The Hertzog legacy

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(Column originally published Aug. 26, 2011)

I first met Bud Hertzog back in 1997 or 1998. I had no idea he was a veterinarian, that he could mend a mouse, a horse and a turtle in the course of a day, that he held a spot on the Jackson County Legislature or that he was so involved in the school district.

I just knew he was the grandpa to Chad and John.

And true to form, Bud didn’t tell me any of those things.

He just wanted to talk about wrestling.

In the mid and late 90s, I spent a lot of time wandering the gymnasium at old Lee’s Summit High, hitting the wrestling duals and spending countless hours at the annual holiday tournament with Ethan Hauck, Jay Helland and, of course, mama Hertzog (as we all called her) and the hospitality room.

Sure, we came for the wrestling – but we stayed for the food.

And even though it wasn’t football season, the elder Hertzogs were there in full force to support their grandsons on the wrestling mat.

As Lee’s Summit High School prepares to honor Dr. Bug Hertzog tonight with the naming of their football stadium, I have to wonder how much time over those decades Bud and his wife Betty spent at the Lee’s Summit football stadium and field house. Hours upon hours of wrestling, football, track and volleyball dedicated to their grandkids over the years – which are one of many reasons Bud is receiving this enormous honor.

He says he doesn’t deserve it.

I bet a lot of Lee’s Summit residents would disagree.

Grandson Chad, now an assistant principal at his alma mater, won an impressive 122 wrestling matches during his wrestling days. In 1998, he went 39-0 on his way to his second state championship. Later, he would put on the black and gold again to wrestle for the University of Missouri. I bet grandpa and grandma were there for just about every one of those wins.

Those long afternoons in the gym at Lee’s Summit were always made easier when I would see Bud Hertzog approach.

I never met anyone in Lee’s Summit during my days as a sports writer who was as appreciative of the press as he was as proud of his kids and grandkids.

Bud never slapped me around for not writing more about Chad or John or Mark. As a proud grandpa, he just wanted to be there and be supportive.

It would be years later that I would figure out just who Bud Hertzog was and what he meant to Lee’s Summit High and the community at large. And more than a decade later, I would move to Lee’s Summit and join him at many community events.

He still likes to play “remember that time” when talking about old athletes. Those are stories I love to hear.

And while the longtime school district supporter may not fully accept this honor that is about to be bestowed up him, everyone around him Friday evening will know why – why they will now call it Bud Hertzog Stadium.

Downtown LS has changed, for the better

(Column originally ran Feb. 27, 2009)

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Things have certainly changed a lot in downtown Lee’s Summit since I was last here. OK, not completely. And please don’t mistake ‘change’ with any negative vibes.

Change is good. It’s healthy and it keeps us on our toes.

Lee’s Summit’s downtown was always a destinatio

n for my friends and I back when I lived in Independence. The live music was good, the food was unique and the atmosphere was always exceptional. To have all of these elements and not have to fight the crowds and traffic of Kansas City was truly a blessing for us.

And yes, I had to deal with a dose of change when I got back into town.

Chicken ‘n’ Blues and Strothers were favorite hangouts, but now we have Ciao! Bella and The Peanut. I’ve eaten at both in my short time here (on top of my Publisher duties I do consider myself an amateur food critic) and have been impressed with both, especially Ciao! Bella’s Black and Bleu salad – the only way a guy’s going to look tough eating a salad is when they throw a steak on top of it.

Music lovers have many places to stop as well. Third Street Pub and 3-2-1 Club have given way to Sharkeez and Braata – both fun and creative additions to our downtown core.

Clothes, jewelry, furniture, framing, trophies, gourmet food, art…the list goes on and on. It’s an impressive and inspired group of businesses we have down here.

At the quarterly meeting of the Lee’s Summit Main Street organization this week, I was checking the long list of 2009 events.

I thought I had a busy schedule.

The St. Patrick’s Day parade coming up in a few weeks is the kickoff to what promises to be an energetic and rousing time to be in downtown Lee’s Summit.

The Spring Open House, Bunny Hop and Downtown Days follow in March, April and into June with the start of the farmer’s market and the weekly free Friday night concerts a constant staple throughout the season.

Given the enormous growth of Lee’s Summit over the last decade, it’s refreshing to see this city maintain a thriving and exuberant downtown area.

And we must keep in mind that none of events are possible without the dedication of our downtown organizations and strong will of our downtown businesses.

If you haven’t been lately, this is a perfect time of the year to come back.

The Carpenters Union, RED and concerts

(Column originally ran May 1, 2009)

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Representatives from RED Development came by the Journal this week to discuss money.

That seems to be all people are talking about these days.

They were talking about the millions of dollars it is going to take to finish up the enormous project – Summit Fair – at U.S. 50 and Chipman Road.

Some call it a bailout. Others say the money is simply a safety net.

Either way, the lines in the sand have been drawn between those that see the $10 million-plus as a “loan” and those that see it as a means to finish a project that will be huge for Lee’s Summit.

Recently, a flier had been released calling the city council’s decision to underwrite the loans “Another Government Bailout…”

Those that made the flier – Dave Wilson of the Carpenter’s Union has admitted he is the ringleader – said RED is making him and others red with anger.

Equally, RED Development is seeing red about Wilson’s flyer and has been on a mission to set the record straight about it.

Here are the undisputed facts:

JC Penney and Macy’s are booked and going to open this fall. Other stores have verbally committed, but nothing is on paper yet as far as a date to move in. However, RED is positive other stores will be open in 2009 beside JC Penney and Macy’s.

RED is also unable to confirm a restaurant right now, although there are several restaurant pads available. Again, though, they tell us this will happen in time.

Another undisputed fact is this: the economy is making it tough for retail stores to pull the trigger on opening. Whereas a few years ago stores were asking ‘When can I open?’ they are now asking ‘How long can I wait?’

Another area of confusion has been whether or not the downtown concert series will indeed stay downtown this summer.

The official word is in: the concerts are downtown for 2009.

“All three of the concerts are going to be downtown on Green Street,” Joe Snook, assistant administrator of Parks and Recreation, told me yesterday.

Snook did confirm the Parks and Recreation department did have some discussions with RED about having the Blues and Jazz Fest at Summit Fair.

But those conversations were borne out of necessity, he said.

“We lost a major sponsor last year and we’ve been searching for sponsors for quite some time,” Snook said. “We made a long list of possible sponsors and RED was one of them. It came back there was some interest on their part to do some at Summit Fair.”

The fear was that RED would move one of the shows away from downtown. As much as some would not like that, when a company is writing that kind of a check, they can pretty much move it wherever they want.

Parks and Recreation has since secured a partial sponsor for one of the concerts.

And while the concert series is safely downtown this year, the battle to keep it there might become a yearly occurrence.

Sponsors are often hard to come by and the Parks and Recreation department said it has to think about the entirety of Lee’s Summit when it plans these events.

“We have an amphitheater out at Legacy Park, so, to be honest, that could be a future venue,” Snook said. “It’s not absolute these will always be in downtown. We need to be beneficial to the community.”

For now, though, Green Street is still the place to be as Bayou Bash rolls out June 19, followed by the Jamaican Jam on July 17 and the Blues and Jazz Fest Aug. 7.

All that’s different since 9/11

I often think of how we would have looked at the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on our country had we been immersed with social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others.

Information, right, wrong or speculative, certainly would have been in front of us in a much quicker fashion. We would have most likely had many more angles of the planes hitting the towers and probably even better footage of Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. With that flow of information, however, would have come even more images that were agonizing for many of us.

Even with the flow of information that day, we were mostly sparred the really graphic images of those caught up in the carnage. Today, it would likely be a lot different. What we consumed on a tragedy of that scale would be 10-fold today. And it would be even tougher to erase those images from our conscious.

How we record history is just one of many ways we look at the world differently after 9/11.

Tall buildings, air travel, security – all of it took on a completely different meaning in our minds from Sept. 12, 2001 through today and beyond.

I went to Facebook this week to ask people what has changed in their worlds and I got some fascinating responses.

Briefly, for me, travelling by air has been the toughest change of all for me.

My anxiety regarding flying the friendly skies has skyrocketed since 9/11.

Katy Kelly Lautzenhiser can relate: “Today, I get extremely anxious flying, to the point of taking Dramamine before boarding to escape sickness-induced fear. Simply approaching TSA Security evokes a panic of harassment, or unjustified guilt.”

The little things annoy us – TSA, liquid containers, longer lines, pat-downs.

And then there are those things we are not supposed to openly discuss or question, things that make us uneasy at the airport, or on the plane, or, quite simply, just a vibe we get.

Every person that stands up during a flight is looked at a little longer. Every interaction with a fellow passenger a little less cordial.

The change in air travel procedures ranked on many lists as a big post-9/11 change.

“Even 13 years later, every day air travelers are impacted by the increased security measures that took effect due to 9/11, whether it be the shoes you choose to wear because you’ll have to take them off, the liquids/lotions in your suitcase, whether you put something in a carry-on bag or in checked baggage, etc., not to mention the TSA agents, the random bag checking, earlier check-in, increased emphasis on correct documentation … ” – Darla Hall

Referencing Martha Boyd, a trauma expert with TMC-Lakewood Counseling Services in Lee’s Summit, Lee’s Summit resident Sage Norbury agreed the visual trauma has stuck with us, noting: “I believe that we are suffering from ‘societal PTSD.’ Our subconscious minds couldn’t tell the difference between the first time the plane hit the building and the 389th time (when we incessantly watched the replays). I see trauma signs in the majority of my patients, but most of them never even think of it like that.”

Friend and fellow journalist James Dornbrook, a reporter with the Kansas City Business Journal, noted his increased appreciation for what our fire and police do on a daily basis. A wise observation amid the travel talk.

Chris Drake, a childhood friend, said: “I am even more cautious of my surroundings than I ever was no matter the date, time or area. Always on alert. It occasionally gets tiresome but I refuse to be a victim or caught off guard. Can’t let evil win. I have people who depend on me.”

Another childhood friend, Jim McCollum, noted his caution when he sees a plane overhead, wondering if that aircraft is in control and will it land. I would have thought that unreasonable pre-9/11. Not now.

I was particularly moved by this statement from Pat Larkin from Blue Springs. Pat really brings it back to what is important, saying: “Coming from New Jersey, right across the river, I think of my family more and more. I now never end a conversation without saying I love you. It was a scary day for all of us, had one nephew ready to get on a plane to California, friends in NY. I grew up watching those towers being built, it broke my heart to see them go down.”

A fellow journalism peer and now a fantastic teacher of future journalists, Christina Paulsell Geabhart brought an interesting point of view on the history of 9/11 and her students: “For my seniors, it was their sophomore year, some saw it classrooms. For others, It happened during their upper elementary and middle school years. They watched that news unfold uncensored by parents oftentimes.
Now students don’t seem to grasp the magnitude. They were infants or toddlers and never knew it happened between Elmo and Dora. It’s just another note in the history books for them.”

And mirroring that love for her family, my friend Shannan Godley Cunniffe had a particularly astute look at it: “Our lives are so fragile – they could turn on a dime in an instant. I think about my children, and how as their steward – their protector – it is my duty to shelter them as much as possible, to let them know they are loved unconditionally, to try as much as possible to give them the kind of childhood that I had – filled with innocence and joy and laughter – not the worry and stress and horror that comes with an event like 9/11. Who would have ever imagined? How could we have?”

Amen Shann. And thank you all for sharing.

I believe that in that sharing, we all continue to heal.