Bud R. Leeson married Gloria J. Fortner on Groundhog Day, 1959...on their first date! See here for the scoop about that. They were around 19 years old.

For almost ten years, it was just the two of them.

When a daughter was born, Gloria wanted to ensure Wendy was ready for Kindergarten (Gloria valued education because her own was rather limited).

A local Kindergarten teacher visited the Bait Shop; Gloria learned that Wendy should know her ABCs, numbers, how to tie her shoes and write her name, and so on.

There was no Christian faith at home then; Bud had never been in church. Although Gloria had church experience, it was long past. But Gloria wanted to send Wendy to Sunday School for educational reasons, and to get Wendy comfortable with other children since Wendy was mostly used to being with adults at the bait shop!

So, Gloria sent Wendy to Sunday School at Bykota Church. Someone in Sunday School told Wendy about the worship service, and Wendy asked Gloria if she could go.

Bud was against that; but Gloria was a little rebellious towards him at the time, and Wendy kept pestering her, so one Sunday they both went to church and sat in the back row, one because she loved it and the other (at least partially) out of spite for Bud.

After this, Wendy began asking her Daddy if he didn't want to go to church, too...

One Sunday night, after the girls returned from church (Wendy had found out they met on Sunday nights, too!), Gloria was busy putting Wendy to bed. She thought Bud was at home: his truck was outside, and the Bait Shop was already closed.

When Wendy was in bed, Gloria looked for Bud. He wasn't in the house. She found him in the truck, head down. She took a big breath and opened the door.

Bud was crying, and there was a faint smell of alcohol. "Are you drunk?", Gloria asked.

"No, it would take more than this* to get me drunk. I guess you've got me this way with your going to church."

Melissa, Sam, & Bud ... with a catfish

Bud got out of the truck, threw the package away, and went into the house with Gloria.

The next day, Bud said he wasn't feeling well, and asked if she would mind the bait shop. He'd watch Wendy and take care of housework. So Gloria went and worked.

Now, Bud had a Gideons' pocket New Testament. He read as much of it as he could that day, because he had a LOT of questions.

That evening he fixed dinner, and during/after dinner they discussed the church, the pastor, and many of the questions Bud had. Bud said he thought he might go to church with them the next week.

The next Sunday (like every week) Wendy asked about going to church. This time ALL THREE of them went and sat on the back row.

Bud wanted to talk to the pastor, but he was busy with someone else after the service.

In a week or two, the church had a 7-day series of revival meetings. Bud still had questions for the pastor.

After the Monday night meeting a fellowship time was planned. So, they were there on the back row, and stayed for the fellowship afterwards. The pastor had agreed to talk with Bud then.

Bud and the pastor were up a LONG time that night. The pastor addressed all of Bud's questions, and he had a lot of them.

The next day Bud & Gloria talked about everything; Bud showed the character he would become known for: He said that becoming a Christian was serious, and he didn't want to be like the other guys he knew, "partying like hell" on Saturday night and then going to church to praise God on Sunday.

Bud knew that really following Jesus is something that affects your whole life and being.

On Tuesday night they were back at church. Today, Gloria can't remember who preached or what passage they preached about, but she remembers that Bud went to the altar and asked Jesus to be his Lord & Savior, and that after that, Bud was NEVER the same.

Realizing that what happened in Bud was VERY real, and contrasting that with the 'surface Christianity' she saw in her own life, after a while Gloria also confessed her sins, asked Jesus to be Lord & Savior of her life, and God began to change her also. (He certainly did, too!)

For many years, Bud & Gloria were great assets to the Christian community in Carthage, teaching and witnessing that Jesus is the Way.

On May 19, 2000, Bud came in, said he was tired, sat down and "went home" for good, meeting the Savior he had served nearly 30 years. He was only 60, and is greatly missed by his family, friends, and the Carthage community.

Some time later, Dr. Ray Crews would say: "Bud Leeson was my prayer partner, encourager, mentor, and friend while I was pastor at First Baptist Carthage. He was a man of integrity."

*in rural Missouri in the early 1970's you couldn't buy anything very potent on Sunday.

This information is sourced from Gloria Fortner Leeson (March 2024).