John Botts has just finished telling me about one of the worst days of his 54 years. Now he’s talking about one of the best days of his life.
We’re sitting in a newly built gazebo, under the shade from a grove of sugar maple trees, in the New Salem Methodist Church cemetery. The weather today is one of the best June has yet offered. It’s a rather peaceful morning out here in the eastern section of Barren County.
John is facing the direction where his grandfather (the man for whom he was named) was killed in a tractor accident in 1980. The day 60-year-old John Botts died was one of the younger John’s worst days.
One of his best days involves this gazebo.
“I live just a mile and three-tenths from here,” he’s telling me. “I’ve passed by here many times. I’ve walked my dog JB over here.” (I don’t ask him if the dog’s initials stand for John Botts, as well.)
He says he often noticed visitors coming and going from this cemetery where his grandfather is buried. Some visitors seemed to need a place to sit and meditate for a while. That’s when he got the gazebo idea.
John’s vision was to place the gazebo to honor the life and legacy of his grandfather who, had he lived, would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year.
According to John, his grandfather was a “vital part of this community.” He describes him as a World War II veteran, a carpenter by trade, and one who served 12 years on the Barren County Board of Education. He says, “It’s been a great honor for me to carry his name.”
John shares several anecdotes.
He laughs as he recalls an incident concerning the steeple of The Glasgow Baptist Church. According to John, his grandfather set the present steeple atop the church building in 1964. His left it with an inscription in the concrete base that proclaimed “John the Methodist was here.”
He fondly recalls the time his grandfather drained his pond. “This was less than a couple of years before his death,” John recalls. “When the water was drained, bass, blue gill—every fish imaginable—were taken to the stock barn and filleted. He had invited the whole community, and people came from one end of the New Salem Road to the other. They parked everywhere in the fields.”
As John continues to share memory after memory, his words seem to float from the gazebo and over the green fields of the surrounding farmland. Finally, he explains how the gazebo came to be.
After John and a few others in the family purchased the necessary lumber for its construction, the 10 X 10 gazebo was made as a class project in James Spence’s Construction Class at the Area Technology Center. Because his grandfather had been devoted to the school system and devoted to working with lumber, John thinks the gazebo is most appropriate.
John also notes that there are ramps for “those who use walkers or wheel chairs or who have a bum knee—it meets ADA specifications.”
On May 26, 2019, one of John’s best-ever days, the Botts family came together a reunion. Although the gazebo, which weighed about a ton, had been placed in the cemetery, only a few of the clan knew this. At sunset, they gathered at the church’s location, and everyone got to see the gazebo together. “Their eyes were drawn to this,” John says. “It got a little emotional.”
In fact, he gets a little emotional as he speaks now.
“I suspect your grandfather would have been proud of the gazebo,” I comment.
John nods. “Yes. He loved this community. He loved this church. Many of his fiends and family are buried here.” Then he adds, “I’d like to see other small cemeteries do something like this.”