James “Frosty” Plunkett (right), Collins Hill’s longtime announcer, poses for a photo with his son Matt. (Photo: Facebook)
The state of Arkansas provided Collins Hill football with some great ones.
The high school’s first head football coach, Alan Fahring, also the field’s namesake, comes to mind. Fahring’s top assistant and successor as head coach was Larry Sherrill, also an Arkansas man. Those two happened upon the Eagles’ program at the same time as another Arkansas native, longtime announcer James “Frosty” Plunkett.
Plunkett left his own major mark on the community, not just as the “Voice of Collins Hill,” but also with his countless hours of volunteer work before, during and after his two sons went to the high school. The Eagles’ only football announcer was preparing for his 21st season on the school’s PA system when he died suddenly Thursday, massive heart attacks during a round of golf in South Carolina robbing Collins Hill of one of its beloved leaders.
He was just 62.
“Frosty was a great guy, a Collins Hill community guy, who did a great service for the school and the community,” said Sherrill, whose best friend Fahring passed away after a long battle with cancer in 2009. “He was in his position for all the right reasons. He loved kids. He supported kids, the players and their families. … He really had a way of communicating what was going on at games, and doing it in a way that wasn’t offensive to the visiting team. He was very aware of how to say things and come across to where it wasn’t a hostile environment.
“He was a true gentleman. He gave so much of his time and he was a great ambassador for Collins Hill High School and the community. He was always very positive, always promoting Collins Hill. Frosty was such an important part of getting Collins Hill to where it is today.”
Plunkett, also the Eagles’ basketball announcer for nearly a decade, was a pivotal figure in the early days at Collins Hill, helping a core group of supporters get the football program started. At the time, Gwinnett County didn’t build stadiums for new high schools and he was there from the start of construction. His friends still chuckle at the memory of a skittish Plunkett climbing a 40-foot extension ladder in those early days to paint an exterior portion of the press box.
“None of us realized at the time, but he was painting his new home-away-from-home on Friday nights in the fall,” said fellow Collins Hill booster Scott Desing, a good friend of Plunkett.
Desing is a part of a group Plunkett affectionately called the “Zoo Crew,” which also included other longtime Eagle backers Greg Gaines and Charlie Chatham. Plunkett bought new Collins Hill green golf shirts with that moniker on it every football season for the crew, which they wore proudly while working virtually every Collins Hill football game.
His buddies in the press box enjoyed teasing him about his occasional slip-up — like the time he announced the runner was stopped at the 51-yard line or when he yelled “Run, Forrest, Run,” then glanced to make sure the microphone was off. He enjoyed it thoroughly when Collins Hill graduates came back for games, regularly recognizing the alumni (or aloom-nye in his vernacular) during his announcing.
Friends are quick to point out that Plunkett, a Dave Hunter Award winner from the Touchdown Club of Gwinnett for his community service, was more than the familiar voice Eagle fans have heard Friday nights for the past 20 years.
“In a word Frosty was genuine,” Desing said. “What I saw and experienced from him interacting with others was heartfelt to say the least.”
An avid golfer and Arkansas Razorback fan, Plunkett graduated from the University of Central Arkansas and played keyboard in his college band, Lardo and the Crisco Kids. As an adult, he moved to Georgia and worked as a financial planner. He was a loyal member of St. Lawrence Catholic Church and both of his sons, Matt and Bill, graduated from Collins Hill. Matt is a youth minister in Jackson, Miss., and Bill works for the Salvation Army and in the restaurant business in Atlanta.
Running also was a big part of Plunkett’s life and his fitness made his passing even more shocking.
“We used to give him so much grief about being so healthy,” Desing said. “He stopped eating red meat seven years ago. He ate chicken, vegetables, rice. He was one of the healthiest guys I knew.”
His full name was James Earl Plunkett, but most around the Collins Hill athletic program just knew him as “Frosty.” Most people don’t know how he picked up that nickname, just that he brought it along with him from Arkansas.
“It’s a silly story,” Plunkett’s wife Susan said. “Jim was very shy and these young girls in high school thought that he was stuck up, so they called him Frosty the Snowman because they thought he was frosty. And 40-something years later, they’re still calling him Frosty. He said friends call him Frosty, in the business world they call him Jim and family call him James or James Earl. You knew when someone called which group it was by how they addressed him.”
Plunkett did announce one final football game at Collins Hill, the Eagles’ spring football game in May.
“Just the other day I had someone ask, ‘Is that your husband I hear resonating through the trees?’” Susan Plunkett said. “I said, ‘Probably so, it’s Green-White Night. To hear people say he’s the voice of Collins Hill, that’s just so sweet and humbling. That’s the one thing people always said, he’s the voice of Collins Hill. Being married to him, Jim was so humble, I don’t think of him that way.”
Plunkett’s humble nature didn’t stop him from being revered in the Collins Hill community, particularly in the football program. He was the Eagles’ Larry Munson — maybe he would prefer a comparison to former Arkansas play-by-play guy Paul Eells instead of the Georgia legend — and held in high regard by Eagles new and old.
“What a tremendous loss for our community,” Collins Hill athletic director Jason Dopson said. “He was one of a kind. Our hearts are broken.”
Sherrill, who got the heartbreaking news while on a trip to California, will miss the conversations with Plunkett about their native Arkansas. It used to be a three-way conversation with Fahring, whose hire set Collins Hill’s Arkansas connection in motion.
“We didn’t know each other (in Arkansas),” Sherrill said of the coaches and Plunkett. “His life brought him there and so did ours. It was just a happy coincidence.”
Visitation for Plunkett will be held Monday at Wages and Sons Gwinnett Chapel from 5 until 8 p.m. with a memorial service Tuesday at 2 p.m. at St Lawrence Catholic Church. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the Collins Hill athletic department or to the Salvation Army.
Plunkett made plenty of donations to Collins Hill athletics and to individual students over the years, but nobody heard about it.
"He always gave back to the program and he always did it behind closed doors, whether it was giving money to kids who needed something or something else," current Collins Hill head football coach Kevin Reach said. "He was always giving back and never wanted any credit for it. He wanted to stay anonymous. He was a great guy. Win, lose or draw, he was always supportive and upbeat when it came to Collins Hill. He will greatly missed."