While there are many ways in which a person can accomplish that act of giving, one Harlan County man seems to have discovered a way that not only allows him the opportunity to give back to his community but has given him the chance to establish a memorial for those who have gone on before him, as well as allowing his community to take part in the project.
Jim Whitaker, of Clovertown, said that he has spent the past three years establishing a memorial to the many people who have lost their lives in accidents in on KY 38. With the help of many Harlan Countians, he is finally seeing his determination become a reality.
A lifelong resident of the Clovertown area, Whitaker said that he got the idea to establish a memorial flower garden near the entrance to Clovertown after he had seen some flower gardens in other out-of-town areas.
“I had seen some beautiful flower gardens over in Virginia, and I got the idea that this would be something good to do in honor of the memory of the many people who have been killed along that highway, as well as providing a way for us to give back to our community,” said Whitaker. “There have just been so many accidents on that highway over the years, and I thought that something like that would be nice to erect in their honor and in the honor of their families.”
Whitaker said although the memorial was his idea, he could have never made it a reality without the help of many Clovertown residents and several local officials.
“There have just been so many people who have come together and helped with this. It has just been amazing at how everyone has pitched in and done their part with this project,” said Whitaker. “We have one man — Jimmy Fields — who comes once a week and takes care of the garden.”
The memorial consists of several different types of flowers, and above the flower garden located on a hilltop, three crosses with solar lights have also been erected.
“We thought the crosses — which was the idea of another resident, Barb Hensley — with the lights would give an added effect to the flower garden,” said Whitaker. “We have all worked so hard on this project, and we all have the right to be very proud of the end result.”
Doris Sweatt, another Clovertown resident, said that she also is very proud of the memorial and that even though the entire community has come together to work on the project, it could not have been done without Whitaker’s desire to make it happen.
“He (Whitaker) has just been so wonderful in getting this started and getting everyone involved,” said Sweatt. “He is a remarkable man.”
Whitaker said anyone who wishes to do so is welcome to become a part of the project by planting a flower or plant of their choice in the garden. However, he said that due to the high cost of plants and the hard work, he requests that all flowers and plants be perennials that will withstand the hot sun.
“We would like to see everyone plant the flowers of their choice, but we also want to make sure that we have the kind that comes back so that we don’t have to replant every year,” said Whitaker.
Whitaker also noted that the project could not have been a success without the help of Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop and several other county officials, including Magistrate Paul Caldwell.
“The fiscal court has been wonderful in helping with donating dirt and our magistrate has also been great with helping,” said Whitaker. “Whenever our community needs something and it is within his power to get it done, it gets done.”
Whitaker said the Kentucky Department of Transportation issued a permit allowing him to plant the memorial garden along the highway with the condition that the garden not exceed certain land boundaries. With the fiscal court donating dirt, his dream of erecting the memorial slowly began to come to life. After three years, the garden is beginning to take shape and look as beautiful as he had envisioned.
Grieshop said that he was impressed with how the memorial had turned out, and he commented on how well the community had worked together to create the finished project.
“I just think that this is something that they should all be proud of, and I commend Mr. Whitaker for putting his time and efforts into this,” said Grieshop. “More communities should work together in these types of projects. There is also another memorial type garden located on (U.S.) 119, and I think these types of things help to also beautify the county and display the area’s rich heritage.”
Whitaker said that the next step in the project is to erect a sign with the name of the memorial, along with the names of the many people who have died along that highway.
“We are planning to have an official dedication date when we put up the sign, and along with the sign there will be a blank space with a permanent marker for people to add names to the sign,” said Whitaker.
Whitaker said that although they do not take cash donations for the project, anyone wishing to become a part of the memorial can do so by purchasing flowers or plants and either planting them or having someone in the community do it for them. He also requests that when purchasing the flowers, a bag of soil also be purchased due to the fact that the type of dirt that is currently there is not the type of dirt in which flowers and plants can be nourished and grow well.
Whitaker added that other garden supplies, such as statues, benches or a picnic table, would also be accepted.