A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: Sister Juana Mendez offers hope and direction to members of Hispanic community

Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist Juana Mendez remembers well the difficult conditions her family faced while growing up in the American territory of Puerto Rico in the 1950s. “We lived in the country and we didn’t have running water or electricity,” she said. “We didn’t want to leave Puerto Rico but my father moved here (United States) because he was looking for a job.” Juana and the rest...

Kentucky by Heart: Providing hope since 1871 and meeting the needs of the young and vulnerable

By Steve Flairty Special to KyForward   It was 1871, six years after the American Civil War; the terrible conflict left an overwhelming number of wives who lost husbands and children who lost fathers. That’s when the good folks at the Methodist Episcopal Church South, in Louisville, came together to form the Widows and Orphans Home. Now known as The Kentucky United Methodist Homes for Children &...

Kentucky by Heart: Gestures of kindness in times of hardship symbolic of so many around Kentucky

It was already late in the week and I wasn’t sure what my next Kentucky by Heart column topic would be. Sometimes, ideas come grudgingly, which means no words move onto paper. When that happens, I get a little nervous. My deadline for Tuesday’s column is on late Sunday night (or early Monday morning if I choose to go that route… but yawn). The fact that I am a slow writer made starting this...

Kentucky by Heart: From the real McCoy to Floyd Collins, forgotten Kentuckians’ interesting stories

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward.com on June 20, 2017 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist When perusing the 15th state’s illustrious history, even Kentucky outsiders recognize such names as Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Boone, Henry Clay, and, of course, Secretariat. All have had a positive national impact and add to its treasured heritage. There are a whole passel of other...

Kentucky by Heart: Lexington entrepreneur Katie Thompson providing unique ‘Kentucky’ experiences

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist After Katie Thompson graduated from Paul Dunbar High School eight years ago, she set off from her hometown of Lexington and lived in a couple of Kentucky’s finest small towns. Katie spent four years in Danville, graduating from Centre College with a degree in history and international relations. From there, she moved to Bardstown to take her first full-time position,...

Kentucky by Heart: Celebrating Kentucky’s own James Bond, and all of the state’s ‘overcomers’

Reading and writing about overcomers from Kentucky is a passion of mine. Overcomers are often fueled by faith and an amazing persistence, along with the capacity to lay feelings of bitterness and self-pity aside. They don’t come “a dime a dozen,” and celebrating their stories, I believe, can inspire others with their struggles. A good place to find such noble people from Kentucky can start with...

Kentucky by Heart: From Lincoln to Ali to Henry Clay, everyone has their favorite colorful Kentuckian

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward.com on July 4, 2017 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Who is your favorite Kentuckian from the annals of history books? Consider a person you find particularly fascinating who was Kentucky-born or, if not, made their mark while living in the state. Your choice may be one of sterling reputation, as mine is…or one of questionable repute—or...

Kentucky by Heart: Historic Keene might not be fancy, but it’s home . . . and always will be

For nice rides in the country, I often take Highway 169 in the central Kentucky part of the Bluegrass area from my home in Woodford County to Jessamine County. The grassy and rolling terrain of the area is one of my favorite scenic tours. Small farms with grazing Thoroughbred horses and cattle, an abundance of pretty homes, and historical stone walls along the roadside make it that way. On that trip,...

Kentucky by Heart: ‘Old Photos’ Facebook pages offer nostalgic look back at people and places

A while back, I came across a cool Facebook group page called Old Photos of Northern Kentucky. I immediately got hooked and now visit the site frequently, often posting, my columns there. I see it as an especially “cool” and enjoyable site because the nostalgic images, captions, and individual postings are remembrances of growing up in the area in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s. Community...

Kentucky by Heart: Commonwealth was well-represented in the late 1800s by some colorful writers

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward.com on May 10, 2016 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Northern Kentuckian John Uri Lloyd is a sterling example of the “local color” fiction writers who became part of the movement starting in the 1880s in American literature. Defining the term, William S. Ward, in his A Literary History of Kentucky, noted that local colorists “were...

Kentucky by Heart: Former EKU sports information director Karl Park finds new outlet in horse racing

If you live anywhere in the Richmond area or have been a keen observer of college sports in Kentucky for several decades, the name Karl Park is probably familiar. As Eastern Kentucky University’s sports information director from 1970 until he retired from that role in 2004, his dedication to EKU and quality service to the sporting public garnered him a Colonel’s share of awards along the way, not...

Kentucky by Heart: Some thoughts and musings about Kentucky, the special place we call home

In the course of writing a weekly column called Kentucky by Heart, a book series about everyday heroes in Kentucky, reviewing books of Kentucky’s authors or about the state, and just plain possessing a deep affinity for the place I’ve lived most of my life, you might guess that my Bluegrass mind-set hums continuously. You would be correct. This week, I’ll share some of my thoughts about this...

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: ‘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: 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...