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...

Kentucky by Heart: Writing, faith in God help Rita Setness cope with unexpected loss of son

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Writing a book called Surviving Child Loss was, for Nicholasville resident Rita Setness, part of her personal therapy in attempting to survive the loss of a child. In fact, her writing about son Jonathon began soon after his unexpected death at age 26 in December 2013. As one might expect, the emotional blow of her son’s sudden passing tossed Rita head long into...

Kentucky by Heart: Do you know an Everyday Hero?; share your Thanksgiving memories; and more…

I just returned from a trip to Hazard, in Perry County, where I interviewed District Court Judge Leigh Anne Stephens, whom I believe is a considerably inspirational person. Here’s the reason. Bemoaning the sadness of so many troubled young brought before her in court, she led in establishing a one-week summer camp to help boys receive strong, positive mentoring and wholesome activities to redirect...

Kentucky by Heart: I didn’t go to kindergarten, but learned my life’s rules close to home

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Author Robert Fulghum got a lot of mileage out of his 1988 book, All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. In it, he identified 16 “rules to live by” learned early in childhood and applied them to real life situations, partly through a series of essays. For those practicing a “savor the moment and experiences” way of handling life—ones...

Kentucky by Heart: Harrison County’s friendly Cynthiana has always been a community of interest

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist I figure I’ve passed through the town of Cynthiana, Kentucky, in Harrison County, a couple of thousand times in my life. For all the years attending college at Eastern, in Richmond, I drove back and forth on Highway 27 through the town. I also drove the same highway to my parents in northern Kentucky from homes in Winchester and Lexington for nearly four decades. Additionally,...

Kentucky by Heart: Biographies of humorist Cobb, iconic Still among newly released Kentucky books

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Every several months, I look forward to driving to the Kentucky Monthly office in Frankfort to obtain a selection of newly released Kentucky books to review for the magazine. I define “Kentucky books” simply as ones about Kentucky or written by a Kentucky author. For my taste, it’s grounds for salivating profusely without being taken to task. This batch seems,...

Kentucky by Heart: Hatton has an incurable need to help people, all with a smile on his face

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Reading Dale Hatton’s posts on Facebook are sure to put a grin on your face. He likes to share his light touch with some low-key humor, usually of the clean variety and always good-natured in content. As you read him daily, you’ll also likely find him to be a caring sort, one who has a genuine passion to help those in his Winchester community who “are having...

Kentucky by Heart: Woodford Quilt Trail allows community to give tribute to their heritage

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist When Debbie Tichenor was growing up on a farm in Owen County, she spent a lot of quality time with her dear Granny Smith while her parents worked their jobs in Frankfort. “Granny was a quilter, she sewed, and she was a crafty person. She could do about everything,” noted Debbie. “She always had something for me to do and she loved my art and kept it displayed...

Kentucky by Heart: Local fall festivals provide colorful way to mark the change of seasons

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Autumn is right there with spring as my favorite season of the year. After the hazy days of summer, clear skies that appear as if God took Windex and cleaned them thoroughly make me smile. I like the changing leaves, football, cooler temperatures … and I simply adore the season of fall festivals around Kentucky. What makes the festivals (sometimes called “fairs”...

Kentucky by Heart: Books demonstrate history is best explained by good stories told well

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist It’s been said that the learning of history is most effectively done when taught in authentic context through the element of stories. Following are a sampling of books I’ve previously reviewed for Kentucky Monthly that demonstrate the telling of Kentucky history in such a way. One deals with the topic of Confederate fighters in the American Civil War, a book...

Kentucky by Heart: Sampling small town newspapers shows lots of good things going on around the state

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Part of the fun of traveling around Kentucky is to sample small-town newspapers along the way. I always enjoy reading about the life of communities in our state, both close and not geographically close to mine. Despite the fact that there is always some bad news, too, it’s interesting to discover the bountiful and varying kinds of positive news items that appear...

Kentucky by Heart: Versailles teen learns Scouting program is all about service to others

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Recently a Versailles friend told me about her teenage son, Jack Landin, who was working his way toward the prized Boy Scout rank of Eagle Scout, a well-deserved achievement that likely upgrades one’s life success resume considerably. He would soon complete it, and I was invited to come to his conferring ceremony. I was both intrigued and curious for a couple...

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

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, Corey Hart, Collin Cowgill, Tyler Clippard, Mark Reynolds and many others...

Kentucky by Heart: Saved by adoption, Lane dedicates his life to uplifting vulnerable children

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Some 25 years ago, Deborah Lane, Winchester, decided that she wanted a fourth child, this time an adopted one. As it turned out, little David Lane fell right into her hands–almost literally. Not only that, but the child grew into quite a special man who dedicates his life to uplifting vulnerable children…far away in the poor, Central American country of...

Kentucky by Heart: Vision, determination of a girl named Bruce brought college to Cynthiana

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Years back when Johnny Cash sang about a “boy named Sue,” he might just as well have done the same about a “girl named Bruce.” But where Johnny, at the end, expressed frustrated regret for the gender anomaly, Bruce Florence, the Cynthiana woman whose strong leadership brought a college to her town, relishes her masculine sounding name. That’s because...

Kentucky by Heart: African American Encyclopedia calls needed attention to contributions of Dunnigan

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist I recently picked up another in my collection of Kentucky-related encyclopedias. With The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia now on my bookshelf, I’m excited to use it as a ready resource for my Kentucky writing. The 596-page tome now sits aside these other priceless references: The Kentucky Encyclopedia, The Encyclopedia of Louisville, Encyclopedia of Appalachia,...

Kentucky by Heart: A close encounter of the bear kind will put a little pep back into your step

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist In the summer of 2002, I decided to indulge my hiking interest in a big way. Some might call it a crazy way. I drove down from Lexington to Cumberland Gap, stayed overnight in the adjacent town of Middlesboro at the Holiday Inn Express, then set out the next morning on a long hike from Pinnacle Overlook to Hensley Settlement. The details, admittedly, are a little...