Photo by Lisa Bicknell
On Sunday, Shelby Horn, at left, presented a certificate to Jerry Eltzroth, at right, naming him a Kentucky Colonel. The two CV&T contributors have become good friends within the past year as they’ve learned they have much in common.
By SHELBY HORN
The highest honor awarded by the Commonwealth of Kentucky is being named a Kentucky Colonel. The Commonwealth’s Colonels are the Governor’s ambassadors of good will and fellowship around the world. They serve as honorary aides-de-camp to the Governor, and do what ambassadors usually do – in this case, spread the good word about this state. Ask a Colonel about Kentucky, and you’ll get a lengthy description of it and learn some of its unique history in the bargain.
Kentucky’s first governor, Isaac Shelby, named his son-in-law, Charles S. Todd, his staff “colonel,” which began something unique. Naming colonels subsequently became a state tradition, until the official “Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels” (HOKC) was founded in 1932 by Governor Ruby Laffoon. Since then, the Colonels have become a prominent charitable organization, annually contributing thousands of dollars to worthy causes around the state. Just this October the Colonels contributed $4,638 to Mercy Health Foundation to be used toward the purchase of a new warming cabinet for the emergency department at Marcum and Wallace Hospital in Irvine, one example of what the HOKC Good Works program does for Kentucky communities.
Becoming a Colonel means that an individual has contributed something of value to his or her community, state or nation, or has attained some special personal achievement. There are Colonels who are not necessarily Kentucky residents, such as the Pope and various other noteworthy persons around the globe. Those persons have contributed something of value to the world, enough to be so honored, though usually you can almost be assured of a Colonel’s relationship to this state.
On November 15, 2019, Governor Matt Bevin commissioned JERRY L. ELTZROTH, of Witt Springs on Sand Hill Road, a Kentucky Colonel. For most of us, that choice is what we might call a “no-brainer.” Everyone who knows Jerry knows how much he does for his community, by his efforts to help preserve the history of this area, for one thing, but in many other ways as well. Jerry contributed to the Estill County mapping project, supports the county’s volunteer firemen, and can be found working at almost anything that deserves community support. Much of what he does to help others goes unheralded. The only thing of which he’s proud enough to display publicly is evidence of his service to the nation as a soldier in Vietnam, and rightfully so. He likes to wear his veterans cap.
Jerry grew up in Dayton, Ohio, but his roots are in Estill County. His mother’s people, the Smithers family, have been here since the early days of settlement. Years ago, Jerry bought the family farm at Witt Springs and has resided there ever since, and you couldn’t pry him loose from it. He writes about Estill County; he loves Estill County history; just ask him a question about any past Estill County event and you will soon have an answer. He may not be a walking encyclopedia, but he knows where to find one.
It is very doubtful that if you asked Jerry where he’s from, he would ever say, “Montgomery County, Ohio,” where his mother went to find work and met and married his father. He may have been born there, but ultimately he changed his residence to match his loyalty. There’s an old saying: “Home is where the heart is. Jerry’s heart is here, and if you asked, he would say, “I’m from Estill County, Kentucky.” You could bet money on that.
Congratulations, Colonel Eltzroth, from all other Kentucky Colonels!