Every house has a history, especially a 100-year-old one. And a history makes a home.
The house at 176 Buster Road saw the birth of homeowner Ramona Taylor 84 years ago. It’s back in the Appalachian Mountains of far eastern Kentucky. In the summer of 2022, Taylor’s son whisked his mother from the home to safety above the floodwaters of the North Fork Kentucky River.
Since the flood, Taylor has lived with her son. But in the days before Christmas, 10 students from the Baptist Student Ministry at University of Texas in Austin became a new part of the house’s history as a Texas Baptist Men’s Rebuild Ministry team.
The students and a BSM intern jumped in a van immediately after fall finals and headed to Kentucky to help rebuild Taylor’s home.
The team spent four full days working in the house. Most of them had no experience in home repair, but Rupert Robbins, TBM associate director of disaster relief, directed their work.
“This flood kind of did me in,” Taylor said. “But the graciousness of God and all of the people here have actually kept me sane. What they have done here is unbelievable, and I cannot thank them enough.”
‘God has a purpose’
The house became Taylor’s after her mother’s death years ago. She shared it with her late husband, a decorated U.S. Army Green Beret who had served as part of the honor guard for President John F. Kennedy’s funeral in 1963 and later as sheriff of Letcher County.
Buster Road is named for him — Ben “Buster” Taylor — and he is now buried in Arlington National Cemetery, where he stood by for the burial of the president.
Part of the house’s history is a 13-feet-deep, hand-dug water well. The house is now on a municipal water system, but the well has always provided fresh spring water. The floodwaters topped the well, filling it with mud. The TBM/BSM team cleaned out the well and flushed it repeatedly to return it to its pre-flood status.
The water well was not essential to the home’s liveability, but it was an important part of Taylor’s life story with the house. Its restoration provided emotional relief.
Taylor, a retired teacher, struggled at times with words to express her gratitude.
“At this point, there is no way to say thank you,” she said. “I never dreamed that I could receive this, and I know God has a purpose because I lost everything.”
Still, through the devastation, Taylor said, “I gained my health, my life, and so many friends, and so many people who have been so helpful, especially this group here,” referring to the TBM/BSM team.
Robbins presented a Bible to Taylor signed by all of the UT-BSM team. “She commented that she will cherish this copy of God’s word because of the significance of the love these men showed her. She also asked for signed Bibles for her two sons.”