By Henry Piarrot
I moved to Sevier County in June of 2005. A man I worked for more than once many years ago hired me
to be the sales and marketing director for a company that really did not want me. After a month or so, I
also became the general manager of one of the Pigeon Forge hotels possessed by that company.
In October of that year, the Pigeon Forge Lodging association was holding its annual election for officers.
One of our managers was running for vice president and all of the Pigeon Forge general managers were
instructed to attend the luncheon to vote for our candidate.
New to the area, I wanted to make sure I was not late. Consequently, I was more than 30 minutes early
for the event.
While I was waiting in the foyer, I met a man for the first time who was curious about who I was and
why I was there. I explained my position and that I was there to vote for my colleague. During our
conversation, he asked if I was interested in community service. I told him I was planning to make Sevier
County my home and if he needed anything from me, he was free to ask anytime.
Then we shook hands and went our own ways as the crowd began to arrive. As we began to be served
our meal, I saw my new acquaintance at the podium announcing the names of the candidates for the
various open seats. Suddenly, when he got to one of the “at large” positions, I heard him say “I am
nominating Henry Piarrot.” I nearly choked on my chicken.
Being so new to the area and not yet realizing there was probably not opposition, I thought, “I will never
be elected because nobody knows who I am.”
Nevertheless, I was astonished to find that I won my seat and the guy I was there to vote for did not.
Consequently, that that was not good for my future with that company. But thru all that drama, Ray Ogle
became my friend and mentor. I went on to become the president of two lodging associations and general
manager of the year twice in Sevier County. None of that would have happened had I not showed up
early that day in October 2005.
The first settlers of Gatlinburg came to the area from South Carolina, carrying the family name of
Oglesby, which was later shortened to Ogle. Consequently, a century and a half later, the story of Fred
and Stella Ogle is as American as the Little Pigeon River and majestic white oak trees that defined their
Smoky Mountain home.
Tragically, the young couple lost their first born, Frank, as a small child. However, Harold, born in 1941
wholly assumed the role as eldest when he welcomed his younger identical twin brothers, Ray and Glenn
to the family in 1947.
Independent by nature, once returning from WWII, Fred earned a living as an electrician and plumber,
while Stella helped make ends meet by weaving decorative nylon bags at home. For the Ogle boys,
growing up in the care of their strict and protective parents would be a priceless gift wrapped with
honesty and love.
Sadly, the brothers lost their mother in 1998 to a deadly stroke, and then became middle-aged orphans
when they told their father goodbye after he lost a desperate battle with cancer two years later.
Nevertheless, the effect of their benevolent parents’ influence would not be replaced by their grief.
Especially in the case of Ray, who extends and enhances his parents’ legacy with leadership, compassion
Today, Ray Ogle is the general manager of the Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge. Since it’s
opening, Ogle is the only general manager the award winning and nationally recognized property has ever
had. His is not simply a story about how to run an excellent business; it is a story about how to live an
A graduate of Gatlinburg’s Pittman High School in 1966, Ogle did not finish college. He learned his
profession by studying closely the actions of the most successful people who did what he wanted to do.
As a result, he learned from the best.
The former president of The Tennessee Hotel & Lodging Association, Ogle takes little personal credit
for the success of his storied property – which he saves for his staff and crew. “When you surround
yourself with excellent people, good things happen.” He said.
As pleased as Ogle is with his professional accomplishments, he is most proud of the work he does for the
benefit of children and those desperately fighting the war against cancer.
Also, the opening general manager of The Music Road Hotel, which is where he was working when
we met, Ray lost his father and Brenda Walters “the best housekeeper The Music Road ever had” to the
disease. His leadership facilitated the creation of the annual Relay For Life for the American Cancer
Society. He and his crew at the Music Road and now the Inn at Christmas Place have raised thousands
of dollars to help fund the research needed to one day relegate cancer to the same status of yellow fever,
malaria and polio.
Yet, his first love, next to Judy, is his participation in the Pigeon Forge Rotary
Club. Rotary International is a worldwide organization of professional leaders that provide humanitarian
service to anyone in need. The Pigeon Forge Chapter mainly supports the efforts of the area’s Boys’ &
Girls’ Club. The Rotarian motto is “Service Above Self.”
Unfortunately, I did not move to East Tennessee in time to know Fred or Stella Ogle personally.
Nevertheless, I know they must have been a remarkable couple. That is because it is obvious that they
instilled in their son that benevolence is cool and mediocrity is something other peoples’ children have to
Henry Piarrot is a hotel manager and Sevier County resident on assignment in Hattiesburg, MS. Please send all story recommendations