A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

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: 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: Mike and Wilma Wilson foster spirit of community involvement through theatre

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist For nearly three decades, Mike and Wilma Wilson carried on busy careers as music teachers in the Jefferson County Public School System. A marriage filled with the spirit of community involvement, they also performed as married couple actors in Bardstown’s noted musical drama, The Stephen Foster Story. Additionally (and amazingly), the couple found time to produce...

Kentucky by Heart: The day Thomas Clark helped my son with a social studies question and other tidbits

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at KyForward April 11, 2017 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist During my years teaching fourth grade, students knew that whatever social studies lessons I taught, I would make direct connections to the state of Kentucky. Not only did I see the practice as educationally sound, but it was also a good opportunity to indulge my Bluegrass passion....

Kentucky by Heart: Liberty Elementary ‘purncipal’ Gerry Brooks offers fun relief from classroom stress

Editor’s Note: The following is reprinted column from the August issue of Kentucky Monthly. By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist “Purncipal” Gerry Brooks promotes positive “edjercation” leadership tied in with a steady diet of funny stuff for his teachers at Liberty Elementary School in Lexington. And in recent years, the good-natured frivolity he shares, mostly via social media, has...

Kentucky by Heart: What’s on your reading list? Book choices from Kentuckians around the Commonwealth

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series on what books are popular among Kentuckians. By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist I’m a voracious book reader, always having at least two, and often three, in process. As you might expect, my choices are often about Kentucky or by Kentucky authors. I just finished James Klotter’s amazing biography, Henry Clay: The Man Who Would be President...

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

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 father moved here (United States) because he was looking for a job.” Juana and the rest...

Kentucky by Heart: Providing hope since 1871 and meeting the needs of the young and vulnerable

By Steve Flairty Special to KyForward   It was 1871, six years after the American Civil War; the terrible conflict left an overwhelming number of wives who lost husbands and children who lost fathers. That’s when the good folks at the Methodist Episcopal Church South, in Louisville, came together to form the Widows and Orphans Home. Now known as The Kentucky United Methodist Homes for Children &...

Kentucky by Heart: Gestures of kindness in times of hardship symbolic of so many around Kentucky

It was already late in the week and I wasn’t sure what my next Kentucky by Heart column topic would be. Sometimes, ideas come grudgingly, which means no words move onto paper. When that happens, I get a little nervous. My deadline for Tuesday’s column is on late Sunday night (or early Monday morning if I choose to go that route… but yawn). The fact that I am a slow writer made starting this...

Kentucky by Heart: From the real McCoy to Floyd Collins, forgotten Kentuckians’ interesting stories

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward.com on June 20, 2017 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist When perusing the 15th state’s illustrious history, even Kentucky outsiders recognize such names as Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Boone, Henry Clay, and, of course, Secretariat. All have had a positive national impact and add to its treasured heritage. There are a whole passel of other...

Kentucky by Heart: Lexington entrepreneur Katie Thompson providing unique ‘Kentucky’ experiences

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist After Katie Thompson graduated from Paul Dunbar High School eight years ago, she set off from her hometown of Lexington and lived in a couple of Kentucky’s finest small towns. Katie spent four years in Danville, graduating from Centre College with a degree in history and international relations. From there, she moved to Bardstown to take her first full-time position,...

Kentucky by Heart: Celebrating Kentucky’s own James Bond, and all of the state’s ‘overcomers’

Reading and writing about overcomers from Kentucky is a passion of mine. Overcomers are often fueled by faith and an amazing persistence, along with the capacity to lay feelings of bitterness and self-pity aside. They don’t come “a dime a dozen,” and celebrating their stories, I believe, can inspire others with their struggles. A good place to find such noble people from Kentucky can start with...

Kentucky by Heart: From Lincoln to Ali to Henry Clay, everyone has their favorite colorful Kentuckian

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward.com on July 4, 2017 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Who is your favorite Kentuckian from the annals of history books? Consider a person you find particularly fascinating who was Kentucky-born or, if not, made their mark while living in the state. Your choice may be one of sterling reputation, as mine is…or one of questionable repute—or...

Kentucky by Heart: Historic Keene might not be fancy, but it’s home . . . and always will be

For nice rides in the country, I often take Highway 169 in the central Kentucky part of the Bluegrass area from my home in Woodford County to Jessamine County. The grassy and rolling terrain of the area is one of my favorite scenic tours. Small farms with grazing Thoroughbred horses and cattle, an abundance of pretty homes, and historical stone walls along the roadside make it that way. On that trip,...

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

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, ‘60s, and early ‘70s. Community...