A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: Honoring those who paid ultimate price; celebrating milestones at Wilmore Elementary

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist The date June 6, 1944, will always stand out as iconic in American history. That’s when 156,000 Allied troops, including 73,000 U.S. soldiers and marines, stormed beaches in Normandy, France, and began the final stages of victory over Hitler’s Germany and the Axis Powers, bent on domination of Europe, North Africa, and East Asia. Americans fought bravely, paying...

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,...

Kentucky by Heart: Liberty’s Galilean Home Ministries provides home for children of all ages

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist The compassionate work of the Galilean Home Ministries (GHM), based in Liberty, has been nothing short of awe-inspiring since its establishment in 1969 after Jerry and Sandy Tucker, with a childless marriage to that point and living in Michigan, adopted a baby boy with medical needs and who needed a family. Today, according to its website, the “Galilean Home”...

Kentucky by Heart: Change in location means gardening — and a surprising interest in the weather

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward May 30, 2017 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Starting as a toddler, and for most of my youth, hearing my parents talk about the weather seldom interested me. It didn’t seem to matter to me then that the produce we grew in our gardens and the tobacco crops we raised were so dependent upon cooperating weather. It didn’t dawn...

Kentucky by Heart: Some important options for this weekend — Epicurean Experience, American Creed

By Steve Flairy KyForward columnist A few columns ago, I shared some early information about a charity gala affair, called “Epicurean Experience.” Its purpose is to raise funds for the Kentucky United Methodist Children’s Homes (KyUMH). Details are now being finalized and I’d like to share some of the exciting features for the event this Saturday, April 27, at the new campus at 1115 Ashgrove...

Kentucky by Heart: These guys are deltiologists — meaning they collect postcards — lots of postcards

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist When Carl Howell looks back on his professional work career, a highly successful one, he feels a sense of pride. He served for a period in the state of New York as an FBI agent, and later came home to practice law in his native Hodgenville with his father until the elder Howell’s death in 1983. Carl retired in 2014, ending his long professional tenure at a storied...

Kentucky by Heart: Grieving the loss of a beloved brother with the precious legacy he left behind

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist I don’t know for sure if the wildflower seeds, the kind that come mixed in a straw bale that will hold in moisture after being cast on the readied ground, will sprout and provide a summer of gorgeous blooms. That would be my hope, and I suspect they will. What I do know is that the seeds were a gift bequeathed me out of my brother’s garage as he lay dying in...

Kentucky by Heart: Kentucky is full of interesting topics to write about; sharing 33 of the best

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Finding fresh material to write a weekly column about Kentucky is always a bit of a challenge, but the fuel that makes it work for me is the unabashed passion I feel for such a place as this. Hopefully, the passion connects closely to the adoration my readers have for the Bluegrass State. But alas, I must understand that not all who happen to read Kentucky by Heart...

Kentucky by Heart: As state is abuzz with basketball, some new hoops books to highlight ‘annointed time’

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Basketball is buzzing in Kentucky these days, with both high school and college basketball tournaments in full throttle. Some might call this annual sports season focus as a state birthright… our “anointed time.” Being in the spirit of such mania, I’ve recently read a couple of good hoops books, one a biography on Adolph Rupp, the iconic University of...

Kentucky by Heart: James Duane Bolin pens first in-depth, critical biography of ‘Baron of the Bluegrass’

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist There was a day when collegiate basketball in America was “just a sport,” when college gyms were marginal — often smaller and less attractive than those of today’s high schools — and most followers did so from sources via radio, newspapers, and information from friends. No cable TV, no ESPN, no 24-hour coverage… and March Madness as we know...

Kentucky by Heart: From ‘splittin’ jeans’ to splitting genes, Pendleton County native earned Nobel Prize

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward May 3, 2016 By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Rural Kentucky had a big part to play in the awarding of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. That’s because Dr. Phillip Sharp, who accepted the international award along with Richard J. Roberts, was raised on a tobacco farm near Falmouth, along the Licking River, in Pendleton...

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...