting jacket was on proud display at the front of the chapel, during his funeral service.
Mark and Cornie Maffett, of Dade City, wrote about Maggard’s enthusiasm for hunting, on Maggard’s memorial page on the funeral home’s website.
“So many times over the decades he welcomed us into the store where not only purchases were transacted but hunting stories swapped.
“At times he was so proud to show a specimen waiting for taxidermy and the stories that went with it. Other times we exchanged (stories about) beloved turkey hunts.”
A former employee, Jim Miller, of Jacksonville, also shared his appreciation for the family on Maggard’s memorial page.
“I worked at Sonny’s in the ’90s. Sonny will always have a special spot in my heart along with Randy and Dale,” Miller wrote.
Kevin and Kim Eldridge wrote, in part, “A life well lived for his Savior and his family…what a wonderful legacy.”
Messages of sympathy were shared on the page, from people living as near as Dade City to as far away as Australia.
Maggard was born on Sept. 26, 1934, in Wise, Virginia. He was 86 when he died on Sept. 16, at his Dade City home.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Lorene, who died on Jan. 3, 2020 — shortly before the couple would have marked their 65th anniversary, according to her obituary. They met when they were 16, her obituary added.
Maggard is survived by his son Dale, and Dale’s wife, Ann; and, his son Randy, and Randy’s wife, Colleen. He also is survived by six grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and another great-grandchild that is on the way.
Published October 06, 2021