Topeka SR 2016 vol 1

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Topeka SR is a biannual publication of Sunflower Publishing, which also releases Topeka Magazine. For questions regarding distribution, editorial stories or advertising, please contact Sunflower Publishing.

Welcome to the first issue of Topeka SR, a magazine from Sunflower Publishing and sister publication Topeka Magazine. Though Topeka SR is a new twice-yearly publication, it is also a revision of our previous version, JAAA SR, a joint publication with Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging ( JAAA) for the previous three years. In this publication, we continue to highlight work being done by JAAA—see the in-depth interview with executive director Jocelyn Lyons on pages 15-19—but whereas JAAA focuses on a three-county region, Topeka SR highlights individuals, groups and events from our city. Concentrating on Topeka allows us to draw more extensively from our award-winning lineup of photographers and writers from the capital city and their expertise in presenting the most engaging senior-themed stories. We hope you enjoy their work in this issue, and we look forward to bringing you another edition in the fall. —Nathan

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Art Director

Nathan Pettengill Jenni Leiste

Photographers Bill Stephens Contributing Linda A. Ditch Writers Marsha Henry Goff Carolyn Kaberline Copy Editor Leslie Andres



Advertising Teresa Johnson-Lewis Representatives Anna Newman (417) 237-0047 Ad Designer Shelly Bryant Jenni Leiste

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s p r i n g / s u m m e r



Senior The ageless appeal of cosplay A Veteran recalls ’44 Tips for Senior Travel Jocelyn Lyons: Age and Advocacy A Timeless Dinner Club

On the cover Barbara Haze models her Wonder Woman cosplay costume. Photograph by Bill Stephens

6 10 15 20


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Mountain Echoes

Seventy-two years later, a combat mission on the slopes of an Italian mountain remains a vivid memory for one Topeka veteran

The Enduring Legacy of Gourmet V Decades of interesting conversations, foods and fellowship have sustained a professional women’s circle

‘We Still Have the Choice’ One of the area’s leading experts on senior issues talks about independent living, resources, advocacy and wisdom

A Century of Art

For 100 years, the Topeka Art Guild has cultivated local talent and pioneered exhibitions (including the city’s first known restroom art stop)


Ageless Powers


Senior Trips

Having raised a family with superpowers, Barbara Haze goes on to create heroes for her time

Award-winning travel writer Susan Kraus provides these tips for enjoying travel in your senior years

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About the writer Story by Marsha Henry Goff Photography by Bill Stephens

Marsha Henry Goff’s interest in World War II stems from her late father’s service as a WW II Ranger who rarely spoke of his combat experiences. She says that interviewing veterans is almost like interviewing her father, something she never had the opportunity to do.


ECHOES Seventy-two years later, a combat mission on the slopes of an Italian mountain remains a vivid memory for one Topeka veteran


JayhawkSR Topeka Area Agency on Aging SR

“We were right out in the open; we couldn’t do anything in the daytime because every move you made, they knew.”


n February 1944, Crosby “Bing” Powell was deployed with the 34th Division along a vulnerable position on the exposed slope of a snowy Italian mountain range topped by the Abbey of Monte Cassino and the guns of elite German units. “We couldn’t dig for cover,” he explains, “because there was no dirt, only stone.” History reports that German field marshal Albert Kesselring informed the Allies and Vatican that German military would not occupy the abbey. “I beg to differ,” says Powell. “With binoculars, we could see the antennas sticking out of the windows.” Presumably, the antennas were on radios allowing German observers to call in artillery strikes on the Allied forces working their way up the mountain. “We were right out in the open; we couldn’t do anything in the daytime because every move you made, they knew.” By the time the four-month-long battle was over, the Germans, in a better defensive position, suffered about 20,000 dead and wounded while the Allies took an estimated 55,000 lost or wounded. One of those wounded was Powell, who was only 20 at the time. During one night, an artillery round exploded on the ground next to him, and shrapnel tore through his throat and back. A nearby soldier was more seriously wounded, so Powell dragged his semi-conscious comrade down the mountain, hoping to provide cover for them. For his selfless action, Powell was awarded a Bronze Star. He does not know the name of the soldier he rescued nor if he survived. Slung over the back of a donkey, Powell was transported down the mountain and eventually to an evacuation hospital in Africa. “Had that donkey slipped, we would have fallen 500 feet,” Powell recalls. Worse than suffering shrapnel wounds, he says, was that he had developed trench foot—an excruciatingly painful condition caused by prolonged wet and cold conditions—which turned his feet purple. Powell was in bed so long in the hospital that he had to relearn to walk once he could stand. (To this day, his feet are still so sensitive to cold that in winter he wears three pairs of socks.) When he was released from the hospital many weeks later, he was sent to Anzio beachhead, where the Germans still had the Allies pinned down. The SS Joseph H. Hollister, a troop transport ship taking him and other soldiers to the beachhead, was strafed by German aircraft. “We could hear the bullets bouncing off the ship, and we were afraid if it sank we would drown because they had locked us below deck,” Powell recalls.

Opposite: Crosby “Bing” Powell, a veteran who lives in Topeka, wears his WW II service uniform.

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Powell displays his collection of service medals and a photograph of himself taken during World War II.


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The Battle of Monte Cassino is now widely regarded as a key Allied victory, a crucial step in the capture of Rome and the end of the Axis stronghold on southern Europe. But it is also widely perceived as a victory that came at a terrible cost with blunders on the part of the Allied command that were paid for with the lives of thousands of soldiers and civilians. Powell does not seek to cast any blame for the larger decisions of the campaign, though seventy-plus years later it does still irritate him that people at home were told their troops had turkey dinners on Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. “We had a little can of hash, pork ’n’ beans or stew which we ate cold,” Powell says. Food became a priority. “I kept telling my mom that I was hungry for chocolates, so she would go stand in line at the Martha Washington Chocolate Shop and get a box of chocolates and they never got to me. Somewhere along the way, they knew what the boxes were and somebody was taking them.” Mail delivery was slow and often nonexistent on the front lines. Powell was eager to receive letters from home, particularly from Ruth Tyler, the high school sweetheart he had left behind. “We were Depression-era kids,” Powell says, “and met while working in the high school cafeteria.” They planned to wed when Powell returned, but he had vowed not to marry unless he returned whole. At the suggestion that a missing limb

likely would not have made a difference to her, Powell replies, “Probably not, but I didn’t want to be a burden to her.” Powell returned home—wounded but whole—in September 1945 to his pre-war employment at Santa Fe and a position with the Kansas National Guard. His sweetheart, Ruth, had waited for him, and they married in June 1946. The couple went on to have a daughter, Crosleen. Powell retired from the National Guard as a lieutenant colonel in 1976, and Ruth died in an auto accident on December 18, 1984. In 1986, Powell retired from Santa Fe as supervisor of the freight accounting department. Powell now works part time in the Athletic Department at Washburn University. For more than fifty years, he has been a ticket taker and usher at the university’s football and basketball games. He also served for more than 55 years on the “chain gang,” marking the position of the football after each play at Topeka High School football games. Powell has never returned to the mountains near Cassino. There were many other things to do in his life, and revisiting Italy was never a priority. But the memories of combat remain with the decorated veteran. “The war,” he says, “was an experience that I can’t say I enjoyed, but I’m glad I had it and glad it is over and I wouldn’t want to go through it again.”

Story by Linda A. Ditch Photography by Bill Stephens


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About the writer Linda A. Ditch has been a freelance writer for almost two decades. Her love for food dates back to times spent watching her grandmother cook in her farmhouse kitchen.

The Enduring Legacy of

GOURMET V Decades of interesting conversations, foods and fellowship have sustained a professional women’s circle


Members of the Gourmet V club and their guests gather at the garden of Karen Keefover.

t was a different world when The Gourmet V began to gather some 43 years ago. At first a group affiliated with the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, the Topeka group was founded as the fifth of seven clubs (hence the Roman numeral “V” in the group’s name) with the mission to promote women’s equality and education. In 1973, this meant supporting women who were breaking down barriers in the workforce—sometimes out of necessity, but often out of a desire to build a life outside of, or in addition to, the roles of mother and wife. For young women of that time, college education was still often looked upon as a “M.R.S.” degree instead of a bachelor’s of arts or science. Having lived through four decades of widespread change in society, The Gourmet V group has outlasted many of the social barriers it was formed to counter. But while five of the other six sister groups have disbanded, The Gourmet V remains one of only two Topeka-area university women’s

groups—part monthly dinner club, part social group and very much still an educational gathering. Most of the current members are educators, with a lawyer and secretary also in the mix. Not just anyone can join; the membership is capped at eight full members, and new members must be invited by one of the group and meet the criteria of being college educated. On a recent late-spring night, Karen Keefover, one of the newest members, invites everyone to her beautiful Topeka garden, offering each a glass of wine or peach sangria. The evening’s conversation covers topics from personal updates to politics, with discussions about the current menu and past meals interspersed throughout. Phyllis Kelly, a founding member, says, “We have good conversations. We may have different opinions, but it doesn’t get in the way of our enjoying the evening.” Jo Miller adds, “It’s more than just getting together for a meal. It’s the friendship. Years of good friendship. Years of good fun.” Topeka SR


Each year, the group picks an overall theme on which to base the monthly dinners. In the beginning, they explored different countries, which lasted about eight years. Then they moved on to odd holidays in a month, such as the birthdays of the Girl Scouts or Johnny Appleseed. Each host creates a booklet based on her theme, which includes the recipes for dishes being served. Tonight, Keefover’s theme is “Peaches and Chocolate.” Along with the recipes appropriate to the theme, her booklet describes how her love of gardening developed from childhood when she grew vegetables on her family’s farm to adulthood when she began participating in the annual Topeka Garden Tour. The host is in charge of creating the menu, preparing the main course and assigning the remaining recipes for other members to prepare. This evening started —PHYLLIS KELLY with appetizers of baked brie with Jezebel peaches, Irish peach gelées, and Georgia peach deviled eggs. While guests munched on the predinner morsels, Keefover finished up the main course of bourbon-laced tipsy chicken with peaches. “I don’t like to cook,” says Keefover. “I like to set the table and use my dishes. I like the entertaining part of it. The hardest thing for me to do is make the book. These ladies know what they’re doing.”

“We have good conversations. We may have different opinions, but it doesn’t get in the way of our enjoying the evening.”


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Memories, food and fellowship of likeminded professionals have formed the core of Gourmet V gatherings for more than four decades. The group’s current members include: (opposite, back row, from left) Joan Wingerson, Karen Keefover, Jan Hutt and Jo Miller; (opposite, front row, from left) Fran Lee, Shirley Linn, Judy Moler and Phyllis Kelly.

Served with the chicken is a refreshing peach and tomato gazpacho, sweet tea rice with jalapenos, peaches and pecans, and bacon and blue cheese biscuits. The meal ends with a Georgia peach trifle and spiced peach-carrot bread, served with coffee or tea. It is no easy task to host the group, but each lady seems to relish the challenge. Fran Lee says, “I think it’s quite creative. We have our themes, research them and the recipes. It’s fun to then try the sometimes unique dishes.” All of the members know demands on the women’s time make membership in a group such as the Gourmet V less of a priority. Shirley Linn says, “I joined in 1981, so Gourmet V was well organized by then. So was AAUW. It was the group to belong to if you were a college graduate. It had prestige and was well known for its members and their social philanthropic impact in the community. Today it is fairly common for women to have a college degree and be active in the community.” The feeling among the group members is that young women today juggle many of the same obligations—family, work and personal time—and face many of the same issues—unequal pay and a lack of respect in the workplace—as they did in the past. Jo Miller also notes,

“They spend much for an education and many of them face the possibility of not finding a job that will pay enough for them to recoup the expense and, at best, continue paying loans off for years while trying to cover the cost of daily living.” Joan Wingerson says, “I don’t believe that young women are less engaged in their communities, but that they want to use their time and resources to directly address such social issues as poverty, child abuse, human trafficking, education, homelessness, and other pressing needs. I hope that these younger women will also make time to explore mutual interests with friends for pleasure. Gourmet V has been a great pleasure to me for many years. I look forward to our monthly get-togethers and would miss them immensely.”

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About the writer

Story and interview by Marsha Henry Goff Photography by Bill Stephens

Marsha Henry Goff’s relationship with Jayhawk Area Agency on aging began more than a decade ago when she was appointed to the agency’s Advisory Council. She is editor of Amazing Aging, JAAA’s quarterly newsletter appearing in Kaw Valley Senior.


‘We Still Have

THE CHOICE’ One of the area’s leading experts on senior issues talks about independent living, resources, advocacy and wisdom

ew individuals in Topeka have more experience— both personal and professional—in the field of aging than Jocelyn Lyons, executive director of JAAA ( Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging). Lyons’ non-profit organization serves as the first-stop referral service for the senior populations of Shawnee, Douglas and Jefferson counties. It also advises on senior issues and advocates across the region for seniors and their caregivers. Working with seniors comes naturally for Lyons. As a child, she helped her mother care for a great-great aunt and uncle, as well as for a great-grandmother. While in high school, Lyons married her sweetheart, George, just before the Army sent him to serve in Germany. When she was only 40, with the youngest of their four children still in high school, George was diagnosed with cancer, so Lyons became her husband’s caregiver. Continuing to work, Lyons was the first hire by Donna Kidd, the initial executive director of JAAA—Lyons is only the third—on January 2, 1977. Officially she was secretary, but her duties transcended that title. After Lyons was trained by staff at the State Unit on Aging, she trained JAAA’s newly hired staff members who worked with Older Americans Act programs. Lyons served as JAAA’s program coordinator for several decades. During that time she became her family’s “go-to caregiver,” caring for her mother, who required dialysis, until her death. Driving from Topeka to Omaha on weekends, she cared for her step-father and later for her grandmother, who died at the age of 104. In 2004, Lyons was selected by her peers to serve as team leader. Promoted to executive director in 2010, she has guided the non-profit agency through a period of drastic changes in government funding, healthcare regulations and the community’s understanding of the senior population. We sat down with Lyons at her office on Topeka Boulevard to talk about what she has learned from decades of serving and advocating for the area’s senior population.

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Topeka SR magazine (SR): What do we mean when we say “senior”? Jocelyn Lyons (JL): It really varies. The definition in the dictionary may say “old,” but then you talk to persons who accept “senior” very well because they say, “I’ve earned it, I’ve earned being called ‘senior.’” And then there are some that embrace the term “senior” when it comes to that discount they receive.

SR: I’ve often said it is not chronological age, it is health. JL: It is health. When you see persons who are 85-plus years of age and still very healthy, they still do not identify themselves as being old. They will tell you, “I am not old.” So it is their health that plays a huge part in it. You may have an issue with your health. It may be diabetes, a broken hip, stroke—a number of things. There is no economic class where a health issue does not strike. A stroke does not target one certain income group. Health is the common factor.

“I like to say we can be party-crashers. When we look at the infrastructures of our communities, we like to invite ourselves to the table.” SR: A senior perk! JL: That’s right. And you know, there is a perk we receive because we’ve gone through this journey where we’ve had children and we’ve gone to restaurants where children eat free to save on that budget, and as time goes on we now have reached this age where we can receive this perk of being a senior. AARP starts identifying us at 50. For some places or issues it may be 62 or 65 or 66. For some of us, that is the time where you are now definitely eligible for your full Social Security benefits. It all depends on how you identify yourself, but there is that definition that we see as being “old,” and “senior” is not “old.”


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SR: What are differences in the senior population over past years? JL: I think it is the growing populations’ need for in-home services. Our population is aging; we have seen that. Their lifespan is longer. But at the same time, as we look at today and on into the next 15 years or so, we are going to need a large growth in in-home services. We are going to need that due to chronic illnesses. For example, as we look at diabetes. That disease and other chronic illnesses cause a number of issues that affect a person’s health and the decline in their health that is going to call for more resources. And this comes at the same time we see a decline in in-home services providers for some of our areas. SR: Why is that happening? JL: We see that more in some of our rural areas. The population decreases, so someone might have to move out of their rural area because of the lack

of resources in their community. They will go to the urban area to get the resources they need to remain in their home. SR: A chicken-or-egg problem. JL: Yes. SR: Otherwise, how is the senior population of Topeka different from the senior population of other areas? JL: As a whole, I don’t see it as different. Like the rest of the nation, our older population also continues to be employed longer. It’s not necessarily they are employed due to insurance costs, but maybe it is a job they enjoy or it may be their only social outlet they have and co-workers are “family.” But when we look at the counties we serve, I think the difference may lie in how our cities or our towns are addressing aging populations. SR: And are there overlooked issues for seniors? Is the senior population overlooked? JL: Yes. I like to say we can be partycrashers. When we look at the infrastructures of our communities, we like to invite ourselves to the table. We invited ourselves to the table with the city when they looked at pedestrian plans. I invited myself to the table when we had a major supermarket that just moved out of central Topeka, and a group convened to review the impact. I invited myself to the table to ensure representation of the older population and to point out that when that supermarket left, it not only created a very large food desert but left a big gap for a community that walked to that supermarket and relied on it for banking and postal services.

SR: When you party-crash, do you find that people making plans are oblivious to the impact on seniors? JL: In some cases, but not as a whole. I think that the city identifies it [the impact]. I think when we are working with other groups and depending on the dynamic of the group, they may not readily recognize that. SR: With the store, do you think the city recognized what it was doing to the older population? JL: Well, business is business. I think this is a case of how large corporations place their supermarkets and of looking at how a task force can bring a small grocery in. But it is something that cannot be done overnight. It is like what happened in Lawrence; it seems they will be getting a grocery store in downtown Lawrence. It took a couple of years, but it was because of the advocacy efforts and the continued work of the consumers there and the residents there as well as their city council. This situation in Topeka is new, and I’ll continue to see how we react to it. SR: Are there misconceptions of Topeka seniors that are affecting programs for them? JL: I think seniors are not commonly factored into equations. They are not taken as a population that needs to be addressed. Hence the party-crashing we do here. People overlook the needs of our older consumers. As an example, there is an organization that does a diaper drive for infants, but it is very hard for us to collect incontinence supplies for our older consumers ‌. Is it a denial? When we look at this graying population, is it a denial that we also are graying? I don’t know, but it is one that through the course of the years the older population is not considered as well as it was years ago. For example, there was The Older Americans Act implemented in 1965, but the supportive services dollars have not increased for several years. As an example, transportation for persons who are no longer able to drive and need to access vital services. Yes, there is public transportation, but it is not always available. Our communities have improved, but when people are returning to the hospital just after a hospital stay, it is often because they could not go to their follow-up medical appointment service or access a pharmacy. Those are prevention services, and we need to look at prevention. There is not enough money in preventive services.

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SR: Clearly, seniors want to stay at home and remain independent. As they age, that gets harder. And if they live alone, it’s harder yet. Some programs, such as the meal program CHAMPSS—where seniors get vouchers to eat at local restaurants—have been successful in addressing that. Can you tell about how that program began? JL: We looked at different types of programs in the nation and came across a food voucher program on the West Coast where the area agency on aging contracted with Denny’s and Perkins to provide vouchers for persons to dine at their locations. It was something that our nutrition committee and board discussed for many years. Then Johnson County developed their CHAMPSS program, so there was something in the state we could look at. Staff was asked to observe restaurant patrons, and see what I saw, ladies playing bridge, and gentlemen—there are always gentlemen in the morning enjoying their breakfast. We knew this was something that would work. We do not exist by a clock that says, “You have to eat at this time, and this is what’s on the menu for you.” We had a choice.


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There is nothing that says as we age, our choices are taken away from us. We still have the choice, with resources available to us in the communities, to stay at home, to live at home as long as we possibly can. CHAMPSS has been a super program that can demonstrate to persons that this older population still wants to be very involved and be in situations where there are intergenerational activities and they are not segregated by age, where they are not sent out to pasture. SR: We are such a mobile society. Once upon a time, families stayed put. They are not doing that anymore. You might have an older person whose children are hundreds of miles away. How do we adapt to this? JL: I think that JAAA has a very good working relationship with providers in the community. There are certain times of year when adult children return home to visit their loved one and see there has been a decline in health or issues addressing safety. When we receive a call, it is often a crisis situation. JAAA has case managers that can go out, conduct an assessment and set up a plan of care. When we have a person who

may be receiving in-home service, because of JAAA’s knowledge of resources available in the community and because we provide unbiased information, we can make referrals and explain to people what their options are to stay safely in their home. We have seen that the children have moved their loved ones into the cities, or urban areas, or even out of Kansas. But there are other avenues where they can stay in touch with their loved ones. I have an aunt who will be celebrating her 100th birthday this year, and her daughter and granddaughter and others stay in touch by Skype. But just being able to stay active as long as you can, to avoid that isolation and have that circle of friends and neighbors or someone that can look in on you. SR: A crisis is never a good time to address a problem. Is there something you can do proactively to help adult children before a crisis is there?

SR: Is that simply denial? We don’t think, “Oh, this could happen”? JL: There is a large sense of denial. We are very healthy. We are active. We are taking everything for granted … and then along comes a big health issue. We just don’t see ourselves as aging to where we may need assistance. Pride enters into it. Also our society, everything is moving, we are just so busy. And of course, with our parents. It is very true, we see our parents as living forever because we always see them as being active and very involved. SR: What are some resources all seniors should take advantage of? JL: It is never too late to change your diet and have a healthy diet. It is never too late to exercise. You don’t have to go out and lift 300 pounds. Just walk. Go out and walk. If your community is not a walkable community, then it is time to engage your city planners. It is time to get active in advocating in order to make

able to say, “We are not old, we are very much alive and we are very involved. We are your next-door neighbor. We’re the school bus driver. We are very much involved, active. We are here and we are engaged.” SR: I remember as a teenager, we didn’t like people to think all teenagers are the same. JL: Right. And that is what has happened and why we have to change our delivery of services, because not everyone is the same. We can keep some of those services. We still see them in our communities. We still see some of the congregate meals because those work for those who choose to participate at a congregate site at our senior centers. There are those who attend senior centers, but there are those who attend community centers. There are persons who are home-bound, but still providing services. They may be providing telephone reassurance services, as an example reminding

“I’ve had some great life experiences that I wouldn’t trade, from childhood and from being around my elders. I loved being around them and listening to their stories.” JL: Well, we are in the community and constantly distributing information. However, the one thing we have learned throughout the years is that if you don’t need the service, the information being communicated to you is going right past you.

your community livable, to make your community a lifetime livable community. SR: If you could change one thing about how seniors are viewed, what would that be? JL: I would “remove the box.” Our older population is put in a box. I would be

SR: Other societies really honor the experience of older people, but that’s not always true here. I have a friend who says she feels ignored because of her age. Sometimes people have a view of you—if you are gray, you are ignored. JL: Yes, but I think am very lucky to have JAAA and to be able to get to know the people I have known over the course of these years. There have been a number of great friends I have had in this population. As you grow with them and fall in love with them, it is hard when you lose them. My grandmother—who passed at 104—she just couldn’t understand why she was still around and outlived all of her friends. I understand that. Seeing that loss and having experienced that loss … sometimes you just have to refuel. I’ve had some great life experiences that I wouldn’t trade, from childhood and from being around my elders. I loved being around them and listening to their stories. I love being able to come into this position and continue to grow, to observe. This has been a great experience in my own sense of aging and in how I would want my community to look.

another homebound about taking their medication. So I want to break that box, not think that older persons are in one box. We have to change how we view things, and sometimes it is hard to break that mold.

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Story by Topeka SR Staff Photography courtesy Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library

A Century

OF ART For 100 years, the Topeka Art Guild has cultivated local talent and pioneered exhibitions (including the city’s first known restroom art stop)


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his year, Topeka marks the 100th anniversary of its most senior, continuously running art organization—TAG (the Topeka Art Guild). Formed in October 1916 as part of a national trend of local guilds inspired by the American Federation of Arts and the Kansas Federation of Art, TAG invited artists and supporters of the arts “to be practical as well as aesthetic” in promoting art shows and education for all citizens. In the current Topeka art environment, rich with organizations such as Arts Connect and NOTO as well as numerous art galleries and events, it is difficult to understand just how unique TAG would have been when it was formed. Sherry Best, curator of the Sabatini Gallery, which stores and displays TAG’s archive of art, notes that like many Midwestern cities of the time, Topeka had opera houses, theaters and art circles. But these were either commercial or very private ventures. TAG was unique in that it became a permanent organization open to the public and dedicated to sharing art with the community—and in a monumental way. The Topeka Daily State Journal reported that TAG’s first major exhibition in January 1917, at the guild’s temporary gallery in the What-Not-Shop of downtown Topeka, brought in an unprecedented amount of artwork—literally two tons—that included 5 marble pieces, 6 plasters, 10 bronze pieces and more. “It was necessary to have the building inspected to be sure it would accommodate the weight of the sculptures,” reported the paper. “One piece was so large that it could not be taken to the Guild rooms and was

displayed in the restroom of Crosby Brothers Store.” According to the organization’s official history, TAG would continue to mount other landmark exhibitions, including the first Topeka Artists’ Exhibition in 1924, the first Topeka Women Artists’ Exhibition in 1935, the first Kansas Painters’ Exhibit in 1950 and the first Topeka Amateur Artists Show in 1957. Throughout its history, the organization also sponsored regular talks featuring artists such as John Steuart Curry, Birger Sandzén and Allan Rohan Crite. In its first decades, TAG’s membership grew from the initial 16 founders to approximately 300 people. Today, membership is down to approximately 100 people—perhaps a direct reflection of the increasing number of art organizations for people to join or support. But TAG continues to display work by its members and students at its permanent gallery space in Fairlawn Plaza. The organization—which continues to include both artists and supporters of the arts—also sponsors regular master-class lectures, First Friday showings and a gathering of watercolor painters. Phyllis Cory, the organization’s centennial coordinator, says that while the Topeka arts community has evolved over the past century, TAG’s core mission remains the same—to provide a place for artists to share their work and for Topekans to share an appreciation of visual art. “It’s good to show your work, to have the opportunity to hear people’s reactions,” says Cory. “This is a community of people who enjoy art, who enjoy seeing demonstrations and talks on art and knowing what local artists are doing.”

Over the past 100 years, the Topeka Art Guild has accumulated an impressive collection of art that includes: untitled, Frank Peers (opposite); Iago, David Overmyer (upper right); and At the Close of Day, Lester A. Gillette (right). Topeka SR


Story by Carolyn Kaberline Photography by Bill Stephens

About the writer Carolyn Kaberline is a Topeka-based educator and freelance journalist whose writings have appeared in numerous publications such as Topeka Magazine and KANSAS!

Having raised a family with superpowers, Barbara Haze goes on to create heroes for her time


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Rest easy, Topeka, Crimson the Senior Crime Fighter is on the scene— brought to us by the creative mind and costuming of cosplayer Barbara Haze. Topeka SR



very superhero has an origin story. Here’s the one for Crimson— Senior Citizen Superhero. Crimson was an ordinary Kansan—going by the name of Barbara Haze— with a husband and three boys. She lived the American way of life just outside of Topeka and helped her kids through the schools and traditions, such as dressing up for Halloween. That costuming, however, got a bit more elaborate as Barbara’s three sons got older; the youngest joined a Star Wars costuming group, and the oldest became a member of the Society of Creative Anachronism, a medieval fighting and arts group where many members wear authentic armor. As the sons grew into adults, their costumes became more elaborate and their role-playing became more formalized. The young men were appearing at conventions and well known in the world of cosplay—the hobby of dressing up as a fictional character either modeled on a wellknown superhero or invented by the individual. Ever the supportive mom, Barbara continued to help sew costumes and babysit grandchildren when necessary so that her boys could enjoy their well-deserved time-off for their hobbies. Then one day, Barbara realized she, too, had super powers. They materialized about four years ago when she and her husband were visiting their son in Chicago to help him recover from surgery. “We stayed for two weeks, so to entertain myself I researched cosplay,” says Barbara. “I worked day and night and produced Crimson, Senior Citizen Superhero.” Her character was created as a hero of steampunk, a fantasy genre that blends Victorian-era culture with science fiction. She also immediately signed Crimson up for the novice fantasy division contest of the Denver Comicon. When it was time for the Denver contest, Crimson’s full costume would include a ten-


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pound backpack, mock weapons, a book detailing her history and red-dyed hair— an ensemble that helped Barbara take first place in the cosplay novice category. “After that, I was hooked and the ideas kept rolling along,” says Barbara. She has since added several other characters to her appearances, including Wonder Woman, Super Girl and Cruella De Vil. She is currently working on DiDi Pickles. Barbara also has a sidekick—a star in his own right, husband Neal. Neal’s entry into cosplay was less intentional, but equally successful. Barbara and Neal were attending a cosplay event in Detroit with their sons, and one of them had trouble with his costume. Neal rushed out to get a tool box to help fix the problem. “On the way there and back I kept being asked for my autograph. After we fixed the costume and I was on my way back to our room with the tool box, there was a person in the elevator talking on his phone who said ‘You’ll never guess who I’m in an elevator with … Stan Lee!’ He was looking straight at me.” It was at this point that Neal, who does bear an uncanny resemblance to the comic book writer responsible for Spiderman, Thor, Iron Man and other legends, decided to adopt Lee’s persona, wearing glasses and a $6.00 T-shirt similar to ones sported by the comic book writer. Neal’s minimalist costuming represents just one end of the range of cost, preparation and creativity in the cosplay world. “While many people involved in cosplay create characters that are well known, that character doesn’t have to look like the book or Hollywood version,” Neal says. “This gives people the opportunity to create their own version.” “I pick characters I might know a little about,” Barbara says, “then I research them on the internet. I especially like steampunk since I can make up characters I’d feel comfortable with.” Barbara notes she also adapts well-known characters such as Wonder Woman to fit her style—instead of wearing shorts she might wear a long skirt instead. While many people engaging in cosplay are much younger than the Hazes— Barbara is 78 and Neal is almost 81—the two believe it’s the perfect hobby for people their age. “It’s a nice hobby for those who want to get out and be with younger people,” Neal says. “It’s nice for older people because you can do as much with it as you want to. The conventions have photography, writing and many things. For me, it goes with my abilities—I like to sew, research and create something fun,” Barbara adds. “It also allows me to spend time with my sons and grandchildren.” Superhero characters, explain Neal, are a common theme and language across generations—and cosplay provides a bridge to share it. “When I was growing up, sports people were heroes,” Neal notes. “Baseball has shown a bad side at times, and so has football. Today’s comic book writers and illustrators are creating a whole new world of heroes. Cosplay is there for people to show off their creative side and to just have fun. It’s a great hobby. We show anyone can do it regardless of age. ”


1. Decide how you will create it. You can buy a costume, but making your own allows for more creativity. This is easier since some pattern companies sell bodysuit and period-clothing costuming.

Barbara Haze as Crimson

Neal Haze as Stan Lee


1. Attend a convention to see what they are really like. The Hazes suggest two local cons: TopCon held in September of each year at the Ramada Topeka Downtown Hotel & Convention Center and Empower ComicCon held in February. 2. Talk to some cosplayers and ask questions. Most enjoy talking about their characters and hobby and are an excellent source of information. 3. Think about your own set of skills—whether those skills are in sewing, crafting, photography, collecting, designing, researching or something else—and integrate these into your costume and character. 4. Talk with your grandchildren. They will know all about the characters you could be—and if they don’t know, then educate them right along with yourself. 5. Remember, you’re doing this for yourself. “As senior citizens,” says Neal, “we all need to have interests that keep us young at heart.”

2. Make a budget. Some cosplayers spend thousands of dollars on their costumes, but others can create enthralling and cheap costumes from thrift-store selections. Barbara’s DiDi Pickles costume, for example, consists mostly of a thrift-store dress, a one-dollar bracelet and a bead necklace she already owned. 3. Appeal to the senses. Some of the best costumes appeal to all senses with lights and sound effects. 4. Don’t confuse it with Halloween. Halloween costumes are too often store bought and are less important than the party to which they are worn. In cosplay, the costume shares top billing. 5. Choose a costume and character you’ll be comfortable—or just on the edgy side of comfortable—playing. 6. Realize everyone does it— intentionally or not. “People are in costume all the time if you think about it,” Barbara says, noting that you can see people every day wearing work uniforms, sports jerseys or a suit and tie. Why not costume up for fun once in a while?

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Story by Susan Kraus

About the writer Susan Kraus is an award-winning travel writer and former Menninger Clinic staff member who believes that travel itself is a type of therapy.


TRIPS Award-winning travel writer Susan Kraus provides these tips for enjoying travel in your senior years


ere’s the big picture to remember. Age these days is more fluid. It is no longer defined by our eligibility for Social Security or what television shows (if there was television) we watched as a child. Instead, our mobility and health often predict where we are on the spectrum between “young-old” and “oldold.” We know our capabilities and are the best judges of what is possible and what is not possible because of our age. For those of us who are fully mobile and nearing (or in) the senior age categories, these years can be the best time of our lives to travel. The world has decided by and large that older people are less of a threat. Strangers in distant parts of the globe are more likely to talk with us, assist us or tell us about their lives. We have nothing to prove to ourselves or the world at large—we can simply enjoy seeing it. Here are seven tips for traveling the world as a senior and getting the most satisfaction from it.

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Get medical evacuation insurance. This is at the top of my list. If you lose your luggage, you end up spending a bit more on items and might have to spend an extra day in the hotel. But if you have a medical emergency in Singapore, you end up becoming the parent or grandparent who caused the family crisis because of your $100,000 emergency evacuation bill. The concern here is not a minor fall but a stroke, car accident or medical crisis that requires hospitalization, surgery or even a flight back to the U.S. in an air ambulance. These policies usually cover the cost of flying a family member or friend to be with you and fly back with you. Note: All insurance is not equal. In particular, you don’t want an insurance policy that requires you to pay


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up front and then file for reimbursement. (How will you pay up front if you are unconscious or somewhere you don’t speak the language?) I like MedJet Assist, but there are age limits. Look at options at www., but then call so that you can go over your health and travel plans and get recommendations for the best coverage for the lowest cost. Some of these are policies issued for a year, and they can be real bargains if you travel frequently. 2.

Duplicate and laminate essential documents. This is a good idea at any age, but seniors tend to actually follow this advice whereas the young not so. You should have multiple copies of your passport and insurance information, and laminate them on neon-colored paper,

which is more easily visible if someone else is looking for them while you are while you are lying on the pavement. I also recommend carrying around a laminated card with essential phrases and embassy numbers. Phones die or break. Paper rips. Laminated cards are easy to locate. 3.

Pack light. Can you carry your own luggage up three flights of stairs? If not, compress. Your carry-on bag should include a change of clothes and shoes, all your medications, a copy of any prescriptions you take (be sure to have your pharmacist provide you with the generic name of all your medications because the brand name here might not be the same abroad) and extra eyeglasses. IKEA has nylon backpacks and totes for $1 to $4, great for excursions, beach or shopping, that weigh

almost nothing and take up no space. 4.

Do your research before you travel. Look for reviews that are specific to seniors, such as the AARP online review of destinations. If you have mobility issues, then research locations and venues based on “disability access.” Being a senior is not, of course, a disability, but if a location has good reviews for being disability-friendly, then it is generally a good bet for seniors with mobility concerns. 5.

Pester (politely, of course) your hotel before booking. Though they do not commonly advertise it, most large hotels have wheelchairs available for use without charge— which can be a good thing if you or someone

in your party requires one. If you do not think you can handle stairs, be sure that the hotel has elevator access (smaller European hotels will commonly have three floors without an elevator) or can guarantee you a ground floor booking. 6.

Ask for senior discounts. While some countries require residency for discounts, others do not. Rail travel in Europe is reduced for seniors … but you have to ask when purchasing a ticket. In England, the magic words are “Do you have concessions?” 7.

Do not stay home out of fear. This is the best time (and only time) we have to get out in the world and have a few adventures. So, fly away!

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