A tomato will blush when it's starting to ripen. These heirloom tomatoes will be ready for harvest anywhere between a week to 20 days.
There's nothing more beautiful and alluring than a garden rich in color and full of purpose. It’s a love of the earth, the seasons, and watching things grow. Gardens hold memories of days gone by and possibilities for the future. They can nourish our bodies and our souls, showering our minds with peace and tranquility. "I got my love of gardening through my grandparents," said Holly Roberts Walker.
It’s those memories of summers past on her grandparent's farm that ignited the love of gardening. Reminiscing about those days when the cousins would come for a visit to play, Holly shared one of her favorite recollections. Upon entering the carefully plowed field, each cousin would find a spot in front of a plant and pick their favorite red, ripe tomato. The first bite of the sweet vegetable candy was worth a little dirt in the shoes. Holly said she could sit there for hours eating the tomatoes right off the vine and talking with her cousins. It's a special remembrance and one that remained a driving force in her life.
Holly has spent most of her adult life in and around western Kentucky. She's an artist, a businesswoman, an entrepreneur, and a master gardener. Known for her talents, she’s created this amazing world within the city limits of Paducah. Right outside her backyard is a mystical place that serves a greater purpose. It’s a garden developed for sustainability. Holly said, "The goal is to have food."
It started with a marriage proposal from Holly’s high school sweetheart, Eric Walker. In 2012, the two married and one day later bought a house. It didn’t take long to design the first four beds of the garden. In 2013, it was erected.
The tour started on the new deck. All of the special touches in and around the deck express feelings of comfort, beauty, renewal, and hope. Comfort is felt throughout the space. Bright, fluffy cushions on the chairs. The outdoor table is placed strategically under a cooling fan to the side and a soft glowing light overhead. Jasper the Jack Russell’s comfy, cozy bed is at the foot of the couch. Beauty abounds in the nooks and crannies with small green plants, potted flowers, scented herbs, and small homemade treasures.
Everything in the space signifies hope and renewal. Hope for a brighter tomorrow and renewal for fresh starts. Watching plants grow from seeds and experiencing new life sprout from the earth is a beautiful thing.
After leaving the deck, a stroll down the backside of the house revealed plants first conceived years ago, plants lovingly sewn that continue to produce. Holly said, "On the side of the house, beets, turnips, radishes, tomatoes, and cucumbers come back every year." Even many of the herbs come back.
Much of Holly’s horticultural knowledge was derived from a 14-week course she took at the McCracken County Cooperative Extension which is part of the UK College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment. After completing the course, she earned the title of Master Gardener. In addition to classroom work, service hours were required for the certification. Holly volunteered at the local farmer's market in Paducah, handing out pamphlets and sharing information about gardening.
The Master Gardening course is very extensive and focuses on different horticultural topics like soil and plant science, fruits, vegetables, pest management, pollination, annuals, and perennials. Volunteering is an extension of the course. Holly said, “Staying certified takes a lot of service hours.” Though no longer certified, tips and advice are now passed down to family, close friends, and Facebook friends.
As the tour of the gardens continued, it advanced to the heirloom tomatoes. Most of the plants are over seven feet tall and loaded with tomatoes of all shapes and sizes. Some are ripe and ready for picking while others need more time. Holly pointed out a misshapen tomato hanging low on the vine. She said this effect happens when two or more buds form together to make two or three tomatoes into one. The term used for this act of nature is fasciated.
A gardener’s work is never done. Every day, between sunset and sunrise, Holly inspects the tomato plants using a technique called 'black-lighting.' The process requires turning over each leaf on the plant, top to bottom while using a blacklight to look for hornworms. Holly said, "They glow!" Once located, the worms are drowned. Holly said, “I would prefer to feed them to chickens, however, the city won't allow chickens inside the city limits.” Sorry worms.
After checking out the Shaquille O’Neal size heirloom tomato plants, the tour continued to the base of the yard. At the bottom of the property is a full-grown pear tree. Up from the pear tree is a trellis that's the home to flowers such as zinnias, herbs like chamomile, and fruits like blackberries and grapes, so many different types of plants. Holly said, “You need to be careful not to cross-pollinate. Be selective where you put your plants. All things don't like to grow with others."
There was a discussion about pollination. She said the bees, birds, butterflies all help to pollinate the plants. "Birds land here or there...bees, butterflies, they all pollinate." Holly continued, "or you could self-pollinate. Grab a paintbrush, touch a flower, then touch another flower." That's the artist coming out in her.
Other varieties of flowers located strategically throughout the gardens, all serve the purpose of 'bringing in the pollinators.' Holly has a number of bird feeders. She feeds American goldfinches, blue jays, "They like peanuts," said Holly, starlings, robins, and wrens. There are two feeders for the finches, four for the wild birds, and three hummingbird feeders.
The sunflowers are amazingly tall. The time is about right for the flowers to reach maturity. Holly said once the head flops over, the plant is full of sunflower seeds. For those that enjoy grilling, placing the head of the flower on the grill with a little EVOO and salt makes for a tasty treat.
More vegetables are grown in the back of the yard. Several trellises weave around the backyard and up the hill, all with the purpose of growing vegetables. Once arriving at the top of the hill, you'll find more heirloom tomatoes like the honeycomb delight, white tomesol, black beauty, black krims, and Cherokee purples.
The small tomatoes called currants have a burst of flavor. The teeny-tiny fruit is packed full of sweetness and will stand up against any slicer tomato. Hanging on the trellis is the Arminian cucumber. Holly recently harvested a cucumber that was 18.5" long. Such an array of interesting produce throughout the garden makes one feel like a kid in a candy store...if you enjoy natural goodness.
Holly said, "Every day I do a walk-through to see every single thing that's new." Typically, the inspection is in the early morning hours due to the high heat. Both Holly and her husband are suffering from the lasting effects of Covid.
Here’s the thing, everybody in the household was doing their part to stay healthy and safe. Masks, small gatherings, wiped down groceries, homeschooled children, you name it, they did it. Unfortunately, all the precautions in the world didn't keep the deadly virus away. The family; Holly, Eric, and three of their four children became infected with the virus. Holly said, "The whole family (excluding their oldest son that doesn't live with them) had Covid in December." It was tough. The children fared well but mom and dad didn't. Holly described themselves as 'long-haulers'. So, getting out in the garden before it gets too hot is necessary due to respiratory issues.
Continuing on, there are many varieties of herbs grown in spaces throughout the property; different types of basil like lemon, holy, and Thai. The garlic comes back every year, along with sage, thyme, rosemary, and even ginger. There's a dill plant behind the deck. It's a perfect combination with the cucumbers.
Other plants of interest include three different varieties of watermelon, a plant known to be an analgesic to help toothaches, and ground cherries that are close relatives to the tomatillos. Ground cherries are considered husk tomatoes. They are sweet, tangy, and incredible. To eat, you pull off the tusk. This particular variety tasted like pineapples. Such a sweet surprise.
This year, Holly planted 23 new varieties of tomatoes and planted a total of 184 tomato plants. When it's time to pick vegetables, Holly has the garden sectioned by numbers. "The raised beds are one through six and the round beds are one through nine. This way, I can send the kids out to get what's needed."
In addition to producing ready-to-eat vegetables, the vegetables will, in turn, produce seeds. The seeds will be used next year to plant again. Holly said all the plants this year, with the exception of a few flowers, were grown from seed.
The process is pretty simple. A bag is placed directly over the bloom before it dies or once the blooms dry up, they can be placed in a bag until seeds are ready.
If the family is unable to eat the harvest, Holly starts canning, making salves and balms, producing oils. Nothing will go to waste.
A garden is a magical place. It’s a beautiful thing to watch things grow, and the harvest is spectacular. Having a large garden isn’t easy. It’s hard work. Holly spends hours cultivating the land. She did say that the soil is great for growing crops. It’s made of silt which is a combination of sand and clay. The combination promotes water retention and air circulation. In the end, Holly said, “I just like seeing stuff grow.” Sometimes, it’s just that simple.
A pond in the middle of the garden contains three Koi and eight goldfish
Recipe for pattypan squash: Slice the squash. If it's a larger squash, you may want to scoop out the seeds. Melt two pats of butter per three to four servings. Mix together squash, melted butter, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Toss. Microwave for three minutes. Serve.
Larry and Patti Brown Mardi Gras 2020 (article published February 2021).
The first day of spring is just over a month away. Easter is exactly 46 days from Fat Tuesday. And tomorrow, Tuesday, February 16, 2021 is Mardi Gras. According to Larry, ‘Happy Mardi Gras’ is as common as saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in New Orléans.
Friend and Paducah Tilghman High School alumni Larry Brown has celebrated Mardi Gras from his vacation home in New Orléans for the past five years. He and wife Patti bought their condo and live just blocks from Bourbon Street. The two fell in love with the city many years ago and decided New Orleans was where they wanted to spend the winter months.
Larry said there are a few myths about Mardi Gras and it’s time to set the record straight on a couple of them. One is ‘You don’t have to lift up your shirt to have beads thrown at you.’ Tourists do the majority of the bead throwing to the shirtless crowd. “Mardi Gras is mostly a family affair and most of the local krewes really like to throw things to the kids,” said Larry.
The second misconception is that all parades happen at the French Quarter. There are small walking parades in the Quarter but no big floats. Most couldn’t fit. The beads that ‘rain down on you’ come from the big floats that parade around the city.
“Mardi Gras is bigger than one can imagine,” said Larry. “Things begin on January 6 (Epiphany or King’s Day) which is the 12th day after Christmas and escalate to Mardi Gras day, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.”
There are at least 50 krewes in southwest Louisiana that host Mardi Gras balls, ride on floats, or take part in social events throughout the year. A krewe is a group or organization that band together to host Mardi Gras events. Larry said, “They have names like Muses, Bacchus, Iris, Zulu, Choctaw and Rex. Throughout the carnival season, most of the krewes have balls and crown their royalty. Some have a ball after their parade.”
Some of the biggest parades are ‘Uptown’ which means they start in the Garden District and progress over a two-and-a-half to four mile stretch toward the French Quarter. Larry said some of the krewes have three to four thousand riders and floats. The themes are different every year. He’s seen Dr. Seuss, Racetrack, 80’s, and political satire. And the krewes will throw so many different trinkets from beads, frisbees, cups, toys, and t-shirts. There are homemade items too like sunglasses, purses, and high heels. The homemade items are considered collector's items. Larry said, “We have a Nyx purse and a Zulu coconut.”
Beginning eleven days before Mardi Gras, there will be two to five Uptown parades a day with dancing, marching bands, and other marching groups. “Our favorites are the 610 Stompers and the Muff-a-Lottas,” said Larry.
“We’re one block off the Uptown parade route in the Central Business District CBD. Lots of people line the streets and they might be 20 or more feet deep,” said Larry. “The amount of beads thrown is ‘mind-boggling’.
New Orleans canceled this year’s Mardi Gras. Larry said people aren’t happy about it but they understand. The reason for the cancellation is to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Louisiana, like many states, was hit hard by the pandemic mere months ago. COVID-19 numbers are starting to go down which provides hope for the residents of Louisiana.
Since there’s no parade, many residents are decorating their homes like a float, lots of lights and colorful decorations. Maps were published for visitors to go around the city to see these reverse parade home floats. Larry said, “Occasionally, locals will throw beads off their balconies.”
Bourbon, Frenchman, and Decatur Streets closed through February 16 from 7 pm to 3 am. Bourbon Street is closed through Ash Wednesday.
Some of the favorite foods during Mardi Gras include King Cake, jambalaya, gumbo, pralines, and the Hurricane, the festival's drink of choice. All of these foods are classic favorites. Larry said, “King Cake bakeries have people lined out the doors.” His favorite comes from Antoine's on the west bank in Gretna.
For those that want to know, “The king cake is a mixture of French pastry and coffee cake. It’s oval shaped with icing and sugar covering the top," said Larry. "The original colors are gold (representing power), purple (representing justice) and green (representing faith). The shape of the cake represents unity of faiths. All cakes have a hidden baby inside symbolizing luck and prosperity. The person finding the baby becomes king or queen for the evening.”
One might wonder why the Browns chose New Orléans as their vacation home as opposed to the sunny beaches of Florida. He said that his stepdaughter received a scholarship to Tulane University and stayed after graduation. She left the city when hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. His son received a band scholarship to play trumpet at LSU three years after Hurricane Katrina. Larry and Patti visited New Orléans often before and after Katrina to see their children and fell in love with the museums, walking the French Quarter, and attending games for both the NFL and NBA ball clubs.
With all the snow happening throughout the country, seeing beautiful pictures of the colorful and whimsical Mardi Gras parade is a welcomed sight. Though the Browns may not get to see a full blown Mardi Gras event, I'm sure they'll make the best of their circumstance.
The Appalachians and a code 'improvise, adapt, overcome' underscores the life of a former commissioner's wife
Cindy, Richard and Mckynleigh
Written by Cindy Abraham
“I was born in the Parris Island Naval Hospital in 1957. The Code of this location was to "Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.” This code has underlined my whole life.” Cindy Abraham
Over the past two centuries, my paternal and maternal families were centered in Eastern Kentucky (with the exception of the years my brothers and I spent in a proverbial boot camp due to my dad’s Marine background). My father was a die hard member of the GOP in Montgomery County and my mother was a ‘Yellow dog Democrat’. At this point you may notice that ‘improvise, adapt and overcome’ were healthy directions for children of this beginning.
My playmates were mostly boys (brothers and male cousins) and we “green broke” our horses, fished, learned how to raise hogs and cattle, went hunting and just enjoyed running around wild on family farms.
I attended Mt. Sterling High School and life was sprinkled with cotillions, fancy dresses, rival football games, and basic 70’s teenage mischief. One of the highlights of the year was Mt. Sterling Court Days where court was held once a month and people came for miles to buy, sell, and trade.
It was the mid-70's and the Vietnam War was drawing to a close. Mt. Sterling embraced our troops who were loyal to the directives of the United States and our Commander in Chief. After graduating in 1975, I continued my education at Transylvania University.
While at Transy I majored in political science. After a couple of years, I decided to take a hiatus and move to Hilton Head, South Carolina. I always had an interest in art and decided to pursue it. While there, I worked in an art gallery and studied with local artists. In 1981, I went back to school.
One of my brothers was at the University of Kentucky, so I decided to move to Lexington where I would stay in his apartment for awhile. Within the first month, I met the man I knew was going to be my husband. He was my brother’s best friend, Richard Abraham.
Richard and I hit it off pretty quick. We had many of the same interests and experiences. Both of us had traveled to Europe while in high school. Both families had first hand experiences with the Vietnam War. Richard’s cousins had served and lived to tell about it. I know today’s youth may not understand the political implications of the Vietnam War. It ‘colored’ the notions of those that came back from the war and those affiliated with its presence.
I wasn’t raised to be judgmental. Both sides of my family have been educators for the past 100 years. My great grandfather rode a mule into Appalachia regularly to teach. We were taught to examine people and situations and make decisions based upon character.
However, when I announced to my mother that I was marrying Richard (remember as a daughter of a marine, you NEVER bring home an intended until you’ve decided to stand your ground, no matter what) she said, “I hope he’s Jewish."
My family’s only concern was for ‘the union’ itself and the perceived difficulties I might encounter, rather than saying Richard was not for me, because of the color of his skin.
After much flurry of conversations and concerns, my Grandmother Caudill and my Grandmother Nolan made ‘the ruling.’ Grandmother Caudill said, “If they marry, then he is family. No more shall be said about it.” Grandmother Nolan said, “He is a Christian. Done is done”. Contrary to many notions, Richard’s family had more difficulties with him marrying me. But here we are, 38 years later and smiling.
We got married in 1983 while in college. Shortly after the nuptials, Richard attended a professional football camp in Texas. When he returned from the ‘try-out,’ he said, “Cindy, I know you think I’m big, but girl, those guys are giants!” On that note, Richard decided to continue advancing his strengths in personal training, music and working with special needs kids.
While Richard finished up college, I worked for a CPA firm in Lexington. In 1984, we were blessed with our first daughter Scytha T. Abraham. After moving to Paducah, our second daughter was born Mckynleigh.
So here we are, in Richard’s hometown. He worked in the medical field while I worked in retail. I kept up with my art and went from painting on canvas to making dolls and toys. I actually sell items under “Kentucky Lace: Island Creek Critters.”
When it was time for my girls to start school, there were some concerns. Back in eastern Kentucky, I had come from a long line of educators so I was familiar with the process. My oldest was in public school for four years before I decided that homeschooling would be the best option. There were two reasons why I homeschooled. First, I was a registered volunteer with McNabb Elementary within the Paducah City Schools for a number of years and observed the tying of hands of our educators. Second, the Kentucky Education Reform Act was initiated.
One of the girls' outlets for social interaction with their peer groups was the Market House Theater. The Cochran's style of theater classes had a tremendous influence on both of the girls. I attribute much of their confidence and self-assurance to this organization.
Scytha is married and lives in Paducah. She’s a Registered Nurse and has blessed us with five grandchildren. Mckynleigh is engaged and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Her pursuit has been the stage since she was four years old. When asked at a young age what she wanted to be when she grew up, she stated, "I am going to be a star." She was performing on Broadway Tours before COVID shut it down. She has her Life Coaching Certification and is building a business that’s gaining traction while waiting for Broadway to reopen.
In 1996, Richard co-founded VIP (Vision Inner-City Paducah) with the late Carol Hoover. We continued our involvement in street ministry and had a talk radio show on WGCF called ‘The Safe Haven Show.’ We ministered to inmates and youth fleeing abusive situations. We discovered that south of Owensboro, Kentucky, there was no safe organizational home for these youth.
Since the local youth distress issue wasn't being addressed by our city commissioners, Richard was unhappy with their lack of interest or action. He said there weren't enough questions being asked by it members. “The people aren’t being represented,” he said. In 2000, Richard decided to run for office and won a seat on the Paducah City Commission.
Richard has always stated that “hard questions should not be a problem and citizens need to see transparency in those they’ve elected”. I truly believe that Richard accomplished everything that God put him to address during his 14 years of service on the Paducah Board of Commissioners. As Richard said, “if God wants me as mayor right now, no man can stop it. And if He doesn't want me there, I do not want to be there.”
As for me, along with the joy I've had as Mrs. Richard Abraham, I, like many others, have experienced abuse, pain, loss, and hardship over the last 63 years. Again, the “...adapt and overcome’ life motto, has served me well. I am a believer in our Creator and in His son Yeshua ha Mashiach. This has strengthened me beyond words.
I’ve been married to an All American, public servant, teacher of the Word, excellent father, one that has dined with a U.S. President and sang for another, a certified personal trainer/life coach, sports and radio announcer, and advocate for troubled youth and those with special needs. If I accomplish nothing else in my life, being his wife has been beyond fulfilling and always exciting. Who knows...he may be drawn to another genre of public servitude in the future. Stay tuned for the next journey.
Emergency authorization of COVID-19 vaccine lingers as providers answer community concerns via Facebook
(Originally posted in December 2020). Dr. J. Kyle Turnbo, a triple board certified physician is with wife Nicole, a nurse and student at Vanderbilt University in the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program. On Sunday, December 6, the pair sat down in the comfort of their home to talk about the COVID-19 vaccine during a 'live' chat on Facebook.
Around the time the UK Wildcats were slammed by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Dr. J. Kyle Turnbo and his wife Nicole sat down in the comfort of their home for a ‘live’ Facebook chat with friends, family, colleagues, and the community. As the COVID-19 vaccine awaits emergency authorization from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the Turnbo’s offered their time and expertise based on drug manufacturers’ press releases and other findings.
Dr. Turnbo and Nicole Turnbo RN have been very accessible to the media by answering the community's questions and giving information via social media. On Saturday, December 5, Nicole sent out a Facebook post asking friends and family if they would be interested in a ‘live’ Facebook chat to answer questions about the Covid vaccines. And, if there’s interest, what are some of those questions. Everybody jumped online with a definitive ‘yes’ for the opportunity to learn more. Sunday morning, Nicole posted to tune in at 5 pm.
On Tuesday, December 8, information on the phase 3 trials will be released. The FDA vaccine advisory panel will meet on December 10 to discuss the emergency authorization of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. If approved, distribution of the vaccine will begin immediately. On December 17, clinical data will be available for review of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine pending emergency use by the panel as well.
The first question discussed was the approval process for the vaccine. Some are concerned that the drug companies may have rushed to market and the vaccine may not be ready to go. Dr. Turnbo called it “unprecedented warp speed”.
Dr. T shared an example of 'warp speed' use regarding the polio vaccine. In 1955, Jonas Salk revolutionized the meaning of warp speed. A test group of 1.8 million children were in the trial phase. Children in the US, Canada, and Finland were given the vaccine. One year later, the vaccine was deemed safe and effective and became part of the childhood diseases vaccination protocols.
The C-19 vaccine has been in the Phase 3 stage for two months. Typically, it’s a six month phase, however, the need for the vaccine is immediate. During this Phase 3 trial, over 100,000 people have been vaccinated. For traditional vaccines, the majority of side effects happen within the first six weeks. Therefore, the two month trial falls within this timeline.
Another reason for the “unprecedented warp speed” is the new technology used to create the vaccine. The technology that has been studied for over a decade is messenger RNA vaccines or mRNA vaccines. The mRNA vaccine takes advantage of proteins to trigger an immune response of immunity to CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The benefits of the new technology includes the use of a non-infectious element, shorter manufacturing times, and the potential to target multiple diseases. “It’s revolutionary,” said Nicole.
According to Dr. Turnbo the safety data is “very impressive”. He’ll be able to take a look more closely when the trial information is released on December 8. In addition to side effect data, he said that the disease prevention looked ‘very good’ coming in at 95% effective. In addition, there were nearly 100% reductions in fatalities associated with the COVID-19 or serious symptoms. These findings are ‘significant.’
Another question was about how the vaccine is administered. Most have heard that there are two shots that need to be administered for the Pfizer and Moderna C-19 vaccine. Dr. Turnbo said the window of time for the second shot is 28-30 days. He also said that if you get your first shot from one of the drug companies, you need to stick with that brand for the second shot.
More Questions Answered
How long are you immunized? There’s no clear cut answer to this question since this is a new virus. Dr. Turnbo said, “Nobody knows but with 95% effectiveness one would assume six months to a year.”
Could someone get COVID-19 from the vaccine? Some said they got the flu after getting the flu vaccine. Dr. Turnbo said, “Nobody gets the flu from the flu vaccine. People get an immune response.” Possible side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine could be inflammation of the muscle at the injection site, flu-like symptoms, headache, low-grade fever. He said, “It sounds like coronavirus symptoms.” If you have some of these mild symptoms you know the vaccine is working. “Congratulations, you get immunity.” said Dr. Turnbo. Symptoms would only last a day or so.
What about ‘herd immunity’? Dr. T said, “No disease or virus has been completely eradicated naturally.”
Is there an advantage of getting the vaccine even if you’ve had COVID-19? The chances of having severe symptoms are lessened by getting vaccinated. We don’t know how long someone has the antibodies in their system to fight off the virus again.
Who will be the first to get vaccinated? More likely than not frontline healthcare workers that are in the Covid units will receive the first vaccine, as well as long-term care facilities. The Covid floors would include healthcare workers and those cleaning the patient rooms. For long-term care facilities, it would make sense for those taking care of residents to get the vaccine. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the residents.
Should the vaccine be mandatory? At this point, Dr. Turnbo doesn’t believe the vaccine should be mandatory. There’s still more to learn about the vaccine and time will make that determination.
Dr. T said, “If everything is approved by the advisory panel, I’ll be much more comfortable getting vaccinated myself and recommending it to my patients.” It’s risk and benefits.
Memories from a passionate educator, devoted family man, and loyal friend, Keith Chapman is the real deal
By Keith Chapman
I grew up in Johnston City, Illinois, a small community in Southern Illinois, 6 miles north of Marion, Illinois where my wife, Marilyn grew up. Johnston City was a small but interesting place. There was a gentleman named Jack Batts who was a shoe cobbler by trade but also a sculptor and a violin maker. While I was principal at Jetton Jr High School, I invited him to meet with the orchestra students to explain how he made violins. One of his sculptures is a soldier lying dead on the battlefield, and is a part of the Memorial Day celebration honoring fallen soldiers from Johnston City.
There was another gentleman by the name of Johnny Columbo who was a brilliant mechanic even though he only had an eighth grade education. As a car owner, he was very involved in auto racing and turned down two opportunities to be a mechanic at the Indianapolis 500.
Most of the communities around Johnston City had a population that worked the coal mines, and many classmates went to work in the mines after graduation. When I was in the fourth grade there was a horrible coal mine disaster in West Frankfort that killed 119 men several of which were the fathers of classmates or friends.
While in high school I participated in Young Rotarians, student council, teen town board, and played football and ran track. I was named all conference center in football and to this day I love the sport.
I have two brothers, Doug and Danny. Doug was also in education and coaching while Danny graduated with a degree in education; he became an electrician.
After graduating from Johnston City High in 1960, I had a dream of racing. At that time you had to be 21 to race legally. I was only 17 so I fabricated my age. Very few car owners wanted to put a rookie with no experience in their cars so I settled for much less than front running equipment.
Instead of going to college, I wanted to do something that would help me learn how to build racing engines so I went to vocational school in machine tool technology. It got harder to get a ride in racing, and my parents were extremely hostile to the idea since racing at that time was extremely dangerous. Still maintaining my love for football, I decided to go into education and be a coach.
I actually started my college career at McKendree College in Lebonan, Illinois, but I desperately wanted to play more football. So, I began the process of transferring to Murray State University. In the meantime, I injured my knee, for the second time, which required surgery and ending any chance of playing football. Knee surgery was much different at that time and rehab was worse.
I met my wife, Marilyn, at an A&W root beer stand in Marion while attending Murray State. After we said "I do" on July 17, 1965, we lived in married housing. I paid for college working electrical high line construction in the summers and as a janitor at school during the school year.
I completed my student teaching in March, 1967. Marilyn and I were in the process of moving back to Illinois when I received a call from Paducah City Schools. I interviewed with them a few weeks before completing my student teaching at a job fair. They asked me to come to Paducah and interview for a job to finish out the year teaching 7th grade biology.
Upon interviewing with John Cromwell, the principal at Jetton Jr. High, he offered me a contract to finish the year. While completing my paperwork, I was asked what my wife was going to do. I said she was a secretary looking for a job. They interviewed her for an opening at the central office. We were both hired on the same day.
After moving to Paducah, we had enough money to pay the first month's rent and $100 left to spare. I purchased a suit on credit to have for my teaching. For entertainment, since we had no money to spend on anything but food, we would go almost nightly to what was then Uncle Lee's. Marilyn would browse the store, other than sporting goods; of course that's the department that held my interest. I was so self-conscious that they would think we were shoplifting, that I kept my hands in my pocket until we left.
At the end of the school year, a teacher resigned to coach at Paducah Junior College, and they gave me his position. I started teaching history and became an assistant coach for three sports. After two years as assistant football coach, I became head coach.
After Marilyn became pregnant with our first child, the students starting saying, "you are going to have a cheerleader," and I countered by saying, "I was having a football player." After Amy was born, Joe Dallas, announced on the intercom to the student body that we had a cheerleader. They got a kick out of that.
Principal Dallas and the Superintendent, Dr. David Whitehead, evidently saw something in me that I did not see in myself. Joe had been to the University of Tennessee on a recruiting trip and returned with an application for a fellowship program at UT. He and Dr. Whitehead encouraged me to apply. When I received the fellowship, it amounted to more money than I was making teaching and coaching. The Board granted me a 15 month leave of absence to complete my Masters Degree.
While attending UT, the assistant principal at Jetton passed away. His position was held for me. Two years later, Mr. Dallas became principal at PTHS, and I became principal at Jetton, a position I held for 7 years until the school closed in 1980. Jetton and its students will always hold a special place in my heart, after all, it was where I started my career in education.
My assignment upon the closing of Jetton was that of assistant principal, athletic director, and curriculum coordinator at Paducah Tilghman. This was a different but fun time during my career. I always enjoyed working with staff on various curriculum related activities in my role as curriculum coordinator. As athletic director, I was responsible for developing the first athletic manual establishing guidelines for every aspect of the athletic department, including cheerleading squads. In my new role, I noticed the cheerleaders would be on the road late at night with no male figure. It made me uncomfortable so I volunteered to drive them to ballgames. Others may not have seen the need; however, it made me more comfortable. I remained assistant principal until my position was cut. My new assignment was to coordinate the in-school suspension center.
I had completed my 30 above Masters program; however, that did not include a certification for the elementary principalship. As a result, I returned to night school to complete my elementary certification. After Clark School principal, Wilda Morton, moved to central office, I applied for and received the position of principal of Clark Elementary School.
During my first year at Clark, I spent a great deal of time observing the extremely talented and dedicated group of teachers. I formed an advisory team representing each grade level to formulate a plan to identify our strengths and weaknesses. For example, my personal research identified geography as a subject of weakness across the country. I shared my findings with the staff and suggested that each class identify a country to study during the month of January. At the end of the month, we would tour the world.
I contacted Senator Mitch McConnell's office and asked for a list of US Embassies. From that list teachers chose a country to study. I envisioned each embassy sending literature, posters, and perhaps a flag. I did not envision the amount of excitement it would generate from the teachers and the embassies. Classrooms were turned into countries. It was absolutely amazing. The staff continued to develop this program with more and more detail. The parents got involved also by providing meals representing the cuisine from each country.
The program named "Month of the World and Day of Nations" was a success. Two professors from Murray State brought future elementary teachers to tour on the Day of Nations. We were invited to present at several national conferences and various groups. It was not uncommon to receive calls from schools across the country asking for information about how to get started.
In 1986 the superintendent, Dr. Allen, felt that Clark Elementary should apply for a national award (Excellence in Education). This program required that we submit information regarding all aspects of our school including curriculum, school climate, student attendance, teacher attendance, student involvement, test results, problem identification and resolution of those problems. After the application was reviewed at the State level to determine if we should receive a site visit, we were notified that we would have a site visit from a representative of the US Department of Education.
Our evaluator looked at every aspect of our program. She visited every classroom, met with groups of students representing every grade level, talked to parents, interviewed the staff, as well as the Board of Education. One of the comments the evaluator made that I am very proud of was that she felt the staff with their approach to problem solving could attack any problem and develop a proper solution. Her evaluation, sent to the US Department of Education, was reviewed and evaluated by a committee within that department. Clark Elementary was one of 128 elementary schools across the nation that received the Excellence in Education award in 1986. Representatives from Clark went to Washington DC to receive the award. As a part of the trip, I had the privilege of going to the Rose Garden at the White House where President Reagan spoke to us. This whole process was a true reward to the Clark staff, students, and school community.
In 1990 the state legislature passed the Kentucky Education Reform Act. All schools, including Clark Elementary, needed restructuring, or so they said. You may recall the news media referred to it as building an airplane while it's in flight. This was probably the most frustrating time in my education career. Here we were a school that was recognized as one of the top in the nation having to tear apart what we knew was a good educational program. On numerous occasions, I remember receiving a directive from the state to develop a plan of implementation only to have the state scrap that directive to implement another. My assistant principal, Clara Faye Downs, and the advisory committee spent hours studying and planning the implementation of the state's directives.
After numerous state plans, our team decided to carry out only the parts of the directives that benefited our students. Otherwise, continue with what we knew were best practices. In my opinion, the best part of the Education Reform Act was the improved writing skills.
I retired from education after the l996 school year. My wife said she could see the stress level building and the state's micro management took the fun out of it. Within a month, I got bored. That is when I decided to try real estate. There was a lot of flexibility; however, I never did anything half way. As a result, I was elected President of the Board of Realtors. Real Estate was a great second career and allowed Marilyn and me to do things we never thought we would do. We took cruises all over the Caribbean, the East coast from New York to Halifax as well as Alaska and Hawaii.
Our oldest daughter is a first grade teacher in Plainfield, Illinois, and our youngest daughter is a social worker for Hospice. We are the proud grandparents of four granddaughters and one grandson. Three are in college (University of Louisville, Western Kentucky University, and the University of Tennessee) and one is a junior in Plainfield, Illinois. She plays volleyball for both high school and club. Our youngest is a sophomore and plays golf for McCracken County High. He qualified for state last fall.
I used to enjoy fishing and camping but now I play golf. I decided it would be fun to follow my grandson around and occasionally play a round with him. So, at 72 I took up golf. He likes to play with me when he needs a good laugh
It's my grandkids that put a smile on my face and a spring in my step.
It’s not a defining moment but an important one. Jackie Smith was the 1986 Miss Kentucky USA and contender for Miss USA who carried a couple of secret weapons; a big heart and a beautiful smile. She said, “The Miss USA pageant opened my eyes to the possibilities outside my tiny world of experience.” The tiny world she references is the small town of Metropolis, Illinois population of 6,000.
Jackie said, “Ok, this is funny...I loved baton twirling and competed in the USTA (United States Twirling Association) and NBTA (National Baton Twirling Association) until entering high school. The NBTA USA motto is ‘winning is participating’. Accept new friendships as you extend your friendship to your fellow competitors. Baton twirling of yesteryear fashioned big hair, painted faces, flashy costumes, and willowy young women. It's the lessons learned behind the scenes that prepared potential beauty queens like Jackie for future endeavors.
The first eleven years of education for Jackie happened in Massac County. In addition to academics, she participated in cheerleading and countless piano lessons. As she matured, so did her dreams. The little town of Metropolis didn’t give Jackie all she wanted. It was time to move forward and shake things up. She wanted to work in downtown Paducah and become a member of a teen board at Jeans Department Store. “I couldn’t work afternoons as planned, so I decided to change schools,” she said.
Jackie started at Paducah Tilghman High School the second full week of classes in the fall of 1981. “I loved Tilghman. It was the best move for me. It taught me to become independent, step out of my comfort zone, and make new friends.” After graduating from high school in 1982, Jackie attended college at Murray State University as an accounting major. She became very active in student government, concert committee, sorority, and as a little sister in a fraternity.
During Jackie’s junior year at MSU, she was crowned Miss MSU. The pageant win was a preliminary to Miss Kentucky USA. Though Jackie wasn’t your stereotypical pageant girl (the MSU pageant was only her second), she won and traveled across the state attending festivals, riding in parades, engaging in public speaking, and emceeing pageants.
Miss USA Pageant 1986. Jackie Taylor Smith introduces herself as Miss Kentucky USA
Next stop, the Miss USA pageant in Miami, Florida, known for its sandy, white beaches, Cuban culture, and all-night parties, this little Kentucky girl had eyes wide open for over a month with 50 other beautiful women all vying for the same prize. “It was exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. One of the greatest experiences of my life,” she said.
Jackie said she made many friends as Miss Kentucky in 1986. One such friend was a celebrity icon, Halle Berry. She was Miss Ohio USA in 1986 and became the first runner-up for Miss USA. “She was as sweet as she was beautiful,” said Jackie. From that experience, Jackie gained more confidence as a public speaker and learned a few tricks of the trade about style, clothing, and beauty.
While in Miami, contestants participated in five weeks' worth of events. The fourth week of preliminaries landed Jackie in the hospital. The day before she was to compete, she was hospitalized due to a lack of rest and proper nutrition. She developed strep throat and couldn’t introduce herself. “I had no voice,” she said. Though the pageant results weren’t in her favor, Jackie said, “I learned that beauty truly comes from the inside.” She went on to say that pageants can amplify insecurities about body image. “It’s wonderful for people who don’t look for self-worth in the opinions of others.”
Jackie’s first job was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and realized quickly that she was homesick. An accounting position opened up at the P & L Railroad in Paducah so Jackie dusted the dirt off her shoes and headed home.
It was after the move that Jackie took notice of one particular person; the person that eventually became her husband. “I met Rex while I was Miss Kentucky at a fashion show fundraiser at the Irvin Cobb Hotel in Paducah. We were friends and even double-dated with other people. We realized quickly that we had a lot in common and wanted the same things out of life,” said Jackie.
Rex was seven years older than Jackie but it didn't hamper how they felt about many of the same issues; one of those issues was politics. In college, Jackie was very active in student government. “My father-in-law and my husband were always involved in the political process,” she said. Rex started in the Democratic Party and later changed affiliations. The interesting thing about the couple is they have their belief system and values but don't begrudge others for having an opposing opinion. Jackie said she prays for the nation no matter who's in charge.
Jim Smith, Jackie's father-in-law was a well-known businessman in western Kentucky. His company, Jim Smith Contracting, was founded in 1969 in Smithland. The family-owned businesses included coal mining, fuel distribution, hotels (notably the ‘Big E’ in Paducah), rock quarry, and highway, bridge, and road construction. Today, Rex is the sole owner of the business.
Both Jackie and Rex share a passion for fitness. “Our first date was running a 10K, and I beat him’” said Jackie. After three months of dating and many long nights of deep conversations, Rex asked Jackie to marry him. “There was never any doubt that he was and is the only one for me,” she said.
The family that raised Jackie, her adoptive parents, were able to share in the couples’ nuptials. After the death of her parents, Jackie was ready to find her biological family. In 2017, she met her mother, father, and two sisters. “My mother is only 73 and is beautiful and very young at heart. My father was a career military man playing football for the marine corps,” said Jackie. “My parents met again after they discovered me and had lunch at the diner where they dated as high school sweethearts. They’ve become very good friends.”
Jackie and Rex have four children and two grandchildren. The children are Jay (33), Sam (31), Callie (28), and Gabbie (19). “My greatest talent and passion so far is being a grandmother,” said Jackie. “I was born for this job. I’m a hands-on teacher, cuddler, reader, cheerleader, rocker, and lover of the two most precious beautiful children on planet earth. Charlie is a three-year-old fair-haired blond girl who looks much like my family and Ford is a nine-month-old boy with big brown, dreamy eyes and a mischievous smile like his mother.”
As part of giving back to the community, Jackie is the incoming chair of the Paducah Beautification Board, co-chair of the Dogwood Trail, a board member on the MSU Foundation, and an active member of First Baptist Church of Paducah. She’s worked with the American Cancer Society, The National Bone Marrow Society, Community Kitchen, and Starfish Orphan Ministry.
The Smiths love to travel. “My favorite city to visit is New York. My favorite beach is Seaside and my favorite vacation includes England and Greece,” said Jackie. The family has a farm in Livingston County that’s the perfect place to get away from it all. “The kids like to spend time there,” she said. They also enjoy ‘making a fuss’ over holidays, baby showers, weddings, and anything worth celebrating.
From a personal perspective, Jackie said she always needs a purpose. “I get up every morning optimistic. I bounce back quickly. I’m a fixer-upper. I don’t throw out anything or anybody. I try to help people get back on their feet.”
When asked about Jackie’s perfect day, she said, “I’d have three cups of black coffee with thirty minutes of quiet time. I’d work for an hour or so. Walk on the beach at Marco Island with my best friend engaged in a long talk; maybe a couple of hours in New York with my girls shopping. The afternoon would be spent with my grandchildren in the park. I’d cook a fabulous supper for my husband and boys while listening to stories about their day. Then, sit on the back porch by the fireplace with Rex, a great bottle of cabernet, listening to 70’s music.”
Heather Waters, photographer, entrepreneur, mom, wife, and Boston Marathon Qualifier after completing one of her long distance races.
Running the Boston Marathon is ‘the holy grail of races,’ said Heather Waters. This year’s 125th race scheduled for October 11, 2021, is highly anticipated. The B.A.A. (Boston Athletic Association) said that by focusing on a fall date, they can adjust the in-person experience for runners and spectators. Last year's solution to the pandemic was a virtual race. As more and more events welcome 'live' participants and avid sports fans, runners will take their mark with bated breath to hear ready, set, go.
Since 1897, the Boston Marathon has held its race annually on the third Monday in April; otherwise known as Patriot’s Day. The race, established after the success of the first marathon in the 1896 Summer Olympics, is hosted by several cities around the Boston area in Eastern Massachusetts.
Waters made the qualifying time for her age group a couple of weeks ago and hopes to compete this fall or in 2022. She said, “The pressure is off and now it’s time to wait for events to unfold. I’ll train with friends, do everything to stay injury-free, and enjoy the process.”
Always looking for ways to stay fit and lose unwanted pounds, Waters said she’s always worked out and exercised. Through the years, her typical fitness routine consisted of dance, aerobic classes, the elliptical trainer, and weight-lifting. “Running seemed awful and it hurt, so I stayed away thinking I had old dance injuries that wouldn’t allow it.” Then, she got interested and realized there were advantages to running. Running is accessible because you can run anywhere. Running is practical because her kids could ride in the stroller while she jogged from behind. Running is fat-burning and cancels out calories.
It wasn’t until after her second child was born that running piqued her interest. “The nanny invited me to run a 5K,” said Waters. There was no training, just show up and run. At that time, she was running 30 minutes non-stop on the treadmill so she agreed. That first race, “I loved the way it felt,” said Waters. The race was at the 2011 New Year’s at Noon 5K in Athens, Georgia. A fire ignited. The wheels started turning and she instantly started thinking of ways to do it better.
A goal-setter in most situations, Waters started a photography business a year after her first 5K. At first, she took pictures of everything; weddings, babies, families, anything to make a buck. Then, she found her niche; children’s portraits. Waters started with her daughter Gracie’s preschool class and eventually fine-tuned the process to compete with national ‘big-box’ companies. Through quality products and exceptional customer service, Watermark Photography has 16 local schools that use her services today.
Growing up, pictures were all over the walls. Waters' mom, Margie Davis Fields made their home cozy with lots of family photos on the walls, bookshelves, everywhere throughout the house and Waters followed suit. “I was the one with the camera, on the yearbook staff, taking pictures,” said Waters. “I loved capturing people in happy moments.”
Through a passion for pictures, Waters landed an internship at Disney World. After the internship, she studied commercial photography in New York City. Originally, Waters thought she would work at a newspaper. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Georgia studying journalism with an emphasis on photojournalism. However, In 2003, Waters put down her camera and started a career in pharmaceutical sales.
While peddling pharmaceuticals in Chattanooga, TN, Waters met her husband, Kevin, also in the industry. Fifteen years ago this August, the two wed and have two children Gracie (12) and Davis (10).
As a wife, mother, and businesswoman, Waters was achieving great success. However, in private, she was struggling with body image. “When I started running, it was to burn calories. I’ve always had a disordered relationship with food and exercise, the longer the run, the more calories burned, but nothing seemed enough.” she said.
It wasn’t until she started running with a group of women that Waters turned a corner. Running changed from a way to stay thin to a way of living life. “Two years ago, I started running with these amazing ladies at Transfit in Athens, Georgia, owned by one of my University of Georgia sorority sisters,” said Waters. “The focus was on mind, body, and spirit, not results. They’ve changed running for me and love me as I am. They are my tribe. Now, I eat and fuel properly, and love doing life with them.”
This running family pushes each other to do big goals. At least once a week, they pound the pavement for a long 10-mile run. Cumulatively, they run around 40 miles every week. The group stays mostly ‘half-marathon ready’ and trains more extensively for full marathons.
Waters only runs long-distance races since she’s needed at home on most weekends. She enters several half-marathons each year and plans to run one full marathon annually. Her family is proud of her accomplishments. “Sometimes my kids get tired of hearing me talk about it and they roll their eyes. I tell them it keeps mom healthy and strong.”
The most satisfying race for Waters was the Savannah Marathon 2019. It was her first Boston Marathon qualifier and full marathon. She said, “To accomplish something like that with the body I have abused for years, I was proud of what it could do when I treated it with kindness.”
Running a Boston Marathon Qualifier requires an official net time (chip time). Each age and gender group has a time they have to meet. “The times have gotten faster and they take the fastest runners first; and a qualification doesn’t ensure you get to go,” said Waters.
There was never a big dream of competing in the holy grail of races. “It’s for real runners,” said Waters. Then, she started surrounding herself with people who ran it. She started getting faster times on her half-marathons but after 13.1 miles...she was done. But, something in the back of her mind kept nagging her to give it a try. “I didn’t talk about it out loud,” she said.
“I kept my base up, eating for fuel, treating my body right, and wanted to see if I could really finish a full. My ‘unicorn’ secret goal was 3:40 and was so crazy. I wouldn’t talk about it.” Then, in Savannah, she ran the full marathon at 3:38:30. Recently, Waters finished another full marathon and shaved off another 1:30 for a personal best of 3 hours and 37 minutes. She’s hoping to make it to ‘the big show’ either this fall or 2022. The qualifying window for the 2021 Boston Marathon opened on September 15, 2018.
Waters said, “The Boston Marathon is the “holy grail” for amateur runners, and something to savor and be proud of. I want to enjoy every moment of the process, and remind myself of how far I’ve come in so many ways. I've explained to my family for a long time that a very low percentage of people on this planet ever finish a marathon. They're called the 1%ers. Less than 10% of those 1%ers qualify for Boston.”
The family is looking forward to a trip to 'The Cradle of Liberty' to see mom race. “Who doesn’t want to be on the sidelines of the BOSTON MARATHON,” said Waters. It’s true. The race attracts over 500,000 spectators each year making it New England’s number one sporting event. Most people who run a 26.2 marathon finish in four to five hours. To finish a marathon in under four hours is an accomplishment. Waters has already achieved that goal with room to spare.
As the family cheers her on, so do the ‘amazing' ladies at Transfit. The question is, does Waters cheer herself on? Through the years, her struggle with imperfection and body image has taken a toll. This time, running is different. “I think of exercise, food, and life differently because of running. The Boston Marathon is a victory lap. It’s not about the time...it’s about the journey.”
“Knowing me is knowing my dad. I’m like his shadow,” said Kamari Turnley. Have you ever heard the tune ‘Me and my Shadow?’ It’s a song by Sammy Davis, Jr. and Frank Sinatra. “We’re closer than pages that stick in a book. We’re closer than ripples that play in a brook...not a soul can bust this team into; we stick together like glue.”
Sticking together is something families do. They're there for one another when life happens. Kamari and her dad are not only there for each other, but are there for others too. Both share a passion for helping people.
Kamari has always looked up to her dad. She's very proud of his career accomplishments as a medical practitioner and 'over the moon' about his love for Jesus. Marcus Turnley is a member of the Kentucky Association of Physician Assistants and a graduate of the University of Kentucky. Currently, he’s a PA-C working in general surgery for Mercy-Health Lourdes in Paducah. He’s also part of the ministry team at Washington Street Baptist Church along with Pastor and City Commissioner Raynarldo Henderson, Arveta Turnley (Kamari’s mom), Armadrest Branigan, and Shonda Burrus.
Kamari said, “It's an understatement to say that I grew up in the church. Every Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or any other day church could be squeezed in...I was there.”
Originally from Hopkinsville. the Turnleys moved to Paducah with their young family when Kamari was an infant. She attended Concord and transferred to Clark. Then, continued her public school education at Paducah Middle School and Paducah Tilghman High School. Her brother Keary Turnley attended city schools too.
During the early years, Kamari was a member of the 4-H Club and Girl Scouts. Both are nationally-based youth organizations that promote positivity and a sense of community. They also help supply kids with mentors and other developmental skills needed to create change in the lives of others, as well as their own. In addition to these organizations, Kamari participated in the Beta Club, the National Honor Society, and band.
After graduating, Kamari attended the University of Kentucky studying Health Society and Populations. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been interested in healthcare.” After all, two areas of interest shared by Kamari and her dad that ‘stuck like glue’ were church and medicine.
As Kamari continued making her own way, she developed two new relationships with a couple of local high school girls. It was during the college years that Cherika Johnson, a Pharm D 2021 candidate, and Azia Rouse, a credentialed social worker became like sisters to Kamari. In high school, they were aquaintances...in college, they became family. "We talk as much as I talk to my parents, maybe more," she said.
As part of a well-rounded college experience, Kamari was a member of a sorority. Delta Sigma Theta is historically an African-American Greek sorority founded by college-educated women dedicated to public service and programs that aid the African-American community. “My sorority was big into community services so I often helped. I'm always looking for ways to give back,” said Kamari.
After graduating from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Arts, Kamari attended Bellarmine University for nursing. Bellarmine is in Louisville, KY, and is known for specialized curriculum in healthcare, business, and fitness. Founded in 1950, it was one of the first institutions in Kentucky to accept all races.
Once the nursing degree was completed, Kamari started working at UK Chandler Hospital in Lexington. The hospital is a 569-bed facility and is part of the UK healthcare system. It’s a level one trauma center and handles the most severe trauma cases.
The fact that Kamari chose a career in nursing is no surprise. “Helping people has always been my passion,” she said. In 2019, Kamari moved to Houston, Texas to work in the Neuro ICU. Shortly thereafter, she started travel nursing. Then, the pandemic struck.
Helping others became exhausting. Kamari said she worked in the COVID ICU unit and was there for all end-of-life care. “It’s hard mentally,” said Kamari. She recalled one incident that happened during the pandemic when a patient referred to her as ‘an angel from God’.
“Working during the pandemic is hard, especially in the COVID ICU. One particular patient had a terrible round of COVID and swears that I was his angel sent from God. As he tells it, he was praying to the Lord to send an angel from heaven, then I walked into the room,” said Kamari. It’s stories like these that kept her grounded.
Kamari said there are two takeaways that really stood out from her COVID ICU experience. "One is to never take life for granted. Two is knowing that nothing is promised.”
To push forward each day, Kamari is a big believer in self-care. She’s a frequent flyer of Sunday Funday. "This is a Houston thing where people go to brunch and continue the day socializing and having fun," said Kamari. She enjoys manicures, pedicures, massages, and talking to friends. When describing her ideal day, she said, ‘Brunch with friends, a scheduled massage, and a good Netflix series.”
Traveling as a nurse isn’t Kamari’s only passion. She also enjoys traveling for fun. She’s been to Grand Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Cozumel, Vegas, and NYC. Her favorite trip was to Cozumel to climb the Mayan Ruins. El Cedral is a Mayan ruin that dates back to 800 A.D. and is the oldest ruin on the Mexican island.
Kamari plans to continue travel nursing. If you're wondering about this career, nurses must be RN's. Their role is to fill gaps, for a period of time, in the staffing needs at hospitals and facilities across the country. Reasons for additional staffing include a need for more experienced nurses, unexpected leaves of absence, seasonal fluctuations, or a worldwide pandemic such as COVID-19. There are long-term contracts and short-term, depending on the needs of the facilities.
The perks of being a traveling nurse include a stronger résumé, higher pay, travel experiences, and flexibility. It’s such an exciting career for those that want to take advantage of it. Kamari said, “Being a traveling nurse has been interesting. It's definitely opened my eyes.”
Whatever Kamari decides to do, she's got her family's support. The family relies heavily on faith and the power of prayer. Without it, worry would consume their thoughts. Being a COVID ICU nurse isn't for the faint of heart. It's a true calling. It's part of the 'family business' of helping others. Kamari is spreading her angel wings and flying. It's just what the doctor ordered.
The good things we collectively harvest are exciting prospects for financial advisor John Williams Jr.
“My brothers and I learned at an early age that we needed to develop our own careers away from CSI. Dad truly believed this was in our best interest for a series of reasons, and it has resulted well for us all.” John Williams Jr.
Williams was born, the first of three sons, in Frankfurt, West Germany to John and Vivian Williams. At the time, Williams Sr. was a soldier in the U.S. Army and stationed there. After completing his service, the family moved back home to Paducah.
Attending city schools, Williams went to Clark Elementary, Brazelton Junior High, and Paducah Tilghman High School. As an elementary student, he discovered two of his passions; the trumpet and scouts.
Back in the day, tonette lessons were part of the music curriculum in fourth grade. If you’re unfamiliar with these plastic instruments, they're closer in size to a piccolo but played like a clarinet. Kids interested in music typically transition to band choosing from a variety of possibilities such as woodwinds, brass, or drums.
The other interest that served Williams well was Boy Scouts. He spent much of his time participating in scouting activities. “Scouting was good for me in many ways and it involved some of the roots of my eventual career,” he said. That eventual career was financial planning and the catalyst was a merit badge. The merit badge allows scouts to investigate different areas of knowledge and skill. Williams’ interest lay in personal management. In this area, youth learn about budgeting, savings, retirement goals, the stock market, and the emotional connections to money. The Personal Management Merit Badge was really an eye-opener for him.
Williams has always been focused and committed to projects and goals he sets for himself. Even though his elders were successful business people, his father's voice could be heard telling him to create his own path. It was a bit of a chess game. Mentally, he planned each move. If looking at a chessboard, one determines the imbalances, figures out the best squares for each piece, and selects moves based on various factors. It’s methodical, premeditated, and the perfect approach for any goal-oriented person.
Financial savviness is an inherited trait. Williams’ uncles were accountants at Williams, Williams, and Lentz. His grandfather Williams worked at Prudential Financial. His other grandfather (Vivian’s dad) was a banker at Citizens Bank and Trust Company and Williams Sr. was in the banking industry. As Williams started carving out his niche, he said, “It seemed to me that wealth and financial planning was the related area of professional work that no one in the family had already claimed as their own.”
After graduating high school in ‘81, Williams matriculated to Emory University in Atlanta earning a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. If you’re unfamiliar with the school, Emory is a private research university founded in 1836 and named in honor of Methodist bishop John Emory. While at Emory, Williams pledged Sigma Chi Fraternity and showed interest in various political issues.
Graduating in ‘85, Williams believed it was time to start pursuing his dream job. On the advice of a ‘wise’ family friend in the business, Williams reluctantly postponed starting his plans for the next 10 years. “Few folks that have life savings, retirement, and wealth will trust a 21-year-old with their life savings, retirement, and wealth,” said Williams. Though heartbroken, he heeded the advice.
Now, what to do. It was time to work on his business acumen, obtain advanced degrees, and live life. During these years, Williams participated in government relations/lobbying, real estate development, and banking. He added a graduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Plus, he started a family. Thirty-two years ago this April, twins John Williams IV and Ashley Williams Lambert were born. Two of his greatest joys.
There was a time Williams thought he might like to work for CSI (Computer Services Incorporated). As a banker and in the throngs of earning his first of two graduate degrees, Williams thought CSI could branch out into other areas. He said, “What occurred to me then was that CSI could develop a professional consulting division to discuss bank management issues growing out of existing customer relationships and the data already in the computers. I spoke to one CSI officer about it and realized in the middle of that exact conversation that I needed to stay on the course I’d set to wealth and financial planning.”
Fast-forward to 1996, after the 10-year learning curve expired, it was time. “Once I leaped into financial advice and planning, I re-engaged my studies and added a Masters' Degree from the College of Financial Planning at Greenwood Village, CO,” said Williams. He also invested time earning professional certifications as a CFP, CIMA (University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business), CPWA (Yale Business School), CAP, CRPC, and CMFC.
Before the leap, it’s important to share how Williams met his wife Kristin Reese Williams. “I was on the Board of Directors but not active as I was juggling my bank role at the time (Executive Vice-President of the Bank of Marshall County in Benton, KY) and studying to take the securities licenses exams for my career launch,” said Williams. Originally from Knoxville, Kristin moved to Paducah as the new CEO of GPEDC (Greater Paducah Economic Development Council). She asked Williams to lunch to ‘politely’ share with him that he was ‘messing up the quorum’ of the meetings and if he didn’t commit to regular attendance, he would be fired. “I accepted the dismissal and moved on,” said Williams. Apparently, there were no hard feelings. One year later, Williams and Kristin went on their first dinner and drinks date at Max’s Brick Oven in downtown Paducah and the rest is history.
Williams’ brothers, Kevin and Brett are both in finance. Kevin graduated from Paducah Tilghman in ‘85. He is a co-CEO at Agency Lending for Greystone (a private lending firm that lends to commercial borrowers with certain Fannie Mae programs). He and his wife Christie have four sons and live in Collierville, TN. Brother Brett is in the same industry as Kevin. He graduated from Paducah Tilghman also. He and Kent Waltman, another PTHS grad, developed their own firm that transitioned to a large firm last year called Situs, AMC. Brett married Allyson and they live in Franklin, TN with their two children.
Currently, Williams is the managing director of investments at Wells Fargo Advisors in Paducah. Recently, Forbes named him Best in State, through an interview and process conducted by Shook Research who partners with Forbes. Williams said that the Paducah firm has six practicing people. Five have licenses and are credentialed. “What clients and others don’t see as much is that my Paducah team colleagues are recognized at the top of our industry within our firm, which ranks in the top three in the U.S. in size and breadth,” said Williams. The firm services clients in 24 states with the greatest in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Since the pandemic, Williams has spent much of his time at his home in Townsend, TN. The vacation home is less than a mile from the boundary of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. A room within the home has converted to a home office. He also said he’s perfected the art of Zoom meetings. His ideal day consists of ‘balanced time’ both inside and outside, hobbies, fresh food, and time with friends.
Spending time at the Townsend home has its perks. “We’re rediscovering the nooks and crannies in the Smoky Mts. and surrounding areas for hiking, fly fishing, and biking,” said Williams. Though biking hasn’t officially started in 2021 for Williams, one of his current favorite trails is a gravel road around Rich Mountain. The Rich Mountain Loop Trail in the Smokies begins in Cades Cove. “If done in a loop, it’s 25 miles of peddling,” said Williams.
Food and drink is another hobby enjoyed. “We love to cook,” said Williams. At home, they grow a small garden and are ‘best known’ within the family for their homegrown pesto. The couple also appreciates good wine and bourbon. “There have been many trips to Napa and Sonoma over the past 20 years,” he said. For nine years they owned a little place among the California vineyards.
“We’ve made so many good friends in the (wine) industry,” said Williams. One of their favorites is Behrens Family Winery in Spring Mountain. The boutique winery is in Saint Helena, CA, and owned by Les Behrens and Lisa Drinkward. Their favorite bourbon drink is a Manhattan. At home, the house favorite is a Black Walnut Manhattan made with Black Walnut bitters and Amaro, as opposed to sweet vermouth.
Williams has three grandchildren and one due in May. All are girls and they release lots of energy and provide lots of comedy to his already active lifestyle. “We have started home cooking projects with Juliet and Reese, and that promises to expand with Nora and Lorelei (I’m told that’s the name for May baby),” said Williams.
We mustn’t forget TeeJay and Lila. “TeeJay is actually my first dog. He’s half Staffordshire terrier and half Great Dane. He’s big, smart, loyal, and goofy. Lila is a Bassador who is half Basset and half Black lab. She’s sneaky, loyal, loving, and goofy,” said Williams.
As part of William’s well-rounded life, he’s serving on the Board of the Paducah Symphony Orchestra for the third time and he’s involved in the effort to build a Memorial Courtyard at Broadway United Methodist Church. “A columbarium of ashes of church members and associates,” he said.
COVID has made a herculean impact on all of our lives in one way or another. Working from home, limited activities with friends and family, lost jobs, and people falling ill and dying. As vaccinations ramp up and positive cases decline, there’s hope. Williams said, “I’m now excited about how we come together again, and especially what are the good things we collectively harvest from these experiences.”
Williams said he missed the community aspect of the church, socializing, and going to the office. As a person with a booming practice, a serial hobbyist, husband, dad, son, and grandfather, getting back to the activities, events, and people that he loves, is a lot to look forward to.
Naples is on the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida between Miami and Fort Myers. It’s been voted multiple times as the number one place to live. Collier County has 17 miles of unobstructed views of the ocean situated on sugar, white sandy beaches. It’s described as a happy and joyous place to enjoy the beach, retire, and be healthy. In fact, the spread of the coronavirus remained at such low rates, restaurants continued to stay open during the pandemic.
One of the most interesting attractions in Naples is the sunset. If you’re downtown by the ocean around this time, magic might happen. As the sun hits the horizon, onlookers can experience a meteorological optical phenomenon called the ‘green flash’. When the conditions are right, a distinct green spot is briefly visible above the upper rim of the sun's disk; the green appearance usually lasts for no more than two seconds. It’s an incredible sight to see.
The Shannon Green Collection shimmers and shines like the ‘green light’ effect, except the boutique nestled in the Naples Design District has lasted more than a few seconds. In fact, Shannon opened her fine jewelry boutique nine years ago. It’s one of the ‘true loves’ that really brings her joy.
Shannon always had that sparkle. Even in elementary school, all the girls wanted her as a friend and the boys wanted to date her. She was beautiful, bright, and outgoing. She was everybody’s friend, kind to animals, and an all-around good person.
In the ’70s and ’80s, the Paducah city school district had a larger student body than any of the surrounding suburbs. In the early ’80s, Paducah Tilghman High School (10th - 12th) had over 1,000 students. Since those days, PTHS enrollment has significantly declined.
During Shannon’s formidable years in high school, she played tennis, participated in drill corps, and a sorority. Her senior year, Shannon was the majorette on the drill team. A majorette sets the stage and the tone of the dance. The skill requires leadership both in spirit and in keeping time. The PTHS Drill Corp had over 50 plus young women on the team dancing to the tunes of the football marching band before every home game. It's a very interesting part of the school's heritage.
In addition to leadership roles in extra-curricular activities, Shannon was the football homecoming queen. Students selected her for the homecoming court and the football team chose her as their queen.
Part-time jobs were part of student life during high school years. Many students tended to their studies, participated in clubs and school activities, plus worked part-time for some extra spending cash. Shannon spent her Saturdays at Albritton’s Pharmacy in midtown Paducah. “My first part-time job was working with Lawrence Albritton. He was a fantastic mentor,” said Shannon.
Albritton’s Pharmacy was down the street from Clark Elementary, Brazelton Junior High, and six or seven blocks from the high school. Many in the Westend filled their prescriptions at the local pharmacy. Once Lawrence retired, his son Edwin took over as the pharmacist. After school, junior high kids would stop by the business to purchase candy or a soda. It was a special family-owned staple for those living in the area.
After graduating high school in 1982, Shannon left the area to attend Florida State University studying social science. She continued working part-time here and there, trying her hand at waitressing for tips. Shannon worked at an oyster bar which turned out 'not to be' her cup of tea.
Shannon’s senior year of college, she studied in London, England. After earning her Bachelor of Science Degree, she stayed behind and started working as an Assistant Accessories Buyer for a large company called Jacques Vert. “It was a fabulous job. I worked with interesting and creative people and traveled a bit in Europe,” she said.
In 1992, Shannon moved back to Paducah working as sales manager for ‘the original team’ of selling cellular phones and services at Cellular One. She also participated in the Rotary Club. Rotary is a global organization that brings together businesses and professional leaders to provide humanitarian services and advance goodwill and peace.
Before leaving for Naples, Shannon’s daughter Lydia was born. “She’s my pride and joy,” said Shannon.
After starting a new life in Naples, Shannon worked part-time for two different businesses in the jewelry industry. She represented a German Jeweler selling at trade shows and trunk shows as well as working for a buyer at Bigham Jewelers.
Obviously, her flair for the industry was clear. As she learned more and became acclimated to life in Naples, it was time to take the next step. “I’ve always known it was in me to own a business,” she said. In 2012, she established Shannon Green Collection.
The boutique sells fine jewelry designed from different places. “The business is small but has a good following,” Shannon said. The primary designers are Maria Aaron, Suzy Landa, Paul Morelli, Erica Molinari, and recently added Eden Presley. All of these designers have their own companies and most are out of New York. Their creations are incredible, just like the selection carried in the boutique.
In addition to selling jewelry, the business offers repairs and custom work. “We do a lot of repurposing and refurbishing of old and heirloom pieces. I’m very fortunate to have one of the best goldsmiths ever,” said Shannon. Be watching for the launch of the Shannon Green Collection online service coming this summer.
Lydia graduated from high school in 2018. She is now a junior at SMU (Southern Methodist University) in Dallas, Texas ‘the city of big ideas and big opportunities.’ “She’s in a sorority and has a nice social life. Lydia seems very happy and is thriving. I predict she’ll stay there,” said Shannon.
As an empty nester, Shannon is building a house. She stays busy with the shop and doing her thing. Of course, she misses Lydia but it’s every parent’s dream to see their child spread their wings and do well in this crazy, beautiful world.
Shannon makes it this way to Paducah to visit her parents and brother Ben ever now and then. “My parents are still healthy and active,” she said. Her mom, Judy still plays tennis, bridge, pickleball, and Mahjong. Mahjong is a tile-based game that was developed during the Qing dynasty in China and spread in popularity throughout the world during the 20th century. It’s a great memory game and can even be played online as Mahjong solitaire.
Shannon’s dad, Benny still hunts and fishes. He ‘reluctantly’ retired from his construction company B.H. Green and son that established itself in 1955. Brother Ben runs a farm in Livingston County. The family is doing great.
“I love my hometown Paducah. I always call it the 'center of the universe' because everywhere I go, someone is connected to it or knows someone from here,” said Shannon. She said that a lot has changed though much remains the same. “Many of the small family-owned businesses that make a small town charming have closed. It’s still a beautiful small town and I love Midtown Market."
Some of Shannon’s interests are interior design, art, travel, and her three dogs: Milly, a Standard Poodle; Bentley, a Shih Tzu; and Jilly, a Morkie.
Part of Shannon’s art collection includes Artist Tim Jaeger. Jaeger is a native of Paducah and has paintings in several local businesses in downtown Paducah including Cynthia’s Ristorante and the Yeiser Art Center. “I’ve collected his art for a while. People come into the shop and love it,” said Shannon. She’ll be partnering with the Humane Society and a local restaurant as an introduction to Jaeger's artistry to the Naples community. The event is on April 22.
Currently, Jaeger lives in Sarasota, Florida. He’s a graduate of the Ringling College of Art in Sarasota. He has a website for those interested in learning more about his pieces.
Shannon said, "My favorite vacation spot is Harbour Island in the Bahamas, and I can’t wait to go back." Her ideal day includes a workout at the gym, a quick juice and breakfast, outside by the pool and hanging out at home, maybe dinner and a movie. “Simple really,” she said.
Whether it’s working at her boutique, visiting with her parents, watching her daughter blossom, playing with her dogs, or taking excellent care of her body, mind, and soul, “Knowing that life is short and precious...I want to live it to the fullest.” Shannon Green
School spirit is a sense of comradery shared by classmates. Loyalty is showing faithfulness to a person or institution. True friendship is being thoughtful and kind regardless of the circumstance. A person possessing these qualities and ideals isn’t to be taken for granted or slighted in any way.
Troy York is a friend that displays all three; school spirit, loyalty, and true friendship. Troy, like many who live in western Kentucky, hasn’t strayed far from home plate. Born in Murray, KY, and raised in Paducah, he attended city schools which included Jackson Elementary, Brazelton Jr. High, and Paducah Tilghman High School.
As a young kid growing up in the city and attending city schools, playing sports was a huge part of life. In 7th grade, Troy was 6’2 and ready to shoot hoops. All three years of junior high, the boys' basketball team dominated the court. With Troy over six feet tall, two other players worth mentioning were Gary Cox and David VanCleve each 6’6. “Most teams didn’t have the size and couldn’t compare,” said Troy.
A similar story could be told at PTHS. York played varsity basketball all three years and each year the team had a winning record. His sophomore year the team was 15-9. In Troy’s junior year, the team was 31-4 and he was voted first-team All-State Player by high school basketball coaches across the state of Kentucky. “This award was very humbling,” said Troy. During the ‘79-’80 school year, the team played in the KHSAA State Tournament. The team’s record during his senior year was 23-7.
Bernie Miller was the head coach at PTHS during Troy’s high school years. From 1969 until 1988, he coached at Paducah Tilghman High School. His Tilghman teams won 41 tournament championships, 7 first region championships, and reached the state quarterfinals three times. His overall record was 557-174. Coach Miller recently passed away. He will be missed.
In addition to shooting hoops, Troy was in the starting line-up all three years for the PTHS varsity baseball team. His senior year, he played with two former MLB baseball players Steve Finley and Terry Shumpert. Finley is a two-time All-Star, World Series Champion, and five-time Gold Glove winner. Shumpert was a utility player and an alumnus of the University of Kentucky. Shumpert’s son, Nick signed with the Atlanta Braves in 2016.
Troy said, “We won a lot and only lost to St. Mary’s High School who dominated the sport in the ’70s and early ’80s.” Troy’s brother Trad was a baseball player for PTHS too. Though seven years younger, Troy’s quite proud of his baby brother. “We’ve always been close even with the age difference.”
The York family has always been very sports-focused. Both parents were big supporters of the boys. Dad coached and mom worked concessions. They were active during the early years of the Khoury League and later at Brooks Stadium. “They grew up hard and never really ‘babied’ us. They gave us all the tools we needed to be successful,” said Troy.
Troy had another sibling born three years after him. He said, “We had a sister in-between us that died one day after birth. Her name was Trena and she had a hole in her heart.” It was hard on the family and she’ll always hold a place in Troy’s heart.
After graduating high school, Troy continued his basketball career for the Paducah Community College Indians. He received an Associate’s Degree then continued his education at Murray State University majoring in business with an emphasis in marketing.
After starting at MSU, Troy began attending church with his grandparents. When Troy was younger, going to church wasn’t something the family did regularly. “Mamaw and Pap were hugely important in our lives. Mamaw made sure we knew the Lord.” Troy accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior while at MSU.
Troy said, “Trad was called to the ministry when he was 23 years old after many youthful years of wrongdoing.” Now, he’s a pastor at Waldo Baptist Church in Brookport, Illinois, and Chaplain for the Sheriff’s Offices of McCracken and Marshall Counties.
While at MSU, Troy worked part-time for McKowen Office Supply. “Al was a tough boss, not going to lie about that. He expected hard work daily,” said Troy. While delivering supplies to Ken Higdon at Higdon Food Service, he applied for a job with the company. Three days later, he started his career in the foodservice industry.
After graduating college, Troy took a position in sales with Higdon Food Service and spent the next five years working in Owensboro, KY.
Troy met his wife Barb a year before graduating college. She moved into the apartment above his at Murray Manor. There was an immediate attraction. Troy confesses, “I prefer blondes.” However, it wasn’t just her looks, Troy got to know Barb and discovered they had a similar upbringing, values, and work ethic. She ‘checked all the boxes.’
It wasn’t until Barb left for summer break that Troy realized, “I missed her and she’s the one I want to marry.” Troy proposed at a local restaurant in Paducah. One year later, the couple married.
The Yorks had a big wedding. Barb’s dad was Sheriff in Jacksonville, IL, and had been for 12 years. He was also one of 15 children. Troy chose David Davis as his best man. Davis was Troy’s close friend from high school. They played basketball together at PTHS. He chose Trad York, Shane Boudreaux, and David Lambert as best groomsmen. Lambert passed away a few years ago and is sorely missed.
Troy and Barb have two children, Kelsy Stone (30) and Kyler York (27). Both children are married. Kelsy and husband Isaac live minutes down the road from Troy and Kyler, wife Katie, and son Cole Thomas live just outside of Louisville, KY.
Once married, the Yorks lived in Owensboro until 1990. Their move back to Paducah was initiated so Troy could work the territory in southern Illinois. Troy’s career outlasted several company buyouts. After Higdon Food Service, it sold to Kraft, PYA Monarch, and US Foods. He spent the next 14 years working I-24 and IL-13.
In 2014, Troy joined a new company, Performance Food Service out of Lebanon, Tennessee. Currently, he’s a District Manager managing 10 representatives. After 35 years in the food industry, Troy admitted it had been a good career for his family.
As a traveling salesman or one in management, one can imagine the number of hours spent in the car grabbing fast food here and there. Lots of road hours can translate into a sedentary lifestyle. In 2019, the Yorks set out to change that. Troy and Barb joined a weight loss program designed by Dr. Ryan Frazine, an internal medicine doctor in Paducah. They wanted to live a healthier life, lose some weight, increase energy, and stay off unnecessary medications.
“The first six-weeks is hard. We had to learn to get energy from our food,” said Troy. “We had healthy protein shakes for breakfast/lunch and dinner, four ounces of lean protein, and two healthy vegetables (no starch).” Both have lost 60 pounds and have maintained their weight loss for two years.
Troy hopes to be an inspiration to others who want to drop the pounds. His daughter Kelsy was so inspired, she jumped on the bandwagon. Their son, Kyler, is another story. Troy said, “Kelsy and I used to joke that Kyler must’ve come from an affair with a Barney Fife type with his high metabolism and all.”
Since COVID, it’s been difficult getting together with his kids, their families, and Barb’s mom. “Grandson Cole was born March 14, 2020, the weekend COVID shutdown our nation,” said Troy. “We love him more than life itself.” The visits are few and far between, however, with Facebook ‘live’ and other apps, the Yorks have been virtually present.
“I’m a simple man,” said Troy. “I enjoy bike riding, taking walks, working in the yard, an occasional trip to Florida, our pets, and waking up at 4 am every morning.” After COVID, Troy plans to spend more time with his grandson in-person. Overnight visits are on his radar screen. The Yorks plan to move Barb’s mom to Paducah after COVID. They would like to have her closer.
Over the next couple of weeks, Troy will receive his second COVID-19 vaccination. He’s pumped about having the opportunity to move around more freely. The second shot couldn’t get here fast enough.
When asked about Troys best day, he said, “When I see an old friend out and about or chat over Facebook, I feel JOY. When I visit my kids or grandson, I feel JOY. When I watch my wife smile or hear her laughter while interacting with the kids or our grandson, I feel JOY.” Seeing Troy enjoy life’s simple pleasures, brings all of us JOY.
Children going through the unimaginable receive empathy and special attention from social worker Azia Rouse
Family is everything. Growing up in Paducah, Azia Rouse was surrounded by a village of parishioners, her maternal grandparents, and doting mom Felicia Rouse. Her church family at Harrison Street Baptist Church on Paducah’s northside was a place where Azia spent much of her time ‘heavily involved in youth ministry.’ Her mom is a Paducah Tilghman High School alumni and has always been there for Azia. Having a loving parent and strong foundation in the teachings of Jesus Christ, Azia’s career choice led her down the path of advocating for others.
In the Paducah area, 25% of children live below the poverty line. Living below the poverty line means a child’s basic needs of food, water and shelter aren’t being met. Poverty, child neglect, and abuse become a vicious cycle of despair that tends to go together. It’s people like Azia who dedicate their careers to breaking that vicious cycle.
Azia's K-12 education began at Clark Elementary School in Paducah’s west end. After elementary school she attended Paducah Middle School and Paducah Tilghman High School. Azia participated in The Band of Blue Color Guard and the BETA Club. The color guard performs with the marching band. The BETA Club is an academic club that requires a 3.5 GPA or better. In addition to academic achievements, BETA Club members are of good character and take part in leadership roles.
A class favorite and full of promise, Azia set out to make the world a better place. While in high school, she volunteered at the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club of Paducah. Oscar Cross has served disadvantaged youth in Paducah for over 60 years. Located across from Bob Noble Park, their mission is to enable all young people, especially those in need, to be productive, caring, and responsible citizens.
Azia was also part of the Keystone Club which is the Boys and Girls Club movement’s ultimate teen program. Those ages 14 - 18 take part in leadership development opportunities that focus on academic success, career preparedness, and community service.
While at PTHS, the Paducah/McCracken County Chamber of Commerce awarded Azia Teen of the Month. She was also crowned PTHS Homecoming Queen her senior year. To be homecoming queen, students vote on a homecoming court. Then, the football team crown their queen.
After graduating high school in 2012, Azia attended the University of Kentucky in Lexington. It was here that things started to fall in place...educational goals aligned with career aspirations. She did spend a moment or two in the dietetics field, but quickly discovered, it’s children and families that tug at her heart-strings. “I knew I wanted to work with kids,” said Azia. This was her true passion. Saving one family, one life, through hard work, dedication, and prayer. Azia’s major was Family Science and her goal was to work with kids and the family unit.
Along with her studies, Azia participated in a mentoring program called College Mentors for Kids. By joining a college mentoring program, students can transform other’s lives as well as their own.
Kids would go to the university campus for fun, hands-on activities and to connect with college student mentors like Azia. Student mentors help kids believe in a brighter future. The mission focuses on opening windows of opportunity for underserved children. The idea is to expose impressionable children to positive pathways to make healthier and wiser life choices.
Opportunities like being financially independent and giving back to communities isn’t always the life these children witness. The program makes a big difference on both sides of the fence...the children and the mentor. College students learn to give back to communities through volunteering. It helps to develop leadership skills and make meaningful, impactful relationships. It changes lives.
After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree, Azia continued her education at UK pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work.
Azia's first career job started as an intern at KVC Health Systems. KVC is a non-profit organization that helps families with in-home therapy, behavioral healthcare, foster care, adoption and children’s psychiatric needs. The program helps to equip children, families, and adults in crisis with the skills and resources needed to change a negative trajectory.
For two years, Azia was a Comprehensive Community Support Assistant helping to bridge the divide between public schools and parents to cut a child’s negative behavior through support services such as therapy.
“One client that struck a chord with me was an eight year old foster youth. She was so sweet but feisty and hated when I showed up at her school. Kids would ask her if I was her mother,” Azia said. “She would throw tantrums when she saw me coming. By the time she calmed down, it was time to return to class. One day she asked if I would stop seeing her during the school day. The little girl said she already felt uncomfortable because she was a foster child.” Azia started working with her after school. After weeks of after school meetings, the bond between the two became very special. Listening to the needs of a child can make all the difference in the world. This part of Azia’s job is a game changer.
Soon, a transfer to another department within the company transpired. Azia moved to Family Preservation and Reunification. FPRS provides in-home, community-based intensive services to cut safety risks jeopardizing children’s placement in the home. It’s designed to help families stay safely together, divert children from being placed in foster care or a residential treatment center, aid reunifying children from out-of-home placement, and improve family relationships.
Azia moved back to Paducah three months ago. She accepted a position as an Independent Living Coordinator in the Training Resource Center at Murray State University. The program offers independent living services to youth in home care and who have aged out of the system.
The common thread throughout Azia’s career has been to help those in need. “I think some of the youth we meet have been through more than we can ever imagine and they deserve more attention and empathy,” said Azia. Working with youth after they turn 18 is such a critical time. Twenty thousand youth age out of foster care each year and they are at risk for poor educational outcomes, experiencing homelessness, and unemployment. Part of Azia’s role is to help those at MSU avoid becoming a statistic.
There’s a time to work and a time to play. Azia loves to travel. In fact, part of her plans include traveling to all 50 states as well as international destinations. In 2018, Azia traveled to Belize for some much-needed R&R. Shopping is a stress reliever too. A trip to Hollywood, California helped to scratch that itch.
In the not too distant future, Azia plans to complete her school social work certificate. Professional social workers are highly trained and specialized. Azia has two degrees and is making plans for more training to reach her goals. Currently, Azia has a MSW or Masters in Social Work.
One can only imagine the commitment and unbelievable stress that comes with being a social worker. Azia’s work for the underserved and misguided is an understatement. The skills she learned as a girl, a college student, and as a career social worker will change the trajectory of so many lives. Children who experience poverty, neglect, and abuse are more likely than not to continue dysfunctional behaviors and lifestyles if not for people like Azia. “My faith in God keeps me going. I know the reward in the end will be grand.” Azia Rouse
"The kitchen is the gathering place where thoughtfully prepared foods can break-down barriers." Susie Coiner
Shopping malls were big in the 80’s but in the following decade, they were huge. In the early 90’s, Dawahare’s department store opened inside Kentucky Oaks Mall in Paducah, Kentucky. Dawahare’s was a fourth generation family owned business founded in 1907 by S.F. Dawahare, a native of Syria, who began as a peddler in the coal camps of Eastern Kentucky (Lexington Herald Leader). At the time of its heyday, the company owned 40 stores in KY, TN, Ohio, and W. Virginia.
During the expansion, Susie was in California working at Ann Taylor as a manager in training. Ann Taylor apparel was known in the 80’s and 90's for the power suit and tailored clothing worn by career women across the U.S. and eventually 100 countries worldwide. A. F. Dawahare, Susie's father asked Susie to return to Kentucky to manage the Paducah location. She was the perfect person for the job bringing style and grace to the western Kentucky market.
A graduate from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor’s degree in merchandising, apparel, and textiles, Susie accepted the challenge and moved to Quilt City USA to join the family business.
Susie’s father was a firm believer in community involvement. Part of her task as manager of the Paducah Dawahare’s, as well as, overseer of store locations from Pikeville to Paducah was to engage citizens. “We want you to put a good footprint in the community,” said Susie’s dad. So, she got on several local boards and found out quickly that many of the conversations revolved around BBQ.
As she ventured out to honor her father's request the goal was to grow the business. In her search for creating positivity within the market, Susie kept hearing chatter that revolved around questions like ‘What’s your favorite BBQ?’ And, everyone had an opinion. In the meantime, local charities would come by the store asking for donations. “There were so many agencies that needed funding,” said Susie. Then came the 'Aha' moment.
Growing up in Lexington, Susie enjoyed going to the chili cook-off at the Lexington Red Mile. If you're unfamiliar with The Red Mile on Red Mile Road, its home to gaming, horse racing, seasonal festivals and food contests like the chili cook-off.
While attending an event at Paducah's Blue Grass Downs horse racing track, Susie had the 'Aha' moment. The ‘Aha’ translated into BBQ which soon unfolded into one of the biggest, if not the biggest festival in western Kentucky.
BBQ on the River in Paducah, KY
One year after embracing our little town, Susie was set-up on a blind date with Andrew Coiner. The matchmaker was Chris Black owner of Ray Black & Son, a leading construction company that's nearing 100 years old. Coiner was a local attorney and on the Main Street Board. One of the first things the couple realized they had in common was love of community.
Susie said, “That night, we attended a Market House Theater play, Camelot. Then, we went to Jeremiah’s restaurant where we watched the O.J. Simpson chase on television.” On that date, they discussed the idea of the BBQ festival. “Andrew was very encouraging. I had him at BBQ,” said Susie.
Not too far down the road, the First Ever BBQ on the River had its debut in 1995 with 16 vendors. Fast forward twenty-five years and the festival has grown to a whopping 70 food vendors and 80 non-food vendors. Susie remains president of the organization and, in case you wondered, is still unsure what lies ahead for the fundraiser in 2021.
Professionally, Susie’s life was on the right track. Her philanthropic projects were underway; projects that met with her father's expectations. The next move, and possibly her biggest, was marrying Andrew. The two wed in 1996 and started life as this beautiful, educated, community-focused power couple.
A few years down the road, as if life couldn’t get any sweeter, their daughter Lilly was born. “Andrew and I would butt heads about every single thing except Lilly. She was the one constant of which we both agreed.” And that one constant paid off. Lilly is in the process of finishing up school at the University of Alabama and will be going to law school in the fall. “She’s often described herself as being her dad’s ‘soul mate’. Being the best teacher for Lilly was always the goal of Susie and Andrew.
In the mid 2000’s, Susie began to ‘do her own thing’ outside of the company. She started a consulting business to help other businesses sell goods, advertise, connect with the community, and develop their brand. Due to a slow-down in mall traffic across America, Dawahare’s closed all of its stores in 2008.
Susie was about to make another business move that would encompass aspects of both her professional and personal life. “Andrew was always encouraging about every single business idea,” said Susie. With that said, she founded BBQ & More.
“I fell in love with the building,” said Susie. The BBQ & More building really spoke to Susie. One of its special features is the horse and carriage commerce and mercantile area in the back of the building. To capitalize on the space, plans are in the works for an 'open air market.'
Susie said the outside space will be an extension of the interior of the business offering more fun ways to shop. The new products will coordinate with all of the other fabulous lines the store carries. The goal is to enrich the lives of customers. "I adore my customers and think about them every step of the way!" said Susie.
The test kitchen inside BBQ & More was inspired by William Sonoma and Cracker Barrel. “Carol Gault was a big part of the ‘push’ to include the kitchen,” said Susie. The space is actually a licensed restaurant. The idea behind the test kitchen is so the ‘customer can sample and taste whatever they are buying.’
Andrew and Susie were both passionate about food. “He was always so supportive,” she said. "He did say to keep the store manned-up.”
One of the marketing tools Susie used for the business was a website/blog called ‘Susie in the Black;' it started about two-and-a-half years ago. Then, life happened. A trilogy of events sent Susie’s world spiraling. First, her dad became ill and passed away. Second, a trusted employee stole a large sum of money from the BBQ on the River account. Third, Andrew had a stroke and passed away.
Susie said, “My life was derailed.” Obviously, she had to do something quick. After all, Lilly needed her and so many others. So, she started journaling and meditating at least three minutes a day. She said, “One of my philosophies that helps me stay out of a crappy situation is to get out of the negative spiral as quickly as possible. The longer you stay down the rabbit hole the harder it is to get out.”
'That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.' Friedrich Nietzsche
“I feel myself growing everyday,” said Susie. “My mom is amazing and encourages me. I believe in leading with good intent of what you want to happen, and if you do the hard work, it will turn out the way it’s supposed to.”
“Lilly had such an amazing relationship with her dad and I’m so thankful for that,” said Susie. Mom and daughter are working hard to stay positive and ahead of the curve. Much of the family lives in Lexington and Lilly hopes to attend law school somewhere in the vicinity. Having family support is so important to Susie and there’s a good number of loving family members around the Lexington area.
BBQ & More is more than just a brick and mortar business for Susie. The spirit behind the business is buying local when possible with the highest quality products available. She said, “We have the most wonderful customers in the world.” Loyal customers that receive top-notch customer service, exceptional quality products, and the opportunity to shop online with a storefront location to boot, will succeed there’s no doubt with Susie Coiner at the helm.
Susie in the Black, a website - blog emphasizing daily profitability; literally and figuratively
“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!