Among the monuments on the Barton County Courthouse Square that pay tribute to pioneers and veterans is now an October glory maple tree that honors a husband and wife who spent their lives in civic leadership.
“The two of them were just huge in the community,” said Great Bend Rotary Club President Pat Cale. Jim was a Rotarian and it was this organization that planted the tree last fall and dedicated it Monday during its regular lunchtime meeting.
The type of tree is fitting. Both Jim and Jo died in October of 2010. Their daughter Jane Rees and her husband Doug from Colorado Springs were the guests of honor.
“I thought it was a wonderful gesture,” Cale said,
The plaque mounted below the tree reads: “It’s in memory of Jim and Jo Heaton for their lifetime of commitment to service above self.” In fact, “Service Above Self” is the Rotarians’ motto.
Those gathered for the picnic-style lunch all agreed the Heatons exemplified this credo.
“His service was of a permanent nature,” said life-long friend and fellow Rotary Club member Glen Opie. “He left a permanent legacy.”
Jim was the voice of KVGB radio for 30 years and was involved with Barton Community College. He also worked in banking, served on the Great Bend school board, was active in the First United Methodist Church and was part of several statewide boards. Jo was active in the church, as well as being active with the Girl Scout program.
“If you talked about everything they’ve done, it would take all afternoon,” Opie said.
“Nobody ever said anything bad about Jim,” Bob Parrish said.
“What I remember most is what a friendly person he was,” said Roger Marshall.
The tree is located in the northeast corner of the square.