A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

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 them from negative behaviors. The camp continues after ten years, a tribute to the judge and many volunteers who make the outreach possible.

Her life story gains even more traction when one hears about what she has overcome in recent years. In 2010, a knife-wielding man not happy with a court decision she rendered him attacked her in a local Hazard restaurant. With the help of a physically strong friend in attendance, she survived the incident. In 2015, Judge Stephens was involved in an automobile accident. Her car was struck by a drunken driver in rural Perry County. He was killed, and Judge Stephens spent over 40 days in a Lexington hospital recuperating from broken bones and eventually had her right foot amputated.

She is back at work in her judgeship now and by all accounts, doing well. I’ll write about Judge Stephens in a future column. I’ll also include her in the next volume of the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, #5, which is slated to be released in the spring of 2019.

And speaking of everyday heroes, I’m looking for more recommendations to be included in KEH #5, especially individuals from outside the central Kentucky area. Here are the two basic criteria. I’m looking for Kentuckians who have overcome extreme personal challenges, and then thrived and/or ones who have sacrificed in an extreme fashion to help others. Read stories at www.kyforward.com to get an idea of what the stories are like.

I also seek geographical diversity around Kentucky, and now particularly need nominees from western and southern parts of the state. Certainly, I can’t take all submitted, but I would be glad to consider any. Email me at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or private message my Facebook account and relate why your suggested person is special and worthy of recognition as a Kentucky Everyday Hero includee.


Frankfort author Michael Embry, formerly editor of Kentucky Monthly, has a new book out just in time for the holidays. He’s published a sequel to his popular “boomer lit” novel, Old Ways and New Days. It’s called Darkness Beyond the Light, and it focuses on recently retired sports editor John Ross and his wife, Sally, who, according to Embry, are “dealing with an adult son behaving badly and a hypercritical mother-in-law in a not-so-merry holiday season.” Both books are published by Wings ePress.

For more details, visit www.michaelembry.com.


Steve Flairty grew up feeling good about Kentucky. He recalls childhood day trips (and sometimes overnight ones) orchestrated by his father, with the take-off points being in Campbell County. The people and places he encountered then help define his passion about the state now. After teaching 28 years, Steve spends much of his time today writing and reading about the state, and still enjoys doing those one dayers (and sometimes overnighters). “Kentucky by Heart” shares part and parcel of his joy. A little history, much contemporary life, intriguing places, personal experiences, special people, book reviews, quotes, and even a little humor will, hopefully, help readers connect with their own “inner Kentucky.”

Hoops fans are offered an opportunity to expand their artistic sensibilities by watching a performance on stage rather than a basketball court. Bounce: The Basketball Opera, has its world premiere at Calvary Baptist Church, 150 West High Street, Lexington, November 10th-12th. Bounce is directed by Grethe Holby and the executive producer and musical director is the noted Dr. Everett McCorvey. Visit www.ardeaarts.com for more information, and for Bill McCann’s interview with Director Helby, go to www.plus2tv.com.


The Thanksgiving season in Kentucky is upon us and I bet many of my readers have favorite memories to share. Here’s an example. My mother often served baked chicken rather than turkey as the main entrée, and I didn’t mind that too much, because her chicken was so tasty! I also recall that the next few days after the holiday meal would be leftovers…but that was actually a pretty good thing.

What about your remembrances of Thanksgiving, either as a child or, say, as an adult more recently? For a future Kentucky by Heart article, I’m hoping you’ll send me a personal anecdote about the time that means being grateful for what we have. Email me at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or share on the KyForward comments section below. You can also choose to leave a private message on my Facebook account.


Earl Gidcumb

I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Earl Gidcumb, Wickliffe. He was 92. In several writing trips to the Ballard County town at the westernmost tip of Kentucky, I got well acquainted with the gentleman who served in the U.S. Navy in World War II aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis. He was grateful to have transferred from the ship before its iconic sinking on July 30, 1945, but he never forgot the pain of knowing other of America’s finest patriots lost their lives. He dedicated the rest of his life to lifting up America’s military veterans through playing taps at funerals and other events, as Earl possessed an amazing talent to play the trumpet. Earlier in life, Earl led a musical group that played big band music.

Even in his declining years, he served as a compassionate caregiver for his ill wife, and he was loved and highly respected by those in his community. He will be sorely missed.

He was a faithful volunteer for the Kentucky Veteran and Patriot Museum, Wickliffe, kygrro.org and anyone wanting to donate in tribute to his legacy can send to P.O. Box 633, Wickliffe, KY 42087.

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Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of six books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and five in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4,” was released in 2015. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a 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)

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