Less than a year after the death of Clay Pope, a beloved husband, father and church member, a playground stands in his memory at Owen Grove PFWB Church, all because of his family, his church and the impact he had on their lives.
“Clay passed away May 10th of last year,” shared his wife Anita Pope. “Before he passed away, we had already started putting money aside, in what we call the vision fund, for a playground. It was kind of my daughter Georgia’s idea and she was 4 years old at the time. We would go play on the different playgrounds at other churches and she kept saying that we needed something like that at our church.”
After losing her husband, a produce farmer, to a car accident on the farm, Pope knew the playground was a perfect way to honor his memory. “It happened so fast. I just immediately knew what we could do. It was perfect because he was such a big kid.”
Named the ClayBoy Fun Park, the playground stands across the highway from Owen Grove and is open to the public.
“It’s just so appropriate,” noted Pope, recalling her husband, “because there is nothing more that he liked to do than take the kids out to play. He was always smiling and just so full of life. It’s colorful like he was.”
Those in the Pope’s church family couldn’t agree more. “Clay was one who always stopped at playgrounds and let his children play. It was his wish that we have something like that for the children here and his wife brought that wish to life,” said Rev. Kim Strickland, pastor of Owen Grove.
Once completed, the church held a dedication service for the playground on the Saturday before Easter, which included a tribute to Clay and a ribbon-cutting ceremony by his family. The bittersweet dedication was followed by an Easter egg hunt for the children.
“It has worked out so well,” said Pope of the Playworld Systems playground which she described as “top-notch.”
“It’s been utilized so much already. We have already had cookouts, birthday parties, church events out there. On any pretty day, you always see tons of kids out there on it. My kids love it,” added Pope of her now 7-year-old daughter Georgia and her three year old son Dodge. “They want to go there everyday.”
Preserving Clay’s memory in this fun, unique way would not have been possible with the support of so many friends and family, shared Pope.
“His best friend, Dwight Kendall, helped build the (facilities) building (out at the playground). Jeff Jones did the landscaping and Allen Lockerman did the plumbing,” Pope acknowledged. “Arnold and Cathy Pope have also been a big help. They did everything from getting picnic tables to painting the floors, just a lot of extra work that needed to be done.”
“I’m so appreciative to our family, friends, and church. There’s just been an outpouring of love and support from the community and that’s what gets us through,” Pope continued.
Likewise, Owen Grove is thankful for the Pope family and the opportunity they had to know Clay who still, through the playground and the children it serves, continues to impact their lives.
“First of all, the Pope family has had a big impact on our church, ever since Clay was little…I actually had the privilege of baptizing Clay and his wife,” said Strickland. “This playground has inspired our church to look deep within ourselves and to know the importance of planting seeds and reaching out into our community.”
“It’s also had a tremendous impact on the children here. It’s really a delight and we want to continue to honor Clay with all the activities and events we have here.”
Owen Grove PFWB Church is located at 1085 Kitty Fork Road in Clinton.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at email@example.com.