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Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Life Celebrated

Monday, January 31, 2011

Mourners and well wishers gathered outside the Cunot Community Center to release balloons as a symbolic gesture during the celebration of Billy Bottoms' life. Bottoms, who attended Cloverdale Middle School, died Jan. 23 after he was struck in a hit and run accident Jan. 22. [Order this photo]
CUNOT -- William "Billy" Bottoms participated in many activities at the Cunot Community Center. With that in mind, it makes poetic sense to have a celebration of his life there.

The center was filled to the brim Sunday afternoon as well over 150 family members, friends and well wishers came together to remember a boy from the small town who died recently.

Terry Bottoms, Billy Bottoms father, said that the community center plays a role in the lives of many children in Cunot, because it's the most convenient place for them to congregate.

"It was a great big part of his life," Terry Bottoms said. "We want the kids to remember him how he was here, not how he was at the funeral home."

Billy died following a hit and run automobile accident Jan. 22 shortly after he left the Cunot Community Center. At the life celebration, a petition was passed around, asking for stop signs, children at play signs and a 30 mile-per-hour speed zone on S.R. 42 around the center. The speed limit on the road is currently 55 miles per hour.

Terry Bottoms said the people of Cunot have been very supportive since Billy's death.

"From the first night we found out, it's been like this," he said, as he motioned to the packed building. "Kids have come to our place asking if we want them to do this or that."

Bottoms said that they have a large dog and community members have come by, asking if Terry and his wife Teri Bottoms need help with the dog. Terry Bottoms also said that children still stop by their house.

"We've had some kids that come over and want to go in Billy's room," Terry Bottoms said. "They want to sit in there and reflect. We let them go in."

The sense of community Billy's father talked about was a topic for Llona Skadra, a neighbor and family friend, who spoke before the assembled crowd.

"This is rough for me, but this is probably the best thing that I've seen in years in Cunot," Skadra said. "I want you people to look around and see what this boy has managed to do. I cannot count the people in this place; I have never seen it so full.

"We need to stay like this for a long, long time," she said. "We need to grow together, to be together to look out for each other. To laugh- because you know he wouldn't have it any other way, with that goofy smile. ... Stay like you are, stay tight stay together, if you have a problem, bring it to each other."

The celebration began with a number of speakers, including family, friends and teachers from Cloverdale schools who had interacted with Billy.

Susan Smith was one of those teachers. She had Billy as a student during his fourth and fifth grade years. She shared a few stories of her time with Billy, such as how he got the nickname No Name Bottoms.

"He always forgot to put his name on his paper," Smith said.

"If I had a paper handed in without a name I'd post it on the board and the kids would say 'it's probably No Name Bottoms' paper,'" she said. "he'd go up, say 'oops,' and laughingly hand it to me to record his grade."

She also talked about his fashion sense. He had a fondness for gray and black hoodies, but he could also use his clothes to express his sense of humor.

"About halfway through the year he started wearing hats," Smith said. "I remember one was a long eared Goofy hat. Then there was a stocking hat that he pulled down tight over his head and it had ear flaps and then strings with pompoms on the end. When I asked him to remove them he'd just say 'Oh, it's just part of my look.'"

In the middle of the community center was a table filled with pictures of Billy. There was also an X-Box controller, what appeared to be a samurai sword, sour candy, and a can of Pepsi. One of the photographs around the building had Billy drinking a can of Pepsi with an amused look on his face.

Terry Bottoms said that organs donated from his son had been used to help seven people.

"One of the youngest was a 3 year old girl," Terry Bottoms said. "I've got a daughter that lives in Illinois that found out yesterday that her best friend got his other kidney."

During the life celebration, shirts, buttons and balloons were on sale, with proceeds going to Billy's family. The balloons were there for a symbolic release. After everyone was done talking, people gathered in the parking lot, holding their balloons high.

After counting down from five to one, the crowd released the balloons.

Everyone stood for a moment, watching the sky as the balloons drifted off. Eventually the bright afternoon sun made it impossible to follow the path anymore, the brightly-colored spheres lost in the sky.

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my sympathy to billys family. i hadnt known billy long but what a great kid. your former neighbors in indianapolis. chato and linda n. belleview.... i remember billy asking chato,one day, how he got the scar on his forarm? and chato told him he had been attacted by a bear,how he had to fight the bear off,so on and so on, his eyes lit up and said really, well this went on for awhile until chato finally told billy the real story.

-- Posted by volkswagengirl on Tue, Feb 15, 2011, at 10:36 PM

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