Spring weather has an intoxicating lure, beckoning us out of our fuzzy slippers and man caves to explore adventurous places and soak up the vibrant culture around us. A short, scenic road trip to the landmark Oklahoma territory of Mulhall satisﬁes those wanderlust weekend cravings. Whether you cruise into town a Harley or in the family SUV, you can almost feel time roll back with every rotation of your tires on these hallowed Oklahoma roads. At the renowned intersection of Highway 77 and Main Street in Mulhall, Lucille’s Restaurant a celebrated place to eat, reﬂect and reconnect stands as a tribute to the simpler times and pioneering spirit that characterize our great state. Delicious home-style foods like chicken fried steak, catﬁsh, steaks, and show-stopping homemade pies have long made this local hot spot a legend in destination dining. Sunday brunch is another highlight, complete with favorites like homemade biscuits, wafﬂes, and all the trimmings. Although Lucille’s Restaurant closed after a devastating ﬁne in 2009 and an F4 tornado prior to that, it proudly reopened in 2011. Today, if ﬂourishes with all the tenacity, charm and character of its namesake, Lucille Mulhall. Dubbed America’s ﬁrst cowgirl by Will Rogers during the land rush and early days of her father’s traveling Wild West show, the petite 14-year-old Lucille mesmerized crowds with her amazing wresting and wrangling stunts. Competing against men in some of the roughest events, she broke the stereotypical women’s roles of her day and became a beloved attraction. Thanks to Mulhall natives and brothers, Don and Chris Harman, who purchased the restaurant and undertook its extensive renovations after the ﬁre, a colorful slice of Americana has been preserved. Restoring the restaurant’s authentic western ﬂair has been of utmost importance. “The 1894 sandstone bank building across the street was the only thing to survive the ﬁre,” Don recalls. “Its teller window is now part of the bar at Lucille’s” Oklahoma’s ‘Wild West’ persona comes to life in the unique artifacts, furnishings and décor at Lucille’s. Ranch-style furniture, an old gas pump aquarium, Wurlitzer and Rock-ola jukeboxes, lariats, chaps and even a covered wagon across the street all lace together a rustic, by-gone era that grows even more appealing as our society advances. “Everything on the walls tells a story,” Don remarks. “It’s a place to have a great meal and enjoy history.” Topping the line-up at the lively roadhouse are events like classic car shows, biker buffets, tailgating and live music and entertainment on Friday nights by Buck Goucher and Cowboy Jim Garling. Most notably, Lucille’s was a celebrated stop during the latest Feed the Children charity motorcycle ride. Complete with Native American costumes, dances and an 1890 chuck wagon like that used on cattle drives, the memorable event was full of western color and pageantry… and approximately 350 bikers circling the scene in a rumbling salute. - Laura Beam Edmond Outlook
Thurs: 4-8pm Fri: 11am -9pm Sat: 8am - 9pm Sun: 7am - 7pm
HWY 77 & MAIN STREET 405.649.2229 / WWW.LUCILLESOK.COM
contents Spring 2013
Generation to Generation
Clerk Finds Home In Court Room
Stillwater Business Owner
11 Former Funeral Director 12
Vietnam War Veteran
PHOTOGRAPHY Russell Hixon, Chase Rheam, Nich Snow Mark Rountree, Jason Elmquist, Elizabeth Keys, Andrew Glover
Ward Grows Baseball
WRITERS Russell Hixon, Chase Rheam, Nich Snow Mark Rountree, Jason Elmquist, Elizabeth Keys, Andrew Glover
Lifetime Law Enforcement
Jim Burtschi Civic Leader
Humane Society Director
COMPOSING MANAGER Jeff Hopper LAYOUT & DESIGN Jen Burge For advertising, please call the Stillwater NewsPress 405.372.5000
ns of the Five generatio ily gathered Provence fam rovence who to visit Nina P n, ars old. Her so ye 0 turned 10 e ar , ce ra G wife, Carl, and his ’s arl and Grace C . de si r he by nd e, is behi daughter, Pag est member of w ne e Nina. Th ie Blackmon, the family, Ann on her 8 months, sits Nina’s great— p la mother’s r and Page’s granddaughte ri Blackmon. daughter, Ave , r, Ty Blackmon Annie’s brothe p. la r’s he at df gran 4, sits on his
working hard is the secret to a long life — By Elizabeth Keys
century of wisdom is relayed when 100-year-old Nina Provence gathers with five generations of loved ones. But, how do you live to be 100 years old and tell your tales? Working hard throughout your life is the answer to longevity, Nina will tell you. And she has lots of stories to share. Nina is the matriarch of the Provence clan with sons, Carl and Jim. When Carl and his wife, Grace, decided to make their home in Stillwater in the 1960s, Nina joined them here. Grace and Carl, also known as “Daddy Bear,” had met at Oklahoma State University and came back with their two children, David and Page. Grace loved making Stillwater a home for her family so much she founded a real estate business, FisherProvence Realtors, to help other people find a place to call home — and the company has helped more than 7,000 families do just that. “We love selling Stillwater,” the company states and it’s a genuine motto which continues as Page joined her mother’s business in 2001. “Our family talks to strangers,” Page said, emphasizing the friendliness learned from centenarian Nina. Working at the post office in Okmulgee during World War II taught Nina the value of friendship since it was a hard time for families as soldiers were shipped off to fight. Nina had learned to type in business school in Ada where she was raised in a family with 12 children so she had the skills needed to contribute when the nation was at war. To earn extra money and for fun, Nina and her sisters often joined together entertaining as a sister act which was popular during the era. Nina had a strong harmonious voice so singing was a way to rejoice together in difficult times. She was also recruited to sing the lead in a men’s quartet because there weren’t enough male voices around during the war years. One
Centenarian Nina Provence gree ts her great-greatgranddaughter, Annie Blackmon, 8 months.
Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
Nina Provence learned to play the piano as a child and still can create a beautiful sound in her 100th year of making music. She said playing the piano is always good company. Her son, Carl, inherited the family’s musical talent and paid his way through college playing piano in a band.
of her brothers was overseas for 44 months and didn’t get to see his baby son until he was 3 years old. After the war, Nina put her typing skills to work in several businesses, ending up at a pivotal place in history. Working at the Acme Brick Co. in Denton, Texas, on Black Friday — Nov. 22, 1963, the news came over the radio that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. The entire office floor fell silent, Nina said. Her boss, Bob Oswald, an Acme sales representative, turned white as a sheet when the radio announced Lee Harvey Oswald had been taken into custody for the assassination of the president. Nina said she could tell by Bob’s face that something was wrong and she started crying.
“That’s my kid brother,” Nina said Bob Oswald whispered out loud to no one but the strained still air. Nina’s work life turned upside down with Secret Service and FBI agents scurrying around the Acme Brick Co. for the next month interviewing all the employees and writing volumes about their activities. “Bob was a good man,” Nina said and he hadn’t talked to his younger brother in a long time. Nina had to write an account of what she had seen during the time leading up to and after the assassination. She had to document everything she did and saw with some of the reports flowing over to 10 pages and more even though no one at the company was involved. Shortly after the assassination, Bob Oswald moved into a sales manager job in another town for Acme Brick and Nina moved to Stillwater to be near Carl and Grace. At Oklahoma State University, Nina used her fast typing skills again to help Ted Agnew, a professor in the history department, research and collaborate on several book projects of Will Rogers’ writings. As a teenager in Ada, Nina had worked at the movie theaters so she had always enjoyed the entertainment business. Chronicling Will Rogers’ telegrams and other assorted papers was a work of love with the Provence family embracing Will Rogers words, “A stranger is just a friend I haven’t met,” through five generations. Her progeny includes four grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t work, as her son escorted her over to her piano which she played with a soft, gentle touch for the visitors gathered around. Nina’s personal beauty continues through the generations with Page, and her three daughters, Averi, Jill and Heather, all crowned homecoming queens at Stillwater High School. Page said her grandmother always shared her faith with religious music and gave her a readable modern language Bible when she was a teenager which she still uses today. Nina slowly ended her piano hymn and her son, Carl, took over with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” melodically reminding the family that together “there’s no place like home.”
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Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
turn to the experts
Payne County Court Clerk, Lisa Lambert, stands in one of the county’s courtrooms in front of the state seal. She has been the county’s court clerk for 20 years.
Clerk finds home in court room — By Russell Hixson
Lisa Lambert looks ahead to the future of Oklahoma courts
isa Lambert doesn’t need to watch “Law and Order,” “NCIS” or “Boston Legal” to find courtroom drama. Her job provides that. The Yale native and Oklahoma State University graduate has been the Payne County court clerk for 20 years. “What happens in the courtroom is far more interesting than any of those shows because it is real life,” she said. It displays a wide spectrum of situations, ranging from horrifying to depressing to amusing. Sometimes these can even get a bit frightening. She recalled a 1991 murder trial in Logan County involving two Oklahoma city gangs. When the jury was convened, the gallery erupted into a riot that had
to be broken up by Guthrie police and Logan County deputies. Another incident involved a volatile defendant who stormed out of the courtroom. He had to be hog tied in the hallway by deputies. Assisting judges in the courtroom and recording court actions is just one of the responsibilities of Lambert’s office. It collects and organizes massive amounts of paper of various court filings. It collects nearly $5 million each year in the form of court costs, assessments, fees and fines. Much of the money is then distributed to 30 state agencies. Lambert started her career at the courthouse as a legal secretary. After three years of working for a judge, she went back to school at the University of Oklahoma and began working as a bailiff in 1987. In 1992, she ran for court clerk and won and has been in the position ever since. Things have changed a lot since Lambert first set foot in the courthouse.
Back then, the standard equipment was a typewriter and a copy machine. Docket information was handwritten in massive, leather bound books. Over the years, the workload has increased but the staff has not. Lambert credited this to new technology and her dedicated staff. And soon technology could change all Oklahoma courts. For the past two years, a Virginiabased company has been working on a way to make the state’s courts completely paperless. “We literally have tons of paper in this building and off-site,” Lambert said. “I look forward to being part of what paperless will mean to a public records office.” While this may make it an exciting time to work in Oklahoma’s court system, it’s not what has kept Lambert at her position for two decades. “I enjoy working with people, all kinds of people,” she said. She works with the sheriff’s department, police, jurors, defendants, attorneys, courthouse staff and others. She enjoys making a court visit as pleasant an experience as possible as she said many are there only because they have to be. Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
Calvin Anthony holds a sign proclaiming “Calvin Anthony is Mayor” following his win in the mayoral race in 1985.
Stillwater business owner represents city through
— By Chase Rheam
Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
ne Stillwater business owner has had his hand in nearly everything to do with the city, including representing it on the state level. Calvin Anthony came to Oklahoma State University after graduating with a class of 12 from Carney High School. He said Stillwater was “a huge city” in comparison. Anthony had his plans for what he would do with his time in higher education. “I came to OSU and had a baseball scholarship,” he said. “I came up here and I enrolled in pre-dentistry because I thought I maybe wanted to be a dentist ... and I actually worked a little while at Tiger Drug while I was in school here.” He had considered following in his brother’s footsteps and attending medical school. Even dentistry took a backseat because of his experience working at the local pharmacy. Two things drove his decision home. “I was working as a student, sort of as a soda jerk at Tiger at that time and that was intriguing to me,” he said. “I saw kind of what the pharmacists did and the other thing is back in the early 60s, when I was at school at OSU, there wasn’t a dentist program in the state of Oklahoma, so I realized I would have to go out of state to Kansas State or Baylor and I wasn’t particularly enamored with that idea.” After attending OSU for two years, he transferred to the University of Oklahoma for three more years to enroll in its pharmacy school. After graduating, he came back to Stillwater and married in 1968. He took a job as a pharmacist at Humpty Dumpty, an establishment no longer in business. The owner of Tiger Drug called his former employee with a proposition. “He called me one day and said he was going to sell the drug store and thought I might be interested because he thought I’d made a good hand when I was working for him as a student,” he said. “Sure enough, it was pretty scary. I didn’t have any money and had to go into debt, but that’s how I got into the business.” At the age of 23, he purchased the pharmacy in spring 1969. He’s still the owner to this day. “It was a big undertaking and thanks to the support of the community and our long term relationship there, we’ve been successful,” he said. Throughout his years as a business owner, Anthony took on other tasks which included serving as the president of the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce, becoming the chairman of the board for Stillwater Savings and Loan and even serving as Stillwater mayor from 198588. He served in the legislature from 1992-96. Calvin Anthony He became friends with former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry. “We both went into the legislature at the same time,” he said. “He was in the Senate and I was in the House.” From 1996 to 2001, he accepted the role of CEO for the National Pharmacy Association in Washington, D.C. “It was after I came back from there that there was an opening
In this file photo, Calvin Anthony counts pills at his pharmacy, Tiger Drug.
on the (A&M) Board of Regents and Brad, he approached me if I would be interested ... I said I certainly was,” Anthony said. “I viewed it as a way to serve our community and also help the university that I loved.” While his term expires in 2014, he said every time the community or OSU takes a step forward, it’s beneficial to the other. “It’s really a symbiotic relationship and my goal is to be helpful to our leadership of our community as well our university, but as a regent, I want our students, they come first,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, how can we give them the best education for the cost and make this a safe environment for them to go to school in and get a degree that means something and is worthwhile and they have a job waiting for them? At the end of the day, it’s all about the students as far as I’m concerned.” As for how he views the size of the city when compared to his hometown of Carney, Anthony’s answer has changed slightly. “As I’ve lived here and served the community in various capacities, it seems smaller now,” Anthony said. “But the people and the university and really, the progressive attitude that Stillwater has always embodied, is what made it attractive to (me and my wife).” Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
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Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
five-word corporate slogan was more than an advertising campaign for the Bernhardt
Fulfilled by Lifetime in the Business — By Mark Rountree
family. “Our Family Serving Your Family” is more of a statement of commitment for Strode Funeral Home. “That was our philosophy all along, and it still is,” said Bill Bernhardt, the funeral home’s owner until 2005. Bernhardt began working with his father, W.F. Bernhardt, in 1954 after completing his degrees at Oklahoma State University and Dallas Institute of Funeral Service. “I was introduced to the funeral business from birth,” Bernhardt said. “We lived over the funeral home at the time.” In 1959, Bernhardt acquired the funeral home from his father, continuing a tradition that began when his father became the sole owner of the business in 1943. “People always ask me how I got into the funeral business,” Bernhardt said. “When I was a young kid, I went to the owner and said I would like to work at the funeral home. He had me sweeping drives and what have you. And when I got big enough, I would put on a suit and hold the door at funerals. I worked really hard and learned all the rules. And one day, the boss called me in and said, ‘Bill, you’re the best worker I ever had. Some day, all this is going to be yours.’ And I was so flabbergasted, I didn’t know what to say except, ‘Thanks dad.’” Bernhardt said part of his role as a funeral director was to help guide people through grief. “They are uncomfortable and it’s a very stressful situation for them,” he said. “They really don’t have any experience in that area and most people don’t want to
think about it. If you aren’t looking at an imminent death, you’re probably not interested in anything about funerals. “We can’t remove the pain and anxiety that goes with this. All we can do is try to make the road more smooth for them. I tried to be fiduciary with families, doing what’s best for them and helping them with what options are best for them. Our job is to outline the possibilities and help them with the details.” Bernhardt owned the funeral home until December 2005, ending a stretch of 62 years that the business had been owned by a member of the Bernhardt family. “It’s been a very fulfilling — By Mark Rountree experience,” Bernhardt said. “I have made a lot of good friends, and buried a lot of good friends. When I was just starting out, I was burying people I didn’t know. Then I was burying the grandparents of my friends, and then the parents of my friends and now I’m burying my friends. You might say that I have buried four generations of families.” Rather than selling the business to a corporation or an individual outside the Stillwater area, Bernhardt sold the funeral home to three long-time employees. Mike Chace, Gail Hunt and Louis Brower each have ties to the Stillwater area and collectively have more than 50 years of service to Strode Funeral Home. “I wanted to make sure that when I sold the funeral home, I sold it to people who worked for me,” Bernhardt said. “I knew they would take care of it. People calling the funeral home call because they are our friends. That’s important. If you sell it to some regional group or some chain operation, you never know how they will take care of people. It’s been very gratifying that (the new owners) have taken care of people so well.” Bill Bernhardt, the former owner of Strode Funeral Home, said part of a funeral director’s role is to help guide people through grief.
Vietnam War helped shape career of former Oklahoma State professor — By Mark Rountree
Peter Rollins is many things — educator, writer, filmmaker, historian. “Others have described me as a public intellectual who shares his findings in print and film and speech,” said Rollins, Emeritus Regents Professor of English at Oklahoma State University. “I would like to be known as someone who searched for the truth as intensely as I could and who stood steadfastly by the results of his research, whether they were popular or unpopular.” But when asked to identify how he considers himself, the 71-year-old Rollins could not get out the words. Scribbling on a yellow notebook, Rollins wrote the words, “U.S. Marine.” Rollins served in the Marine Corps from 1963-66 during the Vietnam War. “I did the right thing. I did what I was supposed to do,” said Rollins, emotional at the memory of his years in service. “Just like the others. They did what they were supposed to do, and they come home and get (disrespected).” The war and the media’s coverage of it helped shape a large part of Rollins’ career as a historian, writer and documentary filmmaker. “I was interested in propaganda and the representation of history in film, or the misrepresentation of history,” Rollins said. “I was disturbed, very disturbed, about how the
Former Oklahoma State University professor Peter Rollins has written extensively about American wars and the media’s coverage of those wars.
Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
(Vietnam) war was represented on television. “Because of my Marine, Vietnam experience, I had a desire to defend Vietnam veterans when they were attacked by the intelligence and the media elite who were too smart, more smart than these poor guys who served their country.” Rollins taught interdisciplinary seminars about film and television, often on themes such as the Presidency, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Rollins also was the author of 21 books on the writings of Will Rogers. “One of the main threads in my career has been Will Rogers,” Rollins said. “And that helped me as an outlander to understand the Oklahoma culture, Oklahoma history.” Rollins’ most recent work was “America Reflected,” a collection of essays published approximately five years ago. Rollins has taught numerous upper level and graduate level courses, including Film and History, Documentary Film, Film and Literature, The American West in Film, The Native American in Film, Frank Capra, Film in relation to World War I, World War II, The Korean Conflict, Vietnam and The Presidency in Film and Television.
His written work has been published in an assortment of publications, and his book, “Television Histories: Shaping Memory in the Media Age,” was awarded best book in American Culture Studies in 2001. “My strengths as an adviser are due to my fascination with the details of history and culture, a focus which enriches and enlightens both literary and cinematic texts,” Rollins wrote in his English department biography. He has been a guest analyst on several radio programs and appeared in several film documentaries, including “Vietnam: The Impact of Media,” “Vietnam: The Real Story,” and “Will Rogers’ 1920: A Cowboy’s Guide to the Times.” He received the Oklahoma Humanities Award in 2011, served as associate editor and book review editor for the “Journal of Popular Culture” and the “Journal of American Culture” until 2003. He has been the editor in chief of “Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies” since 1994. Rollins is still teaching. He conducts a class for senior citizens at Golden Oaks retirement village about film and history.
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Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
Working closely with private sector helped Ward grow baseball programs — By Andrew Glover
klahoma State University baseball coach Gary Ward is considered a legend. His jersey No. 20 is painted on the outfield fence at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium. He won 953 games from 1978-96 and led the Cowboys to 16 straight conference championships and 10 trips to the College World Series. Ward said his success began where his career began at Yavapai Junior College in Prescott, Ariz., in 1971. “(Yavapai) hadn’t had an athletic tradition for years,” Ward said. “I had good people around me. I went out a developed a solid community support base, connecting a college to a community. That experience taught me how to work with the private sector.” Ward led Yavapai to a 240-83 record and two national championships in 1975 and 1977. The coach was honored as the National Junior College Athletic Association Coach of the Year. Ward said he wanted to develop a culture of excellence. “I knew I could coach the game,” Ward said. “I don’t think baseball is an easy game. It’s a strategy and finesse game. I started out as a defensive coordinator and head basketball coach at high school. It gave me a good understanding.” During his seven seasons at Yavapai, community support and funding increased. When Ward left for Oklahoma State in 1977, several of his players went with him. Ward said he wanted to bring his philosophy to Oklahoma State and represent the city well. “Behavior and habits create character,” Ward said. “...I surrounded myself on my staff with good men that wanted to compete at the highest level.” When Ward came to Oklahoma State, the baseball program wasn’t well-funded. Just as he did in Arizona, Ward connected with the community. “I never turned down an opportunity to speak in Stillwater,” Ward said. “(The team) needed that local relationship. I had control of the media guide and got sponsors for $1,500 and $2,000 14
Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
a piece. We wanted to get season ticket holders.” One of the things Ward said Oklahoma State needed to be successful was an elite facility. Ward played a big role in the planning, funding, design and construction of Allie P. Reynolds Stadium. “I walked in with two checks of $200,000 dollars,” Ward said. “The athletic director asked what I was going to use it for and told him, ‘We are going to put up Major League Baseball lights. To be able to host a regional you need lights. Hosting a regional increases your chances of making a College World Series by 50 percent.”’ The Cowboys hosted regionals from 1982-1986. Ward said that started to fade in the early 1990s. “Some of the pieces weren’t executed,” Ward said. After the 1996 season, Ward dealt with back problems and had to retire. In 2001, Ward came out of his retirement and joined his son at his alma mater New Mexico State. Like Ward’s other stops, New Mexico State’s athletics were underfunded. “We made sure we gave a labor of love to the community and got more high donors,” Ward said. “We got up to a million in funding until a new athletic director wanted to spread funds to other than baseball.” Now Ward and his wife, Cathy, are back in Stillwater where he started a winning tradition with Oklahoma State. Ward said his role is different. “My wife got ill when I was in New Mexico and went into a coma,” Ward said. “She’s back where she raised her family. My job is to be her caretaker and help get her back on her feet.”
Former Oklahoma State University baseball coach Gary Ward won 953 games from 1978-96 and led the Cowboys to 16 straight conference championships.
Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
— By Russell Hixson
P Stillwater Public Safety Director Norman McNickle shows off fish he caught near his mountain getaway in Colorado. Stillwater Public Safety Director Norman McNickle snaps a picture at the top of a mountain he climbed in Colorado.
Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
ublic Safety Director Norman McNickle first joined the Stillwater Police Department in 1976 patrolling the streets as an officer. He spent the next 36 years there, doing nearly every crime fighting job there is. McNickle first went into business but soon found himself longing for more. He looked to his uncle, a career Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer. “I had this sense of wanting to help people,” McNickle said. The 24-year-old joined the Stillwater Police Department and began patrolling the streets. Things
were simpler then. McNickle said there were no walkie talkies, cellphones or computers. To communicate with departments outside of radio range, officers had to use a massive teletype machine. He quickly moved up the ranks, spending time in criminal investigations and the service bureau, eventually becoming chief in 1987, where he stayed until 2011. He has seen the city grow and change. Officers now use cellphones, computers, email and there are national databases. The growth of the city has also brought an explosion of property crime. Looking back, McNickle is proud of the time he invested in law enforcement. Pursing sex crime suspects through to conviction was one of the most satisfying parts of his career, McNickle said. “I’ve worked everything from homicide to vandalism,” he said. “I was a sex crime investigator for a number of years and as silly as it may seem that’s a fulfilling thing. I don’t think outside of being killed that a victim of rape can experience anything worse.” He also recalled one theft case he worked for 18 months before solving the crime. The suspects distracted shoppers and employees at a local store while accomplices stole a sizable amount of money from a safe. The technique is known as a diversionary takeover. McNickle contacted sources around the country, identified the suspects and arrested the offenders who were eventually deported. McNickle also played a part in investigating the bombing of the
Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. McNickle and eight other investigators assisted by sifting through the rubble, searching for evidence. They found guns, money, body parts, children’s toys, children’s drawings and photographs. They also found a piece of the axle of the truck used in the bombing. While some of the details of sifting through the rubble and investigating cruel, violent crimes can be horrible, McNickle said he keeps things in perspective. Law enforcement is there with the purpose to find out what happened and who is responsible, he said. These days McNickle rarely finds himself investigating heists or sifting through rubble. He is the director of public safety for the city. This involves guiding budget, policy and purchasing for various departments. And while part of him misses being out on the beat, what he truly longs for is his quiet place in the mountains. McNickle spent years building a remote cabin in the Colorado wilderness near Lake City in one of the least populated counties in the country. A cellphone or Internet signal is hard to come by and that’s just how he likes it. He fishes, hunts and climbs nearby 14,000-foot mountains. “It’s been good to me, it’s been good to my children, it’s been good to my family,” said McNickle of his time in law enforcement. “It’s been very fulfilling.” He also credited the many talented employees he has worked with over the years as being essential to his success.
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After working at Inciardi’s greenhouses as a teenager, Burtschi realized he wanted to design the flower arrangements and not plant them. His staff stays very busy during special seasons such as Valentine’s Day and events like prom.
Jim Burtschi Civic Leader in Business and Politics — By Elizabeth Keys
lean drinking water, health care, roads — trappings of civilization which many people take for granted. All are part of every day life but several basic human needs came with a struggle to establish in Stillwater. Local businessman James W. “Jim” Burtschi, the founder of Colonial Florist, fought many of the battles to provide Stillwater with the vision to go beyond basic community services. He became involved in city government when a group of residents wanted to build a new hospital. Burtschi thought the hospital needed to be in the center of the city and near the university so he didn’t want it moved too far. There were issues in acquiring the land and much of the funding. He joined the cause to fight for the site where the hospital now sits, earning himself a seat on the city commission. From planning,
Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
Jim Burtschi started his floral business more than 50 years ago, growing and adding to the operation as Stillwater has grown through the years.
relocating and financing, Burtschi made sure the community had a state-of-the-art medical center. The creation of the regional hospital was not the only project in which Burtschi was involved. Medical professionals once told him that he had less than five years to live — but that was more than 30 years ago. After fighting for his life, he knew where there was a will, there was a way. Sometimes that way came in baby steps — and lots of prayers. Doctors had written him off as an invalid and restricted him to his home with orders not to exert himself in the early 1980s. Burtschi prayed to God to heal him to protect his parents who had lost his brother in a car accident during high school. “My parents had already lost one son,” he said. While confined to a bedroom chair, he gazed out of the window and fretted over the lawn where
he had meant to replace the Bermuda with a blanket of soft Zoysia community, he said. For instance, there were a lot of politics grass. Before long, he was sneaking out to the lawn to do just that. involved in getting Highway 51 widened to four lanes to Interstate With his weakened constitution, it was a struggle. He could only 35. Other projects he helped with included the construction of a work a few minutes each day so sometimes he was lucky to replant senior citizen center and swimming pool in Couch Park, downtown just a few inches. parking and attracting businesses to Stillwater’s industrial park. His family and friends wondered if he’d lost his mind after Burtschi was named citizen of the year by civic clubs and awarded they figured out who was responsible for the lawn’s changing recognition for outstanding service to the city of Stillwater for his appearance. But he refused to stay down for the count. Each day he grew stronger and his workday’s got longer. Gardening was his salvation, but it came in pieces of pure grit that translated to other causes Burtschi has tackled always with the question — is it right? With a strong faith demonstrated in service to the Catholic church, Burtschi always questioned what was the right decision for everyone involved. Whether it was for the city or for his alma mater, he always asked himself if it was right thing to do. A graduate of Stillwater High School in 1957 and Oklahoma State University, Burtschi attended the Cliff Mann Floral Design School in Denver and the FTD’s School of Management. He started Colonial Florist in 1962 and was the owner, designer, bookkeeper, delivery man and salesman all at the same time “with the Lord leading the way.” Family and friends pitched in to help, and the store didn’t turn a profit for more than seven years. Colonial Florist has expanded through When he was struggling with illness, he made a great Betty Townsend, Jim the years with the vision of the founder, Burtschi’s sister, has the same long-term employee, Terry Wheeler, a partner in the entrepreneurial nature as Burtschi Jim Burtschi. Going through the entrance business in 1978. with her shop, Elizabeth’s, among on Washington Street, a store full of Burtschi grew with the community. He agreed with Knoblock’s campus corner stores. collectibles, Oklahoma State University former Mayor Bill Thomas when he told the city She stopped by her brother’s items and other gift selections greet commission, “the single most important necessity floral shop on Washington Street customers, along with the fragrance of fresh flowers. to provide for the growth of a community is water.” where the city has installed Stillwater’s future growth could only be secure with decorative sign posts to designate the road as The Strip. an adequate and plentiful water supply. “The bond issue for the pipeline to Kaw Reservoir passed by a very slim margin,” Burtschi said, but the commission volunteer efforts on the Stillwater Planning Commission. He is a had the foresight to increase the size of the pipeline, recognizing walking history book, providing copies of records to the city when some day some of the surrounding communities would realize they questions arose about the ownership of Hall of Fame Avenue. had underestimated their water needs. Sometimes these major “When my city is wrong, I tell ’em ... and when my college is projects were passed with grassroots efforts like a simple telephone wrong, I tell ’em,” Burtschi said. calling campaigns, Burtschi said. He never would have imagined as a college student when Sigma Problems did not end with the passage of the bond issue to Alpha Epsilson fraternity house mom, the late Katherine Woods, build the pipeline and treatment plant for Kaw water though. asked him to meet with an alumnus who she thought was going The opposition tried to seek a court action to challenge the bond places in this world that he would deliver flowers to his suite in election campaign to stop the sale of bonds. T. Boone Pickens Stadium — named for the oil man who visited “Even though there was no basis for the threat of court action with him one afternoon about dreams and aspirations. Burtschi and challenge of the bond election by the opponents, it possibly has passed it on with his civic volunteerism, inspiring former could have caused an unfavorable rating on the bonds to be bookkeeper, the late Mike Henson, a former Stillwater mayor, to sold and driven the cost above what had been approved by the get involved in politics, too. citizens,” Burtschi said. “We petitioned for a grand jury to provide “We shouldn’t just be interested in what’s good for today. We the opponents with a forum to air their disagreement to try and should always be looking down the road,” Burtschi said. forestall any court action until after the bonds were sold.” Sometimes that involves throwing a few punches. He is waging Hoping to see projects through to fruition involved lots of a battle now to create laws to stop unscrupulous Internet order politicking, he said. As the lone authority operating a successful makers for flower deliveries. florist operation, he had to learn the art of compromise in getting Yet, in all his efforts, Burtschi has done whatever it takes each day things accomplished in government. Sometimes just talking over to aspire to new visions working for his business and volunteering coffee could help everyone work together for the good of the for the city “living each day, each year as if it’s my last.” Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
Humane Society Director living a “dream come true” — By Chase Rheam
aking a difference in the lives of cats and dogs was what Jackie Ross-Guerrero had wanted to do from a young age. Although the end result would have been similar, the path she took to her goal could have been different. “I was one of those kids that when people asked me, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I always said a veterinarian,” Ross-Guerrero said. “When I went to a small junior college in Iowa on a volleyball scholarship, I realized I didn’t have the brains or the money to do what these awesome vets do, so I always just volunteered.” Ross-Guerrero’s husband works for the Department of Agriculture, so the couple moved around quite often, she said. “We moved here four years ago and I had spent 18 years working in public health,” she said. “Whenever we went to a city, I always volunteered for the local animal shelter.” She started spending her time at the Humane Society of Stillwater. “I just knew that I could make a difference in all the lives of the animals,” she said. “After a month, I became a caretaker and within three months, the director position opened up and even though I didn’t have much experience running an animal shelter, I knew that I could make a difference and help the animals and help the community.” She said receiving the position was “a
Stillwater Style || Spring 20132013 April/May
dream come true.” The day-to-day operations of the shelter include eight paid caretakers, whom are pre-vet or animal science majors at Oklahoma State University, and community members, who arrive before the doors open to the public to feed, clean and care for the animals. Dogs are moved to the outside kennels while their living spaces are cleaned thoroughly with three cleaners. They are also fed breakfast and any dogs with illnesses are given their medications. “We also have a cat caretaker who comes in and does the same thing for the cats,” she said. “The cats’ cages are all deeply cleaned. They’re all given bedding, food, water and if they need medication, they get that as well.” Additional volunteers will show up once the shelter opens to walk or play with the dogs. “Once the doors open, depending on the weather, we could have anywhere from 50 to 100 volunteers a day,” RossGuerrero said. “On the colder days, it may be down to 10 or 15. We really rely on the volunteers and the community to come in and help the animals socialize and get them adopted.” The turnaround time for adoptions is three weeks for the dogs and four weeks for the cats, she said. “Granted, that’s still a long time to be homeless and in an animal shelter, but we spoil them and keep them happy and we
A young volunteer holds one of the Humane Society of Stillwaterâ€™s feline friends.
Director Jackie Ross-Guerrero
Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
make sure they are healthy when they do get adopted,” Ross-Guerrero said. That’s a big step up from the turnaround times she was met with upon taking the job. When Ross-Guerrero began, there were dogs that had been staying at the shelter for three years. “I thought that was unacceptable,” she said. “We needed to get them in homes where they could be happy.” The Humane Society of Stillwater is not a part of any national, state or county organization. They do not receive government or state funding. “It gets kind of frustrating at times because we are called the Humane Society, so people will come in all the time and say, ‘Hey, I donated to you,’” she said. “But what they’re actually donating to is the Humane Society of the United States which we don’t receive funding from any of those groups, so we’re really trying to educate the public and letting them know that if you want to donate to the
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Stillwater Style | Spring 2013
Humane Society of Stillwater Director Jackie Ross-Guerrero plays with one of the pups in the outside kennels.
local shelter, it has to be to our shelter because we don’t receive any of that national funding.” Despite that misconception, she said they do well. “Stillwater is great,” she said. “If a lot of people can’t donate their money, they’re donating their time to us.” The Humane Society of Stillwater was opened in the 1970s by a group that aimed to lower the euthanization rate of animal welfare, the organization’s neighbor. The group only takes in pets from Stillwater Animal Welfare. They do not accept animals from the public. Ross-Guerrero said her goal is to make the shelter more known to the public. “Some of the people in the community have negative connotations about the shelter, so I’m really trying to get out into the public eye and let people know that our animals are happy and healthy,” she said. She said she wants to continue the success they have seen in the last few years. “I want to be a part of Stillwater and to continue to get the community involved,” she said.
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