A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: Warmth, comfort and inclusion is ‘percolating’ at Lexington’s McLeod’s Coffee House

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist On a warm December morning at McLeod’s Coffee House, where “no one is excluded,” Brewster McLeod is sure of one thing. Those he terms “VIPs,” his employees, are perkin’ pretty well after six weeks in on his and their dream project. In fact, you might say Brewster is still dancin’ with the ones who brought him to this point of glee, which he likes to...

Kentucky by Heart: Highs and lows for 2019 — and learning from things to make a better 2020

By Steve Flairty Special to KyForward The year 2019 just ended for me with a procession of highs and lows. Guess that’s quite normal; but, being the analytical guy I am often spurs me to sort out the learnable things and make them work for a better future. First, here’s a recap. Aunt MaeIt was exciting to release my seventh book, the fifth volume of Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes; along with it,...

Kentucky by Heart: Mike Howard went from ‘black sheep’ to beloved ‘Mountain Santa,’ the legend

Because Christmas is all about traditions, we are offering this traditional Kentucky by Heart column on Mike Howard, the Mountain Santa who, sadly, has passed away. But like the Christmas spirit in all of this, his spirit lives on in his legacy of generosity to others. Merry Christmas — and happy memories.) By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Mike Howard remembers with dismay the negative reputation...

Kentucky by Heart: Well, ho ho ho, Steve’s got the Christmas spirit — in a punny kind of way

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist I’ve always found the Christmas holiday season (the tradition of my religious faith) to be one of a profound mixture of adjectives: solemn, joyous, sad, stressful, inspirational, and tiring. But if I had some choices to make it what I’d like, I’d want it to be of a light nature… and certainly punny. Steve with ‘Santa’ (Photo provided) I hope...

Kentucky by Heart: A look at some worthy Kentucky service organizations for your holiday giving list

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist We’re in the holiday season when most of us likely feel inundated with messages coaxing us to buy; it’s also a time when we are barraged with requests to give to a good cause, and it can quickly become a matter of “polite frustration.” There are lots of good causes, and most of us have limited resources to give, though we might have good hearts with noble...

Kentucky by Heart: Bluegrass Writers Coalition members compile book of Ky’s ‘mined treasures’

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist Back in 2018, two founding members of the Bluegrass Writers Coalition, from Frankfort, Mike Embry and Chris Helvey, discussed the idea of creating a small selection of published writings to highlight some of the state’s finest, including some who were unsung, writers. Mined treasures, you might say, that needed to be unearthed so that the glitter might not be...

Kentucky by Heart: A ‘Kentucky-fied’ trip through a beautiful part of our state into a beautiful part of Ohio

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist It’s not often in this column that I talk about a trip taken outside the state of Kentucky. This time, however, I will, because the trip my spouse and I took to Ohio recently on Veterans Day included a good portion of Kentucky geography on the itinerary, and the destination area reminded me a lot of our state, too. Suzanne enjoys learning about Native-Americans...

Kentucky by Heart: Inventor of submachine gun was NKy native; finding strength in challenging times

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward.com on October 23, 2018 By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist Although not a gun enthusiast myself, I recently noticed while perusing a resource I use regularly, The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky, that the inventor of the famous Thompson submachine gun was born in Newport in 1860. I was intrigued with that finding. Brigadier General...

Kentucky By Heart: Annual Kentucky Book Fair a grand celebration of state’s literary landscape

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist I look forward with joy to participating, as an author, in the 38th Annual Kentucky Book Fair this Saturday, November 16 at the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park, in Lexington. The hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is the culminating event of a week of activities, starting on November 10, called the Kentucky Book Festival. This is the seventh time —...

Kentucky by Heart: Humility of Northern Kentucky’s 2019 Newsmakers evidence of state’s giving spirit

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the credit.” — Harry S. Truman On many occasions, being a columnist and author affords me the opportunity to meet or be around inspiring people doing good things in their communities. I’ve written about a whole slew of them, and it’s my hope that those accounts will invigorate others...

Kentucky by Heart: Kentucky Senator Richard Mentor Johnson led an interesting and controversial life

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist I have been reading The US Senate and the Commonwealth (University Press of Kentucky, 2019), by Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and Roy Brownell II. It focuses on an overall study of senate leadership, along with a fascinating look at what the book calls “the colorful and vivid lives of fifteen Kentucky lawmakers, including Henry Clay, Alben Barkley, and John...

Kentucky by Heart: Phyllis Abbott on mission to help women veterans through Lady Veterans Connect

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist The mention of Trapp Elementary School, in rural Clark County, brings up fond memories for me, as well as legions of others who have experienced its magic. It’s simply a building now, no longer a place of learning for children in the community, a victim of public school consolidation as a cost-saving measure. The small school was a perfect match for me as I began...

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

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward October 31, 2017 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...

Kentucky by Heart: Construction worker Shaun Neal’s 27-year odyssey pays off with ‘Mama’s Song’

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Construction worker Shaun Neal’s odyssey in search of completing his first book, a novel called Mama’s Song, ended successfully a few years ago after nearly three decades in process. He feels both elated and relieved. “It started in 1990, one year after my wife and I got married. I finished in 2017,” said the Nicholasville resident. “My wife . . . she...

Kentucky by Heart: In a divisive world, optimism for Kentucky’s future remains, because of its people

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist I recently was interviewed for a podcast by Bill Goodman, CEO of the Kentucky Humanities Council, about my book series, Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes. I considered it an honor to be asked to share, both as an opportunity to contribute to KHC, an organization that seeks to highlight the best in our citizens’ values, and also for the interest Bill demonstrated in...

Kentucky by Heart: Bourbon County native painted vivid picture of Eastern Ky. life through his novels

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist Even for those outside our state, the two novels, The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, could well have a connection to many readers, if only for their catchy titles. Both books were notable across America in the early 1900s, though the setting for them was in Kentucky and the books were written by a Kentuckian. An historical marker...

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

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward September 12, 2017. 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...

Kentucky by Heart: Judy and Dan Dourson’s guide books offer unique look at Eastern Ky. plant life

Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist For Dan and Judy Dourson, the careful study of plant life is of great interest, particularly of such in eastern Kentucky. The most recent product of their work is now available in two detailed, well-researched guide books: Wildflowers and Ferns of Red River and the Greater Red River Basin and Wild Yet Tasty: A Guide to Edible Plants of Eastern Kentucky. Dan is a wildlife...

Kentucky by Heart: Book recounts young boy’s effort to give other sick kids ‘something to look forward to’

Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist It was over twenty years ago, and Lexington’s Fox 56 veteran anchor/reporter Marvin Bartlett scrambled to piece together a short news item about a cancer-stricken boy in a local hospital. It was a hectic time in the newsroom — certainly not an unusual thing — but it was also “March Madness” tournament time for the Kentucky Wildcat men’s basketball...

Kentucky by Heart: Reflecting on a life spent ‘Kentucky-ing,’ with no change in sight

Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist I don’t believe I’ll ever be “Kentucky-ed” to death. Never, it seems, do I get tired of “Kentucky-ing” around. While thinking about it the other day, I pondered how much of my life has a Kentucky flavor to it. Turns out, quite a lot. As for the traveling I do these days, it’s pretty much within the borders of my state, mostly chasing down subjects for...