Archive for the Obituary Category

Frank Evans, R.I.P.

Posted in Baseball, Kentucky History, Louisville History, Louisville News, Obituary, Sports with tags , , , , , on August 10, 2012 by othersideoflife

(undated picture of Frank Evans from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.)

The Courier-Journal is reporting that Frank Evans, former Louisville Redbirds coach and Negro League phenom, has died:

Frank Evans, a former coach for the Louisville Redbirds and a former Negro League Player, died Aug. 3 in Auburn, Ala. He was 90 years old.

Evans worked under manager Jim Fregosi in 1984 and 1985 when Louisville won consecutive American Association championships.

Evans’ playing career spanned from 1937 through 1965 as an outfielder, first baseman, and catcher. He played for the Memphis Red Sox, Kansas City Monarchs, Detroit Stars, Cleveland Buckeyes, Birmingham Black Barons, and Philadelphia Stars.

Some choice quotes from Evans about his career in baseball are at his player profile page at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum site:

“We took a lot of abuse, stuff that people wouldn’t know about these days, but we were one family. We were the nice guys who finished last except on the field.”

Evans said that the big losers in those days were the white baseball fans. “They didn’t know what they were missing. They talk about all the great hitters – Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. They don’t ever talk about Josh Gibson, the greatest home run hitter of all time. Josh could hit a home run with one hand. I was there. I saw him do it. They talk about the great base runners, but they don’t talk about “Cool Papa” Bell, the greatest of them all. They talk about the great pitchers, but most of them never saw Satchel Paige . I admired him because he threw strikes. He was always around the plate. He had absolute control, and he did it for more than 50 years.”

Evans was a journeyman who played catcher, first base, outfield, and, occasionally, pitcher. However he was well-known around baseball for being one of the best hitting instructors of his day.

Kaelin’s Restaurant, the Birthplace of the Cheeseburger, Closes… for Remodeling?

Posted in Economics, Food, Louisville History, Louisville News, Obituary on March 1, 2009 by stateofthecommonwealth

(Kaelin’s, and their famous “Please WAVE” sign, from lie_inourgraves’ photostream on Flickr.)

According to a thread on the Louisville HotBytes forum, Kaelin’s Restaurant — allegedly the birth place of the cheeseburger, opened in 1934 — closed for good last night. We haven’t seen confirmation from any local media just yet, and their web site is still active, but the HotBytes forum is usually a good authority on such matters.

Needless to say, the closing of a great Louisville institution is something we’re not thrilled about. When we find out more details online, we’ll update this post.

UPDATE, 10:45 PM: It appears we may have been misinformed as to the permanence of Kaelin’s closing. Michelle at Consuming Louisville informs us that Kaelin’s is closing for renovations. We can only assume for now that means an updated Kaelin’s.

Simpsonville Slaughter Historical Marker to be Dedicated Sunday

Posted in Happenings, Kentucky History, Kentucky News, Kentucky Small Towns, Obituary, Transportation on January 20, 2009 by stateofthecommonwealth

(Marker image from 5th Regiment Cavalry, United States Colored Troops site.)

On Sunday, out in Simpsonville just east of Louisville, a new historical marker will be dedicated along U.S. 60, telling the tale of the “Simpsonville Slaughter” that occurred in 1865. We’ll admit, we’d never even heard of this terrible part of our nation’s history until we read the Courier-Journal‘s story on the dedication this morning:

A historical marker noting a Civil War massacre called the Simpsonville Slaughter will be dedicated Sunday along U.S. 60 at Webb Road, one-half mile west of Simpsonville.

On Jan. 25, 1865, while driving a herd of cattle to a slaughterhouse in Louisville, elements of the 5th U.S. Colored Cavalry were attacked near Simpsonville by Confederate guerillas.

Twenty-two soldiers were killed and at least 20 others wounded, including four of whom died later of their wounds.

The cavalry was based at Camp Nelson, and nearly all of the soldiers were former slaves.

The ceremony dedicating the marker will be at 2 p.m. on the 144th anniversary of the incident.

The ceremony, which is open to the public, will begin indoors at the Whitney M. Young Job Corps Center gymnasium; the center is just off U.S. 60.

The marker will then be unveiled at the intersection, less than a quarter-mile from the center.

The keynote speaker at the 2 p.m. service will be W. Stephen McBride, director of interpretation and archaeology at the Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park in Jessamine County. Civil War re-enactors will participate in the ceremony.

Jerry Miller, the volunteer Simpsonville Slaughter project manager with the Shelby County Historical Society, said most of the victims of the attack were buried in a mass grave near the site of the ambush and near where the marker will be erected.

Pretty interesting stuff, to be sure! There’s much more information available both at the 5th Regiment Cavalry site and at the Camp Nelson site.

Park Place and Browning’s To Close

Posted in Baseball, Development, Drink, Economics, Food, Labor, Louisville News, Obituary on October 13, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

(above photo of Browning’s Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout from Chicagoist)

In a related development to our post about West Main Street from last week, Consuming Louisville is reporting this morning that Saturday was the last night of business for the Park Place and Browning’s restaurants and microbrewery, located in Slugger Field on East Main Street:

I got a press release over the weekend saying that Saturday night (October 11, 2008) was the final evening in business for both Park Place and Browning’s down on Main. This is really sad news for an area that’s already taken some big hits recently in terms of food (Primo, Market on Market) and just general business (Baer Fabrics). The key quote in the press release was from the general manager of both restaurants who said:

“Although we have seen a steady increase in business, we feel the current state of our national economy will prove to prohibit the sustainability of our success. We are extremely grateful to all of our supporters and will miss them at our tables.”

This is bad news for Main Street east of 2nd, as well as for beer lovers in the Louisville area. We had a couple pints of Browning’s She-Devil Imperial Pale Ale on Friday night at the Zeppelin Cafe in Schnitzelburg, but still hadn’t had the chance to dine at the Slugger Field restaurants. We work just a block away (full disclosure: for one of Park Place/Browning’s vendors), and we’re saddened by this abrupt and jarring news. We really wanted to try the food out, as well as the other beer selections.

Remembering Henry West

Posted in Environment, Happenings, Kentucky News, Kentucky Small Towns, Obituary on September 29, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

(Above photo of Henry West from the Advocate-Messenger in Danville.)

On Saturday we went to the funeral of Henry West, in Lancaster. Henry, a distant cousin of ours, died suddenly on Wednesday evening while working on his farm just outside of Paint Lick. Here’s the full story from the Advocate-Messenger:

PAINT LICK – Henry West, a prominent Garrard County farmer who played a large role in the federal tobacco buyout, died Wednesday. He was 64 and just a couple of weeks ago had been the parade grand marshal for Garrard County’s Rural Heritage Festival.

“Henry was one of those unique people who just possessed all the traditional values you look for in rural America – family, church and land – and he dedicated his life to all three,” said Mike Carter, former Garrard County agricultural agent.

West had served as president for both the Burley Tobacco Council and the Burley Tobacco Co-op. He was instrumental in sparking the charge for the landmark $9.6 billion federal tobacco buyout and forged many relationships with important figures to see it through.

“Henry made himself a personal friend to politicians. He worked hard with senators and congressmen,” said Carter.

Carter, who served as ag agent for 31 years before retiring in June, was both a professional and personal friend to West. Carter said West’s work and dedication to Garrard County will be felt for many years to come.

‘Henry was just an outstanding leader’

West was a selfless man, who always considered the benefit of Garrard countians above his own personal gain.

“Henry was just an outstanding leader. He really had a passion for doing whatever he felt was best for the average tobacco farmer,” said Carter.

Carter’s role as an extension agent allotted him a close, personal working relationship with West, a cattle and tobacco farmer who owned and operated Henry West Farms in Paint Lick.

West and his wife, Peggy, had three children, and Carter said it was a privilege to see them grow up and participate in the 4-H program.

Faith was also integral to West, being a lifelong and active member of Paint Lick United Methodist Church.

Outside of family, church and the land, West had another passion, according to Carter: the Kentucky Wildcats.

West’s son had been a standout quarterback for Garrard County and played at the University of Kentucky. West himself also was a stellar player for the old Paint Lick High School back in his day, said Carter.

“You ask anyone of the top five players from (the 1960s) in the area, and Henry West’s name will always come up,” he said.

West’s unexpected death leaves a void in the community where he was well-liked and well-respected.

“It’s odd, because in a time just like this, we would all go to Henry for strength, advice and support. Right now, this loss is unspeakable for Garrard County,” said Carter.

The Lexington Herald-Leader also ran a short piece on Henry.

(Gonna drop the third-person for a little bit…)

Though I only got to meet Henry a handful of times, I can’t think of a person I’ve known over my lifetime who has struck me with their generosity and kindness as much as Henry West. As a kid, every once in a while when we’d be on a family trip to Berea or Cumberland Falls State Park or other places in and around that part of the state, we’d drop in on Henry’s farm, and no matter what he and Peggy and the kids were in the middle of, they’d drop it immediately. The West family’s warmth and generosity never flagged or faltered, and some of my favorite memories are of visiting the farm, and of Henry’s great smile (as you can see above) and his laugh.

One of the other major things that struck me about Henry, evident to me even when I was a little boy, was his love of the land. We may have been city slickers visiting from big, dirty Louisville, but Henry would take the time to show us the farm, and explain what he was working on, from harvesting tobacco to raising cattle. His enthusiasm for what he was doing was inspiring and infectious.

I last saw Henry at a family reunion we held at Cumberland Falls during Thanksgiving in 2005, while I was still living in New York. He was as friendly and warm as ever, and I regret that in this past year that I’ve been back in Kentucky, I didn’t take the opportunity to visit Paint Lick and the Wests.

On Saturday Henry was buried in the Manse Cemetery in Paint Lick (a fascinating and beautiful place which includes the graves of Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers). On Kentucky State Road 52 to the cemetery from Lancaster, the funeral procession stretched at least two miles long, as Henry’s many friends and family came to pay their respects. As the burial began, the clouds which had covered the sky all day began to dissipate, and a beautiful sun came through, while geese on the other side of the hill from the cemetery honked and scattered. It was beautiful and touching, and I will miss Henry West.

Biking In Louisville: Still Unsafe, Part Two

Posted in Louisville News, Obituary, Transportation on July 17, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

The Courier-Journal is reporting that a bicyclist was killed this morning on the Outer Loop:

A bicyclist was killed in an early-morning collision on Outer Loop at the Interstate 65 overpass, a police spokesman said.

The bicyclist, a man who appeared to be in his early 40s, was traveling westbound on Outer Loop at the time of the accident, said Officer Phil Russell, the Louisville Metro Police spokesman.

A preliminary investigation indicates that a mid-1990s Honda Accord driven by a man in his mid 30s was following a tractor-trailer in the left lane, Russell said. The motorist apparently switched into the right lane to go around the semi and struck the bicyclist, who was traveling in the right lane, he said.

Police are investigating, and “one westbound lane (of Outer Loop) is shut down” at the interstate overpass, Russell said just after 7:30. 

If and when we get more updates, we will post them. If you either drive a car or ride a bike, please BE AWARE and SHARE THE ROAD.

UPDATE, 9:25 PM: The Courier-Journal has identified the cyclist:

The victim is Vance Kokojan, 42, of Louisville, who lived in the 1800 block of Deer Park Avenue, said Gayle Norris, Jefferson County deputy coroner.

Norris said Kokojan was on his way to work at UPS when the accident occurred.

Kokojan, who was pronounced dead at the scene, died of multiple blunt force injuries, Norris said.

The identity of the operator of the car has not been released because no charges have been filed against the driver, said Officer Phil Russell, spokesman for LMPD.

Ferd Grisanti’s Closed Forever

Posted in Drink, Economics, Food, Labor, Louisville News, Obituary on June 26, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

Ferd Grisanti's

(above photo of Ferd Grisanti’s from

Yes, we’ve been away from the computer for far too long, and we do apologize. But we’re back, at least for a little bit today, and though it’s a few days old, we thought we’d update with the news about one of our all-time favorite restaurants, Ferd Grisanti’s, closing its doors (from the Courier-Journal):

Ferd Grisanti Restaurant, a fixture on Taylorsville Road in Jeffersontown for 35 years, has closed, its owner confirmed yesterday.

“We succumbed to high gas prices and the struggling economy,” said Rodney Rupp, who bought the 170-seat restaurant from Paul and Vince Grisanti in January 2007.

The business was founded in 1973 by the Grisantis’ father, Ferd, who got into the restaurant business when he and his brother Albert opened Casa Grisanti on Liberty Street in 1959.

Most of the Ferd Grisanti patrons, who for years had come there for fine dining, had scaled back their ordering habits, Rupp said. He said patrons told him they had less disposable cash because of increases in the cost of living.

“Many were splitting half portions of alfredo and vermicelli” instead of ordering the more expensive items, he said.

Rupp, who said that his losses from the restaurant are “well over $200,000,” first noticed the downturn in business in October.

Business was down 30 percent to 40 percent in March and April over previous years, Rupp said. And May, which is historically its best month because of Kentucky Derby traffic, wasn’t any better.

Rupp closed Ferd Grisanti on June 8 because he didn’t think that the business could survive the summer.

While he owned the restaurant business, he didn’t own the building. It is owned by Joan Grisanti, widow of Ferd Grisanti, who died in 1993.

Paul Grisanti, 53, said last night that the future is uncertain for the property at 10212 Taylorsville Road.

His family is “still weighing our options,” he said, although he declined to specify what they may include.

Such a shame. When we were kids, Ferd’s was our favorite place to go (on the rare times we got to eat there), and we remember Ferd being a smiling, friendly presence in the dining room — and the food was fantastic. We were hoping to get out to J-Town for a meal at Ferd’s sometime this year (it’s kind of a long drive from our house), but alas it was not to be.