In Apr. 12 issue, Russell County News
By Derek Aaron
Russell County News Editor
Have you ever heard the old adage that “a person can do only so much?” This week’s ‘Russell County Hero’ H.M. Bottom defies just that.
At age 68, Bottom is the Russell Springs Volunteer Fire Department Chief, the county’s emergency management director and solid waste coordinator as well as the county’s PRIDE coordinator.
He has more on his plate than most could handle, but says he enjoys his vast range of jobs and even considers them more of a hobby than actual work.
“I look forward to Monday mornings,” he said.
His grandson, Jason Foley, 24, brought Bottom to our attention for this week’s “Russell County Hero.”
“For me, he has been one of the most influential people in my life,” he said. “I can always go to him for advice when I need it.”
Foley said his “pa” always has a positive outlook on life and never sees anything bad in any situation.
“He’s been a great role model for me and his dedication to this county has been unbelievable,” he said. “He continues to do it because he wants to help people. He lives for that.
Bottom has been an emergency services worker and volunteer in this county for more than 40 years and does not want to slow up anytime soon.
He decided early in his life that he wanted to serve Russell County through emergency services.
“In the early 70’s, we decided that we had a need for a rescue squad,” he said. “We had several people drown and we didn’t have the resources to try to recover the bodies so a group got together and established the rescue squad.”
He said the group had nowhere else to meet but a garage in Jamestown. It was a year later that the funeral homes got out of the ambulance service business, due to various regulations.
Then, some of the same group with the rescue squad decided to take over the ambulance service in the county on a volunteer basis.
Bottom said this was before the county had a hospital and all runs were made to either the Columbia or Somerset hospitals.
He spent nine years as an EMT and supervisor with the ambulance service through the 70’s.
It was also during this time, April 17, 1975 to be exact, when Bottom was sworn in as fire chief in Russell Springs, a title he still holds today.
Soon, Bottom again saw the need for an upgrade as his firefighters were using everyday hand tools for auto extrication.
“An accident with two fatalities changed that course,” he said. “One of those was a youth in the community and we realized there was a need for a ‘Jaws of Life’ in the county.”
After the deadly wreck, it took only three months in 1980 to raise the $5,500 to purchase a “Jaws of Life” The equipment would be used around the entire county until other departments could purchase their own.
Aside from his work in the field, Bottom also got the fire department involved in the Crusade for Children program in 1970 which in turn helped many kids in the county’s school system over the years, he said.
“The challenge we had back then was trying to do something with so few resources,” he said. “Emergency services have a fairly large turnover because people get tired of it but I haven’t reached that point yet. I love it.”
In 1994, Bottom became the county’s emergency management director under former Judge-Executive Charles Smith and in 2001 he became solid waste coordinator for the county.
That same year he retired as utilities supervisor from the city of Russell Springs, but Bottom’s workload actually increased as he took several part-time jobs with the county.
“It’s what keeps me going,” he said. “Sometimes things kind of pile up on you but I enjoy it and try to stay on top of things.”
He also said he was past master of Russell Springs Lodge #941. He has been involved with the lodge since he was 21 years old.
When Bottom graduated high school in Russell County, he moved to Louisville for three years, his only time away from Russell County, and worked in heavy construction with McAlpine Locks and Dam, a series of locks and a hydroelectric dam at the Falls of the Ohio. He returned to his roots to start and raise a family and a big family man he is.
He has six sisters, Carolyn Bottom, Brenda Holt, Mary Ann Rubarts, Maxine Clayton, Betty Foley and Olena Akers, and one brother, Lymon Bottom.
He married the former Sue Turner and has three daughters of his own, Kelley Wright, Kim Foley and Kathy Johnson, all of whom live in Russell County and are very successful in their own right.
“The one regret I have is that I was forced to miss out on some of the girl’s birthdays, Thanksgivings and Christmases because of a fire or drowning,” he said.
He said although his jobs aren’t exactly convenient, his family understands that and respects what he does.
“Those are my hobbies,” he said. “I just enjoy emergency services because I’ve been in it most all my life.”
Bottom lost his father at age six in a truck accident and says it was hard growing up without that figure, but that his large family helped to cope with the loss.
He has five grand children, Jason Foley, Megan Foley, Kara Luttrell, Tanner Wright and Macy Wright as well as two great-grandchildren, Jasmine and Luke Luttrell.
“I try not to miss any of the events that the girls or the grandkids were ever involved in,” he said. “Sue and the girls have really supported me in all that I have chosen to do, they really have.”
“In emergency work, you can hardly make it without the support of your family because it is so demanding and takes a lot of your time,” he said.
He said his three girls all grew up around emergency services and enjoyed the various fundraisers that were held to purchase new equipment for the services.
He said his most cherished moments were when people would come up to him and thank him for something he had done for them in the past.
“I sometimes don’t remember them, but they remember me and what I’ve done for them and that’s special,” he said. “Helping people makes it all worthwhile.”