A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

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...

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

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared at KyForward.com on August 14, 2018 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...

Kentucky by Heart: Withlovefromharlan shifts focus close to home to help victims of Blackjewel failure

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist For the people of Harlan County, in the southeastern region of Kentucky, tough economic challenges became tougher recently when the Blackjewel Mining Company filed bankruptcy and left hundreds of miners, many from their county, hung out to dry financially. Most insulting was the fact that workers received paychecks that bounced, leaving many families unable to...

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

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward March 27, 2018 By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist 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...

Kentucky by Heart: Wrapping up our ‘County Quiz’ of Kentucky’s history, culture and geography

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Now comes the second part of the 120 question “Kentucky County Quiz” after the first one was published last week. Feel free to go back and take the first part Kentucky by Heart: Testing your knowledge of Ky’s history, culture and geography with a ‘County Quiz’ and include it with this week’s for the chance to win a prize. For the first five...

Kentucky by Heart: Testing your knowledge of Ky’s history, culture and geography with a ‘County Quiz’

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Though I’m not sure I’ve been to all 120 Kentucky counties, I believe it is pretty close to that number. I’ve found that if you study the history, culture, and geography of each, you’ll learn some quite interesting trivia, though the people who make up those counties would not prefer to call them “trivial matters.” Ha. I thought it would be fun for...

Kentucky by Heart: Justin Evans’ positive attitude helps through cancer treatments; back to old self

By Steve Flairty Special to KyForward For the regular customers at the Richmond Road Panera Bread, in Lexington, they could tell something wasn’t right with the store manager, Justin Evans. Justin tried to be his usual jovial and upbeat self, but it was a struggle, especially to do so for a nine-hour shift. Truth be told, it just might have had something to do with the chemo treatments he was undergoing...

Kentucky by Heart: An introduction to the recently-released fifth volume of Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist A frequent question I get regarding the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series is quite simple: “Steve, where do you get all those stories?” My prompt answer in recent years has gone something like this: “Well, I’ve been at this a while now. People know I do the project, so the stories pretty much come to me…” And though the process may be a bit more...

Kentucky by Heart: Versailles resident’s watchful eye helps avert major disaster, helps him truly know faith

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Ted Hill must have felt like his own version of The Man Who Knew Too Much. The former Boeing and later Sylvania Osram employee found himself anxiety-ridden while sitting as a passenger at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) awaiting his Delta Flight 1661 to San Diego over sixteen years ago. He sat at a window overlooking the wing on his...

Kentucky by Heart: Poring over Kentucky’s past gives new meaning to the present, future

By Steve Flairty NKyTribune columnist This is a reprint of a column originally published on June 21, 2015. I typically write about contemporary life, but once in a while I like to pore over items from Kentucky’s past, especially when I feel a real connection. This particular column will have that focus. A while back, my Aunt Sue sent me a local obituary piece, an involved story from the Kentucky...

Kentucky by Heart: The wisdom found in the words and sayings of ‘old-timers’ can last a lifetime

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist If you spend considerable time around any old-timer (I’ll let you figure out how I define “old-timer”) you’re likely to hear them talk about old sayings and terms they used to hear a lot while growing up… along with telling who the person was who most often said such memorable things. Sometimes they’re shared with a grin or even a giggle, sometimes...

Kentucky by Heart: With the beginning of summer comes fond memories of childhood ‘swimming holes’

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Memorial Day is past and it’s time to focus on summer activities. For many, it’s the season to enjoy a refreshing dip in the pool, or at last be around water. Looking back, however, some of my favorite swimming escapades as a child happened in what I’ll call “unofficial” swimming holes, usually around our family’s home in southern Campbell County. Ironically,...

Kentucky by Heart: Overcoming writer’s block by getting back to the basics… with a Kentucky twist

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist I normally start writing the weekly Kentucky by Heart columns on Monday. That usually gives sufficient time to meet my Sunday deadline for the following Tuesday’s publication date. This past Wednesday, I sat at my computer having not written a word on KBH and with little idea what my topic for the week would be. Frustrated, I decided to go back to the ABC basics. Translated,...

Kentucky by Heart: Former slave, Ky. native Wheeling Gaunt defied the odds with an unrelenting work ethic

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Though making no claims of being a bona fide Kentucky historian, I enjoy researching and discovering people from the state’s past that aren’t particularly well-known, yet have inspirational stories that cry out to be shared. I recently came across an account of Wheeling Gaunt, a man born in 1813 into abject poverty in Carrollton. He was termed, at the time,...