“My favorite kind of social distancing,” Hutcheson said. It’s the ultimate social distancing sport in and around western Kentucky - an activity where you don’t have to mask-up. It’s just you and the fish. David Hutcheson has enjoyed fishing ever since he was a young boy. He said, “My father, David Hutcheson, Sr. was an avid tournament fisherman. In fact, he was key in introducing Mark Menendez, Bassmaster Elite Series Pro and six time Bassmaster qualifier, to fishing.” Hutcheson and Menendez are Paducah Tilghman High School alumni and live in Paducah. They still throw a line in the water from time to time together. Life gets busy.
Hutcheson grew up in Paducah. His dad co-founded Florence and Hutcheson Consulting Engineers, Inc. in 1968. The company is well-known in the Paducah area and grew into one of the most preeminent civil engineering firms in the southeast United States.
The first 12 years of education were spent attending city schools and hanging out with the same knucklehead friends from Clark Elementary, Brazelton Junior High, Paducah Middle School, and PTHS. Hutcheson and his dad shared a passion for learning, an adventurous travel interest, and a love of bass fishing. He spent four years playing in the high school band, one year playing freshman basketball, and his entire twelve years preparing for the honor of being a National Merit Scholar.
Being named a Scholar is one of the highest academic recognitions. The highest achieving students in the National Merit Scholarship Program are designated as National Merit Scholars. To qualify it requires stellar PSAT scores (usually top 50K highest scorers), an outstanding academic record, awards, extracurricular achievements, and leadership positions. A couple of notable scholars from the past include Bill Gates (1973), Jeff Bezos (1982) and Ted Cruz (1988).
During Hutcheson’s high school years he also worked for his dad. Hutcheson, Sr. sold his company in 1981 so he could spend more time with his family, work on land development projects, and other entrepreneurial endeavors. Hutcheson spent time surveying land for one of his dad’s projects, Country Club Estates.
After graduating from high school, Hutcheson attended the University of Louisville on a scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in biology with a minor in political science. He also participated in Greek life on campus. He pledged Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) Alpha Chi (AX) in the fall of ‘85. He served as Public Service Chairman.
The Hutchesons in Southern Illinois
Graduating from U of L was the first step in Hutcheson’s higher education. He returned to Paducah in 1989 and started his first career job at Martin Marietta Energy Systems. It was during this time he started the Master’s program at Murray State University. He graduated with a degree in occupational safety and health with an emphasis on environmental science.
Hutcheson continued to work at Martin Marietta, Lockheed Martin Utility Services, Inc, and United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) in various roles. Next, he became a corporate director at LAN Associates Engineering, Planning, Architecture, Surveying, Inc. and LAN-CON Inc, a subsidiary of LAN Associates as a Vice-President of Operations.
In 2006, Hutcheson and wife Crystal started their own company 5H Technology located on Kentucky Avenue in Paducah. The couple actually met Hutcheson’s sophomore year of high school. They dated from 1985 until 1991 when they were married.
5H Technology was developed specifically to offer high-level environmental management and services in today’s complex markets. Hutcheson said, “Business has been great during COVID-19. Environmental sampling and permitting is essential and has to go on.” Crystal is president of the company and Hutcheson is vice president.
Not only do the Hutchesons work together, they also have three wonderful children together. “Interesting fact, all three are IVF babies,” said Hutcheson. If you don’t know much about IVF technology, it’s a different technique than artificial insemination. Artificial insemination has been around since 1770. IVF is relatively new. The first IVF baby was born in 1978, two hundred years after AI. During AI, the egg is fertilized in the woman’s uterus. In IVF, all the magic happens in the laboratory.
Grant (23) is at U of L and is in the process of applying for Pharmacy Schools. The twins Jack and McCall (18) are seniors at Tilghman. Jack is going to U of L on a UPS Metro Scholarship. He’ll major in nursing with plans to be a CRNA. “McCall has been accepted to 10 schools but can’t make up her mind. She wants to be a veterinarian and is currently interning at Ceglinski Animal Clinic,” said Hutcheson.
In late 2016, Hutcheson suffered a life-threatening, life-altering stroke. “I had a hemangioblastoma, a golf ball sized tumor, on my cerebellum,” he said. It was removed by Dr. Thomas Gruber, a neurosurgeon, at Baptist Health Paducah November 2016. “I’ve had some lasting problems since recovering from the stroke. I had to learn to walk, talk, and eat again. It’s been hard.” He continued, “I can’t write and the right side of my body has been impacted.”
Since the stroke, Hutcheson can still fish. Some of his favorite fishing spots close by are Kentucky and Barkley Lakes, Cumberland, Pickwick, Guntersville, Eufaula, Fork, Beshear, Nolin, Lake X, Green River Reservoir, Laurel, and others. Hutcheson is a Bass fisherman. He’s entered tournaments too such as the Heartland Series, Skeeter Owners, KBF (Kayak Bass Fishing) and BFL (Bass Fishing League). In his opinion, Kentucky Lake has the best fishing around.
Hutcheson enjoys catching tropical fish. For some of the best fishing he’s travelled to Florida, Alaska, Mexico, Louisiana, and the Bahamas. Catches include redfish, snook, flounder, halibut, snapper, mahi mahi, bonefish, and triggerfish. Hutcheson said, “I love eating triggerfish.” If you haven’t had triggerfish, the white meat tastes similar to sweet crab. However, if you’re bitten by a triggerfish, don’t just brush it off. These fish can cause a serious infection that’s ‘triggered’ by a natural poison called Ciguatoxin.
The family has three dogs, Rigby the silky terrier, Chip the rescue dog that’s part chihuahua and part small terrier, and Copper the beagle. For fun, the group loves to travel, though COVID-19 has hampered this activity, fish (of course), hunt (not Crystal), beach it or stay poolside, cook, and eat.
When the twins go to college leaving mom and dad empty nesters, the Hutchesons have big plans. “Our ultimate goal is to do the Great Loop,” said Hutcheson. America’s Great Loop is a system of waterways that encompasses the eastern portion of the U.S. and includes the Atlantic, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, The Great Lakes, the Rideau Canal, and the Mississippi and Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway. It’s estimated that by boating 50 miles a day it will take nine months to complete.
Hutcheson and Crystal recently moved from their home of 15 plus years in Lone Oak to the very familiar westend Paducah. The family lived next door to the Murts. Their children are close in age and have been the best of friends. In fact, Jack will come around the old neighborhood at Christmas time to help the Murts decorate for Christmas. The Hutcheson children are very fine young people and will go on to do great things.
When describing Hutcheson’s perfect day, he said, “It’s forecasted to be 70 degrees, calm and I’m on the water fishing”.
A passion for the weather began at an early age for Jennifer Rukavina Bidwell. At two years old, she realized the potential power of Mother Nature. One afternoon, a thunderstorm blew up in Canton, Ohio. Rukavina’s mother, Madalana decided to take a closer look out a nearby window. With two-year-old Rukavina in tow, while gazing out the window, lightning struck. It was loud. The two-year old began to scream and cry. She was clearly upset by the bolt of lightning. “My mom believes this was the catalyst that made me so afraid of storms,” said Rukavina.
Growing up in Canton, Ohio, Rukavina attended GlenOak High School in Plaintownship. Canton is about 60 miles south of Cleveland. Cleveland is on Lake Erie and an hour from the Canadian border. When Rukavina was younger, she recalls the town being in a tornado path. Most houses had basements, including Rukavina’s home, and there were times when she would sleep in the basement even during ‘general thunderstorms.’ “My mother made the suggestion that I go to the library since I was so afraid of storms and read about it,” said Rukavina.
While at GlenOak, Rukavina participated in choir and was part of an all boys golf team. “I wasn’t always a weather nerd,” she said. In 1997, the girls didn’t have a golf team so she and another girl played on the boys' golf team. “It was a great experience. Everybody on the team were great friends. I even lettered,” she said.
After graduating high school, Rukavina attended college at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. She’s a fifth generation Golden Flash and was encouraged to continue the tradition. She majored in political science with an emphasis on international relations. Rukavina stated there were two classes at Kent State that she liked. One was meteorology and the other aviation. Neither had anything to do with her major. A degree in meteorology didn’t exist at Kent State so she chose to take any weather-related elective available.
If you're unfamiliar with past events at Kent State University, it's unfortunately tied to the May 4, 1970 massacre or Kent State massacre. Four people died and nine were injured at the hands of the Ohio National Guard. This was at the height of the Vietnam War and students on campus had organized a peaceful protest opposing further expansion into neutral Cambodia. The protest turned deadly and was followed by a massive student outcry calling for justice across many U.S. campuses.
It was at Kent State that Rukavina faced her fear of storms. During her four years at the university, she worked at the campus television station as an ‘on air’ weather person. “Once I started covering storms, I gained control over my fears. When I was out in the field, I wasn’t afraid." Rukavina continued, "but if a storm appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the night, I was still scared."
In addition to being a full-time student and weather reporter for the campus television station, Rukavina was very active in Greek organizations. She was a member of Alpha Phi sorority and served her senior year as president. As part of her legacy, she created a philanthropic project for Kids of Shriner’s called the Teddy Bear Treatment.
“My grandfather was a Shriner and he would drive sick kids to hospitals and burn victims' units. It was something we could do together. It was special,” said Rukavina. Her grandfather, O. Wayne Matter was older and lived only a few years after the project started. Rukavina said it was nice to have something so important to share.
After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree, Rukavina spent the next two years at Mississippi State earning a Master’s Degree. While studying, she worked part-time for the local CBS station filling in on weekends as their weather person.
Shortly after graduating, Rukavina landed her first full-time career job at a television station that had a DMA (Designated Market Area) Nielsen ranking of 75. That television station was in Paducah, Kentucky. She accepted the position as weather anchor in 2004 for the NBC affiliate WPSD News Channel 6. The DMA is a three market split between Paducah (NBC), Harrisburg, Illinois (ABC), and Cape Girardeau, Missouri (CBS). According to Nielson rankings 2020-2021, the split market is now ranked 84.
The size of the market was a great career opportunity for Rukavina. It was also where she met husband Jeff Bidwell. Interestingly, Bidwell didn’t have a great first impression of Rukavina. On her first day on the job, she had an intense migraine so it wasn’t the best day for introductions. As time passed, the two found they had a lot in common. Rukavina said, “We had the same group of friends. We both enjoyed going to Murray State ballgames, and we both really liked sports.”
Rukavina is a ‘big’ Cleveland Browns fan. Growing up just outside of Cleveland, sporting orange and brown was almost required. “Jeff likes to plan surprise trips to Cleveland games,” said Rukavina. “I’ll wake up on Saturday mornings with a cup of hot coffee sitting beside me next to the bed and he’ll tell me to get up and pack a bag.” The last time Bidwell surprised her with a trip to see the Browns was for the season opener at the new stadium. “I got the full experience, including tailgating,” she said. It was one of the more memorable trips and she still smiles when discussing the adventure.
Another trip for the books was Alaska. Rukavina and husband Jeff shared a trip with a group of 'soon to be' friends through Holiday Vacations sponsored by the television station. Most of their travel companions were in their 60’s and 70’s. “It was so memorable. It forced me to relax and there was so much to see and do.”
The couple married in 2016 and between them have four kids. Jeremy Andrew is Rukavina’s son and will turn 15 years old soon. When Rukavina learned she was pregnant, she had two names picked out, depending on whether she had a son or daughter. Both represented names of hurricanes. Andrew for the category 5 storm that struck the Bahamas, south Florida, and Louisiana in 1992 and Camille which was the second most intense cyclone to hit the U.S. in 1969. Bidwell has three children: Kate (16), Ryan (14), and Elliott (12).
A little over two years ago, WPSD chose not to renew Rukavina’s contract. For the first time, she found herself unemployed. The company signed Bidwell a month before letting Rukavina go. “I felt stuck,” she said. The company is known for having its employees sign non-compete agreements and Rukavina's non-compete was for a year. “I was bewildered at being let go,” she said. The company gave her a 30 day severance. “A big majority of the household income came from my job,” said Rukavina. After the initial shock, Rukavina took some time, decompressed, and planned her next move.
Opportunities started to present themselves. The Weather Channel showed interest in Rukavina’s participation in their Earth Science Series. She had a minor role in season one with a larger role planned for season two. The season is slated to air early spring. Bidwell had a side gig delivering flowers during the busy season for a local wholesaler. Rukavina thought she could do that too. So, for four months, this is exactly what she did.
Purchase Ford in Mayfield reached out to Rukavina. She started shooting commercials for the dealership. Rukavina said they were very supportive when she was ‘let go’ from the television station and wanted to help in some small way.
As Rukavina reflected, she recalled her love of plants and gardening when she was a teenager. Working after school for a plant nursery in Canton, she really fell in love with the industry. As an adult, she started with outdoor pot designs. While delivering flowers in Paducah, she decided to start a floral business.
Part of the preparation for owning a flower shop included training with a Ft. Campbell florist on designing indoor flower arrangements. “It came naturally, it felt good, and it wasn’t hard to pick up,” said Rukavina. The Bidwells invested in three local floral businesses; The Paducah Flower Company, The Murray Flower Company, and Jeannette’s Mayfield Flower Shop, an 88-year-old pre-existing business. “The goal is to have flower shops all over this end of the state,” said Rukavina.
The Paducah Flower shop opened in February 2020 just before COVID-19 shuttered businesses. “We had just opened and were hardly able to get product in from the wholesaler. Local florists were closing because they had no product,” said Rukavina. The Bidwells closed shop for two weeks. “March and April were very tough.” she said. During this time, she didn’t pay herself a salary and only used the income from sales to pay employees, rent, utilities, basic business needs.
The three shops now have 10 employees, two are part-time designers that came out of retirement. One is Betty Hall, former owner of the Green Door in Paducah. The shops have fresh-cut flowers, plants, chimes, and a variety of gift items.
Rukavina said she doesn’t miss the late hours working at the television station. Having a ‘normal work schedule” has its benefits. Her son Jeremy has been ‘working out’ with the Paducah Tilghman High School baseball team. “He’s played travel ball since he was a kid. He’s a freshman now.” said Rukavina.
Rukavina participates in the baseball boosters at PTHS and helps with fundraising. These are things she wouldn’t get to do if she still worked at the television station.
Being a big outdoorsy person, Rukavina prefers activities that take place in the fresh air. She’s especially fond of the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area located in Kentucky and Tennessee. “I love LBL. It’s my quiet space where I can relax, exercise...it’s a feel good place for me,” she said.
The time Rukavina took to regroup and reset after leaving the television station was very Zen. She took note of the hours spent working late and the time it took away from family life. The weather is still very much front and center for Rukavina. She has a Facebook page called Jennifer Rukavina - Meteorologist and Storm Specialist https://www.facebook.com/MeteorologistJenniferRukavina with over 37,000 followers. Season two of The Weather Channel’s Weird Earth Series is about to unleash its season opener. And, the flower shops are another way to keep her grounded and in tune with mother earth. Keeping the projects flowing is what makes her tick. I’m sure there’s much more to come.
In two-and-a-half months, Cherika Johnson will graduate from the University of Cincinnati School of Pharmacy in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Having classes online since COVID has been difficult,” said Cherika. “I had a few months online and then started clinical rotations at local pharmacies and hospitals. Some externships were virtual while others were in-person wearing PPE.” Since the pandemic, Cherika has performed rapid testing on patients and administered the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to eligible patients that live in the Cincinnati area.
This is the way Cherika does life...Fast and Furious. Friends and family joke about her activity level. She’s always busy and sometimes too busy.
Born in Paducah, KY, Cherika has strong family ties to the area. Parents, Mario and Angela Johnson were high school sweethearts and graduated from Paducah Tilghman High School. “Almost all of my family lives in Paducah,’ she said. “I have a brother that’s two-and-a-half years younger than me and lots of cousins.”
Cherika’s family are parishioners at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Paducah. The historic church was established three-quarters of a century ago and landed in its current place in the late 70’s. Cherika’s dad is a deacon there. The family remains faithful servants of the Lord and part of the flock shepherded by Pastor Dr. Calvin Cole, Sr. and First Lady Fannie Cole.
The Johnsons moved to West Paducah when Cherika was in middle school. While attending high school, the main focus was academics. She was a member of the National Honor Society and President of FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America) her senior year. During her junior and senior years, Cherika worked part-time at GoPerformance & Fitness SportsPlex spending the summer before going to college working at Rick’s Pharmacy at 3001 Schneidman Road.
After graduating from Heath High School in 2013, Cherika left for the University of Kentucky in Lexington to study nutrition. “I changed majors several times,” she said. “After taking a general nutrition class, I realized how much I liked it and how well it would enhance my knowledge as a future pharmacist.” Cherika said she always knew she wanted a career in healthcare.
Some people have a natural drive and work ethic that presses them to push the envelope. Outside of regular college classes, Cherika conquered more than academia. She was a RA (Residential Advisor) for three years as an undergraduate. Cherika served two years as President of the National Residence Hall Honorary and organized the largest UK residency hall banquet both years. She was a member of the first black Greek letter sorority in the country Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and served as the treasurer, chaplain, and co-service chair.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. began with nine college students on the campus of Howard University in 1908. Howard University is a private, federally chartered historically black research university in Washington D.C. Since the sorority’s humble beginnings, it has expanded into a worldwide organization of nearly 300,000 members. The sorority is empowered by sisterhood and commitment to a servant leadership domestically and internationally. Vice President of the United States Soror Kamala Harris is a member of the dynamic sisterhood. With renewed vigor, this organization is making things happen.
Cherika understands the concept of servanthood and the idea of making the world a better place. She’s a person that forgoes spring break to help those in need. During her freshman year, she opted for an alternative service break trip to Washington D.C. to help the homeless.
After graduating in 2017, Cherika was accepted to the University of Cincinnati School of Pharmacy. “School was difficult; we learn everything that medical students learn but with more emphasis on how the various treatment options/medications for disease states work in the body and how they can affect the body.”
During all four academic years in the professional program, Cherika worked as a Kroger Pharmacy Intern. “While in pharmacy school, we were encouraged to work as interns,” she said. “I also worked for one year at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center as an Inpatient Pharmacy Intern.” Ultimately, being able to work in two very different settings of pharmacy care, Cherika preferred the hospital over retail pharmacy. She hopes to work in either a hospital or primary care setting after graduating.
“The role of a pharmacist in healthcare is changing,” said Cherika. “In many states, pharmacists work with physicians to decide best treatment options or will manage certain patients with disease states like diabetes or hypertension.” This type of care is Ambulatory Care Pharmacy.
Cherika likes working alongside physicians and being involved in the ‘continuity of care’ for patients. “My best friend was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare childhood cancer, at 16. She fought her cancer for over four years and passed away in 2015”
For this reason and others, Cherika’s passion includes more involvement with patient care as the driving force in her decision to seek the new direction as a pharmacist. Losing your best friend during adolescence is shocking and confusing. Being involved in not only the medication aspect of patient care but the more personal approach to treating the whole person is where Cherika believes she can make an impact.
For fun, Cherika enjoys traveling, trying out new restaurants, visiting museums, and working jigsaw puzzles. Two of her favorite travel destinations are Spain and Australia. She also likes to pack a punch at the local boxing gym. And it’s no wonder, Dad Mario Johnson is a performance coach and has always been on the cutting edge of helping local athletes improve their skills. The Johnson family embraces the love of sports.
Cherika is a hardworking, dedicated, and motivated young woman who enjoys exercising in the morning, making a positive impact on patient lives, and hanging out with friends, family and her dog. As she prepares for graduation in 2021 as a PharmD candidate, her sights are set on North Carolina. Her ideal career involves collaborating with physicians on best treatment options for patients when prescribing medications for various illnesses. Life is just beginning and what a beautiful life.
"As the eagles soar and the birdies fly, this golfing duo share days gone by"
February is here and it's brought a friend, old man winter. With the mix of snow and ice, the frigid temperatures continue to keep its grip on middle America and the Northeast. At a time when COVID-19 continues to affect our way of life, a sudden blast of arctic air adds to the isolation and uneventful daily routine. Adding insult to injury, Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter on February 2 after seeing his shadow. Everyday DOES seem like groundhog day.
Same day same way. We eat, sleep, and pass the time scrolling through our phones or watching reruns on television. There are so many streaming services, limitless cable channels, numerous movies on demand, the list goes on. It's time for a little romance, we think. It's time to forget our troubles, we believe. It's time to make a detour and escape reality, we silently shout. Suddenly, you land on the Hallmark channel.
Hallmark movies are our guilty pleasures with fairytale endings. Most movies are easy to predict, and the plots are quite similar, but we don't care. The problems are identifiable. And nine times out of ten it’s about lost love.
These romantic trysts are mainly set in small town USA where traditional values are the cornerstone to long-lasting relationships. Maybe there’s a death, a bitter divorce or possibly bad choices. The point is, something good will come out of something not so good.
This love story dates back more than 60 years in small town USA Ridgely, Tennessee. If you’re unfamiliar with this community of southern folks, it’s located in the northwest part of the state and minutes away from Reelfoot Lake State Park. After the 2010 census, population was recorded at 1,795 residents.
One of the perks growing up in this area was enjoying Reelfoot Lake. The lake holds a lot of appeal to those in the surrounding community. As recorded history states, a massive earthquake along the New Madrid Fault in 1811-1812 produced the formation of the 20 miles long and seven miles wide natural wonder. The upheaval caused the land on the east side of the Mississippi River to sink, causing a hole to form and water to rush in. And, the old wives' tale circulating suggests those living on the land got swallowed up by the earth never to be seen again.
If you haven't been to this neck of the woods, it's worth a visit. The lake is primed for fishing, boating, hunting and once upon a time, sunbathing on the sandy beaches.
The setting is the early 50’s when life was simple. In Ridgely, many were farmers, factory workers, or employed by one of the local small businesses on the downtown square. Parents didn’t have the same fears they do today. Children would leave in the morning to play outside and would show up for supper as it turned dark. Most of the children’s activities revolved around playing street ball, tag in the cotton fields or playing on the school yards playground. Games included football, basketball, jumping rope, hopscotch, maybe even a little kick the can.
Margie Davis Fields and David Fields’ friendship goes back to this simple time. The two started off as playmates. David said, “Two childhood friends had the time of their life.”
“Margie was the tomboy and loved hanging out and playing ball with me and my pals.” said David. It was more of a sibling friendship than any that resembled a physical attraction. “During the early years, Margie Gale was like my little sister and I dated EVERY single one of her friends,” chuckled David.
Before entering first grade, David, his sister, and mom moved to Memphis, Tennessee. Since David’s grandparents lived in Ridgely, he would spend each summer and winter vacationing in Ridgely at their home. Luckily for Margie and David, the relationship continued to be nurtured throughout their high school years.
During the 50’s, Ridgely had as much to offer as every other little town in America. In fact, Reelfoot Lake had three of the best beaches around. Kids and their families would go to Sunkist, Edgewater and Magnolia beaches to enjoy swimming, water slides (playground slides attached to floating docks), sandy beaches, and concession stands. Kids could get Coney dogs, ice-cold Coca-Cola, cotton candy, or any tasty carnival treat. Any kid would love to live in this time and place.
Margie and David remained friends through high school. “We went off to college, married another, and started families...and our story should have ended here,” said David. Fifty years later, David succumbed to social media pressures and joined Facebook. David isn't proud of this. He’s never been fond of computers and only jumped on the internet if it was necessary. Obviously, Facebook wasn’t necessary but for their love story, it’s a good thing he did.
“Little did I know my life was about to change,” said David. Margie had been on a trip to Florida with several of her girlfriends from high school and posted pictures of the vacation on Facebook. The pictures represented a trip down memory lane for David and he thought, ‘I know those girls’ so he posted a comment to one of the pictures. “As luck would have it, Margie Gale was the one that responded and we decided to meet for dinner,” said David.
The two hit it off right away. The conversation flowed and the good old days were reminisced. “Fifty years had passed and that same ‘little sister’ rapidly became my ‘little sweetheart.’ We dated for two years and decided to complete this Hallmark movie and get married. It didn’t snow but it sure was a happy ending.” said David.
This particular Hallmark movie, not surprisingly, ends like all the rest that have come before it. The two enjoy hanging out together and doing much of the same thing like golf, and golf, and golf. The perfect ending for these two is an eagle on the 18th hole. Ba Da Ba!
It’s hard to shine when the light is so bright all around you. It’s one of those, “You know you’re from Paducah when’ moments as someone mentions the Shumpert family name. Their legacy precedes them and rightfully so. 'Making the cut' in this talented clan could be overwhelming. But, Chelsey Shumpert carved out her niche to find her place in athletic royalty.
Everything the family does is a competition from athletics to singing contests. Just ask Chelsey’s parents, Ann and Junior Shumpert. Both played sports in high school and college and still compete on some level even today.
But the thing about the Shumperts is they leave it all out on the playing field and only bring back love and support to their home. The family is truly special and ‘all in’ for Chelsey.
Chelsey has always been very passionate about sports. Her focus for many years was finding the athletic activity she excelled in the most. “I was best at basketball and had a passion for it.” So, playing hoops became the dream.
Since seventh grade, basketball has been the focal point. During her four years at Paducah Tilghman High School, she was MVP and part of the All-Purchase girls basketball team. Chelsey held the title of most points ever (men or women) in the region with a mind-blowing 3,000 points during her high school basketball career. That record stood until 2017. In addition to personal success, Chelsey helped the Lady Tornadoes become district champs for three years running.
Other than playing on three different basketball travel teams during her high school years, Chelsey stayed in close proximity to her family. “I didn’t really do much besides hang with friends. The majority of my time was spent with my sisters. They made it fun for me.” Chelsey has two sisters, Natalie and Iesha and a boat load of cousins. There was always plenty of family to keep the games going.
It’s no surprise, Chelsey was offered a basketball scholarship to the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. When discussing collegiate basketball, Chelsey said the practices were ‘long and hard.’ It’s a whole new level of play. “It was something I eventually adjusted to but it never got easy.”
All the hard practice paid off. The teams Chelsey played on continued to win. While in college, the 'Scrappy Mocs' won three Southern State Championships and were a top 25 NCAA team. And if being awesome at basketball wasn't enough, Chelsey made the Dean’s list too. She received her Bachelor's Degree and majored in college sports and leisure.
After graduating from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Chelsey pursued a Master’s Degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee 2017-2018. She would play her fifth year of college and continue to excel. During this time, Union won a championship ring - Gulf South Conference, the NCAA South Region Tournament Championship, and made it to the Elite Eight. Chelsey continued to receive awards such as Player of the Year, Tournament's Most Outstanding Player and many others.
“One of my dreams was to play overseas,” said Chelsey. Because of her efforts, the dream came true and she became a Nottingham Wildcat playing in the WBBL (Women’s Basketball British League).
Chelsey’s first season of play (2018-2019) had its highs and lows. From a basketball perspective, it was a high. She was the leading scorer her first year. The low was missing her family.
“My first year I got homesick. I was a rookie and it was eight months straight.” She spent much of the summer of 2019 in the states and was able to visit her parents and other family members. Being able to catch up and be around her supportive family helped Chelsey rally the troops for the upcoming season.
The 2019-2020 season would prove to be a difficult one. During this season, COVID interrupted play and Chelsey experienced her third knee injury.
“COVID has changed a lot about practices and games. I could have two games one week and not another for three weeks. As many know, regular routines are needed for the body to function. The recovery was off so it gets tough,” said Chelsey.
Players have to get tested three times a week which cuts into practice time. Chelsey said, “I’ve been on lockdown for four months. There’s no outside activity besides the gym. So, it’s about mental space as well.”
Regarding Chelsey’s injuries, she said, “I’ve had injuries in every level of play. Injuries have occurred in both my ACL and MCL.” The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) keeps the shinbone from sliding forward and the MCL (medial collateral ligament) keeps the femur from sliding side to side. Her last injury while playing professionally was a lateral meniscus tear to the knee joint. “I still battle the lateral tear because I just came back from it,” she said.
With some hesitancy, Chelsey said COVID has provided a positive change in the way she approaches living a healthier lifestyle. In a recent interview with Sportsbeat, Chelsey discussed cousin Mookie Betts and the influential role he’s played as of late in her personal and professional life. Betts is a World Series two-time champion and right fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Since COVID, Betts has been more available. Chelsey reached out to him for advice and he made some solid recommendations. “I’m taking better care of my body, eating good, and staying ready for the moment.” She’s investing time and effort to pursue a couple of new interests. Activities such as practicing yoga for mind, body and spirit and working puzzles to keep from going stir crazy.
As far as her love for basketball, Chelsey said, “I love that I can be myself and do what I love to do everyday. With basketball, I’m always competing at a high level and being able to reach some of my weekly and monthly goals makes me love what I do even more.”
When it comes to league play, Chelsey said she’s keeping her options open. “I like being in a different country, learning more about myself, and meeting new people.” She lives in Nottingham England and visits London and Manchester often. Unfortunately, the pandemic limits her ability to sight-see.
Chelsey is in her third season with the Nottingham Wildcats and the hope is for more points on the board and more championships in her back pocket. This hometown hero and incredibly focused young woman will achieve all her dreams, no doubt about it.
Dana Sowash Edwards and husband Duane are making it in this crazy world as a team
Dana Sowash Edwards has always been an incredibly responsible young woman. She’s the girl in high school that earned her own money, helped tend to her younger brother, and was there for her older siblings and parents when needed. As the tables turn, Edwards’ children are there for her offering words of encouragement and support as she tackles career, family, and personal goals. It’s one of those lovely blessings bestowed upon those who put positive energy out in the world and in turn receive it back.
As it stands, Edwards is on the cutting edge of a drug development company that collaborates with leading pharmaceutical and biotech corporations. Avillion LLP partners with companies across the globe providing financial and swift solutions to get products to market. It’s a very efficient organization established in 2012 and based in London England. Edwards fits perfectly into this environment as a tenacious and hard-working young woman. Her efforts are a testament to her true character.
Edwards was a student in the McCracken County School systems K-12 in Paducah, Kentucky. While attending Lone Oak High School she played softball for the high school team and played on an American Softball Association (ASA) team winning the 16U state title in 1996. In addition to academics and extracurricular activities, she was always juggling two or three part-time jobs.
After graduating high school in 1997, Edwards attended Union University in Jackson, Tennessee earning a Bachelor of Science degree in social work. In 2001, she continued to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, Tennessee and received a Master's Degree in social work with a concentration in clinical practice. As in the earlier years, keeping money flowing was a must, so she continued to hold down two jobs to make ends meet.
During Edwards' last year of school in Memphis, she participated in an internship program with Youth Villages, a nonprofit organization that helps treat emotionally troubled children and their families. Upon graduating she was hired full-time at the Department of Preventive Medicine at UT Health Science Center in Memphis. as a Research Specialist in the Outcomes Evaluation and Research Department. Edwards worked this position as she pursued her master’s degree.
As life and career advanced, tragedy struck the family. Edwards’ niece was killed in a car accident and the family encouraged her to move back to Paducah. “My niece died when my daughter, Mia was 12 days old. My family thought it would be helpful to have my new baby girl around to help ease some of the grief. I didn’t want to leave Memphis but I did it for them,” said Edwards.
Upon returning to her hometown, Edwards accepted a position at Four Rivers Clinical Research under Dr. Bent Ibata. For the next 10 years, she stayed in Paducah.
Four Rivers Clinical Research, located at the Mercy Health Medical Pavilion, conducts clinical trials for various pharmaceutical companies to discover new treatment options. Edwards began as a research coordinator and gradually climbed the corporate ladder. She was promoted to Lead Clinical Research Coordinator and finally as Director of the organization after the departure of Dr. Ibata.
In addition to career, Edwards participated in Leadership Paducah Class #26. She was a three-year board member of Family Service Society. This nonprofit organization provides help to families in McCracken/Paducah that need assistance with basic needs such as food, clothing, and other essentials. She also served as a volunteer orientation trainer for the American Red Cross.
After living in Paducah for over a year, Edwards made a friend on the internet. Duane Edwards was soon to play a key role in her life. The two chatted via the web for some time before deciding to meet in person. “Our first in-person meeting was in the Memphis airport when I was traveling for work.” said Edwards. The two struck up a friendship and started officially dating in 2009. After a two-year courtship, they got engaged and married in 2012.
“It’s funny,” said Edwards, “We later found out we had a mutual friend that tried setting us up on a blind date a few years earlier. The same friend, along with his wife sang at our wedding.”
After living and working in Paducah for 10 years, Edwards was offered an opportunity in Nashville, Tennessee. The family moved in 2017 where Edwards worked for a Site Management Organization (SMO)/Contract Research Organization (CRO) called Sarah Cannon/HCA Research Institute. SCRI formed in 2004 as a joint venture between Tennessee Oncology and HCA Healthcare. The research organization performs community clinical trials in oncology, gastroenterology, cardiology, and other therapeutic areas.
Edwards was responsible for starting, building, restructuring, and maintaining cardiovascular research programs at several HCA Healthcare hospitals across the country for both medical devices and pharmaceuticals. HCA operates 168 hospitals and over 2,000 sites of care and is based out of Nashville.
After leaving SCRI, Edwards went to work in her current role at Avillion LLP. She has a home office and travels extensively for clinical trials. Over the past year, COVID has really altered Edwards’ work routine. ”Because of travel restrictions across the country, my travel schedule was super slow in 2020.” Edwards admits there have been positive outcomes from the restrictions placed on the world due to the pandemic. She said, “Spending more time at home with my family has been really nice. I’m thankful for it.”
As a Senior Clinical Trial Liaison Manager, Edwards' career has given her the ability to work on many clinical trials in many disease states. One area she hasn’t dipped her toe in is infectious disease. In fact, her aunt and uncle were two of the first in western New York State to receive the monoclonal antibodies therapy that helps immunocompromised patients better fight the effects of COVID. Thankfully, Chris and Sheryl Balisteri were able to lessen their symptoms with the treatment and stay out of the hospital. Their story made the Buffalo News.
There are perks other than a career to living in Nashville. Edwards said, “It’s a big city with a small town feel.” She said they live in Williamson County and the school systems are top-notch. Edwards has four children: Mia (13), Carter (11), Tyson (6), and Miles (4). Mia likes school, friends, modeling and acting. Edwards said, “Mia enjoys working hard and making her own money too.” Carter is a dear, sweet boy much like Edwards. And the boys, Tyson and Miles are active in sports and other activities.
“There’s lots of entertainment for the kids.” said Edwards. The family enjoys everything that Nashville has to offer such as hiking trails, visiting parks, and frequenting museums. “We have a great church family too. And, we’ve made lots of friends,” said Edwards.
One of the family’s most favorite things to do is travel. “I’m very passionate about exploring the world.” Edwards said. “Our goal is to buy a vacation home in another country when we retire. So, we’re visiting as many as we can now.”
”We are huge beach people too.” said Edwards. “We’ve been to Jamaica, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Barbados. I’ve been to Trinidad and Tobago. We’ve also been to England, Ireland, Canada and have plans to visit Grenada soon.”
There’s more to this vacation home plan than meets the eye. Edwards said, “My ultimate goal is to be able to offer a place for other families to vacation with their kids for free. I never got to vacation growing up because we couldn’t afford it.” She continued, “ I’m sad that I don’t have those memories with my family. I want to see others have those memories. I’d like to offer a vacation home to families that otherwise couldn’t afford one.”
With four children, a budding career, and an MBA in the works, Edwards keeps a very busy schedule. She and Duane tackle this crazy life together. Edwards said, “We’re master jugglers.” Duane’s position as a Safety and Operations Manager requires lots of SkyMiles too. Edwards said, “We’re partners in life.” It takes two to make this family run.
The children are Edwards’ greatest cheerleaders. They offer encouraging words and share with mom how proud they are of her accomplishments. Mia is especially proud. “I try to keep everyone on a schedule, get them where they need to be, and get to my job done with the highest quality. I’m glad my daughter gets to see that she doesn’t have to choose family or career. She can have both if she works hard,” said Edwards.
When asked about career goals Edwards said, “I’m so blessed to have made it this far in my career. There was a time when you didn’t see many women working for sponsor companies. I was fortunate to have women before me take their time to train, mentor, and believe in me. I want to continue to work hard and share my knowledge with others.”
Edwards’ idea of the perfect day includes, ‘Sleeping past 6 am and having nothing to do at all. No work. No practices. No games. Just a day of nothing. Sounds amazing.’ And, well-deserved.
Cruising Cardinal Point at 28th and H.C. Mathis Drive was ‘the big thing’ to do as a teenager before smartphones and social media. It was a combination of the ride, the flirt, and warm summer nights. If you watched the classic movie, American Graffiti with Richard Dreyfus, Ron Howard, and a host of big name celebrities, it wasn’t too far off point. It was a small town in the USA, tunes on the radio, and the reality that life was just getting started.
Though the movie was set in 1962, not much had changed in 20 years. There was the introduction of MTV. The 80's proved itself to be quite the fashion statement with parachute pants and mullets. Music artists included Madonna, U2, and the Rolling Stones. And a new form of dance called Hip Hop popped on the scene.
As the story goes, two best friends, Tammy Waggoner McKinney and Keri Gill McKinney were circling the parking lot at ‘the point’ when they stopped to introduce themselves to a group of guys. The two Paducah Community College (PCC) students were very interested in two particular young men. In fact, it was twin brothers Scott and Todd McKinney. Later, this flirtatious impromptu drive-by would result in two long-time best friends marrying identical twins and becoming forever sister-in-laws.
Tammy moved to Lone Oak when she was five years old. Most people in this tight knit community grew up together attending the same elementary, junior high, and high school. One might say, these are the ties that bind.
At Lone Oak High School, Tammy played the trumpet in the marching band. “The band director, Gary Crisp, sure knew how to teach and write winning competition pieces,” said Tammy. Much of her love for the marching band could be attributed to the unique opportunity to travel and the over-the-top performances. While Tammy was in high school, they marched in the Disney World Parade, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., and attended several competitions in Florida. She also participated in the Annual Staff and the Beta Club.
After graduating from high school in 1982, Tammy spent her first two years of college at PCC, now West Kentucky Community & Technical College. During this time she worked part-time at J.C. Penney and spent summers at Paducah Bank. It was her sophomore year that she met Scott.
Once Tammy received her associates degree, she transferred to Murray State University. After graduating with a marketing degree, Scott and Tammy got engaged.
Scott didn’t propose by having a plane skywrite ‘will you marry me’ or display a banner from its tail. It was a simple proposal with a lot of heart. Scott got down on one knee at Tammy’s home. The two went for a quiet dinner. Then followed-up with a glass of champagne at Scott’s parents house for a final toast. Family is everything to the McKinneys.
Wedding bells rang December 26, 1987. “Yes, we were crazy for choosing the day after Christmas to get married,” said Tammy. Crazy or not, it was a honeymoon in Vegas! How perfect is that. Tammy said she likes life big, loud, and full of excitement.
Shortly after being married, the family started to grow. The first of three sons was Ryan, now 31. After Ryan was born, Tammy stayed home until he turned one. After his first birthday, she went to work for Page Enterprise.
Everyone in Paducah remembers the royals of the local fast food chains, Jim and Dorothy Page and son Tony. They owned seven restaurants; Noble Park Dairy Queen, Griff’s Burger Bar, Church’s Chicken, Pizza Inn, two Ponderosas, and El Chico. Tammy was the office manager and bookkeeper for four of the seven.
While working for the Pages, Tammy and Scott welcomed two more sons into the world, Blake, now 28 and Zach, 26. The couple decided Tammy should stay-at-home with the kids until Zach entered kindergarten. After which, Tammy worked for the McCracken County Schools as a substitute teacher. She was later hired as an assistant kindergarten teacher and remained in that role for eleven years.
In 2014, Scott was offered a position at USEC’s Portsmouth, Ohio plant. It was the second time he had been courted by the corporation to help run the operation. Since their youngest Zach was graduating high school, the time was right. In 2016, the government shutdown the Ohio plant, so it was off to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The nuclear power plant in Tennessee is located in the far eastern part of the state, 25 miles from Knoxville, and at the base of the Appalachian mountains.
“We’ve settled into our Knoxville life,” said Tammy. “We find ourselves loving the mountains, our church family, and new friendships. We’ll always be Kentucky Wildcat fans and will always love Paducah.”
Tammy said, “It hasn't been easy making friends after 40. The boys kept us busy all the time with school, activities, and friends." The McKinneys were always involved with the boy's friend's parents in some form or fashion. It’s the empty nest syndrome times three. No kids. No church family. New town. The transfer was rocky at first but now its home.
The boys have their careers and two of three are married. Tammy said, “Our boys got married in reverse order.” Zach, the youngest is a mechanical engineer living in Lexington, Kentucky and married to Alex. Blake is married to Kierstyn, lives in Lexington, and is a computer engineer. Ryan, the oldest, is a chemical engineer at Westlake Chemical in Calvert City and is in a relationship with girlfriend Lizzie.
The McKinneys love to get together as one big family and travel. Their last ‘big’ family trip was to Banff Canada. “What a beautiful place,” said Tammy. “We hiked, white water rafted, visited the Glacier Ice Fields…it had the most beautiful lakes and the bluest water ever.”
The family gets together every year and rents a house for the CMA (Country Music Association) Fest in Nashville, Tennessee. They spend four nights and four days in the Music City listening to live country music performances, meet and greets, and exclusive artists experiences. The 2020 event was canceled, however, this year it looks like a go! “The best part of these trips is being with the boys and their girls,” said Tammy.
Tammy and Scott do find time to vacation, just the two of them. Their favorite trip of all time was visiting Israel. “To walk where Jesus walked and see historical places in the Bible was eye opening.” said Tammy. There have always been regular trips to Destin, Florida. Now, that they’re around the mountains, lakes, and hiking trails, they’ve found a new place to explore. “We’ve always been an ‘on the go’ couple,” said Tammy. So, why stop now?
They’re in the beginning stages of building a place of refuge. Nestled away in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, Tammy and Scott are building a cabin. It will be used for vacationing and as a rental. In addition to the cabin, they bought a Jeep. “We bought it so during COVID we could drive through the creeks and trails in the mountains of Knoxville.” said Tammy.
Since COVID, things have been different. There’s not as much travel and Tammy hasn’t been home to Paducah to see her parents in a while. “Both of my parents are immunocompromised and they don’t get out and go anywhere,” said Tammy. “They haven’t gotten out for family events either.” She’s looking forward to coming home soon to give them a big hug.
The family hasn’t been untouched by COVID. Tammy’s sister, Stephanie was one of the first to be sick during the pandemic and was on a respirator for eight days. “It was the scariest eight days. Stephanie was in the ICU with COVID in Indianapolis. She does have some lasting effects from the virus but not too serious.”
When asked what Tammy’s ideal day would be she said, “I’d start with a dose of God and Jesus, read the Bible, and have a daily devotional. If it was a Tuesday, I’d be volunteering at Random Acts of Flowers. It’s where volunteers arrange flowers and distribute them to nursing homes and hospitals to patients that don’t get visitors. Then, I’d go to lunch with my girlfriends, work in the afternoon at my little part-time job at the golf course, and spend the evening with Scott.”
Tammy has a smile a mile wide and a strong faith that gets her through the tough times. As long as she has Jesus, family, and travel time...she’s good to go!