A tribute to Bill & Fern Hampton

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven”  Matthew 5:16

 I first met Bill and Fern Hampton when I, a Baptist teen, attended the Pewee Valley Seventh-dayAdventist Church with my Adventist girlfriend (now my wife of 39 years, Sandy).

People were friendly, the mission story and Sabbath School lesson were inspiring, I felt God’s presence in the worship service and I could tell there would be a communion service because the table was prepared.

Everything went fine until, at the end of the pastor’s sermonette, he invited the congregation to participate in the Ordinance of Humility, the foot washing service.  People began to leave the sanctuary for a reason I didn’t understand.  I’m sure I was standing there with eyes that looked like a deer caught in the headlights.  That’s when Bill stepped into my world to begin a relationship that would last as long as he and Fern lived.  Bill explained the beautiful, Christ-ordained service to me and led me through it in a meaningful way that I have attempted to emulate many times since with new or prospective believers.  It was as if he had had the same experience as I was having and knew just what to say.

Bill and Fern met at the Pewee Valley Sanitarium and Hospital near Louisville, Kentucky, during the depression years.  Bill’s youngest sister had run up a large bill at the hospital.  The Hamptons, like many depression-era families, were short on cash but long on character.  Bill, in his early twenties, was working at the “San” to pay off the obligation.  Fern came to Pewee Valley as a young church school teacher and later worked in the administration office of the San.

Thus began a nearly ten-year Christian courtship between the two.  You see, Bill was a staunch Methodist and Fern a committed Seventh-day Adventist who loved Bill but would not marry someone outside of her faith.

Finally Fern, Bill’s personal God-sent evangelist, led him to the faith and when Bill joined the church he went all the way and never looked back.  He served the Pewee Valley Church in many capacities, including first elder for some thirty years.  Fern was also a local church leader, including church clerk.

Bill and Fern married in 1941.  They did not have children of their own but were the spiritual nurturers of many of us through the decades.  They shared Christian literature and scores of sermon and music tapes, literature and they were a blessing to folks in the church as well as the community.  Only the Lord knows the far-reaching extent of their influence.

Through the years Bill became a prominent building contractor who was very respected in the community.  One of Bill’s greatest building accomplishments was his leadership, in his seventies, as the volunteer general contractor for the new church building at PeweeValley in 1980-81.

Some years ago, Bill and Fern called me to their home with the purpose of updating their Last Will and Testament and other estate planning documents.  Having no children, they felt led by God to leave all of their assets to His work at their death.  Along with their wills, they created Power of Attorney and Living Will documents that named trusted Adventist friends to help them with their business and healthcare needs as they aged.

As time went by, these long-livers (Fern died at age 87 and Bill at age 93) suffered major health challenges and their financial resources were depleting.  From a human standpoint, there was not much left to show for their lives of labor, but throughout their lives they had lived the principle that we are to store up our treasure in heaven.  They always returned a faithful tithe and gave generous and sacrificial offerings and helped a multitude of people during their lifetime.  In fact, some of the older PeweeValley members vividly remember how each year during the Week of Prayer and Sacrifice Bill and Fern would challenge the church to join them in giving a week’s income to the special offering.

Bill and Fern went to sleep in Jesus just a few months apart in 2004.  According to the terms of their wills, what was left of their assets went partly to their local church at a time it was much needed and partly to the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference to be used as needed for the Lord’s work.  Although the dollar amount would not seem all that significant by the world’s standards, I am sure that to the Lord it was regarded with the same significance as the widow’s mite.  These dear ones made God first in their lives, and the Lord supplied all their needs right up to the end of their lives.

Truly: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  Matthew 6:33

Lin Powell, Trust Services Director   and  One of Bill and Fern’s “Kids”