A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: Family of Louisville doctor David Yandell made mark on Kentucky, and the world

By Steve Flairty KyFoward columnist I recently came across Nancy Baird’s biography of a noted Louisville medical doctor from the 1800s. The book is called David Wendel Yandell: Physician of Old Louisville, and besides providing a fascinating look at Yandell’s life (1826-1898), the author’s account also reveals an interesting look at the political and cultural times in Kentucky, including events...

Kentucky by Heart: Despite intrusion of virus, we’ve made positive changes and learned valuable lessons

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist The pandemic experience has been a bummer for most of us. I passed through my own bout with COVID-19 early in January and fortunately had minor symptoms: a dry cough, no fever, and some lower back issues temporarily. Almost surprisingly, my wife, Suzanne, tested negative on two separate occasions, certainly a blessing. I figured there must be something good to come...

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. (Photo from Wheeling Gaunt Facebook page) I recently came across an account of Wheeling Gaunt, a man born in 1813 into abject poverty in...

Kentucky by Heart: In these tumultuous times for our country, there is much good happening in Kentucky

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist There are many good things happening around our state these days that might not receive the coverage they deserve, whether it’s because they carry only a “local” tag, maybe they are drowned out by so many reports of bad news, or perhaps those involved in the good things are limited in ways to publicize them. Good things untold is a perfect reason to bring...

Kentucky by Heart: ACTION program offers resources to Appalachian students pursuing medical careers

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Cancer. The case could be made that Kentucky is home to some of the worst concentrations of the disease (more accurately, “group” of diseases) in the United States. According to a 2019 American Cancer Society report, the state has over 26,000 new cases and more than 10,000 cancer-related deaths per year. It is especially serious in the fifty-four Appalachian...

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: Historian breaks new ground with book on Ky.’s role in passage of 19th Amendment

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist It was a long and circuitous path toward the final passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, the act giving America’s women the right to vote. It would take years of grinding work amidst plenty of fits and starts, and the complexities of the issue of fighting for women’s suffrage were enormous. The leaders of the movement were far from united, and the...

Kentucky by Heart: Cataloging Kentucky book collection offers nostalgic walk down memory lane

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist I‘m currently cataloging my sizeable Kentucky book collection, which stretches around me on the shelves in my study, where I do most of my writing. There are some non-Kentucky books, too, but many less, and I’m estimating that the number of books I own written by Kentucky authors or about the state will show at least a thousand. Though the process gets laborious...

Kentucky by Heart: The sacrifices of Vietnam’s ‘Sons of Bardstown’ have had lasting impact on community

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist It’s probably safe to say that most communities of Kentucky were affected in some way by the tragedy of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, an era generally considered stretching from 1962-1975. The Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial website reports that 1,108 Kentuckians were among the approximately 58,000 Americans who died in the conflict. There were...

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: Roger Guffey’s Tales from the Porch offers authentic glimpse into simpler times

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist Roger Guffey is steeped in the traditions and customs of his childhood growing up in Appalachia, in Wayne County, not far from the Tennessee border. A long-time math teacher now living in Lexington, Roger also enjoys writing, especially about the people who helped form who he is today. In recent years, he has authored People Up the Holler and When I Was My Father’s...

Kentucky by Heart: A look at the books Kentuckians are reading as the cold winter months approach

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist For both pleasure and resource purposes, I’m often found with a book in my hands (haven’t become an e-reader yet), and I also know for a fact that many fellow Kentuckians are. I’m figuring that with Covid and the approaching winter chasing us indoors, the scale of reading is increasing. So, as I’ve done so in this column before, I took the pulse of what...

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

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist 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,...

Kentucky by Heart: Kentuckian Josephine Kirby Henry played integral role in securing women’s rights

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist It’s been a hundred years since the Nineteenth Amendment passed, giving women across America the right to vote. One of the highly influential advocates for women’s suffrage in that era was an amazing Kentuckian. She particularly intrigues me personally because of the geographical connection we have. Josephine Kirby Henry, like me, has northern Kentucky roots...

Kentucky by Heart: Revisiting some well-written Kentucky books of the ‘can’t put it down’ variety

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist Over the course of a year, I review dozens of books by local authors from all around Kentucky. A good many are of mediocre quality, at best, but I also run across some very fine ones that are well-written and of the “can’t put it down” variety. Most recently, I came across The People Up the Holler, by Roger Guffey. It’s a book of short stories inspired...

Kentucky by Heart: Return to family gravesite with relatives offers moment of solace during pandemic

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist It had been more than seven months since my wife and I took an extended car trip. We’ve been cautious about the virus since the pandemic, we had followed precautionary rules to avoid infection, and we stayed close to our home in Versailles. During that time, we had some contact with her daughters, though quite limited. Other than phone calls, there had been no...

Kentucky by Heart: Exploring well-known, and not-so-well-known, state symbols of the Commonwealth

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist I taught mostly fourth-graders during my 28-year full-time teaching career, and I always loved the subject of Kentucky history, geography, and the state’s culture. I particularly enjoyed covering the state symbols, which have official designations from the Kentucky General Assembly. The teaching of such made it easier for me as my students usually responded with...

Kentucky by Heart: A look at events that could be included in Kentucky’s own ‘You Are There’ TV series

Author’s Note: This is the first of two-parts exploring what might be included if there were a ‘You Are There Kentucky’ TV series. By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist As a child, my natural interest in history was encouraged by watching old reruns of the You Are There television series. The show originally appeared on both CBS Radio and Television, with the radio version from 1947...

Kentucky by Heart: Much can be learned about the disunity of today through the study of Lincoln’s words

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist I have great respect for the impact of language, and so I often mull over my choice of words as both a writer and speaker — and often omit words I’m not completely comfortable will be read with correct understanding. Consequently, the time I expend on this weekly column is often extensive, and here’s hoping that doing so is a good thing. Kentucky-born...