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September 2021

Sitting for the Gold

Downtown Edmond Arts Festival Sculpture Park Breaks Ground First Americans Museum


Last month I was writing this column and drawing my little cartoon from a hospital bed at Mercy. I got pneumonia. I was in for 6 days. Just another gift of having cancer and low immunity I suppose. With the Outlook deadline approaching, there was no way I wanted to disappoint the several people that read my column every month. I asked Alison to bring in my laptop and drawing stuff. While I was busy penning my cartoon, my oncologist came by to see me. He listened to my lungs, poked my chest, and as he went to check my calves and ankles, he asked if they were swollen, I told him no, they were still “quite shapely.” That made him laugh out loud and I felt better. Interesting how that works.

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Features

Friends have asked me how my diagnosis changed me. Sure I can give them a list of physical and mental changes, but I think what I really have noticed is an increased appreciation - and volume - of laughter. When I can crack a joke and make other people laugh - it’s the best feeling in the world. And when someone or something makes me laugh, I forget everything else - an equally wonderful feeling. And if we are laughing together, we are sharing a moment of pure joy. May your time between laughter be short. And if you have an oncologist, may they have a sense of humor.

Dave Miller Publisher & Back40 Design President

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Downtown Edmond Arts Festival

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Local Eats: Plant

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Big Plans for Tiny Houses

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Sculpture Park Breaks Ground

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Sitting for the Gold

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Cultural Investment: First Americans Museum

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At Home on the Range

Business 16

Living the American Dream

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Edmond Pediatrics

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Heritage Renovations

Columns 7

In Other Words With Dave

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Louise Tucker Jones

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© 2021 Back40 Design, Inc.

PUBLISHER Dave Miller l EDITOR Jennay Wangen l ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Angie Clemens Byers l GRAPHIC DESIGN Adrian Townsend, Anne Richardson PHOTOGRAPHY Marshall Hawkins www.sundancephotographyokc.com l DISTRIBUTION Edmond Outlook is delivered FREE by direct-mail to 50,000 Edmond area homes. Articles and advertisements in the Outlook do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the magazine or Back40 Design. Back40 Design does not assume responsibility for statements made by advertisers or editorial contributors. The acceptance of advertising by the Outlook does not constitute endorsement of the products, services or information. We do not knowingly present any product or service that is fraudulent or misleading in nature. The Outlook assumes no responsibility for unsolicited materials.


FEATURELOOK

Painting by Thomas Stotts

Photo by Red Plains Photography By Maggie Murdock Nichols

Downtown Edmond Arts Festival Traditionally, the first weekend of May brings vibrant pops of color and the tunes of live musicians to the streets of Downtown Edmond for the annual Arts Festival. After pandemic-required cancellations and postponements, the much-anticipated community event is set for September 1012, 2021. “We attract top talent from across the nation,” said Michelle Schaefer, a downtown business owner and newly-appointed chair for the event. Bryanne Wallace, past chair, played a key role in the Arts Festival from 1999 until her last festival in 2019. Bryanne passed away in April 2021. Michelle says “Bryanne made the artists feel at home and valued. That was probably her biggest legacy. We want to honor her memory by making this festival even better.” Honoring Tradition, Embracing Innovation Familiar artists will showcase their craft; classic food and drink vendors will be present. Visitors can expect some upgrades to the event including hands-on activities, new art exhibitors, notable performers and a new festival set up. “We revised the artist’s booth layouts to break up the flow of visitors and provide more social distancing,” said Nancy Meoli, co-chair and owner of Othello’s. “The changes will also provide more visibility to the businesses along Broadway and create a more leisurely browsing experience with the artists.” 8

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The Downtown Edmond Arts Festival was created by the Downtown Edmond Business Association (DEBA). DEBA, formed in the 1960s, is composed of business owners committed to ensuring their district continues to grow and thrive. Downtown has experienced exponential growth over the past two years, and this festival will be the first for dozens of new business owners in Downtown. By design, traveling artists and existing storefronts and restaurants will create a destination weekend for locals and tourists alike. Gathering in the Name of Art Local musicians, Black Water Bridge, will provide music on Friday night and Kyle Dillingham will perform on Saturday night, both under the Festival Marketplace pavilion. Musical venues will be placed throughout the festival with performers like Edgar Cruz and Olivia Kay. Highlighting the art of play, the Greater OKC Pickleball Club will offer live demonstrations. Children and the young at heart will find yard games, giant checkers and chess, a foam pit and superheroes and princesses will make special appearances. Several businesses throughout downtown will offer free “make and take” activities for children. Around 140 artists from all over the country are expected to display and sell their work in oil, acrylic, watercolor, jewelry, pottery and photography along Broadway. A special section for artisan crafters, featuring leather, wood, resin, glass, metal and fabric will be located on First Street. For more information about the Arts Festival, visit www. downtownedmondok.com or visit the facebook page.


FOODLOOK

Emma Ryan

By Maggie Murdock Nichols

Plant

Food that Loves You Back Plant is an all-day cafe serving food that loves you back. This completely plant-based, dairy, soy and gluten free restaurant promotes the premise that eating healthy doesn’t have to be a drag. It’s a haven for those with dietary restrictions and food allergies and a culinary experience for eaters of all kinds. It Began with a Dare In high school, Emma Ryan began experiencing unexplained health issues and fatigue. A friend dared Emma to eat only plants for seven days. In just one week, Emma noticed a dramatic difference in how she felt. Her focus returned, energy skyrocketed and she felt more like herself. Emma opened her first Plant restaurant in 2019 in Midtown. With her goal of getting more plants on plates, she returned to her Edmond roots with her second location. She has enjoyed seeing local families and has created a menu tailored for kids, “It’s truly a gift to open in Edmond.” Locally-sourced and Seasonally-driven Plant serves smoothies, locally-roasted Sincerely Coffee, Urban Teahouse Tea, breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily; brunch is served on weekends. Every ingredient has a purpose. For example, the signature blue color of Plant’s most

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popular smoothie and menu item comes from a blue-green algae that reduces inflammation and supports joint health – not artificial dyes or colorings. Plant’s use of superfoods and nutrient dense ingredients satiates cravings and leaves guests feeling satisfied. The Bonsai Bowl, another customer favorite, is full of flavor and can be described as comfort food without the guilt. Plant is locally-sourced and seasonally-driven. Emma says, “We source from 27 different vendors just so we have the best quality all the time.” One of those vendors is Edmond’s Indigo Acres Farm. Plant serves the farm’s crisp and vibrant lettuce and other seasonal produce as available. Indigo’s owner Kevin Marshall says, “My wife and I began farming to improve our own health and felt compelled to share with others. Our name ‘Indigo’ came from the rainbow, we encourage our customers to eat the rainbow everyday.” Plant is located at 19 W. First Street, Suite 100. With plants embellishing the exterior, it can’t be missed. Menu, hours, and online ordering can be accessed at www.eatatplant.com. Follow @eatatplant on social media for updates, specials, and tasty food shots.

7 Day Plant Reset September 13-19 3 meals and 2 snacks per day. Includes three virtual group-coaching sessions. Daily accountability and unlimited support. Register by September 5th at www.eatatplant.com


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FEATURELOOK

By Maria Veres

Big Plans for Tiny Houses Home Designer Brent Gibson is used to working in big spaces. Many of his homes are in the 4,000-5000 square-foot range or larger. But recently he turned his talents from macro to micro when he designed a tiny house for Pivot, an OKC community service organization that helps young people find their path to an empowered future.

desk, eliminating the need for another piece of furniture. A skylight adds brightness and frees up wall space that would otherwise be used for an extra window. The space includes a closet and storage cabinets. Besides being practical, the home is attractive and inviting, with a small covered porch and front and back entrances.

Rising to the Challenge “I’ve never designed anything that small before,” says Brent. But taking his talents in unexpected directions is nothing new for him. He originally trained as an artist and came to home design by accident, when his employer lost a draftsman and asked Brent to fill in. Largely self-taught, his classic, European-inspired designs proved popular with clients. He has designed homes for notable names like Toby Keith and Mike Gundy, and his handiwork graces many signature neighborhoods around town. Along the way, many of Brent’s Diane & Gary Rumsey clients have turned into friends. He first met the couple who funded the tiny house, Gary and Diane Rumsey, when he designed their new home. Diane taught Brent to can pickles—he is now known as “the Pickle Man”—and Brent and his wife have shared many meals and get-togethers with the Rumseys. When Gary and Diane decided to sponsor a tiny home at Pivot, Brent was a natural choice to design it. He didn’t hesitate to say yes.

A Safe Place to Grow The home Brent designed is part of a tiny house community on the grounds of Pivot. Six houses are already complete, with twenty more under construction. The houses provide a safe haven for young people ages 16-24 who need extra support as they navigate the road toward adulthood. The residents can access many services they need right there on-site. The houses aren’t permanent homes, but there’s no maximum limit on how long tenants can stay. Pivot continues to be a resource for them even after they move out. Along with the tiny house village, Pivot offers apartments, an emergency shelter, and many resources to support young people, from mental health services to educational assistance to a food pantry. “Our vision is that no young person should have to experience life alone,” says Executive Director Jennifer Goodrich. “We want them to know we walk beside them.” Brent is continuing his involvement in the project, designing a laundry room for the tiny house community and an office for on-site staff members. “I’m glad to know I have a small part in contributing towards someone’s well-being and happiness,” he says. To learn more about Pivot, go to www.occf.org/ysoc

Small Can Be Beautiful The house Brent designed, which is under construction, is just 14 by 22 feet. Brent approached this project exactly as he approaches a full-sized home: He sat down with the Rumseys and talked about what would work best for the space. “Every square inch counts for something,” he says. There’s a counter off the kitchen that serves as an eating area or a 12

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FEATURELOOK

Chasing Butterflies by Kevin Robb

Bounding Mule Deer by Dan Ostermiller Follow the Leader by Stanley Proctor

By Maggie Murdock Nichols

Sculpture Park Breaks Ground When dirt began moving and the underbrush was cleared, Edmond citizens wondered what would emerge. A former horse ranch with forested barriers on Second Street off Coltrane, will be the home to a sculpture garden and park. This Route 66 destination is the first of its kind in the state and region. After years of planning, construction is underway. The park is set to be completed in two years. Sculptures by renowned artists will be placed throughout the park, and there are plans for a restaurant to be built with a view overlooking a lake. An Aesthete Benefactor Developer and longtime Edmond resident Hal French is behind the project. Hal is a quiet funder and founder of Peppers Ranch, a home for foster children. He spared no expense on Peppers Ranch, giving children an opportunity to live within the comfort of a home they could take pride in. Hal has long had plans to give back to his community in a creative way. The timing and the location of this property was right with the renewed focus on revitalizing Route 66 championed by Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell.

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The sculpture park will further promote Edmond’s affinity for public art and honor Hal French’s passion for offering children of all backgrounds a dignified and lovely place to play. Upon completion, The French Family Charitable Foundation intends to gift the park to the city. A Legacy of Public Art Randel Shadid, former mayor and founding father of Edmond’s public and private art matching ordinance, is overseeing the project pro-bono. Randel says, “This park is a gift from heaven. That piece of property is special, and I longed to see it preserved.” The addition of the sculpture park will bring Edmond’s public art count to well over 300 pieces; 20 pieces have been purchased to date. The ordinance responsible for Edmond’s abundant public art will celebrate its 20th birthday in October. Randel says, “Public art adds to the aesthetic and civility of the community.” “The park will be a piece of Edmond’s history. It will remain long after we are gone,” Randel says. Though on a different scale and focus, the park will feature play spaces similar to the Gathering Place in Tulsa. Though in early stages, the park promises to be a place loved by locals and visitors alike. The anticipation will steadily build as the funds are raised and the vision is realized. On the horizon is another gem that makes Edmond an exceptional place to live.


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BIZLOOK

Living the American Dream By Maria Veres

What started as an ordinary sales transaction has grown into a thriving mentorship for Zach Martin and Gabriel Sahrmann. Just a few years after arriving in Oklahoma from Africa, Gabriel is now a part-time intern at Zach’s company, ADEPT Commercial Real Estate. A Life-Changing Meeting The two men met when Zach decided to buy an AMG G63 Wagon from Oklahoma City Mercedes-Benz. Due to chance— or something more—Gabriel was the associate who helped him. Impressed by Zach’s accomplishments and his desire to serve others, Gabriel knew he had found a role model he wanted to emulate. Gabriel was especially intrigued by Zach’s affection for Barney, a rescue dog who is his constant companion. Not every G63 owner would want to share their high-end vehicle with a mixed-breed furry friend. Barney’s presence in the passenger seat showed Gabriel that Zach was humble and down-to-earth, despite his success. “The biggest lesson I’ve learned from him is humility,” says Gabriel. Zach was equally impressed by Gabriel’s work ethic and drive to succeed. After the car purchase, Zach invited Gabriel to stop by the office sometime. His new friend showed up

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the very next morning, wearing a suit, and waited almost two hours for Zach to arrive. “I suggested some buildings he should look at,” Zach recalls. “Then I went to lunch at Broadway 10, looked out the window, and there was Gabriel, studying the downtown buildings just like I recommended. It blew me away.” Suited for Success For Gabriel, interning with ADEPT is just the latest step on the path toward achieving his goals. But it hasn’t been a straightforward journey. He originally planned to continue his education in Germany, where several of his siblings live. Then he realized he had a different vision. “I wanted to be in America, where dreams come true,” he says. After attending Oklahoma City Community College, he decided to focus on building his business skills in the real world. He joined the team at Oklahoma City Mercedes-Benz, where he is one of the top associates. His professional appearance mirrors his success. “When I was a boy, I could not afford suits,” he says. “I told people, ‘One day I am going to wear a suit every day as my work clothes.’” Today he does exactly that. Inspiring a New Generation For Zach, the decision to mentor Gabriel was a simple one. “I’ve had a lot of people who helped me along the way,” he says. Zach knew he wanted to focus on commercial real estate when he was just eight years old, and he has built ADEPT into a successful, respected company. But he recognizes he didn’t do any of it alone. Sadly, he lost his long-time mentor Mark Ruffin to COVID-19 last year. “Since then, I’m even more focused on paying it forward,” he says. Along with Zach’s lessons about real estate investing, Gabriel has also absorbed the lessons about investing in people. “I want to mentor entrepreneurs all the way to Africa and help them understand real estate,” he says. After what he has already achieved, his prospects for success look bright.

405.602.2591 www.adeptcre.com


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FEATURELOOK

By Amy Dee Stephens

Sitting for the Gold Publisher’s note: This feature was written prior to the Olympic competition in Tokyo. Matches begin Aug. 24 and go through Sept. 5. As the Olympics wrap up, the next round of athletes– Paralympic athletes–take to the court on Aug. 24 - Sept. 5 in Tokyo, to amaze the world with their incredible skill, despite physical disability. The U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball National Team, based at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, intends to add a second gold medal to its collection when it competes in Tokyo. “Sitting volleyball rules are similar to standing volleyball, but the court is smaller, and the players have to remain in contact with the floor,” said U.S. Women’s Sitting Team Head Coach, Bill Hamiter. “To play internationally, the athlete must have some level of disability. It can be missing limbs but other things as well, as we have a player born with drop foot, and one has her ankle fused together. Their disabilities may come from cancer, accident, or from a war, but they are deserving athletes.” Heather Erickson moved to Edmond 10 years ago to play the sport. “I was hesitant at admitting I had a disability, but once I sat down and played sitting volleyball, I fell in love with the sport. This will be my fourth Paralympic Games, and it is a privilege I do not take lightly.” Coach Hamiter, who led the team to a silver medal in London Paralympics Games in 2012 and a gold medal at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, admits he never saw himself coaching a Paralympic team. He started coaching college 18

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volleyball on the side, but one thing led to another, and he was asked to coach sitting volleyball. “Now, I know it’s my calling,” Hamiter said. “I’ve always been driven to serve the underserved. Early on, I was buying t-shirts out of my own pocket so that the team would have uniforms to practice in, but then UCO became the team’s national training center for USA Volleyball, and it’s a tremendous partnership.” “It’s rare to find a community so welcoming,” Erickson said. “Knowing that the community is cheering for us carries so much weight as we go into the Tokyo games, because there won’t be fans in the arena. It makes me want to win even more to make Edmond proud.” As this No. 1 world-ranked team heads to Tokyo, the pressure to win gold again is palpable, but Hamiter believes that this team, with such a strong mix of experienced players, is poised to win. “We’ve had to regroup since the pandemic delayed last year’s Games,” Hamiter said. “Fortunately, we have players who can step in to play multiple roles at a high skill level—and not knowing what will happen with COVID or contact tracing, our ability to manage the possibility of losing team members is imperative.” Hamiter continues to be impressed with the athletic ability of his players each year. “These players are great athletes, just like the athletes on the Olympic side. They don’t get the promotion or accolades of some of the better-known Olympic players, like gymnast Shannon Miller, but I’d love to see them get more respect and promotion.” The athletes are focused on working successfully as a team. Erickson, who won gold in Rio, remembers that win. “There’s such happiness in that moment, seeing your country’s flag flown above all others,” she said. “After inching from bronze (in 2004) to silver (in 2008 and ‘12) to gold (in 2016), we were so joyful,” Hamiter said. “This team is deeply athletic, and I believe we can do it again.” Visit www.usavolleyball.org/womens-sitting-national-team to learn more.


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BIZLOOK

Edmond Pediatrics By Maria Veres As Edmond grows, the demand for excellent children’s health care is growing, too. To meet that need, Edmond Pediatrics recently welcomed two new physicians. The clinic has offices on both sides of Edmond and is committed to providing the highest standards of care for every patient. Introducing Dr. Cherian and Dr. Reimenschneider Edmond Pediatrics’ newest providers both completed residencies at OU Medical Center and are excited to make Edmond their new home. Betsy Cherian, DO, grew up in Mustang and graduated from OSU

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Medical School. She loves travel, the outdoors, and spending time with her many nieces and nephews. Zachary Reimenschneider, MD, is a transplant from Texas. He enjoys his new home north of the Red River but remains a dedicated San Antonio Spurs fan. He especially loves working with young athletes and special needs patients. Dr. Cherian and Dr. Reimenschneider are both accepting new patients at the Deer Creek location. Serving Patients in Two Locations Edmond Pediatrics has clinics in north central Edmond and Deer Creek. Both locations offer a full range of primary care for kids, including preventative care, well checks, and same-day appointments for sick patients. To keep families safe during COVID-19, the practice follows all CDC guidelines, including masking for patients age three and up and curbside check-ins for sick patients as well as Well-Child Checks. Founded eight years ago by Dr.

The Edmond Pediatrics team

New physicians, Dr. Cherian and Dr. Reimenschneider Timothy Krous, the practice is committed to giving patients the time and attention they need. The clinic accepts most health insurance, including SoonerCare. Practice manager Jenka Acuña is bilingual and can translate for Spanish-speaking families. Edmond Pediatrics is located at 2109 North Kelley Avenue and 16440 Muirfield Place, and at their website www.edmondpediatrics.com.


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BIZLOOK

Heritage Renovations For decades, Dan and Leslie Peake have crafted beautiful custom renovations for homeowners throughout OKC. The upheavals of COVID-19 haven’t changed how they do business—except in one way. “We’re busier than ever,” says Leslie.

renovations, Dan and Leslie are happy to help clients beautify, modernize, and expand their living spaces. The Peakes have seen an increase in home office renovations, as more people shift to a work-from-home model. They can build additions, renovate existing space for office use, or convert attics into functional spaces for work or play. “We’re also seeing more homeowners prepare to age in place,” says Leslie. Even clients too young for Medicare are requesting accessible home renovations, such as grab bars in the bathtubs, so they’ll be ready when and if they’re needed.

Making Your Home a Haven In the wake of the pandemic, more people are staying in their homes rather than moving. Many homeowners spent extra time staring at their own four walls in 2020—and they realized those four walls could use a bit of work. With expertise in a wide variety of home

Getting It Right the First Time The Peakes serve clients throughout the OKC area, and they have many repeat customers who rely on Heritage for all their home renovation needs. Each project is custom designed and completed in-house from start to finish. As with all other industries, supply

By Maria Veres

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and labor issues have created home renovation delays. But Heritage Renovations is up for the challenge. “We have long-term relationships with suppliers, and with our work crews,” says Leslie. These connections allow them to complete renovations with maximum efficiency. “We understand that people need their kitchens, bathrooms, and other living spaces,” says Leslie. “It will get done, and it will be fabulous.” Contact Heritage Renovations at 405-887-4121 or at their website www.heritagerenovations.net.


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FEATURELOOK

Ryan Barnett

By Amy Dee Stephens

Cultural Investment: First Americans Museum On September 18th, the long-awaited First Americans Museum will open, telling the cultural stories of the 39 native nations in Oklahoma. While this might conjure up the image of a bison or eagle for most people, not Ryan Barnett, the Chief Operations Officer – he’s thinking about the arms of an octopus. For fourteen years, he’s been juggling the complicated budget with a moving variety of funding sources and intertwining agencies. “It’s like wrangling an octopus,” Barnett says, “which is certainly more interesting than doing straight accounting.” Barnett’s role is to manage the museum’s finances by crunching numbers behind the scenes, which has been vital in helping the museum achieve its two-decade-long goal of opening to the public. “Our Executive Director, James Pepper Henry of the Kaw Nation, has great vision. I like to say he’s the fashion, and I’m the function,” Barnett says with a laugh. “I’m overseeing ticket sales, the gift shop, restaurant, and anything else on the visitor side that generates revenue. It’s more than just a typical business operation, though, because I’m working toward something that will benefit everyone.” Although Barnett is not Native American himself, he came into the job ready to learn more about Oklahoma’s history, knowing that his childhood education had not provided an adequate picture of the native story. “The museum is telling stories about the people who lived here thousands of years before colonization and statehood,” Barnett said. “It’s about all the tribes, not necessarily a single tribe, because it’s a 26

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similar story told from different perspectives – and it can’t be told anywhere else.” According to Barnett, the museum is a good starting point for someone wanting to learn more. “In some ways, growing up in a state with tribes scattered throughout, maybe we don’t appreciate it as much as a tourist would. When I was a student at Oklahoma Christian University, I did a semester of study in Vienna, just so I could immerse myself in a different culture. Our international tourists will see this museum as an important destination for learning about the culture of the first Americans. This will be their starting point, a hub to help them decide where they want to go next. If someone is intrigued by a particular culture, they can get a taste here and head to that tribal cultural center less than a few hours away in any direction.” One of the crown jewels of the museum is that the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian is loaning important artifacts to Oklahoma long-term. “Each of the 39 tribes selected which items they wanted on display to tell their stories. Many of the pieces belong to the ancestors of these native peoples who still live in Oklahoma today, so that’s a meaningful homecoming,” Barnett said. “I’m so happy for the museum to open, and I’m excited for everyone to see what I’ve been talking about for so many years. For so long, it’s been an empty space, like the inside of a garage—but now, objects are installed and interpretation is in place. It’s pristine, thoughtful, and quaint. The galleries aren’t huge, but they are impactful, providing an intimate experience. I wholeheartedly believe this museum is a centerpiece for this state, and we’ll be running a tight ship so we can maximize every dollar.” Visit www.famok.org to learn more or buy tickets to the grand opening.


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ALOOKBACK

Making A Difference

I also remembered a trip to their home in Montana when I was a teenager. We attended the State Fair and went fishing in peaceful mountain streams. I thought of all the ways my aunt had been kind to me and decided to share my memories in a letter. By Louise Tucker Jones A few weeks later, I received a note from my uncle telling me how much my letter meant to him. He counted it As a writer, I love seeing my words in a tribute to my aunt. It was then that I books or magazines, but some of my best realized not all the words God gifted me writing has never been published. You with were meant for the public. Some see, what I consider my greatest work is are meant to comfort those in grief often meant for only one person. or to help someone going through a Several years ago, I got word that my tough time. Others may congratulate or aunt in Montana died. Unable to attend celebrate an event. Even when sending a the memorial service, I planned to send card, I share a short, personal message. a card. But just as I sat down to sign it, I realize not everyone is called to memories of my aunt, uncle and cousins be a writer or speaker, but we can all flashed through my mind. Summers when encourage the people that God puts I was young and their family visited us in in our paths, whether it’s across the Oklahoma. Dozens of relatives gathered fence or across country. When someone at our house for homemade ice cream, special comes to mind, contact them. “catch-up” conversation and lots of hugs. Tell them how they have inspired you.

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You may not receive a return letter as I did, letting you know you touched their life, but that’s okay. Don’t do it for the reward. Do it for the joy. You never know what a difference your words or actions can make in someone’s life. It just might help get them through one more day. And that, my friends, is what matters.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Louise Tucker Jones is an award-winning author, inspirational speaker & founder of Wives With Heavenly Husbands, a support group for widows. LouiseTJ@cox.net or LouiseTuckerJones.com.


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FEATURELOOK

By Maria Veres

At Home on the Range Growing up in the 1970s, Suzi Rouse stayed home while her father and brothers went hunting. “No one thought about including me. I never thought about asking,” she says. “Girls just didn’t hunt.” Today Suzi is an enthusiastic bird hunter, the president of OKC Gun Club, and a mentor to many hunters and shooters. Her love of bird hunting has led her into a new calling, training service dogs for veterans.

Expert volunteers offer instruction as the students rotate through four different ranges. “Before the first event, the guys told me, ‘Honey, you’ll be lucky if you get ten women,’” says Suzi. “We had fifty-seven!” Now the event, always held the Saturday after Labor Day, attracts up to four hundred people. “The women are nervous at first,” says Suzi, “but by the end of the day, I love seeing how empowered they feel.”

A Natural Leader Suzi’s involvement with OKC Gun Club began through her husband, who had served on the U.S. Marine Corps shooting team. When he joined the organization, so did she. Then a club event called Cowboy Action Shooting sparked her interest, and she decided to give it a try. The all-male group of shooters at the event was unsure about her at first. “My second time, I brought chocolate chip cookies,” she recalls. “My popularity skyrocketed!” Soon the men encouraged their wives and sisters to try Cowboy Action Shooting, too. It wasn’t long before OKC Gun Club decided they needed more outreach toward women. “I was the mullet who stepped up to coordinate it,” says Suzi. From there, she became a board member, then club president. OKC Gun Club sponsors activities in almost every discipline of shooting. Suzi doesn’t personally oversee everything, but you can often find her at the club headquarters near Arcadia, supporting her fellow members.

Honoring America’s Warriors Suzi’s enthusiasm for shooting eventually led her into hunting. When her husband surprised her with a young bird dog, she wasn’t sure she wanted it. But she soon fell in love with the puppy and the sport of bird hunting. Suzi’s husband lost a three-year battle with melanoma in 2019. Needing a new focus, she said yes when a friend asked her to train service dogs for veterans through a nonprofit organization: Honoring America’s Warriors. “My friend told me if I could train bird dogs, I could do this,” she says. The dogs, which are owned by Honoring America’s Warriors, live with the vets from the time they’re just three months old. Veterans bring their dogs for ongoing training several times a week. Suzi’s job is to coordinate the training and assist both dogs and veterans in becoming a great working team. Suzi has come a long way from the little girl who watched the guys go hunting without her. But despite all her accomplishments, what she values most is the lives she has touched. “I need to feel like I’m giving something back,” she says. Whether she’s training a service dog team or encouraging the next generation of sport shooters, she is fulfilling that mission. To learn more, go to www.okcgunclub.org

Women on Target One of Suzi’s favorite club events is the annual Women on Target Fun Shoot. Designed especially for women who aren’t very familiar with guns, the event gives participants a chance to handle and shoot a variety of firearms in a safe space. 30

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Suzi Rouse

EDMONDOUTLOOK.COM

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SEPTEMBER 2021


1024 W Covell Rd., Edmond, OK 73003

Profile for Outlook Magazine

September 2021 - Final  

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