A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: What makes your college that ‘special’ school? Kentuckians share their thoughts

Note: Following is the first of a two-part article about individuals sharing comments about their “special college” in Kentucky. It was always a given that I’d go to college after graduating from Campbell County High School back in 1971. The best I could tell, there were few in the Flairty or Fryer lineage who set forth on that path, so I guess I was a bit of a pioneer. Understandably, the particular...

Kentucky by Heart: Father Ralph Beiting’s impact extends far beyond the organization he founded

I do a lot of reading — and often write about — Kentuckians who’ve made a positive difference for our state. One person who I believe often gets overlooked is Catholic priest Father Ralph Beiting, who died at age 88 in 2012. He’s perhaps most easily recognized as the founder, in 1962, of the noted Christian Appalachian Project (CAP), called a “nonprofit, nondenominational organization...

Kentucky by Heart: Inspired by movie, Jessica Collins sets out to provide all children ‘A Place to Sleep’

“You’re never too young to make a difference,” said Jessica Collins, 19, a nursing student at Western Kentucky University. She means those words now, and she meant them at age ten when she gave roots to a program that donates beds to children who lack such a basic resource. The project is called “A Place to Sleep,” and since 2010, about 1500 bed sets have gone to deserving young people, mostly...

Kentucky by Heart: Remembering 13 of Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes we’ve lost since the project began

Over one hundred written profiles have appeared in the four volumes of the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, a project I began working on in 2006 and consequently published the first book in 2008. I’m currently about half way toward the completion of the fifth volume and hope to release it in the spring of 2019. Not to sound trite, but it’s been a labor of love, and along with it, I feel a special...

Kentucky by Heart: While known more for basketball, state played key role in baseball’s most tragic story

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward.com April 26, 2016 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist When we’re talking sports in the Bluegrass, the state is likely most known as a basketball and horse racing state. That is well-established. Don’t look now, but in recent years, many Kentuckians playing baseball have worked their way into the major leagues. Names like Joe Blanton,...

Kentucky by Heart: Corbin Seavers teaches children the game of chess, and how to win at the game of life

Corbin Seavers learned by example some important principles from his father, who died when Corbin was only 17. He learned that being a “real” man means taking care of your children — even if you are deathly sick, as the elder Seavers did. “He basically sacrificed his life for my sister and me,” said Corbin. He learned that one should lead in worthy causes and to pursue things bigger...

Kentucky by Heart: Northern Kentucky’s John G. Carlisle; new book of work from Northpoint prisoners

Life’s full of those “just not fair” times when it seems that we’ve followed all the rules, yet have had severe misfortune fall right smack into our laps. The historical record shows as much. Northern Kentucky’s “favorite son” politician John G. Carlisle is a clear example, according to The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky. John G. Carlisle (Photo provided) Carlisle was born in a small...

Kentucky by Heart: ‘Good Works’ of the Kentucky Colonels remains a tradition state can be proud of

I sure got excited several years ago when a trip to my mailbox netted me a large, white and black certificate that had Governor Beshear’s name on it, along with these words neatly printed below his: ”Honorable Steve Flairty is commissioned a KENTUCKY COLONEL.” To this day, I don’t know who made the nomination, but it sure was a gesture I’ll always appreciate. I do know that the individual,...

Kentucky by Heart: Travis and Christie Lynch provide hope for young people who have nobody else

By Steve Flairty Special to NKyTribune   Spouses Travis and Christie Lynch each grew up as an “only child” in their homes. Otherwise, the family backgrounds were significantly different. But after meeting in high school as 14-year-olds and with their eventual marriage, the two walk today in unison in an amazing endeavor. For more than nine years, they’ve dedicated their lives to providing loving...

Kentucky by Heart: Historic furnaces harken back to time when state was a major producer of iron

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward.com June 14, 2016 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist If you do enough traveling around Kentucky, particularly riding on back roads in rural areas, you’ll likely notice evidence of the state’s historical iron furnace industry. The furnaces resemble a stone-built house chimney, and some, despite the years of weathering, human defacement,...

Kentucky by Heart: Being prepared saved a life; books to help prepare for spring planting season

The wife and children of Jeremy Overton, of Ohio County, are likely feeling grateful today because they nearly lost Jeremy two years ago when he ran his truck over an embankment into a lake while swerving to miss a deer. Ironically, the driver was saved by another Jeremy, also the same age, 34, who happened to be a passenger with his daughter as she practiced driving on this 16-degree night, a night...

Kentucky by Heart: Deaths leave a void and legacy: Mountain Santa, Bob Wagoner each made mark

I was saddened by the recent passing of Mike Howard, aka “Mountain Santa.” He lived at Wallins Creek, in Harlan County, and since the mid-seventies, the wiry-built, talkative man became an icon to thousands in his community by playing Santa Claus, collecting and delivering Christmas gifts to the poor, largely transporting the gifts using pickup trucks. He did that with the support of a legion of...

Kentucky by Heart: The work of C-J’s Allen Trout offers ‘folksy’ look back at Kentucky in the 1940s

I picked up an interesting title on a recent visit to a used bookstore in Lexington. Published in 1947 by the Courier-Journal, it’s called Greetings from Old Kentucky, by Allan M. Trout. It’s mostly a collection of long-time C-J writer Trout’s columns with the same title, which originated in 1939. No doubt, some of the material Trout penned has its share of what easily could be construed as racially...

Kentucky by Heart: Irma Gall, Peggy Kemner join to ‘lend a hand’ to the less fortunate in Knox County

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist Irma Gall, amazingly spry to be in her mid-eighties, was only too happy to show me her cabin, one she built “on a wide space on the road” at the base of a steep hillside just a few hundred yards from Stinking Creek. “I’m a rock mason, and I believe in good foundations,” she noted, pointing out the intricate meshing of native stones holding together a split-railed...

Kentucky by Heart: Fond memories of mom bring a mixture of joy and sadness to the holiday season

The holiday season is, for me, a mixture of joy and sadness. It’s been a little over five years since Mom, a victim of cancer, passed. Many of you know personally the sense of loss that time only partly diminishes. It abides, and that’s where I am now; doing fine…but there are those difficult moments that come, especially at this time of the year. Looking back at our relationship, it honestly...

Kentucky by Heart: Mike Howard goes from ‘black sheep’ to beloved ‘Mountain Santa’

This story is taken from Steve Flairty’s 2013 book, Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #3. It was originally published in by KyForward on Dec. 24, 2014 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Mike Howard remembers with dismay the negative reputation he carried while growing up as one of 11 kids in an Eastern Kentucky town. Mountain Santa (Mike Howard) delivering presents with a volunteer (Southeast...

Kentucky by Heart: Seasoned journalist Michael Embry finds new voice through fiction in retirement

By Steve Flairty Special to KyForward For decades, journalist Michael Embry pretty much had what he wrote assigned to him; it largely depended on the news — often sports — that happened around him. He simply (and skillfully) reported. As an editor for a lengthy period at Kentucky Monthly, he did the assigning. Additionally, during those journalism years, he found time to follow his interests...

Kentucky by Heart: Judge Leigh Anne Stephens remains focused on community, despite hard times

Hazard District Court Judge Leigh Anne Stephens has an affinity for the welfare of kids in her community. That might be true mostly because she had so much fun growing up and playing with an abundance of kids in her Hazard neighborhood. Those experiences partly inspired her to lead in establishing Camp Promise, a week-long gathering of recreational activities and positive mentoring for young boys thought...

Kentucky by Heart: Dying with grace and dignity – who is your Mary Gay Lake?

Editor’s note: This tribute appeared previously in KyForward and was used as a dedication to Steve Flairty’s book, Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4, published in 2015. My first remembrance of Mary Gay Lake, from a distance, was the way she dressed—sharply and in classic style. Her attire fit smartly on her rather tall and well-postured frame, and she wore her dark brown hair in a neat,...

Kentucky by Heart: Thanksgiving brings back fond memories of friends, family and feasts of rich food

I’m in favor of the Thanksgiving season to be termed the most important holiday that Americans celebrate. The theme of gratefulness is a universal one, not held back by the narrow lines of religious, or other, differences. It’s a time when, at least theoretically, we show appreciation for the good things around us (the bounty) rather than to focus on what we’d like but don’t possess. Out of...