Ten of the 12 people riding in the van belonging to family patriarch John Esh lost their lives Friday morning in a crash on Interstate 65, and members of the mostly Mennonite church have spent the hours since then putting the tragedy in perspective. Esh, his family, and others were en route to a wedding in Iowa when the crash occurred. Killed were John and Sadie Esh and their children; Anna, Rose, Rachel and Leroy, along with Leroy's wife, Naomi, and their 3-year-old adopted son, Jalen. Also killed were Rachel's fiance, Joel Gingerich, and family friend, Ashlie Kramer. 45-year-old Kenneth Laymon, the driver of the tractor-trailer that crossed the median and struck the van head on, was also killed. Two of Leroy and Naomi's adopted children, Josiah, 5, and Johnny, 3, survived the crash only because the bench their car seats were attached to was ejected from the van instantly upon impact, saving them from the blunt of the impact. Leroy and Naomi had adopted the boys as infants from Guatemala.
John Esh and his family settled in Marrowbone about eight years ago. Before moving to Kentucky, the family had lived in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. They built a business, Esh’s Vinyl Buildings, constructing storage buildings on site next to their home. The family loved to sing, and became recording artists known as The Eshes. The family sold their CD's of bluegrass gospel songs to support a mission in Brazil that two of John and Sadie’s surviving sons, Elmer and Abner, operate. At the last Foothills Festival, I stood behind Anna, Rose and Rachel at an impromptu bluegrass gospel concert.
Friends described the Esh family as a family with strong faith. The Esh family attended the Marrowbone Christian Brotherhood Church, located across the street from their home. The Church was a sister church to the one the Esh family left behind in North Carolina, only it had transitioned from New Order Amish to Mennonite in order to expand its mission outreach. The local Mennonites had purchased the former Carhartt building at Marrowbone for weddings and funerals and that is where the funeral of the Esh family members and Joel Gingerich was to take place Tuesday. Thousands were expected to attend. Caskets were made by a Mennonite church in Greensburg and several members of the Mennonite community volunteered to hand-dig the graves for each of the 10 people who died in the van. Those 10 will be laid to rest outside Marrowbone Christian Brotherhood Church.
Meanwhile, family members say all of their needs are being met. Members of the community were bringing food money and supplies to the Carrhart building. People in and around Marrowbone vacated their homes to provide sleeping quarters for those coming in and everyone had plenty of food. Someone even donated a refrigerated semi trailer stocked with food.
If you would like to help out with funeral expenses friends and family are asking you to mail donations to: "The Esh and Gingerich Funeral Expense Fund" P.O. Box 337, Burkesville, KY 42717. A foundation has been established which hopes to carry on the work of John Esh. Once funeral expenses have been covered, it is the hope of eshfund.org to raise enough money to continue the vision and passion which John successfully instilled in his children—taking the gospel to the ends of the Earth whatever the cost. And the Esh's knew the costs well. They lost another son, John, Jr. in 2006 in a snowmobile crash while Johnny was on a mission trip in the Ukraine. Another son and his family now doing missions work in Brazil have been robbed and held at gunpoint. John and Sadie’s remaining children continue to be a living example of their parent’s vision.
All monies contributed to this foundation are being managed by Ervin Kauffman, Deacon at the Marrowbone Christian Brotherhood. Alan Lindsey, a friend of the community, is acting as administrator of the Paypal account and website since this Mennonite community does not utilize computers. Any questions or concerns can be directed by email to the Esh Fund Administrator. Those who prefer to contribute by check can mail contributions to: The John and Sadie Esh Family and Friends Foundation, First and Farmer’s National Bank, 129 N. Main Street, Burkesville, KY 42717.