Suffolk mourns loss of renowned citizen and philanthropist

Published 2:19 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2023

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Suffolk native and 1997 recipient of the Suffolk First Citizen award, Jack W. Nurney, Jr., died Friday, Sept. 29. He was 94.

Nurney grew up in Suffolk and graduated from Suffolk High School. He studied at Virginia Military Institute before joining the U.S. Army and serving in the Korean War. He then attended The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Afterward, he returned home and went to work at Woodward and Elam Insurance Agency in Suffolk, where he spent 18 years. He then became President of Nurney-Stephenson Insurance Co., where he remained for 23 years and later retired with J. Walter Hosier & Son, Inc.

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Nurney was the Chairman of the Suffolk Chapter of the American Red Cross and Bloodmobile, Chairman of Nansemond-Suffolk United Way, member of Suffolk Highway Safety Commission, and member of the Board of Directors of Elon Home for Children. He was also a member of the Board of Trustees and Treasurer of Birdsong Trust Fund and a member and former Chairman of the Board of Zoning Appeals of the City of Suffolk. He was a member and former President of the Suffolk Rotary Club, a member of Suffolk Tomorrow, and a member of the Board of Directors of Louise Obici Memorial Hospital for 20 years. 

Long-time friend Billy Chorey describes Nurney as a humble man who carried many admirable traits that made him who he was.

“Jack was a gentle giant,” Chorey said. “He was one of the most humble people I have ever known in my life. He did not have an ego. He was as humble a man and as honest a man with integrity that I have ever known.”

Suffolk Mayor Mike Duman said Nurney was a true gentleman who made many contributions to Suffolk through his involvement in the city through his philanthropy and civic engagement.

“Jack was a Suffolk native and a true gentleman who contributed to our city through his civic engagement, philanthropy, and business acumen. He will be missed by all who had the good fortune to know him.”

Chorey says he saw Nurney within the last three months before his death, and according to Chorey, “he was as sharp three months ago, in my opinion, mentally, as he was when I first met him almost 45 years ago.”

Chorey went on to say Suffolk may never have someone quite like Nurney again.

“In my opinion, Suffolk has lost a giant,” he said. “Jack was a giant that I don’t think can be replaced. He was that paramount in this city.”

Nurney was laid to rest on Wednesday, Oct. 4.