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TOPEKA

TOPEKA’S PREMIER MAGAZINE ON PEOPLE, PLACES & STYLE

MAGAZINE

winter 2010/11

Capper’s Living Legacy $3.00

Perfect Pictures of Health

TARC’s Holiday Cookies

Cats as Cozy Coworkers


TOPEKAMAGAZINE

Vol. V / No. I

from the editor

publisher / Art Director

Darby Oppold Editor

Our cover photo of a playful, energetic Micah Bingham represents one of Topeka Magazine’s repeating themes: Individuals matter to a community. For this reason, every issue of our magazine devotes several pages to the achievements, interests and contributions of individual Topekans. But the experience of Micah, a young child faced with autism who nonetheless thrives through hard work, reminds us of another aspect of that same theme: Most any individual success is grounded in support from others. As Vernon McFall’s cover story emphasizes, the role of parents, professionals and institutions—in this case Topeka’s Easter Seals Capper Foundation—is crucial to the ability of children to thrive. In this holiday edition of Topeka Magazine, our stories focus on groups that come together for short or long periods to make a positive difference in individual lives. Sometimes, these are core groups of volunteers in organizations with longstanding traditions, such as the cookie bakers extraordinaire (p. 44) who fire up their ovens each year to support TARC, the monthly taco chefs at Sullivan Chapel (p. 40) who combine a mission of building intertribal solidarity and providing a healthful, affordable meal, and the research-history sleuth team that uncovered almost lost history at St. Joseph church (p. 26). At times, these organizations are based in work. An extended family of ranch hands and cattle experts has joined

Winter 2010/11

the Jenkinses and their ranch of Scottish Highland cattle (p. 10). Jo Flowers (p. 18) works with her daughter and her “little daughter” at her shop on Kansas Avenue. And several businesses benefit from the sometimes-haughty but graceful presence of cats who strolled into work one day and won people’s hearts (p. 14). Some organizations, like the Capper Foundation, have benefited Topekans for decades while others, such as Dale Cushinberry’s emerging “council of elders” (p. 22), are still forming. Effective organizations can be large, such as the informal network of gardeners who consult with or through Craig Srna (p. 56) and the community of Topeka artists represented by those who contributed their visions of health to this issue (p. 50). But they can also be as few in number as Jim and Jean Meyers and their dog, who put on a free holiday show for any visitor each year (p. 36). Whatever your holiday traditions and the organizations that you support, we hope you have time this winter to spend some moments with these stories and pictures focusing on Topekans and to gather with the groups that love and inspire you.

Nathan Pettengill Editor

Nathan Pettengill COPY EDITOR

susie fagan advertising representative

kathy lafferty (785) 224-9992 Ad Designer

shelly bryant Photographers

Jason Dailey bill stephens Contributing Writers

julie k. buzbee anita miller fry stacey jo geier Jeffrey Ann goudie KIM GRONNIGER CAROLYN KABERLINE vernon mcfalls Kate Blatherwick Pickert christine steinkuehler debra Guiou stufflebean Barbara Waterman-peters GENERAL MANAGER

BERT HULL coordinator

faryle scott

Subscriptions

$22 (tax included) for a one-year subscription to Topeka Magazine. For subscription information, please contact:

Christopher J. Bell 609 New Hampshire st., P.O. Box 888, Lawrence, KS 66044 (800) 578-8748 / Fax (785) 843-1922 Or e-mail comments to topekamagazine@sunflower.com

Topeka Magazine is a publication of Sunflower Publishing, a division of The World Company.

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TOPEKAMAGAZINE Winter 2010/11

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Contents

Winter

on the cover

2010/11

Micah Bingham enjoys an active session at Easter Seals Capper Foundation. {Photography by Jason Dailey}

14 Cats as Cozy Coworkers 44 TARC’s Holiday Cookies 50 Perfect Pictures of Health

Features 30 Something Old, Something New

A rural dream home combines the best of historic furnishings and modern approaches for one family

50 The Perfect Picture of Health Five artists present their interpretations of wellness

..........................................................................................

In Every Issue

03 From the Editor 62 events calendar

DEPARTMENTS .............

topeka businesses

10 Highland Flavor

By connecting with their Scottish heritage, members of a ranching family raise the ‘future of the hamburger’

14 Cat Colleagues

These top cats mean business at Topeka workplaces

18 Gift from Within One business forms around a conversation with mom and a decision to embrace an uncanny ability .............

notables

22 Fixing It

After a prominent career in education, Dale Cushinberry sets his sights on new goals throughout the community

8

TOPEKAMAGAZINE Winter 2010/11

26

.............

‘Grand Adventure’

grow

Tips from detective novels, a buried treasure and many minimysteries lead to an exhaustive church history for two volunteers

56 ‘Giving Beauty’

.............

.............

Home LIfe

For the Family

36 Topeka’s North Pole

58 Capper’s Legacy

A sentimental Santa-Claus-atheart welcomes visitors to his home in southeast Topeka .............

local flavor

40 Sullivan’s Specialty American Indian church serves fry bread tacos for taste and connection to history

44 TARC’s Cookie Chefs

The bakers behind one nonprofit’s cookie extravaganza share their stories, hints and a recipe

Craig Srna gardens yearround, but his unique and vast collection of conifers provides a particular winter delight

The Topeka-based foundation focuses on assisting families in caring for autistic children


10 TOPEKA BUSINESSES Oz Highland Farm

Highland

Flavor

By connecting with their Scottish heritage, members of a ranching family raise the ‘future of the hamburger’

J

The Jenkins herd, or “fold,” includes nearly 200 Highland cattle on their ranch southwest of Topeka.

ohn Jenkins became a rancher partly as a link to his deep Scottish heritage and partly for the chance to earn his living in wide open spaces. But his true inspiration was the flavorful aroma of the beef patties his wife, Debbie, was frying. “I was sitting there reading a magazine and I said, ‘That’s it.’ The aroma reminded me when I was a kid and walked home from school, and if my parents weren’t home, we went to my two aunts’ house. They’d wave me in and they’d make hamburgers,” John says. “They’d have hamburgers, peaches and a slice of bread. But the flavor of the beef is what I remember. It had an incredible smell. And that’s what I smelled again, and then I knew we had something.” That aroma was from beef of one of the three Scottish Highland heifers the couple had bought in 1999. Today, nearly 200 Highland cattle graze on their 600-acre Oz Highland Farm southwest of Topeka near Auburn. John and Debbie and two of their eight children work full time on the ranch, with children, grandchildren and friends helping with the cattle operation and the side business of concessions and catering at heritage festivals. Some of the land has been in John’s family since the 1850s, including the stone farmhouse built in 1856 where John’s mother, Marjorie, the matriarch of the family, was born and still lives. It was

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TOPEKAMAGAZINE Winter 2010/11

STORY BY Anita Miller Fry | PHOTOGRAPHY BY Bill Stephens


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TOPEKA BUSINESSES

12 Oz Highland Farm

Marjorie’s father, from the Henderson clan, who raised Highland cattle in Scotland before moving to the United States. The Jenkins side of the family is originally from Wales. Debbie is from the McCoy family and also of Scottish descent. Both John, 58, and Debbie, 47, grew up on farms and with cattle. Debbie’s home was about three miles southwest of where the couple live now. Between them, they have eight children—four each—and a round of grandchildren. “The little ones are on the cash register, and it teaches them about money and meeting and greeting people, learning customer service,” John says. “That’s critical to success in your life.” Social, gentle and unique

Highlands are known for their rugged appearance, and at Oz Highland Farm, they come in just about every color: white, silver, black, dun, light yellow, dark yellow, red and brindle. They have horns, with the females having a slight curve to their horns and the males sporting a more horizontal look. “What is so wonderful about them is they are not just your normal black cow,” says John. “Every one here is unique.” The animals roam the Jenkinses’ farm, plus another 1,000 acres that the family keeps nearby, and are raised on

The Jenkins family, from left, John, Debbie and Kyleigh, travel 11 months of the year as food vendors selling meat and other products from their cattle, which range from the occasional white-haired to red, black, yellow, bridled or dun coloring.

prairie grass and brome, with no growth hormones, grain or antibiotic feed. The Jenkinses are committed to raising natural beef from the land and handle their herd quietly, using treats to move them from one area to the next. The Highlands are very social and good-natured; they come close to inspect visitors and let the Jenkinses’ dog, Toby, lick them on the nose.

Because the heifers can reach 1,500 pounds at full size and the bulls can top 2,000 pounds, however, the animals must be respected. If one gets unruly, it usually makes the next trip to the meat locker. The bulls move with the herd, including Boxer, a massive, large-headed animal. John points out a white furry calf in the herd that has been orphaned and notes one or two of the other cows are taking care of her. Another cow is sitting with several small calves surrounding her. “There’s always somebody on day care,” he says. Lean and real beef flavor

The growth rate of Highland cattle is slower than other breeds, so they are usually older—about 30 months—when they are processed. John says this results in meat that has a fine grain, which contributes to its flavor. “He is allowed all the time he needs to get to the weight without being pushed,” John says of a shaggy steer. Debbie adds that the animals’ long hair keeps them insulated, so they don’t put on as much fat as other cattle and produce leaner meat. The Jenkinses dry-age the beef and sell it by the cut, quarter, half or whole, with people purchasing it direct from the

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TOPEKAMAGAZINE Winter 2010/11


farm. That allows them to maintain control over the product, which they also ship across the United States. As John approaches the steers with a bucket of treats, he says, “This is the future of hamburger.” On the road

In addition to working the land, the Jenkinses sell concessions using their home-grown meat at Scottish, Irish and Celtic fairs across the country. They have a travel schedule from Florida to Nevada, Arizona to Michigan, Texas to Virginia and many states between. They go to as many as four events a month and sometimes send crews to different events on the same weekend. The only month they take off is December. A schedule of events is posted on a bulletin board in the Jenkinses’ house. Family members can add their names to help work if they can get away for the weekend. “It’s a family operation,” John says. A family friend, Karl Losey, also helps at the farm and on the road. Besides the meat, the Jenkinses sell the hides, skulls, horns and dossan, which is the hairy bangs of the cattle used to make pouches worn on Scottish outfits. Inquiries for the dossan have come from all over the country, Debbie says. They also sell breeding stock and herd animals to those who want to produce their own meat or just want some horned pasture art. Most animals at the farm can be traced back to Scotland. They are proud of their herd and have their favorites. Debbie describes Fear, an old patriarch bull, as being a “dandy,” and calls his curious, friendly son Boxer “a ‘10’ in personality.” She also likes the cow called Cat Eyes, because of her slanted cat-like eyes, and has a fondness for Millie, another special cow. “I try not to get too attached to them,” she says, looking across the herd. “But getting attached to them is easy because they have such great personalities.” .......................................................................................................................................................................

On the Menu

Oz Highland Farm serves its Scottish-inspired food at festivals across the country but also can be found most years at the Auburn Community Fair and other local events. See a complete schedule at www.ozhighlandfarm.com. Each year Oz Highland Farm also selects a community organization to receive a free lunch as a “thank you” for its service. This year, the Shawnee County Sheriff ’s Office was the recipient. The Scottish recipes are from John Jenkins’ mother, Marjorie, and Debbie Jenkins. Items on the menu include: • Mince: A ground beef-like shepherd’s pie. • Bangers: A traditional sausage that is usually served for breakfast in Ireland, Scotland and England. The Jenkinses say it is a mild sausage with “not a whole lot of bang.” John says bangers can be served many ways, but the Jenkinses grill theirs and serve them with mashed potatoes and gravy. • Haggis pup: This traditional Scottish sausage is made with pork shoulder. The Jenkinses have the pork specially raised for them. • Steak burger: This menu item is more American, but the Jenkinses make it special. They add steak cuts to the ground meat, then serve burgers in 1/3-pound, 2/3-pound or 1-pound portions. • Ribsteak sandwich: A rib eye is served on a toaster roll with grilled onions.


14 TOPEKA BUSINESSES Cats in the office

cat

Colleagues

These top cats mean business at Topeka workplaces

T

Porter makes his home amid the plant cuttings and commotion of daily business at Porterfield’s Flowers.

here’s some frisky business going on at several Topeka workplaces where cats have joined their humans as a catalyst for drawing in customers. David Porterfield, owner of Porterfield’s Flowers in Westboro Shopping Center, says there’s no doubt Porter, a large orange tabby residing at the florist and gift store, has increased floor traffic. “You wouldn’t believe it. Kids drive their parents crazy to bring them by to see him,” he says. “He has his own fan club, and if he hears a child in the store, he will come running.” Even adult customers inquire where Porter is and how he is doing. “He’s a perfect store animal. He loves people,” Porterfield says. After wandering the Collins Park neighborhood, the half-grown cat walked in the back door of the floral shop at 3101 SW Huntoon St. about 13 years ago. Porterfield was a dog person, but some creative employees named the cat Porter in an effort to get Porterfield to keep him. It worked. Porter does more than look handsome. Porterfield says having his well-behaved cat in the store dispels myths about cats eating or disturbing plants and floral arrangements. “I love this one. He’s a jewel,” says Porterfield as Porter sprawls beneath a table filled with floral arrangements. The cat is a confident and friendly greeter, especially on Fridays when there are floral specials and lots of people stop by for $5 bouquets. On those days, Porter often sits

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TOPEKAMAGAZINE Winter 2010/11

STORY BY Anita Miller Fry | PHOTOGRAPHY BY jason dailey


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TOPEKA BUSINESSES

16 Cats in the office

on the counter by the cash register and laps up the extra attention.    “He’s a most personable cat,” says Porterfield. “He’s perfect for us.” It’s also a purrfect world for Angel, a gray tabby who lives at the Sherwood Animal Clinic, at SW 21st Street and Urish Road. Matt Zupka, D.V.M., Ph.D., owner of Sherwood Animal Clinic, says staff members came to him shortly after he opened the small animal clinic several years ago and told him they wanted a clinic animal. “It was one of their first steps to take over the clinic,” he says with a smile. They went to Helping Hands Humane Society to look for a pet with a suitable disposition and found Angel. Back at the business, she immediately became queen of the clinic.   Angel has her own basket near the front of the clinic for catnaps. When people come up to pay their bills, she climbs over to see them. When she’s not in her basket, she can be found sunning herself in the large front windows.  One morning Zupka came to work and discovered red lipstick smooches all over the front window pane at cat level as well as a case of Fancy Feast cat food sitting outside. “There was no note,”  Zupka says, believing it was from one of Angel’s fans. “We have people who aren’t even clients come in to see her.” Zupka says having an animal at the vet clinic is therapeutic. “She consoles people when they are grieving or are worried. She goes over and sits with them,” he says.      

Angel, left, and Sammy, above, are both rescue cats who now live at Topeka businesses.

Sammy at SAMCO showed up at the mechanical contracting firm at 3840 NW 14th St. when she was a tiny kitten. Dale Warren, president of SAMCO, says an employee found her under a truck hood, nestled next to the battery case. “She was barely weaned and barely able to eat on her own,” Warren says. The white long-haired kitten was named after the business and then “fixed up”—taken to the vet, fed and given a bed in the storage room. That was six years ago, and today she has full run of the place. A special cat door

has been installed to give her access from the storage room to a foyer that has outside windows. When Warren leaves, it’s common for Sammy to take a nap in his office chair. “She’s mellowed some and likes to sleep most of the time,” says Warren. All three felines have made their “home offices” more welcoming, but there is some catting around. Porterfield says Porter occasionally displays some orneriness. During the holiday season, Porter can be found hiding beneath the decorated Christmas trees and occasionally likes to sit under skirted display tables. As people walk by, he’ll swipe his paw at their legs. “Just enough to scare them,” Porterfield says.

...............................................................................................................

“He has his own

fan club,

a child in the store, he will come running.” and if he hears

– David Porterfield Sammy came to SAMCO six years ago as a scrappy kitten. Now a mature cat, Sammy prefers to spend her days at the mechanical contracting firm napping and relaxing.

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TOPEKAMAGAZINE Winter 2010/11


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18 TOPEKA BUSINESSES 3 Flowers Metaphysical Treasures

gift from

within

One business forms around a conversation with mom and a decision to embrace an uncanny ability

J

o Flowers, the owner of 3 Flowers Metaphysical Treasures in downtown Topeka, learned to play cards in college. Late one evening, needing a break from studying biology, she picked up a deck to start a game of Solitaire. While spreading the cards, she began to see pictures in them and quickly responded. “I put the cards away and decided I was studying too hard,” says Flowers.

........................................................................................................................................

“I just give people

choices. No

matter where you are in life, top or

everyone has choices.” – jo flowers.

bottom,

Soon after that, Flowers began playing gin rummy with friends at the Highland Community College student union and saw more pictures and images with meanings. “A basketball player named Slim sat across from me. I told him he was going to get two scholarships to go back to Philly. I told the girl next to me that she was going to marry the guy she was dating,” recounts Flowers. “They asked how I knew, and I said, ‘I don’t know.’ I went back to the dorm and called my mom and told her I was coming home for the weekend.”

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TOPEKAMAGAZINE Winter 2010/11

STORY BY Stacey Jo Geier | PHOTOGRAPHY BY jason dailey


TOPEKA BUSINESSES

20 3 Flowers Metaphysical Treasures

Flowers arrived. Her mother sat her down in the dining room, served her sweet tea and asked what was troubling her. “I am seeing things in cards,” admitted Flowers. “I know,” her mother responded. “God gave you a gift.” Her mother told her she knew her baby girl had the “gift” before she was born. “I had an aunt who told my mother she would have two children before her 20th anniversary and one of them would have ‘the gift,’” says Flowers. Her mother also explained to Flowers that when she was young, she often seemed to talk to people when no one was around. It was, Flowers’ mother thought, her toddler exploring her gift. Learning for the first time about this gift, Flowers wanted nothing to do with it. She asked if she could somehow return it. Her mother said no. “She then told me to not lie in my cards, tell people what I see, help people no matter what and never become greedy. At that time I wasn’t even reading cards and didn’t understand what she was telling me,” says Flowers. This November, Flowers celebrated 44 years of sharing her gift, reading cards for people and following her mother’s sage advice all along the way. Brought up in Horton by a traditional Mexican-Catholic family, Flowers keeps St. Jude prayer cards on hand for her English and Spanish language readings. “I give

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TOPEKAMAGAZINE Winter 2010/11

Jo Flowers reads cards at her shop in downtown Topeka that also sells items such as incense and jewelry. The stones and crystals, below, in 3 Treasures represent Flowers’ commitment to “a diverse store” focusing on spirituality rather than one particular creed.

out nearly 1,000 cards a year. St. Jude has helped me throughout my life. I first knew him at the age of 7 when I had appendicitis. He is a wonderful healer.” Flowers takes playing cards in hand and lays them on a table to begin her readings, which last 15-20 minutes. “We cover a lot in a short period of time.” “I am a firm believer that no psychic in the world can tell you when you are going to die or know the lottery numbers,

because if we did, there wouldn’t be a lottery. I do see illness on people, but I never diagnose because I am not a doctor. I see shadows and tell them to get checked out,” says Flowers. Flowers thinks fortune tellers should never tell people what to do. “We are just guides. We are always showing the roads— the right, left, middle or all three. That’s why God gave us free will, to think what we want. I just give people choices. No matter where you are in life, top or bottom, everyone has choices. Most people just need an affirmation that things will be fine.” After all these year, Flowers doesn’t need the cards to do a reading. “The cards serve as a foundation. I use cards because it can spook people if I hold their hand and tell them what I see. When I use the cards, I don’t see the cards. I see things or pictures in the cards. I have been asked numerous times to teach others how to read the cards. It just comes from within.”


.................................................................................................................................

3 Flowers

Jo Flowers says she was given another unexpected gift three years ago when she became the owner of 3 Flowers Metaphysical Treasures. The store, at 733 S. Kansas Ave., concentrates on spiritual themes. “It’s a diverse store. We are all very religious here,” says Flowers. “We have pagan, Wicca, Buddhist and Catholic items. We have beautiful chimes, cards, tie-dye shirts and one-of-a-kind jewelry.” The shop also offers peaceful respite in the form of animal companionship. “We have a lot of people come into the store to see the cats: Sweetie, Jade and Smoky,” says Flowers. “They love sunning themselves in the front window. Lots of people just come in to visit the cats and enjoy the peaceful energy of this space.” Along with the three resident cats, three women work at the shop. In additional to Flowers, there is her daughter, Lori, the shop manager, and Deb Shobney, whom Flowers refers to as her “little daughter.” Like her mother, Lori is a psychic consultant; Deb does Tarot and aura readings. The three women take appointments Monday through Saturday.


22 NOTABLES Dale Cushinberry

............................................................................................................................

Fixing It

“He probably could have played

pro basketball, but he became an educator instead.” – joe Douglas Jr.

After a prominent career in education, Dale Cushinberry sets his sights on new goals throughout the community

C

After 16 years as the Highland Park High School principal, Dale Cushinberry is spending this year beyond the Highland Park halls.

22

TOPEKAMAGAZINE Winter 2010/11

elebrated educator Dale Cushinberry has only been retired since June 30, but he’s quick to tell you he is enjoying himself. “It’s an opportunity … to regroup and get yourself together,” Cushinberry says. With autonomy to structure his time, Cushinberry now can exercise regularly and has lost 20-plus pounds since the school year ended. He jokes that with all the talk about the fixed income that comes with retirement, he likes the fact that he can “fix the schedule the way I want to fix it.” At the attractive and peaceful Shawnee Heights home where he and his wife, Anita, have lived for 34 years, he says the couple relish their new freedom. Anita retired from her teaching position this year as well and says she is still excited about having time to read the newspaper in the mornings and being able to do more volunteer work and travel. After 16 years as principal at Highland Park High School, Cushinberry—affectionately called “Cush”—left with considerable fanfare. In early May, the Kansas Senate passed a resolution praising the veteran educator. When asked how it felt to be honored on the floor of the Senate, Cushinberry says he felt a mixture of pride and embarrassment. In part, the embarrassment stemmed from being recognized for doing what he thinks everybody should do—work to the best of their ability—but he also says being singled out overshadows the efforts of others. “There’s a tinge of embarrassment when you do get an award because ultimately, there are other people that were responsible for you being in a position for that to happen,” he says. Besides being recognized by the Legislature, what was his proudest moment? “My moments aren’t so much watersheds,” he says, “they’re raindrops. They come … from seeing those kids that are successful who tried to quit school and you wouldn’t let them, or you had

STORY BY Jeffrey Ann Goudie | PHOTOGRAPHY by Bill Stephens


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24 NOTABLES Dale Cushinberry

........................................................................................................................................

Not the only Cushinberry to make a big contribution to Topeka, Dale Cushinberry stands at a sign for Cushinberry Park. The park is named for Dale’s uncle, a Topeka philanthropist who died in 2008.

to go down to the courthouse and help them get out of situations, and have them go ahead and finish school and start changing some of the old habits and ways they’ve had. “It’s seeing growth—seeing them move to their next level, whatever that might be, ” says Cushinberry, who notes that some of that growth might come beyond their school years. Cushinberry’s guiding philosophy as an educator was simple: “Help kids become more.” For some, the “more” might be in personal development; for others, it’s in the academic area. For that reason, he is critical of measuring sticks like No Child Left Behind, which he calls “a political tool.” The 63-year-old Cushinberry spent part of his childhood at 1820 Fillmore St. Before the landmark Brown v. Board decision outlawing segregated schools, Cushinberry attended the all-black Buchanan Elementary. After the Brown decision was implemented, he attended the closer Central Park Elementary School. “The interesting thing about it is our neighborhood was integrated, and so the change of schools wasn’t as big a problem for the kids as it was for the adults,” he says. “Because we already played ball together.” When his family moved to the Highland Park area, he attended Highland Park Elementary, Highland Park Junior High and finished at Highland Park High School in 1965. He started college at Kentucky State University at Frankfort but wound up at Emporia State University, where he played basketball on scholarship for three years, twice earning NAIA All-American status. He began as a business major but found himself enjoying a summer job working with kids at a recreation center. He approached a faculty adviser, who recommended he teach. He switched to the education department and says “it’s one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made.” That sentiment is echoed by Joe Douglas Jr., who became the first black chief of the Topeka Fire Department in 1983 and has known Cushinberry since he was a “youngster.” “He probably could have played pro basketball, but he became an educator instead,” says Douglas, “and we can be thankful that he did.” Garry Cushinberry, a senior vice president in community relations at CoreFirst Bank & Trust, remembers living next door to his cousin Dale for

24

TOPEKAMAGAZINE Winter 2010/11

After 16 years as principal at Highland Park High School, Cushinberry— affectionately called “Cush”— left with considerable fanfare. a time on Fillmore. Dale has four sisters in two sets of twins (an older brother died). Garry says there were nine kids running between the two houses. Although cousins, they were raised more like siblings. Of “Cush,” he says: “He’s been my rock. … He is a pearl of a guy.” Cushinberry says he misses the kids at Highland Park but has plans to assemble an “elders group” of volunteers who will share their wisdom in Topeka schools. He and Anita also now have the freedom to visit their two grown daughters more often. Danitra is a married teacher living in San Francisco; Andrea will finish college this winter at Alabama State University with a criminal justice degree. He is open to the idea of taking another job but says he will let work find him. In the meantime, he serves on the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission, the Board of Trustees at Emporia State, and the boards of the YMCA, the Topeka School Fund, the Living the Dream Inc. committee and the advisory board for CASA of Shawnee County. Those activities alone would be a full plate for most. But Cushinberry has a relaxed style. Miranda Ericsson-Kendall, valedictorian of the Highland Park High class of 2000, says of her former principal: “He had to be the busiest man on the planet, but it never seemed that way when he stopped to talk to you in the hall.” She says he influenced her with his caring manner. After graduating from Washburn University with academic honors, Ericsson-Kendall now works as a paid tutor at her old high school. “Cush” may be retired, but his influence looms large.


26 NOTABLES Spires authors

‘Grand Adventure’

Tips from detective novels, a buried treasure and many mini-mysteries lead to an exhaustive church history for two volunteers

I

t began, as many things at churches do, with a committee. The first meeting in 1998 saw 13 people attend; the second, seven; then four for a while, and finally only Christine Adams and Teresa Thomas were left as the project continued. Eleven years later, Adams and Thomas produced Spires for All Time, a book of more than 200 pages and 450-plus photos that chronicles not just the history of St. Joseph Catholic Church, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, but that of the Volga German immigrants in Topeka and the city as well. “We elected not to be dull,” Thomas says of their idea for the book. “We wanted it to be rich and uplifting. We wanted it to help build the faith and to give a positive message. We didn’t think of it as a book just about the church, but a method of evangelization. We wanted to tell of the rich heritage passed on to these people, then to us. We wanted to pass that on to others.” The amateur historians had two previous works for reference: a 1937 parish history written by Father Anthony Blaufuss and a research paper on the history of Topeka’s Volga Germans by parishioner Bruce Danielson. But many original church history sources were missing, and no church records or minutes of parish meetings could be found prior to the 1970s. A trip to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign made by Adams and Teresa Miller, an early member of the group, yielded some records as well as plans and drawings by George P. Stauduhar, the church’s architect. But the early church records continued to elude them. “We were stuck for a while,” Adams says, “then we borrowed from Teresa’s background of reading every Nancy Drew book and began to scour the rectory attic, the basements of the church and rectory, and even the back of the altar.”

Christine Adams, left, and Teresa Thomas hold up the book that resulted from their “grand adventure” through the history of St. Joseph Catholic Church.

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STORY by Carolyn Kaberline | photography BY bill stephens


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28 NOTABLES Spires authors

Though the history of St. Joseph was fairly well-documented, the church’s properties held a few secrets that Adams and Thomas discovered.

It was actually Agatha Christie novels, corrects Thomas, but even the inspiration of the best sleuths in history wasn’t enough to flesh out all the missing details. It wasn’t until approximately 2002, after Father Arthur Trompeter had retired and Father Carl Dekat had taken over, that the missing items were located. “Father Dekat wanted everything cleaned up, and he found a box under a pile of wood in the basement,” Adams says. “He called Teresa and said, ‘I think I have something you’ll be interested in.’” The two went right over and found exactly what they were looking for: parish records, consultant notes, ledgers, financial papers and census records starting one year after the parish’s beginning in 1887. While no one knows how the records came to be buried under a pile of wood, the two soon encountered a new problem: Because St. Joseph’s had been designated a German national parish, the consultant’s notes prior to 1932 were in that language. Luckily, when the University of Kansas hosted a symposium of German language professors later that year, the parishioners extended a dinner invitation to them along with an opportunity to see the church. It was these professors who were able to translate the flowery-script of the Low German documents. Later, church secretary Leina Cox found an envelope containing the original contracts and receipts along with a list showing where the materials were obtained: the bricks came from Michigan and Kansas City, while much of the lumber came from the local Chicago Lumber Company. Throughout all these years of research, interviews and attempts to verify commonly held beliefs about the church—such as the oak wood for the altar coming from the Black Forest—the volunteers kept up with their daily life. Adams homeschooled her three children and Thomas worked full time as the office manager for a construction company. There were some weeks little work was done on the book; during other weeks the researchers “spent more hours than there were in a week” on the project, according to Adams’ husband Dave. Finally, the book was published and offered to the public in December of 2009. Since the project’s beginning, St. Joseph had seen the departure of three head priests and the arrival of the fourth as well as the refurbishing of the church clock and bell tower.

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In looking back, the two authors believe they were perfectly matched: Thomas liked technical writing, while Adams preferred creative writing. “We learned a great deal about each other,” Adams says. “The book is a cooperative effort. We were able to tweak each other’s writings. We each brought strengths to the project.” Despite the sense of accomplishment, both are glad the project—“their grand adventure,” as Thomas refers to it—is over. “We both had a dream,” Adams explains, “and hope others feel as satisfied as we do.” ..........................................................................................................................

The book …

Spires for All Time can be found in the Topeka Room of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, the Mabee Library of Washburn University and the Kansas Historical Society Library. The book can be purchased at the St Joseph’s Church Rectory Office at 227 SW Van Buren St. by leaving a message at the office, (785) 232-2863, or by contacting Teresa Thomas at (785) 286-1247.The book also is sold at Porubsky’s in North Topeka and online at online at www.sacredheartstjosephcatholic.org.

The book is $40. In addition, those interested in learning more about the Volga German heritage can visit the Great Overland Station to see an exhibit that runs until January 16, 2011, on the German influence in Topeka and northeast Kansas.


It wasn’t in their plans, but Shawn and Angela Gamber could not pass up the chance to live in a country home that combined the past and the present. “Everything has a history in here,” says Angela, pointing around the home’s large entryway. “That’s what’s really cool. There will never be another this house.” And she’s right. The house, built recently on 10 acres just west of Topeka, is filled with materials from other buildings, including many local and regional structures. The rescued materials give the home a character once reserved only for older homes while featuring all the modern amenities and space typically found in newer residences.

Something old, Something new

A rural dream home combines the best of historic furnishings and modern approaches for one family The couple, who have always enjoyed keeping an eye on the housing market, found the home by chance. “I saw it on the website. I don’t know why I was looking. We were remodeling; probably something happened,” says Shawn, a Topeka native who has retired from the Kansas National Guard’s 190th Air Refueling Wing. They called for an appointment and instantly fell in love with the house. Now, Shawn and Angela greet visitors at the home’s entryway that flows into their kitchen. “It’s something we always wanted—a big open space,” Angela says. The kitchen leads seamlessly into a dining area that looks out onto a deck and the couple’s land. The giant metal windows, which came from a building at Truman State University, provide a modern counterpoint to the traditional furnishings and bathe the area with sunlight. The kitchen is also a blend of modern and past. Its appliances are new but the lighting fixtures once hung in Fritz Co. Grille in Topeka and the cabinets are made of wood from two barns in Axtell and Topeka. The kitchen has become a spot for the couple to entertain and, for Angela, a place to relieve the stresses of the day.

Story by Kate Blatherwick Pickert Photography by Jason Dailey

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TOPEKAMAGAZINE Winter 2010/11

31


“The other day we were making homemade raviolis and we were stretching pasta clear across the kitchen.” – Angela Gamber

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Angela has never had a big kitchen, so she appreciates the space. “The other day we were making homemade raviolis and we were stretching pasta clear across the kitchen,” chuckles Angela. Wood floors lead out of the kitchen and provide a beautiful accent to the home. The wood on the main level came from several spots, including a barn floor in Axtell, a house in Rossville and an 1860s Circleville home, which also provided some of the walnut used in the master bedroom. “For some people it would drive them crazy that there are knots in the wood,” says Angela. “We just love it.” The wood for the main staircase is a piece of Topeka history from the Crosby building, a department store in downtown Topeka in the late 1800s. The decorative stair posts were the ceiling joists at the railroad depot in Highland. The upstairs bedroom floors feature wood that was once a part of the Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka. The details in the home are impressive, especially if you consider the age of the builder, Jason Droge, 31, who is co-owner of Footprint Construction. He recently joined forces with Kyle Davis, 24, an architect who did some of the labor on the Gambers’ house while still in architectural school. The idea of reusing materials came long before the recent green movement topped the news. Droge says, “We used them at first because we liked the way they looked. You just can’t get the character and the color with new wood.” He notes preparing old wood for use is a lengthy process and not always cost efficient, but it does give the house character. “We don’t force reclaimed wood on anyone, but it’s always somewhere in the house,” says Droge, who usually finds the materials by word of mouth. Droge says it use to be hard to find materials he needed, but now he turns down about 10 offers a year. Building green is an important part of what Footprint Construction does, but the team is aware that it can be too expensive


The wood on the main level came from several spots, including a barn floor in Axtell, a house in Rossville and an 1860s Circleville home.

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for most buyers. Droge says solar and wind power are pricey and would take years to pay for themselves. “When it comes to green, I want to see my money back fairly soon.” But Davis says there are a lot of things builders can do to help make a home a bit greener during the building process and beyond. For example, the walls in the Gambers’ house are on 2-foot increments, which match common lumber dimensions and allowed the house to be framed with less waste. “It’s small things that save you money,” he explains. “But it does takes a little more time during the planning stage.” Davis says they also look at overall efficiency and strive to make the house as airtight as possible. Without an efficient house, solar or wind power won’t help. “We focus on what we can control,” he says. The pair pride themselves on their work and want their buyers to love the details as much as they do. “We care what other people think,” Droge says. “We want our people to love our homes.” And this love and bond they have for the structures they build is passed onto families such as the Gambers, who appreciate the past and look forward to their own future in a unique home.

The wood for the main staircase is a piece of Topeka history from the Crosby building, a department store in downtown Topeka in the late 1800s.


36 HOME LIFE Jim Meyers as Santa Claus

Topeka’s North Pole A sentimental Santa-Claus-atheart welcomes visitors to his home in southeast Topeka

S

anta offers a bystander a candy cane. The grown man puts up his hand to refuse it, saying, “I don’t need one. I’m good.” “I know—that’s why I’m giving it to you,” Santa replies with a smile, his eyes twinkling. During the Christmas season, from 5 to 10 on Friday and Saturday nights, Jim Meyers—aka Santa Claus—will hand out roughly 5,000 candy canes to folks who stop at his personal North Pole at 2931 SE Virginia Ave., an area of ranch-style homes a block east of the Shawnee Country Club. Jim’s faithful canine companion, Zeus, an 11-year-old collie, dons his antlers and waits for cars to stop. Young children, teenagers and adults alike exit cars to enjoy the Christmas carols coming from porch speakers, the miniature carnival on display behind Plexiglas in the garage and the hand-painted elves that populate the lawn. After a few minutes chatting with Santa, visitors pick up on a slight accent. Home for Jim Meyers is rural western Maryland. Jim worked for Kelly Springfield Tire, which was owned by Goodyear, until he was transferred to the Goodyear plant in Topeka. He retired in December 2007 after 42 years of service. When asked why he stayed in Topeka after retirement, Jim doesn’t hesitate to answer: “Eleven of my twelve grandchildren are here.” Granddaughter Cecilia, dressed up like a princess, scampers by after exchanging a kiss on the cheek for a candy cane. Jim is a devoted family man. Jim and wife Jean have been married for 45 years and have four children: twin boys and Jim Meyers and his two girls. Jean retired after working sev“reindeer” prepare to en years at Toys R Us, where she daily greet holiday visitors. indulged her inner child. The two appear

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TOPEKAMAGAZINE Winter 2010/11

story by Debra Guiou Stufflebean | photography by jason dailey


to be suited for each other. Jean is content to let Jim bring their North Pole home to life while supporting Santa in whatever way she can, from running errands for more candy canes to being the eye behind the camera taking pictures with Santa. Jim chuckles as Jean once again tells the story of an accident that nearly landed Jim in the hospital many years ago. “It all started with me wanting to put up a strand of lights and a lighted nativity at our house in Maryland,” Jean says. “Next thing I knew, Jim was decorating stem to stern. He pinched a nerve in his back, and I found him hanging from the roof, yelling for help.” Jim admits he is grateful to be able to “ho, ho, ho” about an accident that could have had a different ending. When Jim and Jean’s children were younger, the seasonal project created year-round bonding time. “My sons and I had claimed garage space for our N-, HO-, O- and G-gauge trains. We started adding display buildings and figures,” says Jim. “I like things that do something, rather than just being pretty to look at.” The display evolved to include a lighted Ferris wheel, gristmill and a working water wheel, among other things that blink, play music and whirl. There’s even a flock of geese that fly around overhead.

Son Joe, who now lives in Ohio, purchased a pattern for elves so he and Dad could spend time together woodworking. After all of the plywood elves were cut, the family spent one Thanksgiving painting them. Jean proudly shows color pictures of a castle display the family constructed and used until five years ago. The brightly painted wood castle had arched windows, turrets and a scalloped roof. Each room in the castle was filled with 2- to 3-foot figures: Mr. and Mrs. Claus, elves, deer and Disney characters. Eventually, though, the wooden backdrop wore out—and children left home. Time previously spent doing hobbies and crafts with their kids is now spent together as a retired couple collecting the unusual, such as the cloth and wooden life-size reindeer they found while traveling through Amish country in Pennsylvania. Yard sales, retail clearance sales and especially “Christmas in July” on QVC and HSN have Jim and Jean’s undivided attention. They are always keeping an eye open for something to add. Jim and Jean acknowledge that their hobby takes time and money. “It’s worth it, though, and it makes the kids happy,” says Jim. “Besides, I’m kind of a sentimental guy. If I’m not outside this time of year, I’m inside watching Christmas movies.”

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indian tacos

40

Local Flavor

Localflavor

Sullivan’s Specialty American Indian church serves fry bread tacos for taste and connection to history

The rich blend

of beef, beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese and salsa served on warm, traditional fry bread not only feeds hungry people each month at Sullivan Chapel. It also feeds the spiritual soul of this North Topeka church that ministers to American Indians. For six years, church members have sold the Indian tacos on the first Friday of each month at the small, one-story chapel in a residential neighborhood. “Indian tacos are great fundraisers for native churches,” says Rev. Julienne Judd, the church’s pastor. After entering a side door of the church, one finds the tiny kitchen bustling with activity as church women bake the traditional fry bread for the base of the Indian taco, while others brown ground beef and prepare toppings. The ladies smother the taco with beans, ground beef, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and a

choice of mild, medium or hot salsa. The combination fills a dinner plate. Cindy Martin, a member of the church who takes orders, says many of those who come in for the tacos are congregation members, but signs placed along North Kansas Avenue directing people to the church also bring in customers.    Martin says most people want  an entire Indian taco, though some people just buy the fry bread. The Indian taco sales benefit the overall church, while proceeds from a selection of desserts go to the United Methodist Women. An Indian taco is $5.

“Keeping the price of a full meal at $5 is our way of helping clients cope with the economic crisis,” says Judd. On a typical Friday, the group sells approximately 80 tacos. “Sometimes it’s slow, and we never know how many people will come,” Martin says. If more people show up than expected, it occasionally means a quick trip to the grocery store to restock ingredients.      Galen Hubbard, who is with the Potawatomi tribe, and his son Duane met for lunch at the church on a recent Friday. They enjoyed their meal in the fellowship hall, where several tables and chairs are set up for those who prefer to eat there.    “I show up when he calls,” the elder Hubbard says good-naturedly of his son. Galen says he prefers to eat at the church because it gives him a chance to socialize and meet new friends.   

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STORY BY Anita Miller Fry | PHOTOGRAPHY BY Jason Dailey


indian tacos

42

Local Flavor

Localflavor

Sullivan Chapel 1937 NE Madison St.

(785) 842-2477

Fry bread and tacos are sold 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on the first Friday of each month.

“This is as big a taco as I want,” he says, looking at his full plate. And Duane says he also likes to dine at the church because he likes to eat the fry bread while it is still hot.   Judd says it is traditional for American Indian churches to have tacos and fry bread sales as fundraisers. However, the fry bread itself is not a traditional native food. Fry bread was developed when the government forced tribes onto reservations and started a commodity program that included lard and flour. “This is what they made from the commodities they received,” Judd explains. Not all fry bread is made the same, and the recipe varies by tribe and by maker. “Every fry bread maker has her own recipe,” says Judd, who often makes the fry bread for the Topeka fundraiser with another member of the congregation. The fry bread at the church is about three-quarters of an inch thick, says Judd, who is of Choctaw and Kiowa heritage. She says Navajos make their fry bread large and thin and call them “elephant ears.” Sullivan Chapel is part of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference that is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Judd says the Topeka church has been ministering to the American Indian communities since 1961. It was originally called the Topeka Indian Mission and was later renamed for the Rev. Jesse Sullivan, who organized the church and in early years led services out of his car, says Judd. Sullivan, who died in 1997, was also an ordained elder of the United Methodist Church.

Rev. Julienne Judd

Sullivan Chapel has 43 members, and Sunday services draw 12 to 14 attendees. Members belong predominantly to the Cherokee and Potawatomi tribes, though as many as seven other tribes are represented. In addition to the Indian taco sales, church members have a food pantry and clothing giveaway to help the community. .............................................................................................................................................................................

After entering a

side door of the

church, one finds the tiny kitchen bustling with activity as church women bake the traditional fry bread for the base of the indian taco, while others brown ground beef and prepare toppings.

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TOPEKAMAGAZINE Winter 2010/11


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cookies

44

Local Flavor

Localflavor

TARC’s Cookie Chefs The bakers behind one nonprofit’s cookie extravaganza share their stories, hints and a recipe

In the mid-1990s,

Suzanne Beckwith’s sister-in-law asked her for a small favor: to run a “little bake sale.” Recalling that conversation now, Beckwith laughs with amazement because that small fundraiser has mushroomed into the Victorian Cookie Shoppe, one of the city’s biggest holiday-taste events where decorated cookies, cakes and sweets are prepared in the thousands of dozens and then sold by the pound. Though it has grown in size, the Victorian Cookie Shoppe still serves as a fundraiser for TARC, the community’s nonprofit organization for Topekans with developmental or mental disabilities. And the event still depends on the baking talent of dedicated home chefs who begin producing cookie dough as early as October to create sugary masterpieces in volume. Three of these chefs shared their kitchen, recipes and hints as they prepared their first holiday batches.

‘Can I have a cookie?’

Beckwith always liked to cook and had made drop cookies and brownies over the years. But only after she volunteered for the Victorian Cookie Shoppe did she begin baking cookies and perfecting designs. Her intricate creations include three-dimensional cookies and others with daintily painted messages of holiday cheer. Beckwith’s formal dining room is filled with gorgeous, shiny pictures of cookies that she has painstakingly cut from magazines and plans to use on display boards for her decorating classes that are also a fundraiser for TARC. Her kitchen smells heavenly from October through December, although her family members are rarely allowed to sample the sweet concoctions. “When the kids say, ‘Can I have a cookie?’ I say, ‘Not unless it’s a broken or ugly one,’” explains Beckwith. Beckwith’s Tips: ➀ Never use cooking oil when making buttercream frosting. “It turns into a soupy mess,” she says. ➁ Store cookies properly. “Make sure they are dry, layer with wax paper and give them a little TLC to guarantee they won’t be stuck together,” she says. Growing up with ‘pudge’

As a child, Margo E. Burson learned to gather ingredients, measure them and use them to make pie dough and fillings. “Kids want to do what adults are doing,” she says. By being in the kitchen, Burson learned the family’s baking wisdom, such as using a dish of water to determine each candy’s

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soft boil and hard boil stages. However, it wasn’t always an accurate approach. Fudge sometimes came out resembling more of a pudding than candy. Her family even had a name for the just-not-hard-enough, misshapen but stilltasty treat: “pudge.” Burson started baking for TARC in the event’s first year, bringing in cherry pies made with cherries grown in her backyard. Since then, she has experimented with dressing up “plain brown cookies” and branched out to colored dough. Now, each holiday season, she bakes dozens of green trees, yellow stars, red poinsettias and blue bells with silver dragées, along with candies, sweet breads and more unusual cookies such as her blueberrylemon walnut bars.

STORY BY Julie K. Buzbee | PHOTOGRAPHY BY Bill Stephens


Local Flavor

46 cookies

“I like it because it is not the traditional holiday flavors,” says Burson. “But the tart-sweetness of blueberries combined with the flavor of lemon is an unusual combination for the holidays. And I’ve added or modified some ingredients to make it more healthy.”

Burson’s Recipe: Blueberry-Lemon Walnut Bars For crust: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 13- by 9-inch metal baking pan, line with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on both ends, and grease foil. In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer on low to beat together the butter, powdered sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, oatmeal, cinnamon and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in medium bowl and beat just until the mixture forms small crumbs. Press the crumb mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Crust: topping: 1 cup butter, softened 2 ¾ cup powdered sugar ⁄3 cup butter, softened ¼ cup dark brown sugar ½ cup powdered sugar 1 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ⁄3 cup dark brown sugar 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ½ cup oatmeal 1½ cups all-purpose flour 3 1 teaspoon cinnamon ⁄4 cup oatmeal 1 1 teaspoon cinnamon ⁄8 teaspoon salt pinch of salt Filling: ½ cup granulated sugar 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour Juice and zest of 1 lemon 1 ⁄8 teaspoon salt 3 eggs 1 cup chopped English walnuts 2 cups fresh or frozen unsweetened blueberries For filling: In a medium bowl, mix sugar, flour, lemon zest and salt. Add eggs, lemon juice and walnuts; whisk until smooth. Spread the blueberries in an even layer over the baked crust. Pour the filling over the blueberries. For topping: In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer on low to beat together the butter, powdered sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, oatmeal, cinnamon and salt. Add flour mixture to medium bowl and beat just until the mixture forms small crumbs. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the filling. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the crumb topping is golden and the filling puffs. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut into squares. Burson’s Tips: ➀ Do not grease the sides of the loaf pans. This allows the loaf to develop a better round top. ➁ Use English walnuts whenever walnuts are listed in a recipe. English walnuts add to, but don’t overwhelm, the palate. ➂ Store nuts and flours in the freezer for crisper nuts and fresher flour. Cornmeal should also be stored in the freezer. ➃ Try to use local ingredients, which are possible for most any recipe. “The only time I have to go outside is when I am baking in a large quantity or when I bake off-season,” says Burson. ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Cookie Central

Now in its 16th year, the Victorian Cookie Shoppe, 2701 SW Randolph Ave., opens on December 10. TARC members are invited from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The sale is open to the public from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and then from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on December 11. Goodies are sold by the pound: $7 per pound on opening night, $6 per pound on the following day. To become a TARC member ($20 a year) or to receive more information about the event, call TARC at (785) 232-0597.

TARC’s cookie chefs include, from left, Margo E. Burson, Sherri Gibson and Suzanne Beckwith.

Burn photos, not the mixer

For this year’s Victorian Cookie Shoppe, Sherri Gibson will bring one popular item not for people: her cheese, meat, flour, egg and peanut butter dog treats. “Every year people call and ask how to do the dog biscuits,” says Gibson. For people, Gibson plans to bring brown sugar drops, chocolate bonbons, almond toffee bars, cream cheese cookies, fudge, peanut brittle and pecan tassies. These are just some of the recipes she has perfected since she first learned to bake in her family’s kitchen. The five-year Victorian Cookie Shoppe baker still uses and collects vintage cookbooks from her youth, but these days she combines the ingredients with uber-modern cooking equipment like a stainless-steel whisk with a candy thermometer built into its handle. “I have so many gadgets and toys it’s not even funny,” says Gibson. Gibson also relies heavily on her large Kitchen-Aid mixers, which she says are essential to getting her baking done. “If there was a fire,” jokes Gibson, “I’d take my two Kitchen-Aid mixers—and my animals. Forget about family photos.” gibson’s Tips: Have a large kitchen, or friends who do. Gibson laments that her small kitchen is about the size of a closet. But every year she solves her kitchen challenge by loading up “tons” of dough and heading off to a friend’s house, where she is joined by a small group of helpers who decorate cookies en masse for the sale.


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P e r fe c t P i c t u r e of

h e a lt h Five art i s t s p r e s e n t t h e i r i n t e r p r e tat i o n s of w e l lness Story by Barbara Waterman-Peters Photography by Jason Dailey

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ood health is a sense of well-being defined by physical, mental and emotional vigor. Most of us know intuitively what feeling “well” is and can recognize it in others. We even have the expression “a picture of health” to describe an energetic, vibrant, enthusiastic person. A picture of health can also be an artistic visualization of these characteristics. We invited five artists to share their images of good health, to show us what they see when they imagine “a picture of health.” This is not as easy as it might sound because visual art, like all other arts, possesses a complex and nuanced vocabulary. Qualities of color, line, shape, composition, tone, scale, rhythm and content, to name a few, can profoundly affect an image’s underlying message. Focusing on just one of those variables—color—leads to making decisions about hue, intensity, brilliance, placement, shape and symbolic meanings. A hard, saturated red square conveys something very different from a soft, pale blue oval. One could mean potential energy, the other, relaxed contemplation. Choosing to use recognizable forms over colorful shapes introduces another variable because the forms are themselves laden with cultural symbolism. The five artists—two teachers, a grief counselor, an energy practitioner and a fulltime visual artist—responded to the challenge and drew on their keen awareness of art’s strength as both an expressive and healing force.


D i a n e L . L aw r en c e Berryton-based artist Diane L. Lawrence is represented by five galleries and a member o f the Watercolor USA Honor Society, Kansas Watercolor Society and Silk Painters I nternational.

Goo d He a lt h Wa t e r c o l o r This joyful image appears to be a series of random marks and the spectrum of colors, but it is actually carefully composed. A sense of order prevails in the loose grid of horizontal and vertical lines, a structure with interstices that contain larger washes. The hues are a medley of warm and cool reds, blues, greens and yellows. Balance, beautiful color and rhythm in the design express good health; its vertical orientation speaks of energy.

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A u d r e y Leamon Audrey Leamon is a watercolor and collage artist with a st udio in Topeka. Her work is represented in corporate and private collections nationwide.

St r e a m I I I Wa t e r c o l o r

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Quieter, more contemplative, this image positions the viewer floating over water—a healing element—in a gently flowing stream. Tranquil, soft colors depict a late summer day. The effect is not one of complacency, though. Strong, dark passages and nervous lines give the impression of energy and movement, of life pulsing beneath the surface.


B r a d Le D u c Brad LeDu c is a Topeka artist in his 10th year o f teaching award-winning art stu dents at Wash burn Rural H igh School.

2 1 G r a ms Mi x e d m e d i a o n w o o d

E q u il i b ri u m Acrylic on canvas

By submitting two possibilities, LeDuc emphasized the infinite array of visual responses to any concept. While unsettling in its harsh linearity, limited color and strange juxtapositions, 21 Grams implies a poignant narrative about the search for good health in life and in the environment. Equilibrium is non-objective, relying on repetition of organic shapes and controlled colors to express its theme of balanced interlocking elements.

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G w e n e t h M cCla i n Gweneth M cClain is a painter and charter member o f the Collective Art Gallery. She applies her art in her wor k as a grie f counselor.

l i ly Oi l

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Larger than life, a sun-drenched lily against a dark ground radiates vibrant health. Subtle color changes and lost-and-found edges defining the petals cause the image to breathe and appear to escape its borders. But there is more to this painting, and that is the implication of gardening as a nurturing, meditative and healing process.


J a n c y Pettit An energy artist and ed u cation director at the First Congregational Church, Jancy Pettit lives and wor ks in her Topeka studio where she also teaches classes on movement, creativity and art.

En e rg y Pain t i ng Acrylic

H e a lin g Q u ilt F i b e r, t h r e a d , c r a y o n

Images can be created spontaneously without a preconceived result. Responding to energy fields, colors, materials, sounds, intuition and movement, an artist is free to make almost limitless visual choices. An interesting observation is that strong, compelling abstracts—such as these two by Pettit—reflect the same solid design principles as any other picture. However, the power of a work also lies in its purpose: a means of using the creative process itself as a path to well-being.

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56 GROW Craig Srna’s Garden

‘Giving Beauty’ Craig Srna gardens year-round, but his unique and vast collection of conifers provides a particular winter delight

C

raig Srna is the best conifer collector I know, so I presumed that finding his house would be easy. Obviously, his home would be the one on the block with lots of evergreens (or conifers). I was wrong. Over the years, Craig’s green thumb has spread to both sides of his block. It has spread so much that his block, with its hilly terrain, might be mistaken for somewhere in Oregon. Property boundaries have been blurred by an abundance of outstanding and unusual conifers. It is proof that one man can make a difference. Craig moved into his home on the backside of Quinton Heights Hill 30 years ago. He was young and full of energy. The abandoned house, with its long, unmowed grass and forest of seedling trees, stood on a huge lot with tremendous potential. The first year, Craig removed some 50 trees and trapped 27 cats, 13 opossums and two raccoons, keeping a tally on the side of the live trap. After the leaves had fallen, Craig thought his garden looked somewhat empty and decided that evergreens would add dimension and texture. That winter, he joined several national conifer organizations and began ordering trees. These days, Craig still orders plants from catalogs, but there are lots of specialty conifers available locally. Craig credits Jack Rees of Skinner Garden Store with “bending over backwards to get plants,” particularly ones, such as a yellow-

needled Oriental spruce, that were not then widely available. Craig also acquires plants through his travels and friends. Craig’s garden has evolved over the years. He recently retired and travels more, a development that necessitates a more relaxed attitude about gardening. Craig gave most of his cactus collection to the Kansas City Cactus and Succulent Society a few years ago, creates fewer plant containers

When snow arrives, Craig Srna’s yearlong care for his conifers creates a magical winter landscape.

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story by Christine Steinkuehler | photography by Bill Stephens


cu Sto M-MaDe – MaDe aff o rDaBl e .

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spruce is Craig’s favorite conifer, with fir trees also a top pick.

and has limited his garden to mainly shrubs and trees with the exception of some hostas, azaleas, peonies and voodoo lilies, which require less maintenance than perennials. Craig does not have a sprinkler system. Though he has had contractors out over the years to give him estimates, none were quite up to the task of working on a steep slope and creating a system to correctly take care of so many specimens. So Craig continues to drag hoses through the garden and accepts what nature has in store. Last summer’s heat—“the worst I’ve ever had,” says Craig—took a toll on the garden, as many of the evergreen tips are tinged with dead and the coloring on other plants has dulled, but he says it will all work out. Craig cites an example from two years ago when there was a late freeze that killed 38 of his Japanese maples. For a while it was devastating, he says, but as time went on other plants filled in and opportunities arose for new plantings. Craig also was lucky that Japanese maples seem to like his garden. He has many, including several interspecies hybrids, that have come up from seed. Spruce is Craig’s favorite conifer, with fir trees also a top pick. He says the main difference between the two is that spruce cones hang down and fir cones form standing upright on the branch and hang down once they become heavier. Conifers are not the only trees in Craig’s garden. He has the only giant sequoia that I know of locally, and my favorites is his bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) with leaves up to 30 inches long and blossoms that measure a foot in diameter. Craig cultivates bamboo to line his alley, screening a clever, inexpensive fence made of “cow panels” that create a contemporary Asian look with a prominent vertical grid of steel. Craig calls the bamboo a “perfect hedge.” Looking over the back of Craig’s steeply sloping property, the bamboo provides a perfect backdrop for another viewing area of the garden. Here, in winter, the snow lies on the trees to form something that looks like a cloud forest. It is otherworldly and absolutely stunning. “The fun of gardening,” says Craig “is giving beauty to what you can.” And he has certainly done this.

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For the Family

58

autism

Capper’s

F

Legacy

rom what I have read and heard, I imagine I would have liked the senator from Kansas, Arthur Capper. He seems to have shared some qualities with my father, a contemporary of Capper’s, and who, like him, has passed on to greater rewards. The singular defining thing I remember about my Dad was his love and delight for children and, it seemed, all living things. Both men, Senator Capper and my Dad, were from a time

The Topeka-based foundation focuses on assisting families in caring for autistic children when responsibility toward others seemed to mean something more. Their generation believed in legacies. Arthur Capper, who lived from 1865 to 1951, created a legacy likely to span generations to come through the founda-

tion that bears his name. From its beginning in the 1920s, the Topeka-based Capper Foundation was dedicated to assisting children who were disabled. The foundation has moved into the new millennium with an expertise and

The staff at the Topeka-based Easter Seals Capper Foundation includes, from left, Julie Smrha, Debby O’Neill and Jim Leiker.

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STORY BY Vernon McFalls | PHOTOGRAPHY BY Jason Dailey


Micah Bingham, now 5, has been working with Capper’s staff members since he was 27 months old.

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Easter Seals Capper Foundation

For information on classes and resources focusing on autism, call (785) 272-4060. For more information on the Capper Foundation, see www.capper.easterseals.com. .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

mission focused on improving the quality of life for people suffering from disorders spanning the spectrum from neuromuscular to cognitive. In particular, the Capper Foundation, which now goes by the name of its national affiliation of Easter Seals Capper Foundation, works to assist families facing autism. Autism spectrum disorders, or ASD, are defined as neurobiological disorders marked by difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication, social interactions and restricted/repetitive play. These are not disorders marked by convalescence and recovery—they are generally lifelong conditions. Jim Leiker, the Capper Foundation’s president and chief executive officer, says autism is one of the biggest medical issues facing families and lists statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: ❱ One of 110 children is diagnosed with autism. ❱ ASD are the fastest growing developmental disabilities in the world. ❱ Autism is increasing at a rate of 10-17 percent annually.

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Because autism affects each individual differently and at varying degrees, the Capper Foundation has worked to develop autism resources across disciplines. For example, autism specialist Linda Burgen and occupational therapist Wilma Ferkol draw on different educational programs to develop therapy methods. “I tend to look at behaviors, and she looks at sensory issues,” Burgen says. “We’re both seeing the same things happen, but we bring different components as to how we might work to change behaviors to help the child adjust. It could be anything from addressing difficulties with eating to responding to people who approach them.” But Capper Foundation staff members also stress that early diagnosis and treatment—which Burgen says ideally would include identifying ASD by 3 years of age—can be crucial in any case of autism. The early identification, Burgen explains, allows parents and staff to help the child develop communication skills and the ability to interact with people. “If they don’t have these good communication skills by age 3, then more than likely they will develop communication

problems by age 5. If we are proactive, then we can avoid these frustrations.” “It’s critical—crucial—to have early diagnosis before age 2 if possible,” says Topeka parent Melinda Bingham. Her 5-year-old son, Micah, was diagnosed with autism and has been working with Capper’s staff since he was 27 months old. Bingham credits Micah’s occupational therapy and speech therapy with Capper staff as being essential to his development. Bingham, a social worker who has three children in addition to Micah, says the Capper’s staff members have been “supporting, encouraging, loving and caring every step of the way,” and they, in turn, praise the role of dedicated parents like her. “Every little bit helps,” says Burgen. “Any time a parent can assist and implement techniques we teach, and any time other adults or organizations that they are involved with—scouts, church or school, for example—can assist, than this can be a huge benefit not only to the children, but to the people in the community.” Burgen adds that it’s crucial for parents to build a community of support for themselves—friends, social groups and community organizations that they may tap—as they work to nurture their autistic child and their own legacy of care. “There are others out there who understand the joys and hardships that come with a special-needs kiddo,” says Bingham. “It’s helpful to have a network of people to call and celebrate with or cry to—that helps a lot.”


intimate | Elegant | Cool

Photos by imagewise PhotograPhy

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Events Calendar

BEST BETS in Dec-Feb 2010/11 December WINTER WONDERLAND XII A CELEBRATION OF LIGHTS Nov. 19-Dec. 31: This Topeka holiday tradition features two miles of light displays across the Lake Shawnee region. This year includes a special tour of Santa’s workshop Dec. 6-9. Admission is $7 per vehicle at the Lake Shawnee gate or $2 per person for large groups. Open 6 p.m.-9 p.m. daily. All proceeds benefit TARC, the local nonprofit dedicated to assisting those with developmental and related disabilities. For more information, visit www.tarcinc.org or call (785) 232-0597. FESTIVAL OF TREES Dec. 2-5: The 33rd annual festival of decorated trees with admission and auction proceeds benefiting Sheltered Living Inc. Trees can be viewed 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 2-3, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 4 and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 5. For more information, visit http://fot. shelteredliving.org/ or call (785) 266-8686.

January STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM EXHIBIT Jan. 4-Feb. 4: Topeka High School students display an exhibit inspired by the theme “The Struggle of Freedom in Kansas” depicting stories of sacrifice and achievement for Kansas statehood. Brown v. Board of Education museum, 1515 SE Monroe St. Free admission. For more information, see www. brownvboard.org or call (785) 354-4273.

February LORD OF THE DANCE Feb. 2: Michael Flatley’s troupe performs the Irish dancing extravaganza at Topeka Performing Arts Center, 214 SE Eighth Ave. 7:30 p.m. For tickets and more information see www.tpactix.org or call (785) 234-2787.

SOUTHEAST SANTA Friday and Saturday evenings in December: Topeka’s volunteer southeast Santa (see article on p. 36) hands out candy canes and good cheer from his personal North Pole from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 2931 SE Virginia Ave. ARTSCONNECT FIRST FRIDAYS ARTWALK Dec. 3 (and the first Friday of every month): Topeka’s galleries, studios and public venues host art in a social setting from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. For a complete listing, see www. artsconnecttopeka.org or call (785) 271-0065. INDIAN TACO NIGHT Dec. 3 (and the first Friday of every month): Sullivan Chapel sells homemade Indian Tacos (see article on p. 40) from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the church building, 1937 NE Madison St. For more information, call (785) 842-2477. VICTORIAN COOKIE SHOPPE Dec. 10-11: Some of Topeka’s most extraordinary cookie bakers (see article on p. 44) offer their homemade creations by the pound at 2701 SW Randolph Ave. Shoppe is open 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 10 and 9 a.m.1:30 p.m. Dec. 11. All proceeds benefit TARC. For more information, see www.tarcinc.org or call (785) 232-0597. KS 150 Jan. 15: Topeka Symphony Orchestra celebrates the Kansas sesquicentennial with an evening of music featuring Kansas artists and composers. Concert begins at 7:30 p.m. For more information, see www. topekasymphony.org or call (785) 232-2032. KANSAS DAY Jan. 28-29: Kansas Museum of History celebrates the state’s 150th anniversary at 6425 SW Sixth Ave. Students and school groups invited on Jan. 28, public celebrations on Jan. 29. For more information, see www.kshs.org or call (785) 272-8681.

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS Feb. 25-March 26: Musical performance based on the popular 1988 film is part of Topeka Civic Theatre’s 75th anniversary year. For tickets and more information, see www.topekacivictheatre.com or call (785) 357-5211.

SILENT FILM FESTIVAL Feb. 25-27: 15th annual Kansas Silent Film Festival. Free showings of silent film classics at Washburn University. For movie schedule and more information, see www.kssilentfilmfest.org.

All events are subject to change. Listings Courtesy of www.topekachamber.org & www.visittopeka.travel. E-mail your upcoming events for the calendar to topekamagazine@sunflower.com

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Topeka Magazine Winter 2010