This is Henderson, an Ohio River town where the tea is sweet, the barbecue is smoky and grits are on the menu. Spend a little time with the people here and you’ll know you’re in a very special place. These are their stories.
What About Emily?
Fourteen-year-old Emily Herron is the youngest child in a family that knows its fair share of both talent and tragedy. She’s still waiting for her own special spotlight.
Choosing Her Pattern
“To see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower,” wrote poet William Blake, “Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.” Quilter Deirdre McConathy has found a special freedom among the elemental details of her family’s Henderson farm.
Try Love, Again
If we’re lucky, we find true love at last. Or even true love, again. Seventy-two-year-old Bill Hilyerd and 64-year-old Barbara Hilyerd have been married for two years now. And they’re both pretty sure it’s a long-term thing.
R. A. “Cowboy” Jones started racing at 16. His body is battered and worn, but the excitement he finds in the saddle remains as fresh as it was on that first ride more than fifty years ago.
A Family Affair
Since Kelly Alvey opened Kelly's Mane Event beauty salon 18 years ago, she has found friends as well as customers. When her life got tough, many of them were there for her.
A Hometown Hero
Robbie Williams, the latest in his long family to farm in Henderson County, takes seriously his charge of being a steward of his land. But he and some friends showed they also believe in preserving lands for the public.
A Loving Shield
With a faith-centered family life built around home schooling and shared prayer, John and Laura Kostbade intend to arm their children, Kurt, Jesse, Nate, Anna, Abi, Katey, and Kendra, against the temptations of a fallen world.
A Natural Solace
Sharon Bumb was a lonely child—teased at school, disconnected from her family. As an adult, she has struggled with depression. But all her life, time with animals has been Sharon’s salvation.
A Puppy Ministry
Retirement didn't mean that Hal and Bobbie Branson would slow down. For the couple that's been married 57 years, fostering rescue puppies is a ministry and a way of contributing to the community where they were raised.
A real farm family
Sharon Cates’s farm is alive with visitors during the day. At night, Sharon retreats alone to her house. Drought wiped out her pumpkin patch, so she buys pumpkins for visitors to decorate.
Natasha Burnside knew she wanted a big family. But with Tatiana, Ezra, Canaan, Jesiah, Yasmin, Farrah, and Hosea (just nine months old), she’s discovered that motherhood is more overwhelming, exhausting—and perfect—than she dreamed.
For young Jake Bartlett, there’s the temptation to become the fourth generation to join the family saw blade business. But his father hopes that advanced classes and the discipline of archery will help Jake aim higher.
Always 110 percent
Casey Millhof, 17, Henderson County High School senior, Homecoming Court member, youth leader, cheerleader, scholar, bank co-president, award-winning gymnast and fast-food worker excels in everything she attempts.
After her parents were killed in civil war, a young Somali girl fled to Ethiopia with relatives. Now, Fadumo Farah Abdi is living in Henderson, trying to learn a new language and way of life.
Paul Stone is fascinated by his bees, and often wishes that humans were more like them. Bees are hardworking and dependable, making the most of every moment. There’s only one creature he admires more: Betsy, his wife of more than 40 years.
Becoming a single mom at 16 is a tough road. But Constance Brooks has surrounded herself with the proverbial village of family, friends, mentors and other teen moms to help her cope with raising her son, Caiden Williams.
Cool beans and barbecue
Chris Waldridge’s favorite time of day is 4 a.m. to 6 a.m., when he arrives early at his job as a cook at Thomason’s BBQ. Owner Frank Gibson maintains the restaurant’s original barbecue methods — and its authentic beans.
Determined To Love
With a large measure of devotion—and a certain dry sense of humor—Bob and Jane Park have weathered the ups and downs that come with nearly six decades of marriage.
Rachel Evans Farmer, a general pediatrician in her hometown of Henderson, puts family first and gives a high priority to her relationship with patients.
Julie and Damon Nantz’s shared passion for music – and for spreading its transformative powers – led them first to marry, then to start a business, N Tune Piano Service. But it’s their faith in God that keeps them going.
East End Clips and Quips
A barber for 61 years, Don Burris jokes he considered retiring at age 10. Still, the 85-year-old barber works two days a week at Mac’s Barber hop trading barbs and cutting hair — and and he doesn’t take appointments.
It’s a little bit tutorial, and a little bit girl-time. Sixth-graders Hattie Hartman and Wendy Williams spend a period together every day at Henderson’s South Middle School.
Mohamed Jennette gets it done. Recognized by his teachers as a quiet kid, he dedicated to the demands of the freshman football team and is active in his church. Mohamed has a special bond with his mother, who has epilepsy.
Rhonda and Darrin Phegley homeschool six of their eight children, ages eight months to 16 years. Their house is a mix of chaos and control.
Harvest of Blessings
Bettye and Ray Willingham spread the blessings they’ve received by giving kids and families a fun place to play at their PartTime Farm. The farm includes a petting zoo and pumpkin patch – and that’s just for starters.
He'd rather play
Carolyn Van Houten
Senior Hunter Comer, quarterback of the Henderson County High School Colonels, followed his father in the assignment. A natural leader, he says he hates practice, doing something he knows how to do over and over.
Henderson Feature Images
Feature images from the 2012 Mountain Workshop.
His Story, Her Story, My Story
When Brett Carlsen met Calvin Marshall and Calvin’s daughter, Beth, he meant to tell a story about volatile family frustrations and the redeeming power of simple affection. But other loves and other lessons got tangled in the tale.
I Don't Want Sympathy
Artist Jerry "Robo" Wallace, 68, began to lose his sight in 2000. But his vision loss put him on the path to a deeper understanding of his Native American heritage. He walks the Red Road, a Lakota spiritual concept.
In Sickness, Health
Ariana van den Akker
After retiring from factory jobs, Opel and Darrel Boling had planned a relaxing retirement. But a 2005 scooter accident left her as the primary caregiver for her husband of 50 years.
In less time than it takes to carry a baby to term, Michelle and Matt Eblen adopted two sons and two daughters, all siblings. Then, less than a year and a half later, Michelle gave birth to Eblen No. 5.
Living for the lights
Plenty of people support their local high school sports teams. But few can match the devotion of Henderson County super fan Rick "Poncho" Lambert, who says he can recall missing only two games in the past 55 years.
Living his legacy
Herman Alles, 90, comes to work every day at the furniture store his ancestors started in 1860 and his father moved to Henderson in 1899. But he is the last of the line.
Lost and Found
She desperately wants her two youngest children, both American-born, to have better prospects than she had as a poor person in Mexico. But for Adelino Santiago, that means risking that they lose some of their heritage.
Miss Kim's kids
Kim Fendrick has become a second mother and mentor to many children after years of leading an after-school program at the John F. Kennedy Community Center.
Mr. Vincent's Vision
Keith Vincent combines a lifelong love of music and education in his position as high school band director. “I may teach band,” he says, “but it’s really the kids I’m teaching. The band is the medium for the message.”
Play in the dirt
Lisa Di Giacomo
With calm busyness, Karen O'Nan Martin feeds a small herd of farm animals, runs a thriving greenhouse and tends to the lawns and gardens of customers. She routinely does what she would never do as a farm kid: get dirty.
Damien Moore is a student at Central Academy, an alternative school. Though he suffers from depression (onset by the death of his grandparents), Damien is making big changes in his life, and wants to become an attorney.
Proud To Serve
With his own marriage ended and his sons grown and gone, much of 61-year-old Tom Davis’ time is focused on looking after his ailing father, James “Snoz” Davis. But the caring goes both ways.
Road to Redemption
After overcoming his own demons, Ernie “Deacon” Lingerfelt began preaching God’s word to fellow sinners. He is now pastor for the Warehouse of Worship church and a motorcycle ministry.
Rose Wheeler was raised Catholic and never failed to keep her faith. Now, as the educational director of the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, she helps those she calls “Coming Home Catholics” rekindle theirs.
Single mom makeover
After 10 years as a stay-at-home mom, Denise Smith went to beauty school to learn job skills so she could support herself and her three children. But she got so much more.
Faith Bennett is 16 but after her mother died in April, she grew up fast. Not only has she taken over parenting duties, she chose to take over the family business, Woofer Watchers. Faith says her little sister, Lily, 8, keeps her going.
Table of knowledge
Sammy Jo Hester
Nanette and Paul Stearman’s Geneva Store opens at 5 a.m. six days a week to serve breakfast to local farmers. Frequent customers often sit at either the “liars table” or the “table of knowledge.”
Wayman Kellen, 80-year-old manager of the Home Oil & Gas Co. petroleum depot in Morganfield, Ky., started his work life on petroleum barges, served in the U.S. Air Force and learned to sleep with his eyes open.
To Be Safe, To Succeed
Nancy Toombs knows first-hand what it’s like to be a child in a troubled home. For 28 years, the custodial supervisor has helped make Henderson’s South Heights Elementary School a safe haven.
Margaret Cheatham Williams
At each stop in her bookmobile, Cheryl Mathias delivers more than books. The outreach program of Henderson County Public Library brightens days and improves lives in neighborhoods, senior centers, and nursing homes.
At 46, Crystal Ellis, who spent most of her life childless by choice, has a mother’s love for a 7-year-old whirlwind of a boy named Wan’ke Hazelwood, her 26-year partner’s grandson. “Wan'ke is my special little man,” Crystal says. “He made me fall in love with him.”
We Three For Now
G. Ligaiya Romero
Who knows you like your brother? Who thinks more about what brotherhood means? Meet Adam, Matt, and A.J. Casey.
We Will Both Be Ready
A joint project of the New Hope Animal Rescue Center and the Henderson County Detention Center pairs dogs that need training with prisoners who need purpose. Inmate Slade Hanley and a rambunctious pup named Lady are among the first to help each other prepare for life beyond bars.
Anthony Jewell, known as "A.J.," works at Sportsman's Corner repairing and selling hunting and fishing equipment and looks forward to fishing on weekends. “I don’t like fishing; I like catching,” says A.J.
What love for a child can do
When Peggy Thomas gave birth to her youngest son 51 years ago, doctors told her he wouldn’t make it. But Paul Thomas has spent his life trying to live independently within his dependence.
Laura Elizabeth Pohl
Matt Beck worked a lot of jobs while his kids were growing up, but his heart was always on the river. After five years of training, he now moves barges full of soybeans, wheat, coal and gasoline along the Ohio as a proud tugboat pilot.
Will to Walk
Timothy Karl Johns' brain injury has changed the way that he lives his life. Despite the challenges, he tries to be the same person he was before a snowboarding accident nine years ago.