A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: Kentuckian Joe Fulks overcame dirt-poor upbringing to reach basketball Hall of Fame

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Starting with my youthful years, I’ve enjoyed learning about well-known basketball players, especially ones connected to Kentucky. In the sixties, I admired players such as Louie Dampier, Cotton Nash, Larry Conley, and Mike Casey, all who played for Kentucky. I also liked others from schools around the state: hoopsters such as Westley Unseld and Butch Beard (Louisville),...

Kentucky by Heart: Love is in the air this Valentine’s week, and the Bluegrass State can be quite romantic

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Karen and Jim Searle (Photo provided) There’s a lovely rumor going around that the Bluegrass State is, in fact, a romantic state. On this Valentine’s Day week, I thought I’d check into that. Romantic places? Special experiences? First, I asked some friends. Karen Searle, now a Florida resident after growing up in Louisville, found her soulmate and husband,...

Kentucky by Heart: Sharing nonfiction titles celebrating Appalachian Eastern Kentucky

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Although I was raised in the northern part of Kentucky and have spent adulthood living in the central part of the state, I’ve developed a strong interest and appreciation of the Appalachian region of eastern Kentucky. Dad took our family on many trips through the mountainous area and I was amazed at the natural beauty of the landscape (though in the mid-sixties,...

Kentucky by Heart: There’s probably a song about that, but please don’t expect me to sing along

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist I generally enjoy the subject of music, but I’m a slow learner when it comes to understanding it. And, it should not be surprising that I’m not good at performing it, either. It’s almost like I have a mental block, much like many claim to have in learning math. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a visual rather than an auditory learner; what I read and...

Kentucky by Heart: Central Kentucky sisters work to expand food program to ‘FEED’ hungry kids

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Shannon Smith carries a searing and vivid image of a child she worked with while volunteering as a parent in a Garden Springs Elementary School classroom, in Lexington, back in 2016. “He had always been glad to see me and would give me a big hug. But this was after Christmas break, at lunch, and he had his head down… and he looked so sad,” Shannon said. Wholeheartedly...

Kentucky by Heart: Some interesting facts you may not know about our first (and fifth) governor

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward September, 6, 2016 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist “Who was the first Kentucky governor?” is the question I’ve asked fourth graders for years as part of my impromptu state history trivia moments as both a regular and a sub teacher. Most will respond that the answer is Isaac Shelby. You can bet the kids were and are ready...

Kentucky by Heart: Reviewing 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: And, to the letter, sharing big plans and good wishes for this brand new year

By Steve Flairty Special to KyForward I have big plans for 2019, and probably not surprisingly for you, the readers, they entail a great emphasis on informing others about this special place where I’ve lived nearly all my life, the Bluegrass State. Please indulge me as I share a few of those plans, and may you adopt some of them for YOUR plans for the new year! Here they are, acrostically written...

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: Versailles Brewing Co. grows from the mutual interests of farmer’s market friends

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist At Curtis Congleton’s booth at the Woodford County Farmers Market in downtown Versailles, Gary Jones and he spent a lot of time talking. Their conversations occurred over the span of several growing seasons. The produce they sold was from Curtis’s farm out on Carpenter Pike, and their mutual interest in farming and the two’s personal like for each other naturally...

Kentucky by Heart: No shortage of inspirational quotes attributed to well-known Kentuckians

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward on January 3, 2017 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist My dad used to say to me when I was growing up: “When in doubt, don’t.” I forgot his source for that bit of advice, but I have often recalled those words at appropriate times (though, frankly, I’ve not always heeded them). Fact is, focusing on people’s words can certainly...

Kentucky by Heart: Author Bob Rouse part of what makes Midway one of state’s special small towns

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist Since I became a resident of central Kentucky years ago, I’ve had a bit of fascination with the small town of Midway. The first town in Kentucky “founded” by a railroad (Lexington and Ohio Railroad Co.), it was also formerly a home for Native-American mound builders. It’s located between the cities of Lexington and Frankfort, thus its name, “Midway.”...

Kentucky by Heart: Lifelong musician Frank Messina finds new path as writer of murder/mystery novels

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist Until recently, Frank “Doc” Messina’s choice of performing arts pretty much focused in one area.  He considered himself a “music guy,” and he mostly made his livelihood either performing music or as a music educator. Today, the 71-year-old Messina has embraced another art, writing, and has cranked out two popular murder/mystery novels, with another...

Kentucky by Heart: With a heart heavy with loss of younger brother, wishing you happy Thanksgiving

By Steve Flairty Special to NKyTribune In one respect, this Thanksgiving season will be a time of genuine sadness for me. I lost my younger brother and only sibling, Mike, on October 27, to pancreatic cancer. It’s a disease I have nothing good to say about, a scourge on society. Our family, especially including Mike’s wife, Theresa, got hit broadside by the news of his diagnosis after he began...

Kentucky by Heart: When it comes to having pun in Kentucky, there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit available

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward April 5, 2016 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist I have always enjoyed playing with words, and mostly in a fun sort of way. Call me corny, silly, or otherwise, but I consider myself a “pun guy.” (Some would say “fungi,” but I’m not sure how to take that.) Until recently, it didn’t dawn on me that my own state of Kentucky’s...

Kentucky by Heart: Daniel Meyer’s book Kentucky Haunts offers tour of state’s spookiest locations

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist Regarding the matter of reading books about “haunted” places, it’s not been a goal (or ghoul, ha) of mine to read an exhaustive list of books on the matter. I can’t say, honestly, that I believe that paranormal activity is real. However, I am told that in Kentucky, both books and stories about the haunted are quite popular. A few years back, I talked to...

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

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 John Taliaferro Thompson was his U.S. Army rank and name, and he was nicknamed “Tommy...

Kentucky by Heart: When communing with nature, sometimes a freight train really is just a freight train

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Several years back, Bill Bryson authored a book called A Walk in the Woods. In it, he gave the reader a humorous look at him and his friend’s not-ready-for-prime-time attempt to hike a significant section of America’s challenging 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. Fatigue, the elements, and simply being away from home comforts combined to bring extreme irritability...

Kentucky by Heart: Multi-talented Skeeter Davis — a true story about a Kentucky girl making good

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at KyForward May 17, 2017 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Stripping tobacco as a young boy back in the 1960s was never something that excited me, but I had to get used to the fact that we, as a family, would be doing just that every fall in an especially built room inside the outside car garage. I also didn’t get excited about my parents’...

Kentucky by Heart: Visit to Pendleton County Historical Society brings back childhood memories

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist I enjoyed attending the Pendleton County Historical and Genealogical Society’s 25th Anniversary Open House, in Northern Kentucky, recently. The location sits atop a small rise alongside U.S. Highway #27, several miles north of the town of Falmouth. The event was far more than a passing interest for me while taking in the festivities on that warm September day. The...