Family deaths underscore COVID impact for Kentucky pastor


LEBANON, Ky. (KT) – Longtime Kentucky Baptist pastor Dr. Billy Compton was like a lot of others when the coronavirus pandemic started. He was cautious but didn’t believe all that was being said by a news media known for sensationalizing.

“I watched it on the news and probably thought it was overhyped to some degree,” Compton said. “It doesn’t take two family members to die in one week – it only takes one – to see it isn’t overhyped.”

Compton, who has served in Kentucky Baptist churches for more than five decades, has endured the loss of his 94-year-old mother Margaret Compton and 68-year-old brother Terry Compton in the last week. He was in the intensive care unit, gowned head to toe with PPE, when his little brother passed Sunday night.

“I expected my mom, she was 94 and could have died with pneumonia,” he said. “My brother was 68 and just retired a year-and-a-half ago. He was out riding his tractor and not worrying about it. I understand how people think don’t mask up, but this brings it home (that people should wear masks).”

Compton’s brother, Terry, was a former Kentucky high school and Vanderbilt University basketball star who lived in Nashville and was well known. Nicknamed “The Long Rifle” for his great shooting ability, he was only the 12th player in Vanderbilt history to reach 1,000 points in a career and was a two-time All-SEC first-team selection. The Commodores won the SEC championship his senior year in 1974. His funeral will be Saturday.

Billy was interviewed by a Nashville television station about his brother’s passing and COVID, which has reached huge numbers in Tennessee.

“When I shared with the TV station in Nashville, I said do not make this a political flashpoint,” he said. “What my family has gone through has nothing to do with politics. If you get COVID, it doesn’t always lead to sad endings but, in our case, it has.”

Terry and Theresa Compton had been taking care of her mother, who also passed from COVID within the last 10 days. It has been like a nightmare for the family, Billy Compton said.

Last Sunday, the day after Compton buried his mother in Elizabethtown, Terry Compton died in a Nashville hospital ICU.

“My sister-in-law lost her mother, husband and mother-in-law within 10 days,” Billy Compton said. “That brings it back to reality. It (COVID) will take you out.”

He said the brief time he spent in the COVID unit gave him the utmost respect for healthcare workers.

“They are under so much stress. Many of their staff are being quarantined. I talked to one nurse who said she tried to work four days in a row with the patient she’s taking care of so she can know the family and talk to them,” he said. “Healthcare workers are going the extra mile to be compassionate. I have a new appreciation for them. I’ve never been in an ICU room that long. They work under stress and compassionately.”

Compton said while COVID impacts those with underlying conditions and the older population, it is no respecter of person.

“I was careful, went to the gym every day and probably still will,” he said. “Our little church is careful, but we continued to have church. We did close at first, then went back. Even before the governor made his announcement, when it became more evident in Campbellsville and Lebanon, that we’d close down until the first of December.”

Compton said faith, family and friends have helped them through the grief. He said their prayers have kept them encouraged and strong in the face of the pandemic.

“I hope for all of our sakes the vaccine comes along pretty quick,” Compton said. “That’s going to be the key, I think. Whatever drug company comes first will see their stock hit the roof. It’s not just in Kentucky and not just about the Compton family.”

Compton, 72, is the pastor at Muldraugh Hill Baptist Church in Lebanon. He is also a former pastor of Severns Valley in Elizabethtown, Living Hope in Bowling Green and twice at First Baptist Church in Mt. Washington and served with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.


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