By Heather Blair / OC Monitor Community Contributor
The scent of soybeans. Warm. Comforting. My Grandpa Coons.
There’s a familiar road in Owensboro that always leads me down memory lane when I travel it. As the aroma hits my nose, I’m instantly taken back to my childhood.
It’s early on Sunday morning and we’re in the car. Grandpa at the wheel, Grandma at his side. My sister and I in the back. We’re wearing matching dresses and our Grandma’s shoes. (She had the same size foot as we did and we were amazed at her vast “collection” which hung on a rack on the back of her door.) Our hair is squeaky clean and brushed, held back with plastic barrettes. I’m holding my white, Precious Moments Bible, given to me by my grandparents. We are on our way to church, where Grandpa preaches. As we turn the corner by the grain bins, the scent of soybeans lets us know we’re close.
I fondly remember traveling that stretch of road, whether on Sundays or going with Grandpa as he prepared his sermons. I’d play among the empty rooms or at the bottom of the baptistery while he studied. The church was quiet and peaceful, the perfect backdrop for my imagination.
It was a joy listening to my sweet Grandpa share about the love of Jesus, you could see that love just by watching him smile. Grandpa could hug you with his smile. I recall how nice he looked, all dressed up in a suit, and how special I felt because he’d let me pick out his tie each week to match. Sitting by Grandma, legs stuck to the pew, I’d copy her moves as she thumbed through her Bible. And what a treat it was after service, when he’d take us out for lunch, or knowing there was a delicious meal simmering on Grandma’s stove awaiting our arrival home. Sundays were special because of my grandparents.
Most weekends as a child were spent with them and I have always given my grandparents the credit for the faith instilled in me. Though my childhood was spent in a little church on the outskirts of Owensboro, it was actually a small brick church in downtown Hartford that started it all. One I don’t remember ever attending.
In the mid-70s, my grandfather, Rev. Henry L. Coons, was called to serve at Hartford Second Baptist Church. Though Owensboro was considered home, he moved his wife and children into the parsonage on White Ave. As teenagers, they attended high school with my mom. His middle son would transfer into her English class, where they would later meet and fall in love.
My Grandpa served 43 years in ministry as a Baptist preacher throughout Ohio, McLean, and Daviess counties. The only church I ever knew him to pastor though was Garden Green, where he retired.
Nobody in the family can specifically recall the true story of how he began in ministry, but ever the jokester, he told everyone it was a scary plane ride when he served in the U.S. Air Force. Grandpa loved airplanes and used to throw them out the top window of his house as a kid, running outside to watch them fly down. The irony though is he was scared of heights. Lover of airplanes, just not as a passenger. In one bumpy flight, he made a promise, if God would get him back to solid ground, he would do whatever He asked.
And I always knew my Grandpa as a man who kept his word.
As a member now of East Hartford Baptist, I’ve been curious about the connections of the three churches. It seemed strange to have three Baptist churches within so close to each other, yet each had a purpose and have served different pockets of this community.
Hartford Baptist Church was the first formed. Wes Hanson, a former and long-time pastor there, wrote a book on the history of the church, which you can borrow from the Ohio County Public Library.
In the 50s, a small store on “Snow Hill” now known as Church Street began having services. Hartford Baptist sponsored the formation of a mission church, East Hartford Baptist. It was the last Baptist mission to be started in Ohio County. In 1965, Hartford Second Baptist was formed. My Grandpa helped build the fellowship hall in the basement which still stands today.
I’m not sure what pulled him from his home in Owensboro all those years ago but I can only imagine it was God’s call. In talking with my uncle Bob, who is also a minister, he shared Hartford Second Baptist would’ve been his first offer for a full-time position in ministry and probably why he decided to move. The timing was long enough to ensure my parents met and thus the beginning for me. All joking aside, there was a definite plan and we can see God’s weaving throughout our family line.
This past Sunday, I watched row after row of family fill the seats a bit misty-eyed. Though Grandpa gave us a faith foundation, it has only been in the past decade we’ve seen our extended families grow in attendance. I could almost imagine Grandpa smiling down on these generations, seeing our fellowship and shared love for God and this community.
And it all began because one faithful man said yes to serving at a church in a small town called Hartford.
Heather Blair is an Ohio County native, residing in Beaver Dam with her husband, Tim, and son, Noah. She is a Family Support Worker for the HANDS program, through the Green River District Health Department. Through HANDS, she helps families build healthy, safe environments to boost growth and development for their children. She is active in her church, enjoys rock painting, photography, fishing and exploring with her husband. Heather has a passion for writing and sharing about faith, family, and finding joy in every day.