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summer 2011



Brigadier GENeral



Vol. V / No. I I I

from the editor

Summer 2011


Nathan Pettengill

No one knows the consequences of opening a record store. For one working mom, setting up a pioneering Cleveland music shop led decades later to her son (pictured below, with Wanda Dixon) becoming a hardworking, road-traveled, almost-alwayscell-phone-talking Topeka-based music promoter. His story—and the tribute to his mom’s Motown connection that put it all in motion—is told in Stacey Jo Geier’s story and Jason Dailey’s photos in this edition of Topeka Magazine. But it doesn’t take a record store to change a life. Throughout this summer issue, there are stories of seemingly small decisions and events that have drastically changed people’s lives. A professional banker begins underwater diving across the world because she took notice of a Washburn University flier. A theater artist sets the stage for hundreds of productions,

partly because he was nice enough to help his sister on moving day. And a top general in the Kansas National Guard—our cover subject Brigadier General Deborah Rose—rose through the ranks after a toddler-fueled epiphany provided her the courage to assess her true life talents. Summer in Topeka can be a mellow time: a season to relax and enjoy home, the landscape or both—as in the case with our story of the Bullocks and their customized house on a perfect plot of land. But our summer edition reminds us how even the slowest day can become the most consequential, how life can change at any moment. We hope you enjoy turning these pages—and are ready to make the most of whatever comes your way this season.

designer / Art Director

Shelly Bryant COPY EDITOR

susie fagan advertising representative

kathy lafferty (785) 224-9992 Ad Designer

Janella L. Williams chief Photographer

jason dailey contributing Photographer

bill stephens Contributing Writers

anita miller fry stacey jo geier Jeffrey ann goudie KIM GRONNIGER CAROLYN KABERLINE Susan Kraus Vernon McFalls Karen Ridder christine steinkuehler debra Guiou stufflebean Barbara Waterman-Peters

Nathan Pettengill Editor


BERT HULL Publishing coordinator

faryle scott


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Savor Kansas is a month long, grassroots, collaborative series of events in Topeka celebrating 150 years of Kansas Culture! art theater literature food poetry history music recreation

For a list of events, visit our website! visit our website to get up-to-date on all the art happenings in Topeka

Topeka. A Great Arts Town. Save the Date

Arty PArty 2011

The Collective Art Gallery Featuring the work of 50 regional artists! Join us on the First Friday Art Walk! (and during our regular business hours)

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on the cover



Brigadier General Deborah Rose {Photography by Jason Dailey}


24 Brigadier general rose

Features 12 The Dixon Sound

With roots in Ruthie’s Melody Mart and the Jackie Gleason school of dancing, a musical couple mentor and promote local bands

24 Brigadier General Rose

After a few false starts in life, an Overbrook native serves, takes command and dishes out order, discipline and chocolates

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



topeka businesses



8 The Bonnet Business

42 Herself, Back

52 A Denver Getaway

Bizzy Bee Bonnets creates a buzz with its handcrafted, timeless fashions



18 ‘Inspirational Contact’

Muses come in all forms (except, perhaps, blue bonnets) for a theater artist who brings wide-ranging talent to stage productions

in Topeka

From her adopted hometown, a pioneering women’s health advocate points the way for aging as an adventure .............


44 seven Questions with …

Extra servings of romance and fun are only a day’s drive and a mile’s altitude away

56 Taking the Dive

For one Topeka professional, a chance lesson leads to discoveries of coral, marine animals and beauty across the globe

George Paris, poet and novelist .............


Home LIfe

30 The Hathaway Project Restoration of a historic family home leads to a new business and a revival of surrounding houses

What’s Happening?

46 The Sunflower music Festival

Three young local musicians take part in anniversary performances .............

34 Home Tour with

For the Family

Joe and Amber

48 4-H Goes to Town

Joe Bullock and Amber Gentry Bullock built their home around the view

An organization known for animal shows and farmland savvy urbanizes its focus and membership


In Every Issue

03 From the Editor 62 events calendar




8 Bizzy Bee Bonnets


Bonnet Business Bizzy Bee Bonnets creates a buzz with its handcrafted, timeless fashions


hen you talk with Jenelle Carkhuff about her latest creation—a homebased business called Bizzy Bee Bonnets that sells high-quality children’s bonnets—you get the idea she’s always busy. Carkhuff launches into details about her new business endeavor, then tells about her activities at Grace Episcopal Cathedral, where she has been active over the years in many areas but especially the children’s programs. Then she mentions how she returned to Washburn University to get a teaching degree and taught third grade for seven years, did real estate for a while with her husband, Sam, and loves entertaining and golfing. The conversation then swings back to the bonnet business. Carkhuff and a friend initially started the business in the summer of 2010 but then decided to go on their own, so Carkhuff kept the name Bizzy Bee Bonnets. She hands over a business card, hang tags for when the bonnets are on display in a shop and other materials she created on the computer for the business, not to mention the customized soft cloth tags she made for inside each bonnet. She loves to work on the computer, trying different fonts and designs, and created the website for Bizzy Bee Bonnets. Feeling “bizzy” yet?

Through the buzz of her first customers and her network of friends and through



Jenelle Carkhuff turned a hobby into a business with Bizzy Bee Bonnets.

STORY BY Anita Miller Fry | PHOTOGRAPHY BY Bill Stephens


10 Bizzy Bee Bonnets the connections of Carkhuff’s grown children (Kim, who lives in Arizona, and Sam Jr., who lives in Colorado), the business has become busy quite quickly. Carkhuff has shipped orders to Arizona and New York and filled her first international order to Germany this spring while selling the bulk locally.

Carkhuff’s bonnets are modeled and tested by her young friends in Topeka.


seamstress and not a crafter.” “I’m a

– Jenelle Carkhuff

Her handmade bonnets are created from bright, 100 percent cotton prints and trimmed with ribbon, buttons, flowers, pearls, bows and other special items. The bonnets, generally $35 each, are available in five sizes from newborn infants to extra large for children up to age 7. Carkhuff says she initially didn’t like to sew. Her mother was a beautiful seamstress and made many of her clothes. “So why did I need to sew?” she explains. It was after she had her own children that she began sewing, making clothes for herself and her daughter. She says her son wore her homemade clothes only until he was 3 and discovered T-shirts and jeans. He did, however, continue to wear home-sewn Halloween costumes, such as a flashy astronaut suit made from shiny silver lamé.




Bizzy Bee Bonnets



11 Bizzy Bee Bonnets

Kim and Jenelle Carkhuff display several of their bonnets.

Through projects and sewing classes, Carkhuff honed her skills to become a meticulous seamstress. She also promoted herself from working on her Singer sewing machine to a Bernina, considered the Cadillac of sewing machines. As her business grows, Carkhuff has lined up three other seamstresses—two from Topeka—and their machines to fill the larger orders. “I’m a slow sewer and I’m not going to speed up. I enjoy the process,” she says. “I like to spread it out, make a pattern and iron it down, and most people don’t do that. I’m a seamstress and not a crafter.” Of course, having the right fabrics is essential. Carkhuff orders bright, appealing patterns and accessories wholesale with an eye for embellishments that add some fun or spark to the bonnets. Carkhuff experiments with new bonnet styles and fabrics, such as a white brocade bonnet with pearls, and other options, especially designs with seasonal appeal. “That’s what keeps me interested,” she says. “I have so many ideas, I can’t do them all.”





With roots in Ruthie’s Melody Mart and the Jackie Gleason school of dancing, a couple mentor and promote local bands





itting down with Michael and Wanda

Story by

Stacey Jo Geier

Photography by Jason Dailey

Dixon to talk about music is like hitting the rewind button on a

cassette tape of Motown memories. The

Topeka couple work as music producers for area bands, passing on their experiences of



Michael Dixon’s retirement led to a new career promoting bands and working long hours on the phone and in musical venues.

encounters with Motown legends and a life of rhythm. This is their retirement job, which began in 2004 when they met with a band that asked Michael, now 64, to be its manager. “I didn’t want to sit around looking out the window, so I thought I’d get back into the musical nightlife,” he recalls. Michael’s musical journey began in the same city that houses the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum— Cleveland, Ohio—and more specifically in Ruthie’s Melody Mart, a record store owned by his mother. “In those times it was unique because African Americans did not have entrepreneurial opportunities to start their own businesses,” says Michael. “I was listening to guys like the Isley Brothers and Ray Charles when they were getting started and hanging out at the record store. That launched my musical interest.” Michael went on to study music in school. “I started out on the French horn. I would see greats like Dizzy Gillespie, and their jaws were so puffed out. Those guys looked like frogs, so I changed my instrument. You don’t want to be some handsome guy with frog jaws,” says Michael. He traded in his French horn for a drum set and sang in the Madrigals and Glee Club in high school. In his teens, Michael hung out at Leo’s Casino in Cleveland, the jump-off point for the Chitlin’ Circuit, a string of musical venues along the East Coast that were safe for black performers to visit during times of racial segregation and strife. “I used to sneak down to the club,” says Michael. “That club started my rich relationship with Motown people such as the Jackson

5, the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops and Smokey Robinson.” Because of his connection to the club, Michael, then 18, went to work for the The O’Jays, known for the songs Lonely Drifter and I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow. They took him through legendary venues such as the Apollo, Club 8 and the Cheetah before his tour was abruptly canceled. “My world came to an end because I started getting letters from a friend of ours named Uncle Sam,” says Michael. “He said we were fighting a war and they could use my services.”

“I started out on the French horn. I would see greats like Dizzy Gillespie, and their jaws were so puffed out. Those guys looked like frogs, so I changed my instrument.” – Michael Dixon It was 1966. Michael went through a tour of Vietnam, returned to Forbes Field and found himself in Topeka once his service ended. “I was kind of lost,” Michael recalls. “I needed something to do. I was 800 miles from home and didn’t want to be a bum.” So he managed a construction business for several years while promoting music on the side, including a couple musical

Wanda Dixon is the detail person in the Dixons’ musical promotion partnership.

events in the mid-1970s at the original fairgrounds location such as Soundstack 75, and Summer Music Fantasy Festival. In 1988, Michael married Wanda, a Topekan who surprisingly was just not into bands and instruments. “I knew nothing about music. I am not a music person; I just like to dance,” says Wanda. “When I was young, I watched The Jackie Gleason Show. The June Taylor Dancers made all these designs with their bodies and legs. I thought that was so neat. I took modern dance in school and danced at all the clubs.” It was Wanda who encouraged Michael to return to band promotion in the mid-1980s and who has worked closely with him on their current projects such as the rhythm and blues/jazz fusion band Kharizmah. This ensemble releases its first album this year and has played extensively in the Kansas City region. The group also had a breakthrough concert at Michael’s hometown during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s tribute performance to Michael Jackson. “There were 3,000 people on hand for that performance,” says Michael. “We did a fantastic job in Jackson’s honor.” The Dixons work with other bands including Evolution, Platinum Express and aspiring hip-hop artist Tierra Edmunds. “Evolution is a down-home, backyard blues band—the kind of stuff you listen to at 2 in the morning with a drink in your hand,” says Michael. Platinum Express features artist JJ Johnson and the Full Steam Horn Section and bills its musical style as “hot-buttered soul and sophisticated funk.” So how does this music duo coordinate four bands? “The travel and scheduling is a real juggling act,” says Wanda. They spend a lot of time on the phone and the computer. They also travel to Kansas City every other week to check in with the musicians who live there. And Michael does all this work with low vision. He carries a cane and conducts his business on the computer with the help of software and adaptive equipment, plus Wanda’s steady assistance. Michael’s hearing is sensitive, but he says in the music business, this is sometimes a blessing. “When you think you are down and there isn’t any more hope, it’s what you do with what you have that counts,” Michael says. “If I had an attitude and got frustrated that I can’t see, where would I be?”



The Dixons, above, say even the most talented bands can go unnoticed if they are not able to break into the right markets and venues. Much of their current promotion work focuses on the group Kharizmah, below (photo courtesy Michael and Wanda Dixon).

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18 NOTABLES Tony Naylor

‘Inspirational Contact’ Muses come in all forms (except, perhaps, blue bonnets) for a theater artist who brings wide-ranging talent to stage productions


Tony Naylor’s designs and creative energy have guided hundreds of stage performances.



alking into the office at the end of the long firstfloor hall in the Garvey Fine Arts Center at Washburn University, one immediately feels a tangible creative energy. From this space come the ideas and designs for the theater’s stage set. Here, working at his drafting table, Tony Naylor carefully draws the initial stage plans for a production of Neil Simon’s farce, Rumors. His sketches show beautifully rendered doors and stairways, essential components in a black and white color scheme. It’s a perfect choice for the sophisticated home and a brilliant choice for a backdrop that won’t distract from the actors portraying elegantly dressed guests with rapid-fire delivery of Simon’s crazy plot. Though the Washburn associate professor of theater has won numerous awards in set design and has credits that read like a lexicon of Shakespearean and contemporary plays, Naylor says he prefers designing metaphorical sets that do not feature realistic space.

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20 NOTABLES Tony Naylor Naylor spends much of his time in his office or backstage, but his presence is strongly felt on the stage of most every production at Washburn University.



“A play needs only one actor and one audience member,” says Naylor. “Designing for theater is taking all of the elements of art, then lighting them and adding texture with ‘gobos,’” which are stainless-steel fixtures placed on lights to project images onto the stage. Approaching each new play, Naylor finds what he calls an “inspirational contact.” This could be a time-period painting, a photograph, a poem—anything that allows his muse to guide him into a creative zone. For the play Elephant’s Graveyard, he went to a circus. A musical reference inspired him to design the set for Uncle Vanya. Naylor’s 33-year career includes at least 120 productions. He designed sets for 80 of them and directed five. The foundation of this, perhaps, is the years of private art lessons that his mother paid for as he grew up in San Antonio, Texas. At age 14, Naylor won his first award for a watercolor of a tree—a work that is held in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Naylor enrolled to study architecture at San Antonio Junior College. “But I couldn’t figure out the slide rule,” says Naylor. So he switched to commercial art, then to painting. He also studied photography, jewelry and sculpture. He donated two pieces that sold at an art auction and approached galleries with his work. “But I wasn’t doing Hill Country and Texas bluebonnets, so I didn’t fit in, and art didn’t pay my bills,” Naylor explains. In 1978, Naylor moved his sister to the University of Kansas. After helping her unpack, he explored the campus


one actor and one audience member.”

“A play needs only

– Tony Naylor

22 NOTABLES Tony Naylor and toured the art and theater buildings, watching people build a set. This inspired him to enroll at KU for his BFA in theater design. He want back to Texas for his MA, but returned to KU for his MFA in design. A major influence on his work was KU theater professor Delbert Unruh, an eminent figure in the field of set design whom Naylor credits with letting him “develop my own style.” While finishing his final degree at KU, Naylor took a job down the road at the Andrew and Georgia Neese Gray Theatre at Washburn University. “Twenty-two years later, here we are!” he adds with a wry smile. “I hate to move.” That distaste for relocating has proven a boon for Washburn and local theater artists. But he continues to draw and paint, donating his talents to area fundraisers and contemplating the role these arts will play in the years to come. Naylor says his future “will be in painting—I already have that planned.” His ability to cross through genres, with a focus on what he describes as “tragedy and the human condition,” creates a body of art, both visual and performing, that is compelling.



Each production at Washburn can draw on an extensive collection of costumes and design props representing a range of time periods and locations, but Naylor says he favors metaphorical sets.

Story by Kim Gronniger Photography by Jason Dailey


After a few false starts in life, an Overbrook native serves, takes command and dishes out order, discipline and chocolates

Rose General



e Deborah Rose stands in her Brigadier General uniform at the Topeka headquarters of the Joint Forces of the Kansas Army and Air National Guard.




hirlwind careers do not typically involve actual twisters hitting on the first day of a new job. But Brigadier General Deborah Rose stepped in as the Kansas National Guard’s Director of the Joint Staff, Joint Forces Headquarters, on May 5, 2007—the morning after a tornado flattened Greensburg. While providing emergency relief during this and other crises, Rose has been able to tap an unflappable demeanor honed through a lifetime of twists and turns and steadfast faith. Flunking out of college, finding out that full-time motherhood wasn’t her forte, taking a second chance at college, succeeding as a nurse and becoming the first female officer to ascend to the Kansas Air National Guard’s highest position—all of these self-discovery detours enabled her to identify her strengths and face the unexpected with equanimity. Floundering An Overbrook native, Rose attended McPherson College for just two weeks before being placed on academic probation, to her parents’ chagrin. By spring semester, Rose recalls, her main emphasis continued to be extracurricular excitement, and the dean of women students emphatically told her not to come back. A brother serving in the Army hitchhiked home, where he told Rose compelling stories about military life and taught her how to shoot craps. Intrigued, Rose met with an Air Force recruiter, who dashed her dream because she was 10 pounds overweight. Like many of her peers in the late 1960s, Rose shrugged it off, met her husband, who served in the Air Force, and went on to have children. When an Overbrook member of the 190th Air Refueling Wing of the Kansas Air National Guard died in a 1977 plane crash, Rose offered to watch his widow’s daughter so the widow could pursue a college degree. The gracious gesture led to an unexpected epiphany for Rose, who was caring for two 2-year-olds and a 6-month old. “I thought I was going to lose my mind taking care of children—definitely not my forte,” recalls Rose. “My mother came over, and I was sprawled on the couch crying, and the kids were screaming and running with scissors. I told my mother I knew there was something I could and should do, but this probably wasn’t it.” She gratefully accepted her mom’s offer to watch her kids so she could follow her own advice and pursue a nursing degree at Washburn University. “I knew I had to be able to take care of my children, so I set a goal, worked toward it and had faith that God would get me through it,” says Rose. “I realized that I had failed on my earlier college attempt, but that didn’t make me a failure.” Forging ahead Rose was undaunted about being an older student at 27 and at a time when this was comparatively rare. Today, she encourages nontraditional students who might be thinking about earning first or second degrees in different fields to “take a risk and have the confidence to do it because the rewards are so great.” With an easy laugh, warm personality and strong interpersonal skills, Rose was able to forge connections with patients at the Colmery-O’Neil Veterans Administration Medical Center where she worked after graduation. She cared for patients and helped implement the state’s medication administration program to help eliminate medication errors. Rose and her



“I realized that I had failed on my earlier college attempt, but that didn’t make me a failure.” – Deborah Rose



co-workers received Vice President Al Gore’s Hammer Award in recognition of their accomplishment. Having joined the Kansas Air National Guard in 1983, Rose served in a variety of nursing and management capacities until April 2007 when she realized her dream to become the first female brigadier general for Kansas. In a formal statehouse promotion ceremony that Rose describes as “surreal,” military colleagues, politicians, friends and family gathered to acknowledge her accomplishment. Kansas and American flags, along with family photos, now occupy prime spots in her general’s office. She also keeps nearby a candy dispenser that she replenishes frequently for “anyone who needs a little chocolate to get through the day.” The tradition started in 1994 and has followed her in her travels as she leaves one wherever she has been stationed to work for any length of time. Duty Rose’s momentous first official day in her new position coincided with the impact of an F-5 tornado that ripped through Greensburg. Her team worked with civilian emergency management to save lives and establish crucial on-site medical centers in the immediate aftermath. In that first year of her command, in addition to the Greensburg disaster, Rose and her crew responded to emergency requests from all 105 Kansas counties after a severe ice storm and to flooding relief requests from 23 counties. She says these experiences confirmed her conviction that “our troops are just phenomenal. They do whatever we ask and with such great pride.” For her part, Rose focuses on supporting troops through teamwork and shared success, but she doesn’t shy from difficult

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decisions. “Giving bad news never gets better with time,” she says. “It hurts morale if I don’t take care of business. There’s nothing in my job description that says I was loved by all.” One of the most difficult yet rewarding aspects of her job is developing a resiliency program for troops and their families who are being tested by frequent deployments and conflicts across the world. “We need to let people know that it doesn’t matter how far they’ve fallen, it’s how fast they bounce back,” says Rose. “We need to instill a sense of hardiness in people and support them through their difficulties so they don’t despair.” Pragmatic and proficient in fulfilling the position’s requirements, Rose is still enthralled with some of the job’s demands. She has met former president George W. Bush and other world leaders. In her role as Air National Guard Assistant to the Commander of the 17th Air Force, she will travel periodically to bases in Germany and Africa to build relationships and create “predictable training opportunities” abroad for guardsmen to prepare them for emergencies at home. Fireworks This Fourth of July, Rose and her family, who all live within a half mile of each other on the Overbrook farmstead where she grew up, will celebrate by pooling fireworks and enjoying each other’s company. As with Rose’s life, there will be the inevitable firecrackers that fizzle out and sparklers that don’t fulfill their promise. But at the end of the night, those that find their mark will form satisfying patterns in the sky, leaving a memorable impression. It’s an apt metaphor for this military role model, whose resilience and resourcefulness inspire others to give their best in trying times that test their mettle.


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30 HOME LIFE Home Restorations by Barb Quaney and Doug Jones

The Hathaway Project Restoration of a historic family home leads to a new business and a revival of surrounding houses


arb Quaney and Doug Jones have restored almost a dozen downtrodden houses in central Topeka in less than 10 years, changing the face of their neighborhood and winning the Ad Astra Award for Community Revitalization at the Kansas Housing Conference in the process. But the husband-and-wife team did not set out to change a neighborhood when they initially focused on one home—the house that Doug’s mother was vacating at 821 SW Western Ave. At that time, Doug and Barb were living outside Tecumseh and initially planned to sell the Topeka home. They changed their minds when they realized most of the potential buyers intended to dismantle the grand old home and sell off the parts for salvage. The stained-glass window at top of the stairway landing, for example, was estimated to have a greater salvage value than the entire house, primarily because of the home’s location. Finally, someone came forth who wanted to live in the home, and a contract was signed. But as soon as the contract was signed, Barb and Doug began to have their doubts. The home was not just a house. It had been in Doug’s family for more than half a century, and he had grown up there. The next morning, the person who was going to buy the house called and asked to be released from the contract. Barb and Doug found themselves at a turning point and decided to keep and restore the house. Known as the Hathaway House, the home was built in 1909 by Topeka lumberman Daniel Hathaway on property purchased from Cyrus Holliday. Doug was 51 and Barb was 41 when they started working on their “new” home. They had plenty of life experience: Doug had worked on old homes before, and they had read books about old houses. But all this left them at the mercy of the home’s demands.

Doug Jones and Barb Quaney, above, spent years reviving homes such as this one, top, in Doug’s childhood block.



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32 HOME LIFE Home Restorations by Barb Quaney and Doug Jones



Barb and Doug found themselves at a


point and decided to keep and restore the house.

“We certainly did not understand time,” says Barb. “We thought that we could do the entire house in six months tops. We did a year on one floor. This house owns us.” The home’s varied interior made for unique restoration challenges, she says. “It is such a mishmash of styles that we believe that this was a demonstration house,” says Barb. “Because this [the staircase] is clearly Victorian, the dining room is Arts and Crafts, every floor has different woodwork. Each bedroom has entirely different woodwork.” The trim in the upstairs bedroom provides one example. “When we stripped this, I thought I ruined it. It was a blotchy kind of hot pink. It had been painted black,” Barb says. “Those big blotches are just part of the wood.” Barb, who works as a physical therapist and neuroscientist, explains she even took on extra work for the renovation. “I lectured somewhere every weekend for a year solely to have a new roof.” Along the way, Barb and Doug’s commitment grew—to the house and to the neighborhood. Beginning by targeting nearby neglected properties, mostly owned by out-of-state investors, Barb and Doug launched JQ Historic Properties to own and manage upscale rentals. They also established their criteria for tenants. “We have really strict rules,” explains Barb. “We do not allow smoking. We do not allow pets. We have really high rents. We make people pay for criminal and


The Hathaway House restoration project, below, led to the renovation of neighboring homes, left, that are now rental properties. All homes have extensive interior work with attention to detail such as wood trim, opposite page.


33 Home Restorations by Barb Quaney and Doug Jones

financial background checks. We have high deposits. It is a totally different model from most landlords. “We do not want these homes to look like rentals. I build the cost of lawn mowing, snow removal and landscaping in, so it gets done. It is a pampered approach,” she says. “A person has to be pretty serious. … People [who] talk on the phone with me know that I will be their neighbor. That either comforts them or they are gone.” Part of Barb and Doug’s model is to start with the infrastructure—the foundation, the electrical and the plumbing—and then update the HVAC units and put in as much insulation as possible to cut utility costs. They often bring in repurposed furniture, with Habitat for Humanity ReStore as a favorite venue. One of their most recent projects involved working with St. John’s Lutheran Church and USD 501 to rescue and relocate an 1897 home from the 900 block of SW Fillmore to 825 SW Western Ave., next to their original Hathaway House. After reviving a wide area, Barb and Doug are contemplating their next step. “We think if we do anything additional, we would begin to explore a building in downtown Topeka. But the other thing we are thinking of doing is to explore alternate energy sources, such as windmills, for our existing tenants,” says Barb. “But currently we are taking a rest, and this has been our first rest since we began our project in 2001.”

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34 HOME LIFE The Bullock Home

Home Tour Joe & Amber with

It began with the land. Joe bullock and Amber gentry Bullock built their home around the view. The young couple had been looking for a piece of land in the Flint Hills west of Topeka for a while without any luck. Then one day Joe drove past a new for-sale sign. He called his bride-to-be to proclaim he had just found the perfect property. Amber replied, “That can’t be, because I just found our perfect land.” At that moment, she was viewing the same listing online that Joe had just discovered in person. They decided it was meant to be. The Bullocks bought the land, were married on a hilltop of the new property in July 2010 and moved into their dreamhome-built-for-two last fall.



story by Karen Ridder | photography by Jason Dailey


35 The Bullock Home

What a View

From the Bullocks’ westward-facing 62-foot front porch, the unobstructed view stretches miles across the prairie and allows the couple to enjoy what they describe as amazing sunsets. This porch is one of four on the house, indicative of the features they chose to mimic an old house they left behind while creating the convenience of a new home in a location they love.




A Place to Hang Your Hat

The Bullock Home

Another unique feature the Bullocks included is Joe’s “cop closet.” As a trooper, he carries and wears a lot of bulky gear. So they designed a special closet where he can hang his uniform when he is off-duty. Joe even built shelves with electrical power to charge his radio. They placed this closet so Joe can come home late at night and take off his gear without waking Amber.

“That’s a common problem” for police officers and their spouses, says Joe. The “cop closet” makes it a nonissue.

Custom Touches from Top to Bottom

When they started building this home, Amber and Joe knew they wanted a custom design, which allowed them to include elements reminiscent of an old country house. “You try to build character into something new,” says Amber. They chose barnwood floors, a trim package with extra molding, French doors and traditionally styled kitchen cabinets.



Farm Style

The most important outside feature is behind the house. It is a barn built to accommodate Amber’s gift from Joe: an American Quarter Horse that is from the same line as the horse she rode as a child. The barn—plumbed and wired with electricity—has a tack room, cleaning stall and so far just one horse stall, but Joe says he plans to take up riding this summer. They have plenty of space for a second horse and any other animals they want to add. Right now, the spot goes to three fainting goats.



38 HOME LIFE The Bullock Home

The Ideal Home

The best spot for a house on the Bullocks’ “perfect property” required construction 800 feet off the main road. That meant building a dam and pond to provide driveway access across a ravine. The added benefit of the dam was the creation of an outdoor area for fishing and bonfires. The Bullocks are looking forward to the day their pond fills in and can be stocked. They already have prepared what they call a “mini-Stonehenge” by placing large rocks around a fire pit and big stones by the future water’s edge.

The Bullocks bought the land, were married on a hilltop of the new property in July 2010 and moved into their dream-home-built-fortwo last fall.

The Center of It All

The Bullocks put the stove of their open kitchen literally in the center of the house. This allows Amber, who loves to cook and entertain, to be able to be a part of the action when guests arrive. She says it’s also practical for everyday use. Standing at the stove, she has a view of the front and back doors, driveway, horse pasture, TV, living room, dining room, fireplace and, of course, those fabulous sunsets.

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Herself, Back in Topeka

From her adopted hometown, a pioneering women’s health advocate points the way for aging as an adventure


hen I showed up to interview Diana Laskin Siegal, a plate of orange sections and toast triangles sat on her dining table. I apologized for interrupting breakfast. She laughed, saying she is of a generation that believes when someone shows up, even for an interview, you serve them something to eat. Siegal is a gracious hostess as well as a pioneering health policy advocate. She’s also co-author of the classic guidebook for older women, Ourselves, Growing Older, published in cooperation with the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective in two editions, the most recent of which was praised by Publishers Weekly as “a self-help book with a conscience.” Although Siegal initially wrote the book while living in Boston in the ’80s, she has since retired to Topeka. ‘Biggest mountains’

I first met Diana Siegal when she came to Topeka in 1994 as a keynote speaker at a conference on women’s issues. Harriet Lerner, a Menninger Clinic staff psychologist at the time, introduced Siegal and mentioned that she had celebrated her 60th birthday three years before by going to Nepal. I asked Siegal about this intrepid trip. “The sherpas, who are among the most wonderful people in the entire world, baked me a birthday cake in a skillet over an open fire at about 12,000 feet,” she recalls. Why Nepal? Siegal says someone had been condescending when they learned she had never visited Paris or Rome. Although Paris and Rome had appeal, Siegal wondered where she might regret not going when she was on her “death bed.” An image emerged for this mountain enthusiast of “the biggest mountains in the world.”



She stayed for a month and went on three separate treks, two of them alone with the sherpas because no other tourist signed up. Student years

Siegal was born in 1931 in New York City, the only daughter of Russian immigrant parents who came to the United States as teenagers, met in their 20s and married. Growing up in Boston, her father went to law school for a year, but when the Depression hit, with responsibility for a wife and daughter, he abandoned that plan. Among other jobs, he worked at the Beth Israel Hospital as a butcher and storekeeper before eventually becoming a kosher caterer. Siegal’s mother was an artist and craftswoman who taught at summer camps in Maine and Massachusetts. Siegal attended Girls’ Latin School (now the Boston Latin Academy) in Boston. “We had to memorize sections out of Shakespeare, and poems, and the opening of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, and the opening of Virgil’s Aeneid. I remember the opening sentence of dozens of things and nothing beyond that,” she laughs. As a member of a Labor Zionist youth group, Siegal nurtured fantasies of living in Israel on a kibbutz. So when it came time to go to college, she applied and was accepted at the newly opened Brandeis University, where modern Hebrew was offered. There, Siegal studied psychology under the estimable Abraham Maslow, best known for his theory of the hierarchy of human needs. She was in the first class to graduate from Brandeis and followed Maslow’s recommendation to pursue graduate studies at the University of Kansas, boarding a westbound train in September 1952 with her typewriter in tow. A couple of years later, Siegal netted a good job as a research assistant on a new project at Menninger’s and moved to Topeka. Ultimately, she dropped out of graduate school just short of a master’s

story by Jeffrey Ann Goudie | photography by Jason Dailey

health thesis and married Menninger psychologist Richard Siegal. They had two children, a girl and a boy, 22 months apart. Boston and the book

Siegal’s life was upended when Richard died at age 39. Newly widowed, she returned to KU full-time to earn her master’s degree in public administration while interning with the first Health Planning Agency within the Kansas Board of Health. She became a staff member after completing her studies but soon returned to the familiar Boston, where she says she knew the schools, the neighborhoods and the streetcar connections. Her parents still lived there as well and could provide extra support.


The most recent edition of


Growing Older was praised by Publishers Weekly as “a self-help book with a conscience.” The move was serendipitous in other ways, too, as she reconnected with her oldest childhood friend, Norma Meras Swenson, a member of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. Siegal helped the collective with the menopause section of the chapter on women growing older in Our Bodies, Ourselves. Paula Doress-Worters, who was in charge of the chapter, proposed an entire book on older women and invited Siegal to work on it. She declined, citing her full-time job at a medical foundation and teenage children. “Then three weeks later I called her back and said, ‘Guess what? I just lost my job … and I can work on the book with you,’” says Siegal. City of ‘dear friends’

Siegal retired at age 66. Over the years, she returned to Topeka for visits with friends, and it was during a luncheon at Brewster Place one day that she had a revelation. “I looked around the dining room and I thought to myself, ‘I know more people in this dining room than I would know in any community in Boston, Massachusetts.’” Back in Topeka since July 2005, Siegal has been surrounded by “dear friends” and stays active in the League of Women Voters, a local OWL chapter (an advocacy organization for midlife and older women) and the Board of Trustees for Brewster Foundation, among other organizations. Irv Rosen, the retired director of the outpatient department at Menninger’s, says of his friend: “She has a good heart, coupled with boundless energy.” In an e-mail, best-selling author Harriet Lerner, who now lives in Lawrence, describes Siegal as a “feminist pioneer” who is “also fun, adventuresome, authentic and without a pretentious bone in her body.” At that conference in 1994, Siegal told the largely female audience: “Think of what kind of older woman you’d like to be.” Diana Laskin Siegal, who had just made a three-day drive from Florida a few days before our interview, provides a standout model of aging with verve.

George Paris



Q&A seven questions with ...

george paris poet and novelist

Are you satisfied with human progress? No, I think we’ve taken steps backward. With all the advances in technology we’ve made, we don’t treat people any more kindly than in the ’30s and ’40s. Nations are still warring with each other. It’s deplorable that we don’t get along any better than we did in the ’30s when I was growing up. We were a trusting nation in those days. An uncle of mine drove from L.A. to Kansas, 1,800 miles, by asking people if he could siphon enough gas to get to the next gas station. People .................................................................. trusted each other then; we don’t trust anyone The is anymore it seems.

What’s most important: the intellect or the heart? The heart is most important, [and] I think I use my heart most. I read a book called The Biology of Transcendence. It changed my thinking. It was about how the closeness of hearts beating together reinforces the two hearts, especially mother and child. For lovers, no matter who—male or female—this is a key to their fulfillment.

Do you remember your first kiss? It was a disaster. I walked a girl home from a Halloween party. It was on the football field. Unformost important, tunately it was witnessed by the girl’s mom, Who is the most amazing person you ever met? who got on the phone with my mom. The next [and] I think I use my I was walking up Broadway and passed in front of morning the girl wouldn’t speak to me. Total most. the Columbia University gate. A limousine drove shun, no explanation. It became evident to .................................................................. up, stopped, and out stepped Eleanor Roosevelt. me that I was to be protected all during my That was memorable. But the most memorable teen years from women—not allowed to have was when I was giving a gallery talk—why they a relationship. I had two dates in high school, and my mom went along on both. So much for dating in Digh- choose me I’ll never know—at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The Alfred Stieglitz collection, half of it, was there. Fisk ton [Kansas]. had remodeled an [outmoded] women’s gym and turned it into an What’s your favorite place to go alone? The rainforest at the art museum for this permanent collection of Stieglitz. Stieglitz’s zoo, especially in January. I can sit there in the warmth watching widow, Georgia O’Keeffe, was there, and I made this totally asinine the bananas growing in the banana tree and watching the birds gallery talk and made a total fool of myself. Georgia O’Keeffe was kind, cordial, down-to-earth and very accepting of my inabilities. flying around.



What’s your favorite bug? June bugs, because they stop being grub worms. They emerge as these flying bugs who seek enlightenment. I remember as a kid in church on Sunday nights, the June bugs would fly through the hail screen on the church windows in the summer. They would go to the chandeliers, they would get caught and fry to death, and we would smell them. They went to their enlightenment. They had stopped being grub worms.



What’s the scariest story you know? I was told a lot of Bible stories that were pretty scary—Samson and Delilah, about his hair being cut off by this Delilah gal. She had to do it while he was asleep. She snuck in there, and snip, snip, snip. It was upsetting and kind of frightening. If cutting off his hair did all that damage to his strength, then what did that mean to me? My dad was giving me haircuts, and boy did they hurt. It was hand snippers, you know.

Interview conducted, transcribed and edited by Vernon McFalls

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The Sunflower Music Festival

Sunflower Music Festival Musician: David Wingerson Festival association: Stage manager and student chaperone Instrument: Percussion Age he began playing: 10 Attends: Washburn University Currently studying under: Tom Morgan, Washburn


his summer marks the 25th anniversary of the Sunflower Music Festival. Held June 10-18 on the campus of Washburn University, this year’s celebration of classical music brings in top national performers and includes clinics for musicians as well as a series of free concerts and other events open to the public. Since 1993, the Blanche Bryden Sunflower Music Institute has been an integral part of the festival. This residential program provides outstanding collegiate and high school performers a chance “to meet, mingle and make music with like-minded musicians,” says Ann Marie Snook, Blanche Bryden coordinator and chair of Washburn University’s Department of Music. For the public, Snook adds, the Blanche Bryden component provides an opportunity to hear performances by talent “on the brink of their careers—ready to fly.” This year, these three Topeka youths join peers from across the nation in the anniversary program. A full schedule of concerts, including their performances, can be found at or by calling (785) 670-1620.



Musician: Krystal Harry Festival association: Second year as Blanche Bryden musician Instrument: Oboe and English horn Age she began playing: 9 Attends: Topeka West High School (entering Washburn fall 2011) Currently studying under: Margaret Marco, University of Kansas

Musician: Joe Teeter Festival association: Second year as Blanche Bryden musician Instrument: Cello Age he began playing: 11 Attends: Topeka High School Currently studying under: Steven Elisha, Washburn

PHOTOGRAPHY by Bill Stephens

Topeka Symphony


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Mozart & More


October 2011 Dvorak Tchaikovsky: Ivan Zenaty, violin

the 5th! October Britten Theofanidis Beethoven



February 2012 Mozart Ravel Harvey: Nicholas Ciraldo, guitar

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March 2012 Music from blockbuster movies featuring Topeka native Lillian Sengpiehl, soprano

’tis the season December An evening of festive holiday music




Sibelius Shostakovich: Julius Kim, piano

Fiesta! January Rimsky-Korsakov Villa-Lobos Ravel

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For the Family


goesto town An organization known for animal shows and farmland savvy urbanizes its focus and membership


annah Henry remembers the first time she showed at the 4-H Fair. She was in second grade and competing in Clothing Buymanship, a class that evaluated her fashion sense— how she chose an outfit based on quality, fit, care, cost and practicality. “I had to have Daddy hold my hand,” recalls the now 13-year-old 4-H veteran. Hannah has since won champion and reserve champion awards for her efforts and now helps younger kids in the same event. She also enjoys a variety of other

4-H projects in cooking, photography, home environment, theater art, citizenship and leadership. Furthermore, the once-shy exhibitor says one of the best parts of 4-H is meeting new people. In recent years, striking up new acquaintances and introducing youths to new interests also has been the goal of local 4-H clubs. Traditionally a youth organization focusing on rural traditions and crafts, 4-H has expanded in scope to attract new members who did not necessarily grow up on a farm. Of the 13 4-H

The expanded programs offered through 4-H clubs have stirred the interest of Allyson Henry for quilting (top) and Hannah Henry for fashion (left). They are members of Auburn 4-H.



STORY BY Carolyn Kaberline | PHOTOGRAPHY BY Bill Stephens

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“All of our clubs are

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clubs in Shawnee County, seven are based within the Topeka city limits. Current 4-H groups are focused on more than “cows and cookies,” says Sarah Laib, 4-H youth development agent for Shawnee County. “All of our clubs are open to youths and their families, no matter where they live. The clubs in Topeka proper, though, are going to have more of a focus on projects that are city friendly.” This city-friendly makeover is reflected in the organization’s 37 focused study projects, such as foods and nutrition or construction zone, as well as a catchall self-determined study project that allows 4-H members to set their own goals. Farm youths are also tapping into 4-H’s expanded focus. Brothers Luke and Blake Garrison live in the country but prefer non-livestock projects. Luke, 16, enjoys projects like robotics and photography and has received grand champion and top purple awards. Blake, 10, participates in geology, woodworking and construction zone. His efforts have earned him top purple and reserve champion honors a few times. For Blake, the best part of 4-H is “getting to see the scores you get on your projects.” These scores are often received at the organization’s signature event, the county fair, with its requisite animal exhibiting contests and bakeoffs. But this traditional event is supplemented with other yearly activities such as a day camp focusing on science, engineering and technology, and excursions to Rock Springs 4-H Center near Junction City, where members participate in horseback riding, swimming and archery. Youths 14 and older also can travel to the Kansas State University campus for Discovery Days, a mini-college experience where they attend classes on leadership and other interests while living in the dorms. These experiences and activities give participants “the opportunity to meet other youths and grow as a person,” says



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

For more information about local 4-H clubs,

go online to and follow the links for 4-H youth development or call the Shawnee County K-State Research and Extension Office at (785) 232-0062, ext. 120. ......................................................................................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................................................................................... .........................................................................................................................................................................................

Allyson Henry, Hannah’s older sister. “You learn so many life skills, and you don’t even know you’re learning them.” While Allyson enjoys the more urban focus of 4-H in such projects as performing arts and reading, she also specializes in traditional rural arts, such as quilting, a hobby learned from her grandmother. But the Washburn Rural High School sophomore gives her quilts a modern twist. “I like to tie the designs in with events that occur during the year, such as 4-H activities,” Allyson says, adding that she also made a quilt wall hanging for her dad when he was deployed to Qatar with the Kansas Army National Guard. Lisa Garrison, mother of Luke and Blake, also thinks 4-H is a good family activity, regardless of whether the family’s home is a ranch or a city bungalow. “It’s a chance for kids to try new things and learn from others,” Lisa says. “It has so much to offer any kid. It provides the type of experiences that you don’t get all the time.”

Brothers Blake, above, and Luke Garrison, opposite, represent the rural youths who make up the traditional membership of 4-H, but innovative, nonfarming programs such as robotics have attracted their attention. Hannah, opposite far left, now mentors new 4-H members in the programs she first attempted as a second-grade student.



52 travel Denver

A Denver Getaway Extra servings of romance and fun are only a day’s drive and a mile’s altitude away


t happens to us each year: a wedding anniversary. Sometimes it’s well-planned and celebrated; sometimes it sneaks up. And then other times, you know it’s coming and want to do something special but can’t get away for long. That was the case for us last year. In fact, we had to miss our anniversary day and were eager for some upscale pampering when we carved out a weekend to celebrate.



A musician performs on Denver’s 16th Street Mall. Photo courtesy Steve Crecelius and Visit Denver.

STORY BY Susan Kraus

reliable... trustworthy... exceptional So we looked on the map and chose a quick jaunt out of the flatlands and into the Mile High City. Packed with great restaurants, museums, music and art galleries, Denver is an ideal destination for a romantic getaway. We made reservations at The Oxford Hotel, located in the heart of Lower Downtown (Lo-Do), one block from historic Union Station and a walk to Coors Field. The hotel is rich with history, refined luxury, a plethora of antiques and its own art collection featuring works by noted Colorado artists. And the rooms had linens I wanted to pack in my suitcase and sneak home. (OK, the husband liked the Bose and flat-screen television. I liked the linens, cuddly robes and indulgent “you are so special” ambiance.) We made good use of the complimentary passes to the adjacent Oxford Club Spa and Fitness Center (ask about the Ice Cream Pedicure … oh tootsies!) and ended each evening with a nightcap in the legendary Cruise Room Martini Bar. The Oxford even has a library, tucked above the lobby, with bookcases stuffed with history and fiction. But our favorite perk was the free car service anywhere downtown. Going to a concert at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts? How about a baseball game at Coors Field? Just ask, and your car will be waiting. It was a perk to remember, especially at 1 a.m. after some great blues music and a couple of drinks when our map-reading skills were challenged.

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You don’t have to drive to get around in Denver. The 16th Street Mall—a pedestrian zone that stretches through downtown—also features hybrid-electric shuttles that provide free all-day and almost all-night hop-on, hop-off service. Packed with restaurants and shops, both conventional and unconventional, the 16th Street Mall is urban fun. Pianos are spread about the walk, as if dropped gently from the sky, and anyone can sit down and play a few songs. Street entertainment ranges from musicians to magicians. Many Fridays at noon in July and August there are free concerts in Skyline Park, a strip of a park midway down the mall. We started Saturday morning at an outdoor table at Dixons Downtown Grill, 16th and Wazee, with Eggs Mazatlan and a mimosa. Then it was time for some culture. The Denver Art Museum, part of the Golden Triangle Museum District, is splendid. It was too much to absorb in one day, especially a sunny, “too-beautiful-to-be-indoorsno-matter-how-magnificent-the-museum” kind of day, so we focused on a few galleries. After a stroll through the 24-karatgold-domed Capitol, we walked back down the 16th Street Mall. It was, honestly, what we wanted to do: sip lattes, watch

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54 travel Denver Mountain sunsets provide a wonderful backdrop whether you are strolling by Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building, above, or through the 16th Street Mall, opposite. Photos courtesy Jeff Wells, Steve Crecelius and Visit Denver.

the people and appreciate being outdoors without sweating. Then it was back to the hotel for a late afternoon nap. When staying in an elegant hotel, it makes sense to savor the ambiance. On Saturday night, we wanted local music, not a canned-fortourists-trio. We found Eugene Carthen at El Chapultepec, a downand-dirty dive bar where the walls are lined with photos of the great jazz and blues singers of the past who have performed there. We scored a booth, handy since it was wall-to-wall bodies an hour later, hot and sweaty, everyone swaying to Eugene’s lusty, gravelly voice singing the blues. The next morning was reserved for the Tattered Cover, a landmark independent bookstore that’s a Denver institution. After a few hours of grazing the stacks, it was on to the cutting-edge Contemporary Museum of Art. The museum is adjacent to the Denver Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian walkway that leads to more parks, more cafes and neighborhoods, a huge REI store and hike-and-bike



trails that go for miles along the South Platte River. We walked and shopped along the bridge, ending at the Downtown Aquarium. (Maybe it’s because I’m ocean-deprived living in Kansas, but I like to look at fish.) Dining is, literally, a matter of taste. We didn’t set out for any particular restaurant, but just stopped when we got hungry and where we saw happy people eating. We did notice an abundance of happy hour specials. This is a city where you can eat well on a budget. So was it a “romantic” weekend? That depends on your definition. For us, just being together—with no distractions and cell phones shut off—while exploring anything new is romantic. It’s about making memories that no one else shares. Forget the candy and flowers … bring on an experience. Denver did it for us.

Denver’s City Park provides an excellent view of the skyline and mountains. Photo courtesy Rich Grant and Visit Denver.

familyvariation If your getaway is more action-filled than romantic and involves one or several young ones, a short trip to Denver is still a good idea. Try these locations focusing on a family getaway. Downtown Aquarium: Features place-focused journeys, swimming with sharks (scuba license required) and live tigers (yes, in an aquarium).

Children’s Museum of Denver: Interactive play–to-learn options for infants through age 10.

Elitch Gardens Theme Park: This downtown family theme park and water park have coasters, shows, gardens and water attractions with an old-fashioned feel.

Heritage Square (in Golden): An 1870s reconstructed mining town with a fort, detailed storefronts, too many shops to count, a dinner theater with home-style meals and musical cabarets, and some amusements such as zipline and mini-golf.

Denver Zoo: On 75 acres with more than 4,000 animals in naturalistic habitats.

Denver Firefighters Museum: A museum with a different angle, from the slide-down fire pole to hands-on kid activities.

Forney Museum of Transportation: Sounds a bit dry but engages kids and parents with extensive collections of antique/classic cars, bikes, motorcycles and the biggest locomotive I’d ever seen.

Denver Skate Park: The largest outdoor free public skate park in the nation is fun to watch even if you’ve never skated.

My favorite restaurant with kids: Casa Bonita on Colfax Avenue. Spend the evening with cliff divers, strolling musicians, puppet shows, magicians, Mexican dancers and Wild West gunfights. Kids can explore a secret hideout. The food is decent too. TOPEKAMAGAZINE Summer 2011

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56 travel Global Diving

Taking the Dive

For one Topeka professional, a chance lesson leads to discoveries of coral, marine animals and beauty across the globe


andy Falen readily recalls her first seawater dive. “I literally fell in love,” she says. “I had never experienced anything like that in my life. I felt like Dorothy finding the Land of Oz in Technicolor.” Sandy, an Atchison native who works as a commercial loan officer at CoreFirst Bank and has lived in Topeka since graduating from Washburn University, came to diving by chance. She remembers the day in 1985 when she received a flier from Washburn for noncredit continuing education classes. Among the classes offered was Introduction to Scuba Diving, and immediately images of Lloyd Bridges in the early television show Sea Hunt came to her mind. “Why not?” she thought; the diving class could be fun.



Sandy Falen­­–in her banker’s clothing and scuba gear–has dived around the world.

STORY BY Debra guiou Stufflebean | PHOTOGRAPHY BY jason dailey

58 travel Global Diving

After her courses, Sandy was off to northwestern Arkansas for her first trial dive in a freshwater lake, a requirement for diving certification. It wasn’t an inspiring experience. “The water was cold and so murky you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face,” she recalls. But that muddy trial run gave her confidence to book a diving trip to the waters off Cozumel, Mexico, where the contrast couldn’t have been more delightful. “The water was warm and clear,” she says. “I could see 150 feet in front of me. It’s hard to explain the sensation of being weightless and floating in liquid space. The joy was far greater than anything I’d ever imagined.” During more than 25 years of diving, Sandy has greatly improved her abilities and confidence as a diver. (Her specialty, she says, is getting the most out of a tank of air— “I’m an air queen,” she jokes.). The biggest changes she notices, however, are in the oceans. “You read in journals and magazines about overfishing, coral death and coral bleaching, but I can tell you it is an obvious reality, and it is sobering. The areas where I dive are not the same that they were 20 years ago.” But the ocean, Sandy adds, holds wonderful destinations to explore. She advises that new divers keep themselves in good physical shape and choose a location appropriate for their skill levels. With health and knowledge, diving can be enjoyed for decades. “It is a hobby,” says Sandy, “that I hope to pursue for the rest of my life.”


59 Global Diving

SandyFalen’s guide to basic diving accessories Undercurrent An online divers’ newsletter. Sandy says this source at www. is “essential.” Personal diving gear set All diving areas have stores or clubs that rent equipment, but Sandy says having your own gear that’s familiar and tested provides greater peace of mind and confidence.

Underwater diving pictures of Falen courtesy Ernst Schilling. Marine animal pictures courtesy Sandy Falen.

Diving insurance Better safe than sorry, says Sandy. This provides you security in case you need emergency evacuation because of injuries or troubles such as diver’s decompression. Diver’s field guides by Paul Humann This Wichitabased writer and photographer is roughly the underwater world’s equivalent of John Audubon. He has issued a series of identification and informational guides to coral, reef creatures and regional sea life. Sandra had the chance to meet him during a diving tour off Venezuela. A Canon G11 camera with built-in flash Sandy purchased this reliable “pointand-shoot” device to capture images of sea creatures such as the ancient hawksbill turtles who love to feast on sponges, Moray eels hiding in the rocky crevices of the rugged limestone walls of Curacao, parrotfish, silver barracuda, French angelfish and manta rays.



60 travel Global Diving

diving the world over Sandy Falen’s guide to good spots and the next great adventure




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#1 Salt Cay in the Turks and Caicos Islands – Here divers are allowed to swim near humpback whales. “This whale was within 30 feet of me and looked right at me with that big eye and checked me out,” Sandy says. #2 Cozumel, Mexico – This is where Sandy took her first ocean dive and encountered the phenomenon of drift-diving, when a diver is gently carried along by underwater currents. “It’s the most relaxing way to scuba dive,” says Sandy. She describes the beauty of drifting through caverns 130 feet underwater and emerging above ocean trenches some 3,000 feet deep. “I actually cried when it was time to come home.” #3 Bonaire – Formerly part of the Dutch Antilles and located approximately 90 miles north of Venezuela, these waters are a huge draw for European and Dutch tourists. Sandy says the calm, beautiful conditions are ideal for beginning or mid-level divers.



#4 The Islands of Los Roques, Venezuela – This region is where Sandy took her first liveaboard, a diving tour where the divers stay on a yacht that sails overnight from one dive location to another. “The liveaboards allow you to dive much farther out since you don’t have to come and go to your land accommodations,” explains Sandy.

#8 “Secret” Caribbean locations – “We are extremely lucky to live so close to the Caribbean,” says Sandy. She says the region is filled with accessible, beautiful diving spots. Many of these are well-known and well-developed, but some of her favorite spots are off the radar screen of cruise ships and casual tourists.

#5 Fiji – Sandy has made three trips to this region in the South Pacific, which divers often refer to as the soft coral capital of the world. She ranks it as one of the ultimate destinations for serious divers.

#9 Republic of Palau – The Palau island region provided a unique experience for Sandy. Here, divers swim with jellyfish colonies that have been trapped for thousands of years in inland lakes. Their habitat has helped them evolve into comparatively benign stingers that, unlike most jellyfish in the sea, pose almost no danger to humans.

#6 Beaver Lake, Arkansas – The location of Sandy’s first open water dive. It was an essential training and certification step but not necessarily a favorite diving location. #7 Red Sea – This region is known for beautiful corals, the appearance of large fish (such as sharks and manta rays) and developed diving resorts. Along with the Maldives islands off India, this is one of the top locations still on Sandy’s to-visit list. “There’s always next year,” she says.

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Events Calendar

BEST BETS in June-August 2011 June SAVOR KANSAS June (various dates and locations) – A monthlong celebration of 150 years of Kansas culture including a parade, talent show, concerts and more. For event information, see ARTSCONNECT! FIRST FRIDAYS ARTWALK June 3 (and first Friday of every month) – Topeka’s galleries, studios and public venues open to display art in a social setting from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. For a complete list of venues, see

May/June 2011

A celebration of 150 years of art, history and fun! May 27-28 May 27 June 2 June 2-4 June 3 June 3 June 3-20 June 4 & 5 June 4 & 5 June 5 June 9 June 10 June 10-17 June 11 June 11-12 June 11 June 11 June 11 June 11 June 12 June 12-18 June 15 June 15 June 16 June 17 June 17 June 18-30 June 18-19 June 18 -19 June 18 June 18 June 23 June 23-25 June 24-26 June 24 June 25 June 25 June 25 June 25 June 25

The Arab Swiner’s “ Red, White & Blue BBQ” Sunflower State Film, “Bad Company” Top City Thursday & Movie on the Lawn Ad Astra Theater Ensemble “Beyond Therapy” First Friday Artwalk Critical Mass Bike Tour TCTA’s “The Boys Next Door” KS 150th Armed Forces Celebration Mulvane Mountain Plains Art Fair Float Trips on the Kaw Top City Thursday & Movie on the Lawn Critical Mass Bike Tour Sunflower Music Festival Walking & Biking Tours from Brown v Board 3v3 Soccer Tour: “Death Becomes You” Tour: “For God’s Sake Take Cover!” Tour: “Freedom & Frontiers” Tour: “Homegrown But Rotten- Outlaws Tour” “Picnic at the Park” Negro Baseball League Games Heritage Week “The Wiz” “History in Portraits” Top City Thursdays & Movie on the Lawn Opening of the Kansas Hall of Fame Critical Mass Bike Tour Mulvane Art Museum “The Art of the Brick” Juneteenth 3v3 Basketball Tournament Essay Readings by Cheryl Unruh, “Flyover People” John Steuert Curry portrayal by Don Lambert Top City Thursday & Movie on the Lawn Ad Astra Theater Ensemble, “Reasons to be Pretty” TCTA, “The Berenstain Bears” Critical Mass Bike Tour Bob Beatty at the Curtis House Tour: “Death Becomes You” Tour: “For God’s Sake Take Cover!” Tour: “Freedom & Frontiers” Tour: “Homegrown But Rotten- Outlaws Tour”

For an up to date calendar, and complete details of each event, go to

KITE FESTIVAL June 3-5 – Topeka Kite Fliers hosts the 19th annual Twisted Lines Kite Festival with demonstrations and free coaching from professional and veteran kite fliers. Kites launch at 5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday from 21st and Urish Road. For more information, see www.topekakitefliers. com or call (785) 273-3715.

July SPIRIT OF KANSAS July 4 – Join the old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration at Lake Shawnee. The free, all-day program features crafts, car shows, water events and a fireworks display. 8 a.m.-11 p.m. FIESTA MEXICANA July 8-17 – One of the region’s biggest Mexican-American cultural celebrations benefits Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Events open with a parade and street party July 8 and the main carnival takes place July 12-16. For more information about events and locations, see www.olg-parish. org/fiesta.

August GRAPE ESCAPE August 5 – Topeka Performing Art Center’s annual wine and food festival fundraiser begins at 6:30 p.m. at 214 SE Eighth Ave. For ticket information or reservations, see or call (785) 234-2787.

GOLDEN GIANTS SEASON OPENER June 3 – Topeka’s summer collegiate baseball squad opens the 2011 season. 7:05 p.m. Lake Shawnee’s Jerry Robertson Field. For more information, see

25th ANNUAL SUNFLOWER MUSIC FESTIVAL June 10-18 – This annual series of free concerts, chamber music performances and educational events includes performances featuring young student musicians from Topeka (see article on page 46). White Concert Hall, Washburn University. For more information, see THE ART OF THE BRICK June 18-September 18 – Mulvane Art Museum hosts an exhibit by independent LEGO artist Nathan Sawaya. Visitors are encouraged to create their own LEGO art in the museum’s ArtLab. For more information, see and or call (785) 670-1124.

22nd ANNUAL SUNFLOWER STATE GAMES July 8-24 – The state’s largest amateur multisport competition brings athletes of all ages to Topeka. For a schedule and event locations, see PETER PAN July 15-August 13 – Topeka Civic Theatre closes its anniversary season with production of the musical Peter Pan. For show dates and ticket information, see or call (785) 357-5211. HULLABALOO! July 28-30 – Downtown Topeka’s annual sidewalk celebration sale features deals from more than 50 merchants from 9 a.m. to sundown. For more information, see

RAILROAD FESTIVAL August 20 – The fourth annual railroad festival features model displays, children’s activities, historical enactors and more. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Great Overland Station, 701 N. Kansas Ave. For more information, see




Topeka Magazine Summer 2011