Gainesville police officer Keith Bartlett had planned on this Christmas being the worst ever, but Country Music Hall of Famer Randy Travis was determined to not let that happen. Just two weeks before Christmas, the home of Officer Bartlett and his family was lost in a fire. While no one was physically hurt, the entire family suffered a severe emotional shot when they lost everything.
The Gainesville community quickly stepped up to make sure that the five Bartlett children would have something to open Christmas morning. This eased some of the stress for the parents, however, the community was not satisfied.
Two Gainesville citizens who wanted to do more were Randy Travis and his wife, Mary. Randy is a country music legend with a career that started in the mid-70’s and garnered 22 number-one hits, eight Dove awards, six Grammys, and millions of fans.
One of his biggest fans – Keith Bartlett. In a coincidence, Bartlett had, years ago, investigated reports of a theft at the Travis ranch so the Travis’ were familiar with Bartlett’s name and the “goodness” that he carried with him.
When Randy and Mary saw a news report on the plight of the Bartlett family, they knew it was time to repay the help they had received from Bartlett those years ago. The couple pitched in and helped to get the family new furniture, but what grabbed them particularly was that Bartlett was an avid guitarist who lost his instrument in the fire.
Randy Travis still suffers from the effects of a 2013 stroke that limits his mobility and vocal range. It obviously does not affect his passion for caring for a fellow musician.
“I just know how important music is and what therapy it is, especially at a time like this,” said Mary Travis. She made two phone calls – one to guitar maker Gibson and the other to Bartlett’s precinct. By the next day, the plan was hatched.
Gibson graciously sent a new guitar to the Travis home overnight. One that was an exact copy of Bartlett’s. With the guitar in hand, the Travis’ headed into town on Christmas day.
When Bartlett went to work for his Christmas shift, he was sent out to investigate a “suspicious vehicle.” There was no such car.
It was just a way to get Bartlett out and give everyone time to set the surprise. When he returned, he was met by Randy and Mary Travis, his fellow officers, his family, and a brand new Gibson Epiphone Masterbilt guitar.
Bartlett’s joy and appreciation could be felt by everyone in the room. After saying thank you to everyone, he even played a little. By the smile on his face, we can assume that Randy approved.
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