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Local artist ditches TV, social media for full-time career

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series featuring local artists in the Portland Area.

Local artist Caleb Willmore took the leap to make art his full-time career after he made a personal decision to cut out TV and other social media because it wasn’t personally improving his life.

That opened up free time for him to do his art work. According to Willmore, it gets him close to God and lets Him work through him, which gives him an extremely enjoyable feeling as he does art.

Willmore had been working at the family business at Willmore Tool and Die. He found that this work could also be considered an art form.

When he was leaving middle school for high school, his class was given a tour of Gallatin High School. That is where he saw the students’ beautiful art work, and wanted to become a part of that program.

He took art for four years in high school and continued to study art at Volunteer State Community College where he learned different ways of painting such as going out in nature to draw rather than looking at a picture.

Two artists have had a strong influence on him. One was Bob Ross, who had a popular PBS television show, The Joy of Painting, and Sumner County artist Ralph McDonald, who encouraged him to paint three to four hours a day.

Willmore follows that advice and paints every day. His whole house is an art studio. However, he has a corner in the family room where he has set up his easel and all his painting tools and supplies, so he is not isolated from his family as he does his art.

Raymond Gregory who promotes local artists and encourages them to enter their art work in various art shows in the area and surrounding states has invited Willmore to display his art. This way he can get his name out there as an artist.

He has given Willmore a place on his web site to display his work at www.imagesbyraymond.com/calebwillmore. Willmore was recently in Charlottesville, SC and Savannah, Ga. displaying his work in art galleries. His work has been displayed in various art exhibits in Nashville and in the Green Hills area.

Gregory has encouraged Willmore to make prints from his art work. Gregory is able to digitalize Willmore’s work and make quality pictures and put them on canvas to make them look just like the original paintings or on art paper that resembles canvas. This gives Willmore the opportunity to sell a piece of his art work many times as a print.

His passion is to paint nature and that is his primary focus. He works in charcoal, pastel, oil paint, wood carvings, and metals. Currently, he is enjoying painting with pastels and has learned to add as much detail and clarity to the painting as with other mediums.

He can take his art pad and pastels easily anywhere he wants to go. It is not awkward for him to hike with his pastels and pad anywhere, and he also gets on his dirt bike to go to hard-to-reach places.

Sometimes he uses his imagination and just starts off drawing on his pad. He works well off photographs and has done several commission pieces from photos people have sent him.

Willmore said, “It took me 10 years of trying to find something I can’t do to know if I’m in God’s hands there is nothing I can’t do. I am able to create beautiful art work in a very short period, if I don’t have a mindset of not being capable of this.

“Art is a way of bringing nature inside so everyone can enjoy it — capturing nature or God’s art work on a small piece of paper or canvas.”

Willmore, who lives in Bethpage, has a Portland connection. His mother, Melissa Adams Willmore, grew up in Portland and his grandmother Joanne Perdue lives in Portland. He is married to Kristen Barrett and has one step-son.

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Kaleb gets a new lease on life

A birthday is special for any child, but for Kaleb Buffington and his family, his 11th birthday could be considered a miracle. Late in 2020, Kaleb received a heart transplant at James Monroe Carell, Jr. Children’s Hospital in Nashville.

Kaleb was born with Long QT Syndrome (LQTS), which affected the rhythm of his heart. Since his birth on May 12, 2010 in Missouri, he has been in and out of children’s hospitals in St. Louis and Nashville, as doctors tried to find the right medications and the right dosages for him.

A few days before his second birthday, things took a turn for the worse. He was flown to St. Louis, where he had an Internal Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) implanted. Later he had to have another surgery to cut a nerve ending that supplied adrenaline which was causing his heart to speed up when he got excited.

Kaleb’s mother, Jessica Buffington, is a single mom raising three children. She has an older daughter, LeeAnn, and two sons Arron and Kaleb. Arron had some disabilities also, so she decided to relocate her family to Portland to be near family for support.

Kaleb became a patient of Dr. Andrew Radbill at Monroe Carell, Jr. Children’s Hospital. He was seen often to have his medicines adjusted and to have the batteries changed in his ICD. However, in 2019 while playing outside in a nearby creek, his ICD began to shock him.

His mother and a neighbor heard him calling for help and were able to pull him out of the creek. He was rushed to the children’s hospital in Nashville. According to his mother the ICD shocked him more than 20 times that day.

It was during that hospital stay that Dr. Radbill and Buffington met in the hallway. They began talking about Kaleb’s condition.

Buffington said, “We talked about a lot of things and how we were running out of options for treatment. That’s when he looked at me, took a long deep breath and said the words I always hoped and prayed I would never have to hear — heart transplant. I had to ask him later what he said after that because honestly those two words left me speechless.”

When Kaleb began having more heart issues on March of 2020, the possibility of a heart transplant became a reality. The family agreed to meet with the transplant teams. During one of those meetings Kaleb was asked why he felt he wanted a new heart.

Kaleb answered, “I’m ready to be a normal little boy and do the things a normal little boy can do. I wanna play baseball.”

That was when his mother decided to put her faith and trust in the doctors that would care for him and prayed fervently. Things happened quickly after she made that decision.

On Sept. 20, Kaleb passed out as he walked into the hospital for a meeting and was admitted. On Sept. 25, the doctors gave his mother two options. She could leave him in the hospital until a heart was available placing him at the top of the list, as an urgent case, or they could take him home and be placed on the regular list to wait his turn. She chose to leave him in the hospital to await an available heart.

She returned home for a few days to handle some business and to be with her other children. On Sept. 30, her phone rang around 11 p.m. When she answered, she heard the words — ‘We have a heart.’

Surgery was scheduled for the next morning. When Buffington walked into the room the day of the surgery, she found Kaleb and a man talking. Kaleb had a sheet of paper and a pen in his hand.

He looked at his mother, as he said, “I just gave my permission for them to take my broken sick heart and research LQTS so maybe it will help other kids who may get as sick as I am.”

The Oct. 1 heart transplant was successful. He received intense medical care in the days immediately following the surgery, as his body adjusted to the transplant.

Buffington said, “I am so thankful and blessed that God gave my boy a second chance of life, but I think about and pray for the other child’s parents and family every single day. They made a decision I am not sure I could ever make. I pray that they find peace and comfort somehow, someday.

“I hope they know that I am so very grateful to them and thank them from the bottom of my heart — and if someday they decide they want to hear their baby’s heartbeat, Kaleb says he will let them listen as many times and for as long as they want.”

May 12, 2021 was a very special birthday to celebrate for Kaleb, his first after the transplant. He even got to share it with his brother who also had a May birthday. It was quite a celebration at Richland Park.

Buffington said making a home and a life in a small town has been one of the best decisions she ever made. She acknowledged the support from many in the community. She praises her dad, Dr. John Taylor and his wife Rita, J. W. Wiseman Elementary School, and her family and friends in Missouri.

Members of Portland First Free Will Baptist Church came to sanitize her home from top to bottom, before Kaleb returned home in the middle of the COVID pandemic. She also appreciated everyone who sent texts, phone calls, and videos to cheer Kaleb.

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Portland student graduates as Scholar

Carder Venable graduated from Western Kentucky University in the May ceremony. He is a Scholar of Potter College of Arts and Letters.

Carder Venable graduated from Western Kentucky University as a Scholar of the College. He represented the Scholar of Potter College of Arts and Letters.

Those students receiving scholar awards from the different departments received a medallion to wear during the graduation ceremony to commemorate this honor. In addition to this award, he received the Outstanding Graduating Student in English for Secondary Teachers during the fall semester.

Venable was a member of the December graduating class, which was combined with the spring graduating class for the ceremony.

Venable graduated from Portland High School where he was Valedictorian. He attended Volunteer State Community College before transferring to Western Kentucky University. He was a member of Sigma Tau Delta, an English honor society. Members are encouraged to submit essays, poems, short stories, or argumentative papers for judging. He entered a poem which earned an award.

Venable has set goals for his future and would like to work on a Master’s Degree in English as a Second Language (ESL). His linguistic professor, Dr. Elizabeth Winkler, influenced him to look into ESL certification. He is a person who likes to help others, and feels that this would be an area that he could best do that in education.

“I want to help people as much as possible and you can see the progress in ESL,” Venable said.

He accepted a teaching position at Franklin-Simpson High School in Franklin, Ky. after he completed his college work in December. He teaches sophomore honors English and general English.

His parents are Joey and Robin Venable. He has two older sisters, Katie Venable and Laurie Carman. Venable enjoys reading and gardening for hobbies.

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$5 million Sumner County Jail addition completed

A 124-bed addition to the Sumner County Jail is an expansion that local law enforcement officials say they hope is never used but is unfortunately needed as the area continues to grow.

Officials gathered at the Gallatin facility to mark the completion of the $5 million project on May 18. The expansion also allows for an additional 124 beds to be added in the future if needed.

“As Sumner County continues to grow it is important that we prepare for the future growth of our community and this includes addressing the needs of our judicial system and sheriff’s office,” Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt said about the expansion. “This will provide much-needed inmate housing and help alleviate the overcrowding that has been an issue for quite some time.”

Officials broke ground on the addition in March of last year.

The project marks the first major expansion of the jail since an 88,000-square-foot tower was completed along with facility expansions and internal renovations in 2004. The capacity of the facility increased from 662 beds to 832 beds in 2013 after triple-bunking was added to a majority of the cells.

The new addition, which will be used for female inmates, will not only be used to accommodate future growth, but it will also free up space to be used for juvenile inmates being tried as adults. Currently, juveniles are held in the jail’s medical area due to lack of available space required to keep them separated from the rest of the inmate population.

According to new Sumner County Jail Administrator Jerry Scott, the facility is currently home to about 500 inmates.

However, officials say that number is expected to increase as the Tennessee Department of Corrections begins needing more places to house inmates who are waiting to be transferred to a state facility or other institution.

“The state released thousands of inmates due to Covid,” Scott said. “(They) used to pay us to keep them, but now they are taking them straight to the state to fill their beds. Once that is full, I imagine that over the coming months we’ll renormalize between 800 and 1,000 inmates. Fortunately for us, we’ve got the space now to do that and the space to grow if we need to.”

Sheriff: Scott hiring an ‘asset’ for jail

Scott has been in charge of the jail since late February following the retirement of longtime jail administer Sonya Troutt after 24 years with the county.

Prior to accepting the position, Scott served as the deputy director for the Shelby County Division of Corrections where he oversaw an approximately 160-acre campus and facility with more than 3,000 beds.

“He has done great so far,” Sumner County Sheriff Sonny Weatherford said. “He is very knowledgeable and absolutely an asset here.”

Originally from Greeneville, Tenn., Scott spent nearly 24 years with the Greene County Sheriff’s Office before going to work for the Tennessee Corrections Institute in 2013. He stayed with the state agency for more than five years before leaving to work for Shelby County in late 2018.

In addition to his work with law enforcement, Scott is also a talented vocalist who has been performing in public since 1985. He previously sang with a gospel group while in East Tennessee and is currently a member of Last Soul Kiss, a group he describes as sounding like the Allman Brothers with a touch of Roy Orbison.

In 1994, he was named vocalist of the year by southern gospel magazine Singing News and had opportunities to pursue a singing career full-time if he wanted.

“I’ve always felt like music was my profession, but this really became a calling,” Scott said about his decision remain in law enforcement. “I realized in 1990 that I could actually make a difference here and that these folks (inmates and staff) needed me.”

Since starting in his new role earlier this year, Scott has been working to improve employee retention.

He said he is also focused on continuing to provide reentry programs and educational opportunities to inmates so that they will become productive members of society when they are released from custody.

“Most of the people that come into this facility will become members of the Gallatin and Sumner County community at some point again,” Scott said. “We want to make them better, not worse, and use our resources to do that.

“We’d love to say that we don’t need all these (new) beds in the future, because that means we’re successful in the way that we’re doing things here.”