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Sarah Frances Woods Bottom, My Friend: A True Pioneer

Sarah Frances Woods Bottom started her basketball career at Union College, later transferring to the University of Kentucky. (photo submitted by Jennifer Parks)

Jennifer Parks
Contributing Writer

After teaching school in Lexington on a cool, rainy Thursday afternoon, I am chatting with Mrs. Sarah Frances Woods Bottom in Harrodsburg. Since, I’ve had the pleasure of spending time and learning a lot about her amazing life. 

Harrodsburg, founded by pioneers in 1774, has a rich and remarkable heritage, and is the oldest settlement in the state of Kentucky. Mrs. Bottom and her family are a significant part of Harrodsburg‘s heritage.

I went to school with Mrs. Bottom’s daughters and niece.  I’ve known them and her son-in-law most of my life. Mrs. Bottom is currently 91 years young, widowed, thriving and still living in one of the oldest historical homes in Harrodsburg, which was built in 1810. 

It was her original family home where she grew up with her two brothers and one sister, who are all deceased now. Six generations of the Woods family have lived here.  Her home, the ‘Archibald Woods House,’ also known as ‘Woodsland,’ is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mrs. Bottom has two daughters, Blair, and Marsha (Mark) Noel. She shared some interesting stories about her life growing up, her beautiful, historic home and memories of an interesting life well-lived.

Mrs. Bottom is a beautiful, precious, sharp, petite woman, who will be 92 in August, but still witty, fast on her feet and full of life.  She is a remarkable lady of faith.

One of the most amazing things I learned from Mrs. Bottom is that she was very athletic and a student-athlete.  She graduated high school in 1946. She was also a former University of Kentucky  Girls Basketball player (now called UK Hoops).  She played decades ago, from 1947 to 1948. Mrs. Bottom started her college career at Union College, a Methodist College  in Barbourville which she loved, playing on the girls’ basketball team from 1946–1947. 

She transferred to UK her sophomore season, joining the girls team at UK. Mrs. Bottom was a physical education major, and in addition to playing girls basketball at UK, she played golf, tennis, and softball. She was a left-handed pitcher, but batted righthand. She absolutely loved sports. Her favorite class while at UK was Kentucky history under Thomas Clarke. Today Mrs. Bottom has read and still has most all the books by Thomas Clarke in her library. She is an avid reader still today. Mrs. Bottom left UK early in order to give her younger sister an opportunity to go to college, as she said they could only afford for one to go at a time. She later returned to college at 40 years of age at Eastern Kentucky University. Mrs. Bottom is still one of UK Hoops biggest fans and attends as many games as she possibly can.

Mrs. Bottom took me back to the days when she played at UK beginning her sophomore year in college. Of course, this was way before Title IX. She shared that during that time, the games were played at Memorial Coliseum (as they are still) and the girls played 6-8 games a year.  The girls played half-court basketball and received no recognition or scholarships whatsoever. She recalled that Adolph Rupp was the men’s coach at that time with players like ‘Wah Wah’ Jones, Ralph Beard and Lou Groza. Mrs. Bottom, who was a five-foot, eight inch guard, recollects that the girl’s uniforms were two-piece.  Her nickname was ‘Soupy” and “SueFawnBock”, but she doesn’t recall why those names stuck, but says she grew up a tomboy, loved the outdoors, and big into sports.

I asked Mrs. Bottom what her secret was to such a long, blessed life. She said, “As a child we had to walk everywhere, and we had water to drink. My Dad always kept lots of water out on the table for us to drink. Even into adulthood and all of my life, I have continued to walk as much as possible, and I still drink plenty of water. I used to walk all over Harrodsburg, up through town, and everywhere. I don’t do it as much now, but I always loved to walk and keep moving.“ Mrs. Bottom says she still loves sports and watching the Kentucky Wildcats and UK Hoops.  Today, Mrs. Bottom is still one of the biggest UK Hoops fans on the planet.  Her love and excitement for UK Hoops is just as deep today in 2020 as it was when she played back in the 1946-47 season.  She looks as if maybe she could still ‘hoop’ it up!

I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoons spent with Mrs. Bottom. We laughed and just enjoyed each other’s company and I am thankful for the opportunity to know her. It was like visiting a library, filled with rich history, wisdom,  knowledge, and sports. As a former UK cheerleader, athlete, and lover of sports, we had a lot more in common than one may think. I hope to spend more time and continue my relationship with Mrs. Bottoms and learning many more of life’s lessons. Mrs. Bottom blessed my life that Thursday afternoon. She may be small in stature, but she is incredibly kind, knowledgeable, strong, and has a huge heart.  What an amazing lady. A true pioneer.

Woods Bottom (left) is pictured with current UK Hoops star Rhyne Howard and Jennifer Parks. (photo submitted by Jennifer Parks)

Sarah Frances Woods Bottom (right) is pictured with UK Hoops Head Coach Matthew Mitchell prior to the Lady Cats’ match up with No. 1 South Carolina on Sunday, Feb. 23, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington. (photo submitted by Jennifer Parks)

1 Comment

  1. Bonnie Hatchett on February 26, 2020 at 4:15 pm

    I have known Sara Frances for many,many years. We have breakfast together with other friends, six days a week, at the Ole Bus Station. She is a very special friend and an amazing woman.

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