Tag Archives: David Harrison

A Jeffersonville Oasis

Story by Allison Jones | Photos by David Harrison

Searching for the ideal place to call home can be daunting, but Nikki Coffman didn’t waver. “I wasn’t interested in a large house that would require a great deal of upkeep or extensive yard maintenance,” she said.


A native of Southern Indiana, her roots were firmly planted in finding a place in the area. After months of searching, she stumbled upon a condominium in The Harbors and fell in love with the location, the conveniences and the amenities offered, not to mention the picturesque landscape of the Ohio River and the downtown Louisville skyline.

jo2While the condominium itself was turnkey, Coffman put her own personal reflections into the interior design. “The previous owners upgraded the kitchen with subway tile backsplash and marble countertops … something I would have picked myself, and the only other thing I did was have it repainted.” For the rest of her place, comfortable elegance is sprinkle throughout with each room echoing her personal style. “I have an ongoing relationship with Leslie Lewis Interiors. Designer Tammy Randall knows what I like, so it is easy creating spaces that capture my essence.”

Coffman’s living room is bursting with pops of color and a patterned accent wall that creates a focal point. “I was concerned that going from a 3000-square-foot home to a condominium smaller in square footage would be a problem. What I found is that downsizing is freeing.” One look at her multilayered home shows how right she was to take the minimalist path.

Just a little over six months of living here, Coffman already has been entertaining. “I hosted a Thunder over Louisville party. Twenty people came and the space really worked.”


The living room, dining area, and kitchen are all one entity, but architectural elements – like the archway and the mirrored accent wall – create the illusion of a bigger venue. Using moveable and multi-purpose furniture pieces was another smart way she utilized every nook and cranny without overwhelming the space.

The biggest attraction is the ever-changing landscape from the balcony. “I spend most of my evenings out here to watch the beautiful sunsets. She made the area inviting with plush lounge chairs and a pub table with matching chairs. The river traffic and the twinkling lights of the Louisville skyline make this the ideal spot to unwind.

Additionally, Coffman’s bedroom has become an oasis. She chose French doors with a frosted glass inlay as a stylish way to define the space between the living area and the bedroom. Paper art decorates the wall and flanks the bed that boasts an elegant tufted headboard and plush linens. A stylish, contemporary chandelier illuminates the room.


Coffman’s style lies on the traditional side with a modern edge which over the years has softened.  “With this home, I definitely have leaned toward a more feminine feel,” she said. With mirrored lamps and splashes of colors throughout the home, she has created a luxurious look that is warm and inviting. “I am so enamored with my home, it’s hard to leave. When I do leave, all I want do is to be at home.”


Nikki’s Favorite Things

Tammy Randall of Leslie Lewis & Associates Interior Design

Schmitt Furniture

Paint Colors – Living Room/Dining Room – Sherwin Williams SW7649 Silverplate

Paint Colors – Bedroom – Sherwin Williams SW9137 Niebla Azul

Doing Derby

Model Kristen Kirsch (left) is wearing an Elan romper, $49; two chokers, $18 each; bead bracelet,
$29; stone bracelet $22; gold stick with pink stone, $18; cork clutch,
$59; and carrying a Betsey Johnson Cat’s Meow Purse, $78, all available at Sapphire Boutique, 326 Spring St. in Jeffersonville. Model Catherine Kung is in a Sugar + Lips romper, $56; trio flower choker, $16; gold bracelet with turquoise stone $18; and carrying a clutch, $50, which are all available at Sapphire Boutique, 326 Spring St.
in Jeffersonville.

Photography by David Harrison

Fashions modeled by Catherine Kung, Kristen Kirsch and Micah Cargin

Makeup and Hair by J Nicolle

Salon & Spa Apparel from Sapphire on Spring Boutique, Dress and Dwell, Colokial Boutique, Glo Spa, Strandz Salon & Threadz Boutique, Mariposa Consignments
and Him Gentleman’s Boutique

Vehicles courtesy of Coyle Chevrolet Buick GMC in Clarksville


Sapphire Boutique, 326 Spring St. in Jeffersonville

Kroger, 305 E. Lewis & Clark Parkway in Clarksville

Sunset Spirits, 2708 Paoli Pike in New Albany

The Office Cigar Shop & Lounge, 3700 Paoli Pike in Floyds Knobs

German American, 3660 Paoli Pike in Floyds Knobs

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Left: Model Micah Cargin is in a Tallia Sport Coat, $198; James Tattersall shirt, $108; Goff Club Collections bow tie, $40 or 2/$75; Clayton and Crume belt, $100; Levi khaki pants, $69; Goff Club Collections pocket square, $40; Goorin Bros. Fedora, $55; and Ray Ban sunglasses, which vary from $120 to $215, all of which are available at Him Gentleman’s Boutique, 314 Pearl St. in New Albany.

Right: Kristen is wearing a two-piece Sherri Hill gown that originally retails for $750 but is $390, and Catherine is in a black Sherri Hill two-piece gown that retails for $585 but is $279.99, both of which are available from Mariposa Consignments, 222 Pearl St. Suite 102 in New Albany.

df2After a morning of shopping, Kristen and Catherine posed in front of a 2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible in Hyper Blue Metallic, MSRP $54,075, which is available for purchase from Coyle Chevrolet Buick GMC, 1801 Broadway St. in Clarksville.


Micah is wearing a Tallia Sport Coat, $198; James Tattersall shirt, $108; The Tie Bar tie, $20; Thedf3 Tie Bar Lapel Pin, $10; Levi line 8 jeans,
$69; The Tie Bar pocket square, $10; and a Goorin Bros. Hat, $35, all of which are available at Him Gentleman’s Boutique, 314 Pearl St. in New Albany. Our model is posed next to a 2017 GMC Yukon Denali 4WD in Onyx Black, MSRP $76, 340, which is available for purchase from Coyle Chevrolet Buick GMC, 1801 Broadway St. in Clarksville.

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Left: Kristen is wearing a black dress (with pockets), $112.99; horse fascinator, $120; and earrings, $9.99, from Colokial, 219 Pearl St. in New Albany. She was photographed at Kroger, 305 E. Lewis and Clark Pkwy. in Clarksville.

Right: Catherine is wearing a polka dot dress, $97.99; money fascinator, $90; and earrings, $9.99, from Colokial, 219 Pearl St. in New Albany. She was photographed at Kroger, 305 E. Lewis and Clark Pkwy.
in Clarksville.

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Left: Catherine is wearing two Dignity bracelets in gold large, $86; small stone B&B bracelet, $36; Classic bracelet in gold large, $42; medium stone bangle, $40; horse pendant by Summer Eliason, $85; blue Just Me Dress, $64; rattan clutch. By Mud Pie, $48; and fascinator Head Candi, $292, all of which are available from Dress and Dwell, 138 E. Spring St. in New Albany. She was photographed at Kroger, 305 E. Lewis and Clark Pkwy. in Clarksville.

Right: Kristen is wearing a long-sleeve pink flower Everly dress, $42; Rachel Rattan Clutch by Mud Pie, $54; Cindy Borders freshwater pearl circle earrings, $98; the Vivian beaded tassel earrings, $24; small stone B&B Bangle, $36; the smallest B&B Bangle, $32; and a fascinator by Head Candi, $334, all of which are available from Dress and Dwell, 138 E. Spring St. in New Albany. She was photographed at Kroger, 305 E. Lewis and Clark Pkwy. in Clarksville.

df8Kristen is wearing a green hat with pink flower by Tammy Sharp, $87; flower dress, $65; colorful pink, blue and turquoise necklace, $19.99; Charlie Paige Pink earrings, $9.9; and pink bracelet, $9.95, all of which are from Strandz Salon & Threadz Boutique, 322 Vincennes St. in New Albany. She was photographed at Sunset Spirits, 2708 Paoli Pike in New Albany.




Right: Catherine is wearing a yellow fascinator by Tammy Sharp, df9
$66; Crystal Avenue Pearl necklace and earrings, $24; two pearl bracelets, $13 each; and yellow dress, $65, all of which are from Strandz Salon & Threadz Boutique, 322 Vincennes St. in New Albany. She was photographed at Sunset Spirits, 2708 Paoli Pike in New Albany.





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Left: Catherine (left) is wearing a Sugar + Lips Green dress, $47; Sincerely Quinley bracelet, $32; green stone ring,
$28; gold bracelet, $14; necklace, $22; and fascinator by Rebecca Vance, $50, which are all available at Sapphire Boutique, 326 Spring St. in Jeffersonville. Kristen (right) is wearing a wire cuff bracelet, $16; bracelet, $22; necklace, $36; hat by Rebecca Vance, $250; and Sangria Dress, $72, which are all available at Sapphire Boutique, 326 Spring St. in Jeffersonville. Catherine and Kristen were photographed at Lavender Hill, 359 Spring St. In Jeffersonville.

Right: Kristen (far left) is wearing an Emma & Michele orange sheath, $82; pearl choker, $14.50; pearl earrings, $10; and champagne fascinator from the Sophia Collection, $30, all of which are available at Glo Spa, 344 Spring St. in Jeffersonville. Micah (middle) is wearing a Tallia Sport Coat, $198; James Tattersall Shirt, $108; The Tie Bar Tie, $20; Goff Club Collections Pocket Square, $40; Goorin Bros Hat,
$35, all of which are available at Him Gentleman’s Boutique, 314 Pearl St. in New Albany. (Model is wearing his own pants.) Catherine (right) is wearing a Sunny Taylor short tunic dress, $29.80; tassel necklace, $24; and Passion 4 Fashion Fascinator, $35, all of which are available at Glo Spa, 344 Spring St. in Jeffersonville.

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Left: Micah is wearing a Tallia Sport Coat, $198; James Tattersall Shirt, $108; The Tie Bar Pocket Square, $10; Goff Club Collection bow tie, $40 or 2/$75; Levi khaki pants, $69; and Goorin Bros. Fedora, $55. He was photographed at Kroger, 305 E. Lewis and Clark Pkwy. in Clarksville.

Right: Catherine Jung, Kristen Kirsch and Micah Cargin were photographed at German American, 3660 Paoli Pike in Floyds Knobs.

The Family Guy

Brad Estes’ home life is all about family. So is his work life.

By Steve Kaufman | Photos by David Harrison

Neace Ventures is a Kentuckiana-based private equity management company with a diverse set of holdings.

As with many venture capitalists, the activity can be frenzied and the pace quick. Before starting the company in 2003, founder and chairman John Neace built one of the country’s largest property/casualty insurance brokerages. Since then, his holdings have extended into the food and beverage industry, manufacturing and construction, waste removal and recycling, engineering, publishing, custom fabrication, residential and commercial real estate, recreation and the sports world – on both sides of the river.

Ever heard of Falls City Beer? That’s Neace Ventures. Brownie’s “The Shed” Bar and Grille? Neace, again.

Louisville City FC, the area’s professional soccer team? Neace is chairman and a major shareholder.

The classic profile of a venture capitalist can be constant motion, a steady stream of deals requiring something of a risk-taker. When things are firing at their most intense, tornadoes can form. Sitting in the middle of it all, in Neace’s Louisville offices on West Main Street – sort of the calming, placid eye of the hurricane – is company president Brad Estes.

“In some ways, I’m the risk-manager,” Estes said. “I’m the ‘yes . . . but’ guy.”

Not that the risks are always that risky.

“Deals constantly come to John (Neace),” Estes said, “but most of our investments are with friends or family, based on personal relationships.”

For example, Jason Brown, the owner/operator of Brownie’s, was a childhood friend of Neace’s daughter. Neace’s son, Jon Ryan Neace, is president of Old 502 Winery. His son-in-law, Shane Uttich, is president of Falls City Brewing. Neace’s partner in Allterrain Paving & Construction is his very good friend, Steve Triplett. 

The company’s mission statement states: “(John Neace) has always carried the attitude of ‘family first.’ Atypical in his approach to business, John has long surrounded himself with family and friends as a foundation to spur growth. We attribute our success to our strong relationships in fast-paced environments.”

“We’re not cutthroat Wall Street guys,” said Estes. “We don’t measure everything in terms of return on investment.”

Or, as the mission statement goes on to say, “Some deals require lawyers, and other deals require a handshake over dinner and drinks. No matter the means of acquisition, once they become a part of our portfolio, we treat them like family.”

Estes brought an accounting and financial background to Neace when he joined the company in 2016. (His hiring was typical of the John Neace way of doing things. “I knew his son-in-law,” Estes said, though he kept quiet about his plans to apply to work for Neace. “Also, my father’s former boss sent John a note about me.”)

As a financial executive, Estes had the requisite restlessness and curiosity for a venture capitalist. In his 15 years out of college, he had worked for two public accounting firms; was part of a team that saw high-tech information and communications company startup eventually sell for nine figures; was vice president of finance and information technology for a health services company; and was CFO for a company in the basement waterproofing business.

“My father worked for the same company for 43 years,” he said. “I’ve had six jobs.”

His father was a large influence in his career decisions after his football career was abruptly ended his freshman year in college. A tight end on St. Xavier’s 1995 state championship team, Estes had gone to Marshall University on a football scholarship only to severely injure his shoulder eight weeks after he arrived on campus.

“Four surgeries later, football was over, but I told my father I’d stay in school, get a marketing degree and join him selling heavy equipment,” Estes recalled. “He said, ‘The hell you will! You don’t know how difficult it is to fight the ups and downs of this industry. You’ll get a degree that means something!’

“So, I studied accounting,” said Estes. “Life is funny. I thought getting injured was the end of the world. But when you’re playing college football, you never know how much time you’ll be able to devote to your studies. Without football, I had plenty of time to be a student.”

After graduating in 2000, Estes went the public accounting firm route: large firm (PricewaterhouseCoopers for two years) and small firm (Crowe Horwath for three years). Along the way, he got an MBA in 2002 and his CPA in 2003.

Then he heeded the call of private enterprise. He was hired by Smoothstone IP Communications, one of his clients, as controller. It was, he said, a “cloud-based unified communications” company. He eventually became vice president of finance.

“I was 29, it was a way to get great experience in an executive role.” Estes said. “Smoothstone was funded by venture capitalists, but it was losing significant amounts of money every year. As their public accountant, I’d known the business and how the company worked. I also believed in the product and in the people, so I took the gamble.”

Five years later, Estes and other executives engineered its sale for $120 million. Then he was vice president of finance and IT for Trilogy Health Services for 10 months, until he got a call from one of Smoothstone’s founders.

“He was putting together another business deal, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.” That business was B-Dry, LLC, which had developed a basement waterproofing system. The company owned all the franchises and had nine company-owned markets. Estes was CFO.

“I was there for three years, and then they relocated to Knoxville, Tenn. My kids were involved with school here, and we were part of the community. We didn’t want to leave.

“Besides,” he said, “I’m an old Kentucky boy at heart. I couldn’t stand ‘Rocky Top.’ ”

That led him to Neace. Their adventurousness was a good fit. “In my father’s day, if you had three jobs by the time you were 30, they’d say, ‘Why can’t you hold a job?’ Now, if you don’t have three jobs by the time you’re 30, they say, ‘Why can’t you find a better job?’ ”

Estes runs the Neace offices in downtown Louisville, one of the period buildings that define West Main Street, all cast iron on the outside and exposed brick on the inside. Impellizzeri’s Pizza is on the ground floor.

A staff of about 15 moves through the large, comfortable space, pleasantly shady despite the large windows looking out onto some of its neighbors – the KFC Yum! Center in one direction, the cranes that bustle about the Kentucky International Convention Center in another direction.

For a company with so many lines in and out of the water, it all seems very relaxed in there. “I like to keep it light around the office,” said Estes. “I want people to enjoy coming to work every day. I don’t want coming into work being a chore for them. I know there will be times I’ll ask someone to stay late, or to come in on a Saturday. I want everyone to know there’s an offset to that. I want them to know that they’re valued, that their opinions are valued.”

If Estes is the calm in the storm for Neace Ventures, he finds his calm at home in East Louisville. Family is clearly important to him. He met wife Emily during grad school at the University of Louisville. He was tending bar at Bahama Breeze, and she was working as a hostess while finishing up at the Speed School of Engineering.

(She subsequently worked with Luckett & Farley architects and with Heritage Engineering.) They were married in 2002. They have three children at home – sons Owen, 11, and Mac, 10, and daughter Stella, four. Estes also has a daughter, Madeline, 23 who is a senior at Western Kentucky University.

A look at the pictures around his office tells the story of importance of family to Estes. There are team pictures of youth sports. He coaches Owen in baseball and Mac in football, and expressed sensitivity to the handling of each boy.

“Coaching them is a challenge for me,” he said, “because they’re two dramatically different people, though just 18 months apart.

“Owen is intelligent and reasonable. You have to treat him like an adult. Nothing will resonate with him unless it makes sense. Yell and scream, and you’ve lost him.

“Mac is the quintessential second child. He wants to please, to do everything right. If I sometimes have to get on him about something, I have to explain that he shouldn’t take it personally, that I’m actually getting on the whole team. And he’ll say, ‘OK.’ He takes it well.”

Stella is, not surprisingly, the princess at home. “She’s proud to say she’s the tallest girl in her nursery school class,” said Estes. “She isn’t – but she says she is.”

If she were, it would be in her genes. Estes himself is an imposing 6-foot-3 and, at 240 pounds, he works hard to keep the ex-tight end’s body from veering out of control. He once decided that competing in a triathlon would be a good way to do it.

“I started training in January, and in August I competed in the 2012 Louisville Ironman,” he recalled. “I finished – which is the objective of most triathletes – and in 15 hours, which wasn’t terrible.”

His triathletic career was short-lived. The next morning, he said, “I woke up and Emily told me she was pregnant. Three kids at home is not conducive to intense Ironman preparation.”

So, he concentrates on cardio workouts. And he works hard to eat smart. “Being in the beer and wine business is not necessarily great for the midsection.”

And he hikes. “We try to do quick weekend getaways,” he said. “Emily and I just got back from a hiking trip to Gatlinburg. We love the Smokies.”

Those kinds of things are important, he said, because he could otherwise fall into the trap where his life becomes “work, home, and then back to work.” It would be an easy rhythm for him, because the job is so comfortable to who he is.

“My background has given me a diverse skill-set,” he explained. “I have the financial background, but I’ve also worked extensively on the operations side. This company is an aggregator of operational companies, and I’ve dealt with customers, managed employees and negotiated contracts.”

He said that when a new company comes before them as another possible acquisition, he’s able to evaluate the financials but also the operational profiles. Fit is critical, he said, because of the Neace approach – which is not always just rate of return.

“We invest in our areas of competency, segments where we already have some experience,” Estes explained. “We’ll joint-venture with people in areas where we don’t have core competency, but we’d never invest in businesses where we didn’t know what we were doing or didn’t have people who did.” It’s almost a mantra: “We know what we don’t know.”

“You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. You have to be comfortable saying ‘I don’t know,’ ” Estes said. “That’s the key to this business: We have to identify a key someone to operate the business, a trusted partner – someone we know.”

But that’s what holds out the possibility of endless growth to Estes, working with Neace in a business based on relationships.

“John knows everybody!”

The Impact of SOAR Continues to Rise

Sexual Abuse recovery minister helps here and abroad 

By Nicholas Siegel | Photos by David Harrison

In February 2016, Joan Peyton traveled to the Dominican Republic. There, she met with a missionary group called Project Mañana. After hearing the mission president’s wife share her personal story of surviving sexual abuse, Peyton realized the potential for Southern Indiana’s SOAR Ministries to expand there.

Peyton is the board secretary of SOAR, which stands for Survivors of Abuse Restored. The group traveled back to the Dominican Republic in May 2016 to work with 15 women and plan to travel there again this upcoming May to conduct a training with two of the members of Project Mañana who want to start their own similar organization.

The main facets of SOAR’s work include support groups, mentoring, counseling, retreats, workshops, Bible studies, game nights and fellowship nights, where women in recovery can meet at the ministry center for support.

Located in New Albany, SOAR works with women in the surrounding counties, including Clark, Harrison, Crawford and Floyd. The ministry also includes women who travel from Louisville to seek counseling, and the nonprofit recently opened satellite locations in Seymour and Crawford, Ky. “They don’t have to live in Floyd county to come here. We’ll work with any woman,” Peyton said.

According to the American Association of Christian Counselors, one in every three women experience some form of sexual abuse by the age of 18. This abuse occurs across all ethnic, racial, socioeconomic and religious lines.

soar2For women who have experienced sexual abuse, the care that SOAR provides is paramount. That’s how it was for Ginny Wiegleb, who first contacted SOAR for help seven years ago. She initially heard about the organization through Northside Christian Church, where the support groups were being held at that time.

“One of my initial thoughts was … I know that these things have happened to me, and I want to be a better mom, and I want to heal so I can see these signs in my own children if that ever happened,” Wiegleb said.

Last year, Wiegleb made the decision to leave The Mustard Seed, a local non-profit she worked with to homeschool her children. But, eventually this all changed. “God had different plans,” she said. “I actually approached SOAR a year ago in November and asked if we could help contribute financially and help connect folks to their services through (The Mustard Seed).” Now, after all this time, she’s involved in a different capacity where she has the power to help others who have undergone similar trauma.

“I think it is absolutely imperative that people get help and go into recovery, because there are things in your life you don’t realize,” Wiegleb said. “We were silent for so many years and this is a very hard secret to tell, and when you have people to share that burden and share that secret with that have the same kind of secrets, it gives you the courage to be able to continue to walk because other people are walking with you.”

SOAR holds two annual fundraising events. The first is SOAR Fest, which is held each September in New Albany’s Fairmont Park. “That’s more of a carnival type event with bounce houses and game booths,” Peyton said. “We have live music that we do and food. It’s more family friendly. The goal was to open it up to the area that the ministry center is in to work with the neighborhood here and draw attention.”

SOAR also holds the Healing Hearts Banquet each February. At the banquet, a nice dinner is served, and local artists work in a live setting for visitors to watch. At the end of the night, the completed pieces of art are auctioned off to raise money for the house SOAR rents, buying books for women in recovery, retreats and other costs. In the past, the event has featured potters, wood burners, quilters, jewelry artists, painters and sculptors. The event also features live music and a guest speaker.

Local businesses are encouraged to support SOAR at the Healing Hearts Banquet by purchasing tables. The organization also invites churches and other counseling groups. “Every year our demographic is a little bit different,” Peyton said. This year the event will be held Feb. 25 at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Floyds Knobs.

For SOAR Board President Cathy Jo Summers, the work her team does is vital because of the confidence it instills in women who once believed they were “too damaged” to move forward. “Women who said they would never get married have gotten married. Women have pursued their college degrees and master’s as a result of the self-esteem they have gained.”

Extending its reach from Southern Indiana to Kentucky to the Dominican Republic, SOAR is giving women the support they need to find their voices. “Survivors need to understand the affect that the abuse has had on their lives,” said Co-Vice President Leslie Thomas. “In support groups, this connection takes place, allowing truth and healing for the survivor. It changes their (lives) forever.”





Future Doc?

Eva Bass is only 8 years old but don’t be surprised if she helps shape our future

By Angie Fenton | Photos by David Harrison

Eva Bass was 6 years old when she took an interest in the medical field. A serious interest.

After watching episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” with her mom, Ysha, “She started asking me questions about why they do that to the body and asked if there was anything for kids to learn more,” Ysha said.

doc2But Eva didn’t want just anything – she wanted the real thing, so her mother ordered a dissection kit containing a cow brain and pig’s heart.

“(Eva) was munching crackers in one hand while dissecting the heart with the booklet that came with it in the other,” recalled Ysha with a laugh, noting that her son, Eva’s brother Ashton, “wanted to throw up.”

To be fair, Ashton, 10, a fifth grader at Highland Hills Middle School, favors hockey, baseball, golf and collecting baseball cards to his sister’s passion. “I know I stay away because I hate blood,” he admitted. “They’ll turn on surgeries on TV, and I have to leave the room. I feel nervous around it, but Eva loves it.”

And once or twice, Ashton continued, “I got to scrub in.”

At first, Ysha and her husband Bobby treated Eva’s fascination gingerly. “We didn’t want to make it super gruesome to her,” Ysha explained.

So, the parents created a corner in Eva’s room that emulated the look of an operating room, ordered kid-sized scrubs and actual tools and utensils – microscope, arm sling, crutches, scalpel, clamps, scissors, stethoscope and more – a surgeon would use. (“She knows how to handle all of them,” Ysha said, “and when her cousins come over to play, the first thing she does is put them up.”) They made Jell-O molds containing objects for dissection practice and helped Eva find online videos to further her instruction.

Last Christmas, Eva asked for a medical doll to practice her surgery technique. Despite Ysha’s research, “The only things that popped up were dummies real surgeons use and a doll from Sweden, “ which was inadequate for a kid as genuinely interested as Eva was and is. So the Greenville Elementary third grader doc1decided to make her own. Thus far, the Bass family has met with a patent attorney and Eva is on her third design of the doll, which will eventually be produced and available for purchase.

Recently, Ysha caught Eva reading an anatomy book by flashlight under her blankets as she took notes.

“I think I was shocked at first – I’d told her to go to bed – but then again, what do you do? You can’t get mad. She’s such a good kid. She just really wants to learn,” Ysha said.

“It’s pretty incredible,” said dad Bobby. “If she ends up being a surgeon or something else, great, but the root is the same: Eva wants to help people.” For now, that desire is more specific: Eva wants to help people by becoming a neurosurgeon.

“I know that I have to study to be a good surgeon,” said Eva, who hopes to one day adopt the motto of her favorite “Grey’s Anatomy” doctor, Dr. Derek Shepherd: “It’s a great day to save lives.”

Petite, polite and a bit reserved – at least during her interview – Eva, who has started doing videos to teach other kids interested in medicine, offered a bit of advice for others her age: “If you’re a kid, never do it (dissecting and using medical tools) without a parent. Oh, and start trying different stuff to see if you like it.”

Valentine’s Day

Former University of Louisville Basketball player Robbie Valentine talks about the hard facts and personal fouls he’s experienced off the court.

By Steve Kaufman | Photos by David Harrison

What could have been Robbie Valentine’s story gets played out hundreds – thousands? – of times every year.

The product of a single-parent family – whether from a small rural town or large inner-city – finds out early on that he is gifted at basketball (or another sport), which leads him (or her) to the path of a big college program.

There, he single-mindedly focuses on a professional career, puts his name in the draft and, maybe, he’s a lottery pick. Or at least a first-round pick. But maybe he’s a second-round pick, with less signing bonus and practically no contract guarantees. Or, he’s not drafted at all. So, he rides the D-League buses from Erie to Ft. Wayne to Des Moines, hoping to get noticed by the big-league teams, and hopes, too, to stay healthy. Because if he’s injured and his career is jeopardized, what’s he going to do with that one year of college and a once-famous name that’s now gathering some rust?


That’s the sound of the phonograph needle grinding to a halt. Because, while it’s a way-too-familiar story, it’s not Robbie Valentine’s.

It could have been. But Valentine saw something else along the way. He saw a Radcliff, Ky., mother who raised seven children by herself, working in the local schools and cleaning other people’s houses to make sure there was food on the table and clothes on her kids’ backs.

Frances Valentine also instilled far more in her children: faith, self-respect and the v1value of education – that there was a world out there, beyond sports, even for her oldest son who was breaking all North Hardin High School basketball scoring records.

Of course, Valentine came along at a different time. Back then, there was no one-and-done. College coaches had time to nurture and mentor their players. Valentine needed that mentoring. He had been a high school All-American. The sky was the limit. But jumping for the sky was his downfall.

“When you jump high and come down, you put a lot of pressure on your tendons,” Valentine recalled. “Back then, we wore Chuck Taylors, Pro-Keds, Converse. Those shoes weren’t made for jumping.”

Valentine started seeing Dr. Rudy Ellis, the noted Louisville sports medicine physician, as early as seventh grade. “My file became very thick,” he said. “I popped both Achilles tendons, ended up with surgery on both knees. Plus, I had four screws in my back.”

But, along with his medical problems, Valentine developed a remarkable perspective for someone so young.

“When he came here (to the University of Louisville), he had a lot of natural talent,” recalled his Cardinals coach, Denny Crum. “But he also had a great attitude. Even as a freshman, he was a leader. Everyone respected him.”

Early on at Louisville, Valentine was playing only a few minutes a game. “I now realized I wasn’t going to make it to the NBA,” he said. “So why continue to dream for something you know isn’t going to happen?”

He began to see basketball as an opportunity toward something else. “It was going to help me get my college education,” he said. “I wanted to make it in the job world, someone who could speak, who could write, who could read, who could talk to anyone at any level.”

Crum instilled in him the idea of service to others. “He’s done more for his community in Louisville than anyone I know,” Valentine said, “and (Coach Crum) shaped our lives to do the same.”

Then there was the group of freshman basketball players who arrived on campus in the fall of 1982, shortly after Louisville won the 1980 national championship.

“I came in with Milt Wagner, Billy Thompson and Jeff Hall,” Valentine recalled. “When we were freshmen, seniors Rodney and Scooter McCray sat us down and said, ‘This is our senior year, but you guys are the people who’ll help us get there.’ And we did go to the Final Four that year.

“So four years later, Milt, Billy, Jeff and Robbie, we were the four seniors. And it was up to us to change the lives of those new freshmen kids, led by Pervis Ellison.”

“We could tell we had a great team, but it was young,” said Crum. “Robbie and the other seniors helped keep those freshmen in line.”

It was then that the four seniors came up with the word that would bind them for the next 30 years, changing the way Valentine began to live life.

“We seniors told the freshmen that the one word driving us all was ‘live,’ ” said Valentine. “Before every game, before practice, after practice, in the locker room, during time-outs, our chant was ‘one-two-three-live!’

“What did that mean to them? “When you grow up in a three-bedroom home with eight people, it’s pretty tough,” said Valentine. “Though all the odds were against us, to be able to live the life we lived and to make it as 22-, 23-year-old seniors, that’s pretty incredible.

“We weren’t supposed to be there. We all had some tough times at home. We wanted to make a difference, in school, on the team, in the community. Our goals were to make the next person better than we were, starting with those freshmen.”

They Did, Of Course 

On March 31, 1986, Louisville beat Duke 72-69 for the national title. But the injury-hampered Valentine, who’d played only 41 minutes that entire season, did not get into that game, but he was on to his next phase of what it meant to live. “My focus had become: What is Robbie Valentine going to do to become more successful in the community?”

He studied education in college, and then earned a master’s in sports management. He became Crum’s graduate assistant coach. He joined the broadcasting team for Louisville games on WDRB.

“He had the desire to succeed, and everyone knew and liked him,” said Crum. “I couldn’t wait to see what Robbie would do with his life.”

“The way I took it was, the more education I got, the more doors were going to v2open up for me,” Valentine said, “and the more doors that opened up for me, the more important people I’d meet, and that would help open even more doors.” He also got married in 1989, to college schoolmate Beth Kantor, and almost immediately had identical twin boys, Eric and Aaron. Daughter Brooke came along in 1993.

He launched Robbie Valentine Enterprises, running education programs – such as basketball camps – throughout Jefferson County and Southern Indiana. “We got some large grants for the work we were doing, and it was pretty successful,” he recalled. “I was determined to pass on the values that I’d learned as a youngster, so we required kids to go to class and study if they wanted to participate in the program, just as I had.”

Dejuan Wheat passed through Valentine’s program. So did Sara Nord. But the program was not only for the superstars, it was for any kid from the streets.

“When I started playing basketball through the Stithton Baptist Church in Radcliff, our pastor, Gene Waggoner, said that if we wanted to participate, we had to be a ‘Royal Ambassador.’ That meant attending Sunday School, being in choir, joining the youth group.”

In other words, you had to get involved and fully.

Valentine further walked the talk he’d learned by joining the board of the Greater Clark County Schools.

Robbie Valentine’s life was on-track. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t.


He was divorced in 2004. In 2008, the economy began to crumble and the grants dried up. In 2010, Robbie Valentine Enterprises Inc. filed for bankruptcy.

And that summer, he was arrested for a DUI in New Albany.

Life Intrudes 

As is often the case, the actual details are murky. According to Valentine, he left a New Albany establishment after dinner around 7 p.m. on a July evening and was soon arrested for driving under the influence. Eventually, the DUI was dropped and he was charged with reckless driving.

While the details were ambiguous, the newspaper accounts were not: “Robbie Valentine pleads guilty to reckless driving. The former University of Louisville basketball player and current Greater Clark County School Board member won’t go to jail for his drunk driving arrest.”

Back on the Ladder 

“That was a low point for me,” he said. “Divorce. Bankruptcy. Headlines. To get out of that, I went back to the past, and started thinking, ‘What do you do when you fall off a ladder? You take one step at a time to go back up.’ ”

All the contacts and networking Valentine had done, the support system he was v3able to build, started kicking in. Following a recommendation by Crum, he got a phone call from the Kentucky State Fair Board, offering him the opportunity to work for the KFC Yum! Center as assistant general manager.

“It’s the best job in America,” he said. “I love customer service, marketing, public relations and, of course, Louisville basketball. I’m involved with an amazing team of employees. And I get to deal every day with some of the best people in Kentuckiana and around the world.”

He also revived his youth basketball camps, although now he conducts them during the summer at the Yum! Center. He also does free camps around the area during the summer and the Christmas break, sponsored by the likes of Papa John’s Pizza and Vision Works. Participation at the Yum! Center camps is based on school attendance, grades and behavior.

“My program is identical to what Mom’s vision was when I was a kid, and my preacher, and my high school coach,” he said. “I put it all together and now I’m doing all the work they did for me to this day.”

Life Intrudes Again

But another low point was about to send Valentine reeling again. He had been divorced from his first wife in 2004 and, in 2010, married his second wife. In June of 2016, they were separated.

The divorce came through in October. Valentine was devastated.

“I think a lot of our issues were due to our similar childhood situations growing up,” he said. “A lot of times, when you don’t grow up in a normal family environment, it can affect you in different ways. I really believe that some of the things I dealt with as a young person made our marriage tough.”

Equally rough for Valentine was dealing with his divorce. “It really hurt me. When you go through those things, you have to find ways to pick yourself up. It’s that ladder thing, again.”

And so he turned to what would give him strength – his friends and his church.

Having Faith 

“I’ve been with Northside Christian Church in New Albany for six years,” he said. “George Ross and Nate Ross, the senior and associate pastors, have been absolutely my rock, the ones I could talk to about anything or everything. And they’d pray with me, or just listen to the hurt.”

“A person has to want to get well,” said George Ross, referring to the story in the Bible of Jesus at the healing waters of the pool of Bethlehem. “The paralyzed man said to Jesus, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool,’ and Jesus asked him, first, ‘Do you want to get well?’

Did Robbie want to be a survivor,” said Ross, “or remain a victim and blame everyone else?”

The two pastors led Valentine to the church’s 18-week Divorce Care course. “Divorce Care helps people process their hurt and brokenness,” said Ross. “It lets them know they’re not alone.”

“You discover hope and experience healing in a group setting every week,” said Valentine. “We talk about everything, all the hurt, the pain, the emotions, the anger, the shame, the ups and downs. The feeling is almost like death, except that the other person’s not dead, you’re still going to see her.”

Partly for that reason, Valentine chose to stay away from places where his ex-wife might well be, as well as where he’d be faced with an alcohol-fueled atmosphere. “I chose not to go to clubs, bars, environments where alcohol could be a 100 percent downfall for me,” he admitted.

“When people go through tough times, sometimes they drink and do other things because of the hurt they’re going through,” he said. “That doesn’t make you heal. It might make you forget for a few hours, but you’ll wake up with the same problems.”

Besides, he said, “I chose to go faith-based; (I’m) not interested in dating. They teach you to wait and heal before you get back in a relationship. If you’re not healed and you go straight into a relationship, what are you doing to yourself and to your partner?”


The Rock and the Ladder 

Another rock for Valentine was Jim Shannon, the successful basketball coach at New Albany High School (last season’s Southern Indiana coach of the year).

“He saw my hurt. We went to the Outback in Clarksville, and he just listened. Sometimes all you need is a listener. And we can use basketball as a way to talk about the positives and the negatives. Sometimes, it’s good to lose, because when you lose, you learn what winning means.”

Overall, though, Valentine chose his support group carefully. “You want to be around as many positive men as you can, but you have to be careful how you choose to speak to women.”

If he wants a woman’s input, he said, he can talk to one of his five sisters. But he doesn’t necessarily expect sympathy.

“My family will sometimes tell me what I don’t want to hear,” he said. “They’ll say, if I’m going to whine and cry, don’t go to them.

“They’re tough!” With his faith firmly in place, Robbie Valentine has been rebuilding his life – or, with the analogy he likes to use, getting back on the ladder, step by step, and returning to the lessons he learned early in life – about commitment, perseverance and values from his boyhood pastor, Gene Waggoner, and his high school coach, Ron Bevers.

But most of all, there was his mother. A hard worker, a disciplinarian, believer in family and faith.

“When I think of my life as being difficult, I think of her. Difficult? My mom worked three jobs to raise seven kids by herself. That’s difficult. By comparison, my life has been blessed,” Valentine said. “I derive my faith from God and my strength and inspiration from her.”