Organizer of Compassionate Friends gets surprise honor

December 13, 2004|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

James B. Preston, of Boone Trail, got a nice surprise Sunday evening for his 18 years of dedicated service with Compassionate Friends in Danville.

The international organization is for parents, grandparents and siblings who have lost loved ones.

Preston, who lost a daughter in a traffic accident 37 years ago, organized the local chapter after seeing an advertisement while on vacation in Florida. The chapter became officially affiliated with national group in February 1986.

"Sometimes Jimmy would be the only one there when he opened the doors for the meetings," said Shan Kihlman, who has been with the group for 2 1/2 years. Sometimes there may be one or two others who would come. He's been very faithful."

As a tribute to Preston for his faithful service to others who have lost children to accidents, cancer and other diseases, Compassionate Friends planted an evergreen tree near the children's playground at Millennium Park. A plaque will carry his name and others in the group.


The group recognized Preston Sunday during its annual candlelight service when candles are lighted in memory of children who have died.

"It was a nice surprise," Preston said this morning. "I had no idea they were going to do this. After that, they expected me to say something," he said. And after he calmed down a little, he thanked his friends for the honor.

Preston, who grew up in Perryville and has lived in Danville for many years, has been involved in various businesses. He was an automobile dealer and operated a funeral home. He has been active in Danville-Boyle County Historical Society, Danville Kiwanis Club, American Cancer Society, Boyle County Board of Health, and the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Though Preston's health is failing, he still comes to Compassionate Friends meetings.

Average attendance of 10 to 15

The local chapter has average attendance of between 10 and 15 people, said Kihlman.

"It's a club we don't want to be in, but we're glad there is such an organization to be with people who understand what we're going through," said Kihlman. "The lost of a child will never be OK, but the pain will ease.

"Jimmy has been an inspiration to me," said Caroyln Sheene, who got involved in Compassionate Friends after her son, Randy, died in 1992.

"Jimmy's always been there. When he saw the advertisement about Compassionate Friends, he did something about it."

While Sheene does not attend the monthly meetings as regularly as she used to, she does feel better when she has been to a meeting.

"I used to really get depressed when it was time to go, but I usually would go on. It did help," said Sheene. "There is something about being with people that are dealing with the same thing you are. I think they understand."

Sheene said no one knows what it's like to lose a child. No one understands, except for those who have gone through the same experience.

"When we hear of a loss, we try to write to the parents and we also have a brochure that explains about the group," said Kihlman. Some members also visit families when they hear of a child's death.

"Jimmy's a big part of the group and has always been there," said Sheene.

Central Kentucky News Articles