A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: Sharing some enriching experiences that fuel passion for our state

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune Columnist

There have been a lot of enriching “Kentucky by Heart” experiences for me lately. None might make compelling front page news, but all are part and parcel of the passion I feel for the state. They are simple examples, yet powerful if one chooses to live in the moment. Allow me to share a few. I hope they’ll connect to your Kentucky sensibilities, and I’d welcome hearing your experiences also.

On June 9, I traveled to Owenton to attend author and friend Georgia Green Stamper’s official launching of her book, Small Acreages. It’s the third in her trilogy of memoirs/essays, with the first two being You Can Go Anywhere: From the Crossroads of the World and Butter in the Morning. Her books are primarily centered around the people and places she knows from growing up in Owen County.

Stamper’s words serve to touch each of our own’s sense of place, wherever we were raised—but especially in a small-town or rural area.

The Owen County Public Library was packed that night, a tribute to one the community might call a “favorite daughter.” In her reading and speaking shares, she didn’t disappoint. She combined knowing humor and slices of real-life emotional drama that kept the audience (including me) both giggling and fighting back tears. We know where Georgia comes from because we came from there, too.

What a special evening!

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

I’ve written about my love for Eastern Kentucky University men’s basketball in this column previously. On June 14, I attended an “Elevate Eastern Caravan” event in Lexington. During the week, EKU sports team representatives stopped at Covington, Lexington, Louisville, and Corbin to meet with fans and share the latest on their programs and build support.

Steve’s EKU alumni insignia (Photo provided)

Besides enjoying great pizza and talking to coaches and officials of a school I love, we attendees were treated to a graphical representation of what the renovation of Alumni Coliseum will look like when it is completed by 2024. It was dazzling, and the makeover is well-deserved since no major changes have occurred since the early 1960s when the building was christened.

I felt joy when men’s basketball coach A.W. Hamilton presented me with a framed and signed picture of him as a coach. A.W. is one of the most energetic, authentic human beings I’ve ever met, basketball-wise or otherwise . . . and I wish for him a long and prosperous career, hopefully always at E.K.U.

I’m a bit positively biased toward my alma mater but taking a ride or walk through the beautiful campus is a genuine treat, even more so with the most recent upgrades to the facilities. Hope you’ll drive over and take a look at the campus and ask people about the place. I’ll never regret receiving my college education in Richmond, and many others I know have expressed similar sentiments.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Louise Rhodus (Photo by Steve Flairty)

On June 16, I spoke to the seniors’ group at Porter Memorial Baptist Church, in Lexington. It’s been an honor to have been invited to share before that audience three times before. Besides discussing some of those included in my Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes book series, I finished my remarks by reading a story I wrote on Louise Rhodus, a member of the group until her passing in 1921 at age 92. The reception from the story was positive, as she was clearly respected.

Louise was a Madison County native, one of thirteen children. She had little education but landed a job with IBM, in Lexington, in the 1950s and became a highly valued employee. At age 54, Louise took up the sport of golf—and to those who watched her play, she took on legendary status. She made six hole-in-ones in her lifetime. She did golf right, but more importantly, she did life right.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Lily and Suzanne at the market (Photo by Steve Flairty)

This past Saturday morning, Suzanne and I showed up again at the local Woodford County Farmers’ Market, where we sell her flower arrangements and my Heroes books. This time, we brought 12-year-old Lily, Suzanne’s granddaughter along and she was a great help on the special “Kids’ Day” event, not to mention helping get Suzanne’s flowers ready for the market, which takes plenty of focused work.

Lily, dawning a sun hat similar to her grandmother’s, worked at a children’s hands-on fun booth presented by the local county agricultural extension office. I’m sure that Lily, as well as the extension worker and the kids who came by the booth, all profited by the outreach.

For me, the last few weeks have been uber enriching, but then, I’m a sucker for anything portraying the name and theme of this column, “Kentucky by Heart.”

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of seven books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #5,” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly NKyTribune columnist and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

Related Posts

Leave a Comment