That would be his family's final and lasting image of the oldest boy of four, a snapshot sent home from California in a roll of film before he crossed the Pacific.
The journey to war, to Vietnam, lay mere days ahead for Pfc. Bartow Potts Jr., but it would not be long before a young lady he met in California would ship him cookies and then wonder why she hadn't heard back. She would end up reaching his parents back home in Macon. His father would have to tell her what he himself had been told 10 days after the son who bore his name had set foot on South Vietnamese soil: Bartow Potts Jr. was dead.
Bound for combat, the helicopter whisking him to the fight was shot down in Quang Nam, southeast of the coastal city of Da Nang.
Potts' official tour-of-duty record reads almost as if there must be some mistake, some typo:
"Start Tour: Wednesday, 01/13/1971; Cas Date: Thursday, 01/21/1971"
More than a year would pass before his family found out just how introspective, how deep, how conscientious Potts was.
His letters from boot camp and beyond were heartfelt and made sure to inquire about everyone back home. His writing put his laid-back, take-it-easy spin on the emotions his decision to volunteer for war had stirred.
"Tell grandmother Potts the cooking is terrible," the young private wrote from basic training.
A note to his mom, Barbara, penned soon after he left for training, said, "Mother if you've been worried about me getting straight with God, I did the night before I left home. ... Love you all and don't worry!"
And yet there was uncertainty in his words on occasion, not so much hesitation as they were the understandable musings of a soldier, unseasoned or not, about to be thrust into the unknown.
A letter dated Aug. 16, 1970, and written on a folded bulletin from Sunday worship at the Parris Island, S.C., base chapel - a program with bold black print on the front that read "Divine Services" - said as much. Just above the doxology listing in the day's worship lineup, Potts wrote: "They said Vietnam was just about over for the Marines. Then they say they're beginning to send Marines into Laos. I don't know what to believe."
Potts had graduated from Lanier High School the year before, having never missed a single day of classes there. He signed on with the Marine Corps for a chance to go to college.
He wasn't planning on making it a career.
In the days before he was killed, Potts, by then in Vietnam, reached out to his family again, this time on U.S.O. stationery. He made sure to drop a line to his youngest sibling, Troy, barely out of diapers.
"Tell Troy that the minute I get home I'm gonna take him to Shoney's," Potts wrote.
He went on to ask his dad, a machinist, if he had been working hard and then described his foreign surroundings: "We left the mountains of California just to come to the mountains of S. Vietnam. They've got mountains here just about as big as ours."
Then he addressed his brother Mark, soon to graduate from high school: "After you get out for God's sakes don't let the Army get ya. They're the ones staying over here. Remember that."
Barbara Ann Potts died in 2004.
Bartow Sr., now 84, took care of her through years of medical problems.
Their fallen son, though, was never far from their minds.
In what appears to have been the last letter he mailed, one his parents received the same day word of his death arrived, Pfc. Bartow Potts Jr. reassured his folks, and perhaps himself, that things overseas weren't so dicey:
Dear Family ... We leave for the bush today. I guess I'll just have to give up all this easy living for a month or two. When you go out in the bush over here you don't come back for a while. There's know (no) reason to worry though cause there's nothing happening. The company I'm in is pretty good, well I don't know if they're good are (or) if it's just the areas they work. We haven't had a death in 6 or 7 months. I think that's pretty good. ... Out in the field the only man that can have a round in his chamber is the point man but I'm gonna have one in mine anyway. It's really getting petty (underlined twice) over here. One good thing in the field is you can write home still. ... I really miss you all. Well I better sign off. ... Remember me in your prayers always. Love you all forever!
brother Cliff can remember.
Cliff was 8 then. As he recalls, Barbara Potts was dusting. When she dusted the framed ROTC photo of Bartow Jr. from his high school days, a piece of paper fell out.
A miracle, some called it.
"A letter from heaven" the family's pastor later dubbed it in a sermon.
It was written to Barbara Potts and dated Sept. 7, 1970.
Bartow had left it there four months before his death, tucked away where it might never be found.
Unless, say, a mother came along with a feather duster.
Then again, that was Bartow Jr., thoughtful to the end:
Mama, I want you to know if something does happen to me while I'm away that I did have peace within myself in God. Tonight I sat in the living room and prayed that I'd return home safely. I do believe he is my salvation. Love always, your son Bartow. P.S. I love you mother & daddy & the boys. "PEACE" "It's one of the worst things that can happen to two parents," the senior Potts said. "You lose a child ... any way you lose him. It's so unexpected that it would happen to him that quick. ... There's nothing you can do. There's nothing you can do. ... It just flies in your mind and heart all the time. It never leaves."
In recent years, he has added his own decorating touch to his home's living-room wall.
He was sorting through some old keepsakes and found his sons' white baby shoes. He hung the booties in a line by his boys' high-school portraits, tiny feet at parade rest.
Bartow Wendell Potts Sr. grew up on a dairy farm in Monroe County. He figures his family had lived there more than 150 years. His uncle was the first mayor of Forsyth. Two of his brothers served in World War II, but when he got his draft papers, his father went to the draft board and, because he needed help running the farm, asked it to hold off on sending him.
He married Barbara Ann Ryles, a Macon girl, in 1950. Their oldest boys grew up near Mercer University, but when Interstate 75 pushed through, their house was in the way.
They moved across town to Toole Drive, off Edna Place, just north of where the Macon Mall is now.
The Pottses were living there when Bartow Jr. went off to war, where, on a Saturday morning less than a month after the Christmas of 1970, a mother and father and three brothers drew forever closer.
"You don't have a choice. You have to accept it," Bartow Sr. said.
Thinking back, he recalled his son having once said that he "never did want to kill anybody. ... He was a peaceable person. ... So I reckon that (anti-aircraft) cannon answered that for him in a way. He never did get to the point of killing anyone."
Nor would his brother Mark.
Mark Potts, now 58, who went on to name his oldest son after Bartow, had gone against his dead brother's wishes after graduating high school in 1971. At a local Marine recruiting post, one of the officers recognized his name.
"Potts," he said, pausing. "We can't take you."
Mark asked why.
"Because your brother got killed in Vietnam."
"Well," Mark said, "that's what I'm going for - and for others, too."
"I can't take you," the officer said. "You're going for revenge."
Today, Mark can't help getting tears in his eyes when he thinks of the big brother he used to hug and tell "I love you."
He laughs about the time his parents told their oldest boys to clean up the kitchen before they went out for the evening, how they washed the dishes outside in a wheelbarrow to save time.
"It doesn't matter if it's been 40 years. It still feels like it was yesterday," Mark said. "If I had to go out and pick out an older brother, it would be him again."