Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Local Woman Found Dead in Aspen Mountains

A woman who grew up in Cincinnati and graduated from Cincinnati Country Day School was identified as one of the two people found dead in the mountains in Aspen Tuesday, WCPO reports.

The Aspen Times reports that Carlin Brightwell and her boyfriend, Ryan Marcil, were found dead below the summit on the north face of Capitol Peak.

Brightwell's cousin, Karsten Head Ritter of Fort Thomas, posted on Facebook, asking for any information on her whereabouts and suggesting they may have stayed near the peak for the solar eclipse.

Brightwell -- who also went by "Carly" -- graduated from Country Day in 2008, according to her Facebook page. Her sister, Sidney Brightwell, graduated from Country Day in 2005, also according to Facebook. Both sisters were living in Aspen at the time of Carlin Brightwell's death.

Brightwell and Marcil were reported missing Sunday night, the Aspen Times reports. Sidney Brightwell posted on Facebook, asking for any information on her sister and suggesting they may have stayed near the peak for the solar eclipse.

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The search didn't begin until early Tuesday morning, according to the Aspen Times, because the couple's plans were "tentative."

"Because the plans were somewhat tentative and there was no confirmed medical emergency, it was decided that the urgency to initiate a search was not great," according to a Sheriff's Office statement Tuesday evening. "By Monday evening when the couple had not yet returned the urgency increased."

Holly Riffe Named NKU Outstanding Professor

Northern Kentucky University celebrated the beginning of a new academic year with the Fall Convocation address on Friday, August 18.

Interim President Gerard St. Amand welcomed the NKU community back to campus and celebrate the university’s successes over the past year.

St. Amand conferred the Frank Sinton Milburn Outstanding Professor award to Dr. Holly Riffe, Professor of Social Work in the College of Education and Human Services.

Riffe is a Fort Thomas resident.

The Dance Realm Studios | Open Registration | August 29 | 6:00-7:30

For a list of classes, please check their website at
8 Highland Avenue, Fort Thomas, Kentucky 41075

Brent Cooper Named Northern Kentucky Chamber President

Fort Thomas Resident Named 6th President & CEO of NKY Chamber of Commerce

Brent Cooper has been named the President and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. He had been filling in for Trey Grayson in an interim role after Grayson resigned in May. 

Cooper, 47, who has led Covington-based C-Forward Information Technologies since he founded the company at age 29 and who has twice served as interim Chamber president, was chosen following a thorough vetting and interview process of numerous outstanding candidates managed by the Cincinnati executive search firm Centennial Inc.

"I am honored, humbled and grateful to be selected to lead an organization that I admire and that has been a part of my life for years," Cooper said. "I know from experience that the Chamber is a successful, committed and tireless advocate for the business community.

"As we look forward to the Chamber celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019, I stand ready to provide the same type of focused and engaged leadership that has been the hallmark of past Chamber presidents," Cooper said.

Cooper will maintain ownership in C-Forward but has turned over day-to-day operations to his management team.

Ladybirds Take Care of Ladycats

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands senior Isabella Thomas makes a move in a recent game. 
The Highlands Ladybirds (3-1 overall) had little trouble dispatching the Newport Ladycats, 15-0 in one half Monday at Tower Park to open 36th District play.

WATCH: Highlands Middle School Student Gets Pulled Up To Play Live With Green Day

 Surprise Occurs Thanks to Random Act of Kindness

Sadie Aseere comes face to face with her idol, Billy Jo Armstrong (provided)
 by Colin Moore

When you’re eleven, getting to see your favorite band play live is a pretty huge deal. Having great tickets and being right in front of the stage would be even bigger. But getting to meet them on stage and play with them live? That’s bigger than a solar eclipse, it's a one in a million event. Sadie Aseere from Fort Thomas, a sixth grader at Highlands Middle School, had just that once in a lifetime experience this past weekend when she played guitar live on stage with her idols, rock megastars Green Day, in front of around 20,000 music fans at Riverbend Music Center.

Sadie and Jenni, her Mom, are both big Green Day fans. “I grew up listening to them, Sadie surprised me two or three years ago by saying “There’s this band that I like,” and I already knew all the songs and most of the words.” Jenni and her husband Dan had bought Sadie tickets to see Green Day at Riverbend as a reward for getting straight As last year at Woodfill Elementary.

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The fact that Sadie was in a position to be asked up on stage was the culmination of a series of random acts of kindness. The Aseeres had tickets further back in the arena. Then Carley and Rick Jamie and their daughter Kate, also a sixth grader at HMS, stepped in, “They had Lawn Lounge tickets and said to us, “Get rid of your tickets and come with us. There are free drinks and food and the girls will be somewhat out of the way.” So we were really there as their guests.”

Once they got to Riverbend they got even luckier, thanks to a random act of kindness from another concert-goer. “A random gentleman came up to Sadie and Kate Jamie and said “I’ve got two tickets right at the front that you can have if you want.” They turned to their Dad’s and said “Can we go?” We said yes and they made their way right up to the front of the stage, which was why Billy Joe was able to catch a glimpse of her later on.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Plummer Replaces Dowling as City Administrator

The City of Union has hired David Plummer to serve as City Administrator.

Plummer replaces CAO Matthew Dowling, who resigned to accept the same position with the City of Elsmere, Kentucky in February.

Matt Dowling. Provided. 
“David is exactly what we were looking for in a candidate,” said Mayor Larry Solomon.  “We were impressed by his experience and his enthusiasm for the position.  We look forward to a long-term relationship with him guiding our city forward.”

Plummer’s main focus will be on economic development and public works, in addition to day-to-day city management.

Plummer comes to Union from Moscow, Ohio, where he served as Village Administrator for the past two years.  In that position, he performed a variety of functions, including managing village staff, overseeing the operation of the village’s waste water treatment system, and serving as village zoning officer.

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Prior to his work in Moscow, Plummer spent eight years working with the Campbell County Fiscal Court, serving as the solid waste coordinator and administrative analyst.  In that time, he implemented and directed a variety of waste and litter projects throughout Campbell County, in addition to managing the solid waste budget for the county.  He also served as the primary contact for the county web inquiry system, and served as a grant writer and public information officer for the solid waste department.

Highlands Theatre Department Fundraiser this Saturday

Taste of the Season is almost here.

The event, which benefits the Highlands Theatre Program, takes place on August 26th from 7-11 p.m. at the Highlander Event Center.  The evening promises plenty of great food and drink, music and dancing, silent auction, and convenient parking.

This is the primary event to raise funds to provide costumes, technical support, and many other items needed to produce high quality student theatre productions at Highlands Middle School and Highlands High School.

Taste of the Season features an array of delicious tastings from local restaurants and other vendors, live music by The Leftovers, performances by the HHS theatre students, and one-of-a-kind silent auction.

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Dinner by the Bite is being provided by Fessler’s Pizza & Legendary Hoagies, Nittha Siam Kitchen, Flipdaddy’s Burgers & Beer, Chick-Fil-A, Midway Café, Oakley Pub & Grill, York Street Café, and Colonel De’s Gourmet Herbs & Spices, to name a few.

Fort Thomas Man Conquers Mount Rainier and So Much More

Mount Rainier. Courtesy Jason Weier
I can imagine Edmund Hillary sitting around one day staring at Mount Everest and saying to a friend something like, “Hey, what do you think is up there? What do you say we go up and have a look?”  And so he did. That strikes me how a lot of adventures begin.

Jason Weier, 39, and his brother, Jeff, 35, just returned from an expedition up Mount Rainier.  Some significant adventures begin rather casually and dismissively.

Jason Weier says, ”Actually two years ago a friend asked me to climb and I said ‘No. No. No chance I was going to climb it. I wasn’t interested.’  I like to do the hiking and everything else but that was a whole different level.” But once a great notion has been planted, though, it just needs a little nudge.

Weier continues, “So my little brother called me in September and said, ‘I just signed up to climb Mt Rainier.’ 

I said, ‘You're nuts. Good luck.’ 

“So do you want to do it with me?’ he asked. 

So when he put that offer on the table, I said, ‘Well, let me think about it.’ You know, I wasn’t in shape. So Heidi (wife) and I talked about it because the training would be a 5 day a week commitment for 9 months. I thought it would be fun to do it with my brother. It would be cool. So I called him back and told him I’m in!”

“It wasn’t on my bucket list. But I thought it would be awesome to climb it with him and train with him,” he says. And so the adventure begins.

Monday, August 21, 2017

PICTURES: The Great American Eclipse

Pictures by Dr. Karen Cheser, Fort Thomas Independent Schools Superintendent and Mark Collier.

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Heidi Neltner and Dr. Dawn Laber. 

WATCH: Dr. Josiah Young Talks About Eclipse

Start time in northern Kentucky: 1:01 p.m.
Peak time in NKY: 2:29 p.m.
End time in NKY: 3:52 p.m.

Opticare Vision Centers optometrist, Dr. Josiah Young has a message for parents here:

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RELATED: EVERYTHING you need to know about how Fort Thomas Independent Schools is handling the eclipse 

'A Letter To Michelle'

By Nick Stegner

The sun is shining today yet a darkness still looms
Heartache, loss, anger consumes
Confusion wraps the wanting eye
You’ve earned your wings…embrace and fly
Youth eternal, an endless smile on your face
Tripping on each moment we try to retrace
Questions unanswered and pain to conceal
Comfort in silence, words can never heal
It’s like catching a butterfly as the wind blows
Frustration swells and the pain of loss grows
A priceless stone was held tight with love
Now an angel dancing eternal above
A life that touched many, a smile that was true
A rhyme with a reason now written for you
Watching over us in our dreams and from above
You are the air we breathe…a mother’s precious love
Happy High Five Friday, Michelle!

A Local Story: Bike Helmets Save Lives

Gracie Leftin practices helmet safety while riding her scooter.
What was a relaxing day on summer vacation turned into an event the Leftins of Fort Thomas will never forget.

The Leftins 8-year-old daughter, Gracie was out for a ride on her scooter when she hit some uneven pavement and fell to the ground hitting face first. Katy, her mother who was on a bike ride ahead got the call from the relative who was with Gracie and remembers hearing the ambulances, rushing back and seeing her daughter scared with no color in her lips.

"It was one of the most frightening moments as a mom," Leftin said.

At the scene, paramedics and police officers thanked Gracie for having her helmet on and commented that it probably saved her life and from more serious injuries. Fortunately, Gracie only suffered some cuts and scrapes to her face and hands. At the hospital, Leftin said the nurses and doctor also thanked Gracie for wearing her helmet.

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Although Leftin says she often let Gracie take her scooter out at home without a helmet, she now says never again. She and her husband also plan on buying helmets because they are not just for kids. This incident has made them realize how extremely important bike and scooter helmet safety is. Leftin also commented she often observes kids in the neighborhood riding in the street without them.

According to statistics, helmets reduce the risk of severe brain injuries up to eighty percent and the odds of head, face or neck injury by 33 percent.

The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that in 2015 in the United States, more than 1000 bicyclists died and there were almost 467,000 bicycle related injuries.

Wearing a properly fitted helmet and following bike/scooter safety procedures such as riding in a bicycle lane where possible can greatly reduce these stats.

Although it is not illegal not wearing a helmet, Lt. Rich Whitford of the Fort Thomas Police Department says he encourages everyone to wear a helmet.

"Helmets protect bike accidents in 8 out of 10 wrecks involving head injuries, said Whitford.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Highlands-Cooper Sidebar

Bluebird Defensive Improvements Show in Win

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands senior defensive back Joe Steiden (27) records one of his four interceptions against Cooper on Friday. That is a new school record for most interceptions in a game.
PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands Head Coach Brian Weinrich (center) goes over strategy with Highlands senior defensive lineman Nick Biltz (77) and the defense Friday. The Bluebirds did a great job swarming to the ball all game defensively.
It turned into a performance for the ages for the Highlands defense Friday.

Highlands-Cooper Game Story

Bluebirds Revert to Old Form in Season Opener

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands junior Cooper Schwalbach (middle) powers his way through two Cooper defenders on his way to the end zone for a five-yard touchdown with 2:50 left in the second quarter. Schwalbach earned the team's Most Valuable Player award rushing for 150 yards on 29 carries and four touchdowns in the 42-22 Bluebird victory.
UNION - The defense came out and quickly showed it is many miles ahead of last year.

It just took some time for the offense to catch up. When that happened, the Highlands Bluebirds football team played up to its reputation of dominant football. Highlands pulled away in the third quarter for a 42-22 victory over the host Cooper Jaguars.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Bellevue Police Chief Wayne Turner Named Chief of the Year

Bellevue Police Chief Wayne Turner, a Fort Thomas resident, was recently named the Chief of the Year by the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police at their annual conference in Paducah, Kentucky.

Tuner has built an exemplary 32-year career in law enforcement, serving as the Chief of Police at his current agency for the past five years following a two decade career as a lawman in Fort Thomas, Kentucky.

Additionally, he has also served more than 24 years in the United States Army and Marine Corps, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and serving under General David Petraeus in Iraq.

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Chief Turner is a combat veteran who was awarded a bronze star for his actions in Iraq.  He served first as a warfighter and later as a peacekeeper and peacemaker helping restore law and order to a violent war torn country. In 2017, Chief Turner was inducted into the Kentucky Veterans Hall of Fame culminating in a formal ceremony at the Capitol rotunda in Frankfort.

Belladance to Try A Few New Moves

Belladance takes on NYC.
The earliest records of dancing date back to 3300 BCE but despite more than 5,000 years of history, Belladance is trying a few new moves!

Belladance, owned and operated by Fort Thomas mother-daughter duo Julie and Bella Keller, has had an exceptional first year and finds itself expanding its facility and also its class offerings.

The currently vacant first floor of the Hiland Building will soon become additional studio space for the Kellers and other members of the Belladance team.  The additional space will allow them to offer a warmer welcome to the dancers as they enter the first floor and will also give them more flexibility in their studio space. Coincidentally, the space is also where Keller had her first ever dance class as a young student.

Perhaps more excitingly, Kristen Smith who danced this past season with the Cincinnati Ballet will begin offering adult ballet classes this fall at the studio.

However, the “most exciting and incredibly fun course that (Belladance is) offering”, according to Keller, is a tap class exclusively for boys called Tap Dogs.

Following the success of their summer classes geared toward aspiring male dancers, the Kellers have decided to expand to reach this underserved demographic.  Kelly Kuhnhein, Fort Thomas mother of three boys, two of whom participated in the summer tap instruction, said of the class, “It was a really great introduction to dance for my sons and it was so fun watching not only their skills develop, but also their love for and appreciation of the tap dance art form.” Teacher Maria Massa was more impressed with the way these young men presented themselves in class. "They listened and retained information so well and their unique presence made dance class that much more fun!"

Tap Dogs 
Keller is equally as excited for the new class based on the experience she had over the summer watching the boys learn tap skills with some of their favorite movie soundtracks playing in the background including Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Batman.  John Kuhnhein, one of the students, said, “I loved performing the tap steps for an audience (...and) it was great to dance with my cousins and the other boys.
Ben Kuhnhein dances during Tap Dogs.
In addition, the young studio is celebrating a successful run at the New York World Dance Championships. Belladance streamed the competition live on Facebook where more than 5,000 people watched the competition team perform an exceptional tap routine before a large crowd and professional judges.  Keller was thrilled with the performance of her team, calling it the “Best Birthday Present Ever!”  

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Keller went on to say, “the senior girls exemplify the true meaning behind ‘team effort’; they work together like an incredibly well-oiled machine. They made their robes, do each other’s hair and makeup, made tie-dye shirts (…) and truly care about one another.”  Bella Keller stated that "this past year has been unimaginable! There were so many times in New York where we girls would just stop, look at each other, and say "Can you believe we are actually here!?" To think that this is just the beginning is so crazy. I'm even more excited than ever to see where this studio adventure takes us!" For many of the girls on the team, the highlight of this trip (aside from dancing) was the private tour of Radio City Music Hall to see where the Rockettes perform; in addition, many members of the team were able to catch Broadway musicals, including ‘Chicago’, ‘Kinky Boots’, and even ‘Hamilton’.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fort Thomas Police Need Your Help To Identify Theft Suspect

Fort Thomas Police are investigating a theft caught on video at Top This Donut Bar in Fort Thomas that occurred on Monday, August 14 around noon.

Top This is located at 18 N. Fort Thomas Avenue in The Hiland Building.

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The theft of a $300 pair of sunglasses was caught on security video. The alleged suspect can be seen picking up the sunglasses on the counter and tucking them into her purse as she completes a purchase at the cash register.

Police have asked for help in identifying the suspect. The likely charge would be Theft by Unlawful Taking, a class A misdemeanor.

If you have information, you can call Lt. Rich Whitford at 859-572-1228.

See the footage below, the left occurs at 0:40:

WATCH: "Judy the Crossing Guard" Profiled by WCPO

Fort Thomas Matters media partner, WCPO, was in Fort Thomas this morning, interviewing Judy the Crossing Guard. 

"Fort Thomas crossing guard has kept kids, drivers safe for over 30 years."

By Timyka Artist, WCPO

There’s hardly a Fort Thomas driver who doesn’t know Judy Kiskaden.

Kiskaden has been directing traffic and keeping kids safe near Moyer Elementary School for over 30 years.

As kids head back to school across the Tri-State, Kiskaden said it’s important for drivers to remember to pay attention to their surroundings.

They have to pay attention," she said. "They’re usually on the phone, texting, talking, in a hurry, not paying attention, some of them sit there and gab on the phone and you’ve gotta holler at them to keep moving … they usually pay pretty much attention to me." 

No one has ever been hurt for as long as Kiskaden has been on the job. She credits her vigilance.

Highlands-Cooper Preview

Bluebirds Seek Strong Start Against Jaguars

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands senior running back Larry Wilson (21) breaks free for a nice run during the scrimmage against Cincinnati St. Xavier. The Bluebirds hope to see more runs like that in the season opener at Cooper.
Since 2002, the Highlands Bluebirds football team has dropped its season opener one time.

Highlands will head back to the scene of that loss Friday in Union against the Cooper Jaguars at 7:30 p.m. in the Skyline Crosstown Showdown. The Jaguars beat the Bluebirds, 37-13 two years ago in Union in the first-ever meeting between the two squads before Highlands took out Cooper, 52-42 last year in a shoot-out in Fort Thomas.

That marked the lone win the Bluebirds have recorded against a team with a winning record in the last two years. The Jaguars finished 7-5 last year losing 49-20 at Class 6A, District 5 rival Ryle in the second round of the playoffs after knocking off Lexington Bryan Station, 35-7 to open the playoffs.

Both teams will have a number of players that will be playing for the first time on Friday Nights. But Highlands Head Coach Brian Weinrich and staff have long believed in keeping things simple and Friday is no exception.