Author shines light on Winchester’s everyday heroes

Published 10:42 am Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Some 27 years ago, Deborah Lane of Winchester, decided she wanted a fourth child — and this time, it would be an adopted one.

“As it turned out, a son, David, fell right into her hands — almost literally. Not only that, but the child grew into quite a special man, one who dedicated his life to uplifting vulnerable children.”

Steve Flairty shares David Lane’s story, “Changing Lives in Guatemala,” in his latest book, “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes: Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things Volume Five,” which hit the shelves June 12.

Email newsletter signup

“David Lane, here in Winchester, is a great story of overcoming some personal demons,” Flairty said. “As I mentioned in the story, he had great potential, a sharp guy on the track team at high school and went to the Army… but he had a problem. He had made some bad decisions with alcohol. But with the support of other people around here, he’s turned into just a great servant of God, down in Guatemala. He’s learned the language. He’s had to raise his own money. But it’s making a difference.”

Flairty is a Campbell County native but moved to Central Kentucky to attend Eastern Kentucky University, falling in love with the area and deciding to stick around.

Flairty, now 65, lived and worked in Clark County for 20 years, from 1975 to 1995. He taught elementary school and one year of high school in Clark County, spending most of his years teaching the fourth grade.

In the last several years of his teaching career, which he spent in Fayette County, Flairty sent a devotional to “The Upper Room,” a magazine with roots in the United Methodist Church.

“I had a little bit of talent, I thought, for writing,” Flairty said. “Surprisingly, I got this letter from them… and I received $25 for my work.

“But they said the real pay would come when your devotion comes out throughout the world. Over a million people will see that. And so I thought, ‘Golly.’

“I was still teaching at the time, and I love teaching, but this writing thing is pretty neat, too, and I need more time to do it.”

Flairty officially retired from full-time teaching in 2003.

“I like to call it, ‘Expanding my classroom,’” Flairty said. “I had a bigger audience, so I started writing.”

Flairty wrote for magazines and periodicals for a while before turning a magazine article on Tim Farmer into his first book. Flairty published his first book, “Tim Farmer: A Kentucky Woodsman Restored,” in 2005.

“People came to me at those book signings because he’s pretty well off, and people came to see him and so forth but continually they would talk to me about a subject of my next book,” Flairty said. “And they have an idea of who it might be. But they weren’t famous. They were people that lived in their communities, like your neighbors or mine, who do noble acts of character… They are special people, and they lift everybody else…

“I heard story and story after story after story about that. And at one point I said, we don’t want to lose these stories. These are important ones.”

In 2008, Flairty published “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes: Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things, Volume One.”

“I have a real passion for Kentucky’s people,” Flairty said. “That kind of drives me every day.”

He and his wife, Suzanne, have lived in Versailles for the last three years. Flairty is currently a columnist for KyForward and, as well as a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly.

“I missed the teaching, but I just needed more time to write, and so you might call it retirement, but it’s a very busy retirement, very engaging retirement,” Flairty said.

Other Clark County people in Flairyt’s KEH series are Don Rose in Volume One, Ron Kibbey in Volume Two and Matthew Bradford in Volume Four.

“People come to me almost daily with stories that are compelling,” Flairty said. “That shows me there’s a need to continue. I’m having so much fun with it… I feel like it’s my niche.”

Also, Briana Stout and Landen Speck, as children, appeared in Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes for Kids (2012).

“The kinds of people we have in Kentucky are as good as any in this country,” Flairty said. “And so I seek to shine a light on those. Those very special people are not always well known, except in their community. And most of the people I sat down to interview for Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes, the first thing they’ll tell me is, ‘I’m not a hero.’”

Founding minister Dave Scalf describes himself and those who worship at Christ Church Winchester as real people, not in any way perfect.

We’re all just “messes who need a messiah,” he likes to say, and so it makes perfect sense that all are welcome to come and worship at CCW.

Dave and Amy Scalf’s story, “Showering the Vulnerable with Love,” is Flairty’s second story from Clark County in Volume Five.

“It’s a fascinating story because they have a heart for those with disabilities,” Flairty said. “And I started as a special ed teacher, so I had that orientation myself. And just really impressed with the way, for example, David had overcome the loss of his mom and dad and one of their adopted children in a one- to 10-month period… and how they’ve been able to handle that.

“And then they adopted seven kids all together, and all of them have some special situation that they had to deal with, makes it a little more difficult. They are amazingly two people with love and passion.”

Clark Countians can purchase Flairty’s latest book at Court Street Gifts.

Flairty said Volume Five came from a forward momentum from previous books in the series, even though this volume took about four years to write, which is longer than any of the other volumes.

“This one took longer than most,” Flairty said. “It took four years because I had interruptions along the way. My brother was sick. And I dedicated this to my brother who died this past October. He died of pancreatic cancer. So this is very special to me. The last chapter tells about how he was always there for me.”

The stories of the Scalfs and Lane and Flairty’s brother are only a snippet of the 115 stories Flairty has written for the series, which usually come from community newspapers, run-ins with people and tips from others.

“I try to be as diverse as I can, diverse in terms of race and diverse in terms of geography,” Flairty said. “… I’ve been to the far ends of Western Kentucky. I’ve been to the mountains. I’ve been south. I’ve been north… After doing this since 2008, the series, pretty much the stories come to me now.”

For every story, Flairty, whose favorite Kentucky book is “Generations: An American Family” by John Egerton, interviews his subject, transcribes the interviews and then starts to write. After publishing the book, he goes on a small tour to promote the book. For this volume, Flairty will have a book signing event 2 p.m. Aug. 18 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, 161 Lexington Green Circle B. Some of the heroes featured in the book will also be at the event.

Flairty’s favorite story from the KEH series as a whole was one he wrote in Volume One. He’s told the story hundreds and hundreds of times.

It’s a story about a guy named Kendall Harvey from Adair County. He was in his 70s when Flairty interviewed him. Harvey had an eighth-grade education but was good with his hands.

Shortly after having a stroke, Harvey retired from his job as a carpenter. One day during his retirement, Harvey came across a child with Down Syndrome.

Harvey soon learned the child couldn’t ride a bicycle because of the disability. But Harvey thought all children should discover the joys of riding a bike, so he went home and broke down a couple of bicycles and turned those parts into a three-wheel bike.

That changed the child’s life.

The story got around, and several years later, Harvey told Flairty he had made 156 of those three-wheel bikes for people throughout his community and even out of state. And he did so free of charge.

“He had a heart of gold,” Flairty said of Harvey, who passed away in February 2017.

Reading Dale Hatton’s posts on Facebook are sure to put a grin on your face. He likes to share his light touch with some low-key humor, usually of the clean variety and always good-natured.

As you read him daily, you’ll also likely find him to be a caring sort, one who has a genuine passion to those in his Winchester community who “are having a hard time,” as he terms it. In doing so, Dale says he helps to bring the community together.

Hatton’s story, “Using Social Media to Meet Needs,” is Flairty’s final Clark County story in Volume Five.

“Dale has such a heart for people,” Flairty said. “… He has taken Facebook and just turned it into a real positive sort of clearinghouse for the community to let people know and let people have an opportunity to help others who are poor, who are struggling with things like having furniture or some other particular kind of need, and people really follow Dale because they see his heart.

“He’s authentic, and he lays his heart out there, and people respond.”

Flairty said he thinks his love for Kentucky’s everyday people, like Hatton, began in his childhood.

Flairty’s father used to take him and his brother on one day trips across the state. They wouldn’t usually stay overnight, but when they did, it would be in their 1964 Ford station wagon.

Flairty’s father, who died in 2013, worked on a road construction crew years before those trips and got to know people all over the state.

“We’d go on these one-day trips, and he decided he’d want to look up an old friend he had made years ago,” Flairty said.

Those trips piqued an interest in people and their lives all over Kentucky. Flairty said he also recalls people in his family and his community who would leave flowers and other goodies on people’s front porches, visit the elderly in nursing homes and more.

“I just embrace that kind of stuff,” Flairty said. “And I appreciate that, that sense of community. And that’s probably the biggest legacy my father left me… that love for

for Kentucky’s common people.”

Flairty said when people read Volume Five or any of the KEH volumes, he hopes they close the book with a bit more pride for their state.

“We got to be proud of our basketball, but there’s a whole lot more here than basketball to be proud. And I want people to see that it is possible to make a huge difference and not be a famous person… I want people to be inspired.”

But once readers finish Volume Five, they can look forward to his next volume in the series, Flairty said, as there’s no shortage of everyday heroes in Kentucky, or even Clark County.

About Lashana Harney

Lashana Harney is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. Her beats include schools and education, business and commerce, Winchester Municipal Utilities and other news. To contact her, email or call 859-759-0015.

email author More by Lashana