Tag Archives: people

Faces of Southern Indiana

Q&A and photos by JD Dotson 

Editor’s Note: Some comments have been edited to include the question asked for clarity 

Our quest to meet a wide array of people in Southern Indiana took us shopping in New Albany, enjoying lunch in downtown Jeffersonville, hanging out in coffee shops in historic Madison and attending a car show and art show along the Ohio River. We talked to numerous folks to find what they care about most right now and how they define themselves.



What makes me happy and why? People is the short answer. Connecting with other people is the most important thing. It gets me through life, and I think making those connections and experiencing things with other people is what we are made to do. 

Ethan Jobe 


extolmag_27-1_page_048_image_0002What makes me happiest is my family and friends. 

Melanie Morrison Louisville, KY 


What’s most important to me right now is my family, my cat and my house. Is that superficial? I worked really hard for it. 

Laura Starnes 

Taylor Mill, KY 



The thing that makes me happy right now is learning some about the community I’ve grown up in all my life. Getting to know a new tidbit of history or meeting someone new, it’s like a familiar place but I get to discover these things every day. 

Morgan Paul Floyds Knobs 


What makes me happy? My customers, and I am getting ready to retire (from German American Bank), so it’s kind of bittersweet. Forty-three years of banking, and I’m getting ready to leave in December. It’s bittersweet, I will miss my people. 

Jeanine Little 



I’m a mother of two and I’m just trying to better myself for my family and hopefully make it into heaven one day. 

Diana Louise Finch 



We’re happy because life is good and once we lean on the Lord, we find out it gets better each day. 

Alvin and Annie White 



Who I am is a person that makes people feel that they are important and matter. 

Susan Strange 



What’s most important to me right now is getting my finances together, getting money saved back so I can eventually not have to rent an apartment (and) get everything paid off. 

Tori Wiggam 

New Washington 


Who am I? I am a muscle car enthusiast. 

Rick Roberts 



The most important thing is world peace right now. 

Samantha Perry and Bella 



The most important thing to me right now is continuing to grow my business, Sweets by Morgan, my relationships with friends and family, and trying to keep it all together. 

Morgan Coomer 



What makes me happy is spending quality time with people and getting to know their heart. 

Michelle Ralph 



What is most important to me right now is my son because he is autistic and he’s having some issues with another condition called misophonia, and it’s disrupting his daily life, so I am pretty much all consumed with that. 

Michelle Campbell 

New Albany 


What makes me happy is feeling fit, feeling good, making sure that the people I surround myself with are people that I admire. 

Emilio Vallecillo 



It makes me happy that I have an occupation and career that I enjoy, and I can help people in that career. I can be a positive influence on the people I come in contact with. I do have a small business in Southern Indiana, a shoe store (Pacers and Racers), but it’s more than that because I’m part of people’s daily lives. 

Derek Ingersoll 



I’m a lot of things: I’m a momma, I’m a nurse and I am just trying to be the best I can be today. 

Darci Richards Branham 



The most important thing to me right now is to help as many people in the community as I can whether by fitting shoes or coaching kids in track. I just like to do my part. 

Cat Patton 



The thing that makes me most happy is being around family and friends and people that love me and I love them. And also delicious foods and ice creams and pizzas and enjoying them on a beautiful day with my grandmother. 

Amber Applegate 

New Albany 


I am a 24-year-old college graduate who is really in love with her coffee shop job. 

Azia Watts 



What makes me happy? My dog and being close to achieving my goal, which I’ve set up for the past eight years. Just started my tattoo apprenticeship in January – just one step closer to having my dream job. 

Brandon Lejman 



Who am I? I’m a firefighter. 

Becky Oesterritter 

New Albany 


Who am I? I’m just an evolving human, day to day, hour to hour, and trying to learn. 

Ben Slein 

New Albany 

Bill Shannon: The Most Interested Man in the World?

by Grant Vance | Photos by Danny Alexander

A priest and company walk into a bar. It’s a classic setup. To transcend cliché, let’s say it’s a pastor, painter, actor, spelunker, bird-watcher, philosopher and writer – in a coffee shop.

The writer introduces himself, prompting and establishing the interview for these prolific characters. He asks his first question, anxiously avoiding excluding anyone from his inquiry. Something simple but refined, a real knockout opener.

“Could we start with names?”

Nailed it.

The pastor, painter, actor, spelunker, bird watcher and philosopher warmly acknowledge the writer’s efforts and respond.

“Bill Shannon,” they say simultaneously. “It’s nice to meet you.”

The joke here is that this is hardly a joke at all. Slightly fictionalized for the sake of bs1story-telling, sure. But Bill Shannon, although one person and not several, encompasses all of these titles, not to mention those of husband, father, grandfather and storyteller. All that’s missing is tinker, tailor, soldier, spy. But who knows, they may be next.

What’s certainly not missing in Shannon is a love for people and nature, and the desire to learn everything about each, respectively, while also impacting the likes of each as positively as he possibly can.

He’s not only interesting—he’s interested. “None of us are getting out of here alive,” he laughed. “What kind of impact can I have when I’m alive that will have a positive influence on people?”

This is an underlying theme throughout Shannon’s actions and artistic tendencies. bs2Creating art out of nature, using art as a distraction to the darker shades of life.

“I do a lot of communicating with community members and parishioners on Facebook,” he said.

“I try to counteract the hatred and division and bitterness by giving something nice to look at. Take them out of the world we live in and give them something they can look at and say ‘Oh, isn’t that neat.’”

Some examples of this include extreme close-ups of snowflakes, documentation of tadpoles – which Shannon saved from the wild and then re-released – evolving into frogs, footage of a snail eating an oyster “through the sand like a monster,” as well as videos of his dramatic reenactments of sermons.

“When I was in high school I won state awards in acting. … (I) won gold for Death of a Salesman,” Shannon said. “I love to act.”

bs4Acting is one of Shannon’s many artistic talents that lend themselves to story-telling, another outlet of “bringing joy to people’s lives,” he said. “My grandson, he and I have a thing going. He’s 12, and whenever he visits he’ll say, ‘Tell me a Virginia story’—Virginia was my grandmother’s name—and I’ll tell him a story about her life,” Shannon said.

“Or he’d ask for an Eileen story—my mother. Now he knows these people; their names and their lives. And, you know, I embellish a little bit.

“It’s a legacy thing. Will my grandson tell stories to his kids? His grandkids? Well, he’s already a storyteller.”

The legacy and power of storytelling is something that Shannon accounts for in not only his family and hopes of spreading joy, but also into his ideals of faith as a pastor.

“The storytelling aspect is part of the faith. (Scriptures) weren’t recorded—they were told,” he said.

“It’s not about the minute details of every word, it’s the story. This is the story, this is who we are. … It’s part of the human condition: sitting around a campfire telling the story of how Great Grandpa Olaf got that bear.” A pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church for seven years, faith and its connection to the human condition is important to Shannon and the grounding platform for his religious ideals.bs5

“God sent his son and not a committee because God wanted a relationship, not a committee,” Shannon laughed. “Institutionalized religion is the dark. … (I teach) it’s about relating and feeling comfortable with God.”

Shannon’s beliefs are reinforced by his upbringing as a pastor. He described the social climate of his origins 46 years ago, when he was a 20-year-old, self-proclaimed “hippy-ish Jesus freak. In 1968, people weren’t trusting institutions,” he recalled. “Boundaries were starting to be crossed.”

Shannon set the scene for an anecdote from his youth, calling a girl to ask her on a date only to be rejected by her father for his Irish last name. Their family Methodist, they assumed “Shannon” to be Roman Catholic. This was not considered acceptable at the time.

“These boundaries are being erased, and that’s a good thing,” he said. Insight into this perspective comes from Shannon’s experience in travel. He’s been all around the world, including notably much of Europe and the Middle East. He cited his love of people as a significant contributing factor as to why he enjoys it so much, describing his youngest son’s own life changing with other-worldly perspective gained through their travels together.

bs6“He said ‘Dad, they’ve got the same hopes and dreams I do,’ and they do,” he said. “The very next day we were in the store and there was this beautiful little 16-year-old, and she’s all excited and filled with enthusiasm because she got her license that day and her dad got her a VW Beetle.

“This was in Downtown Jerusalem and I said to my son, ‘What were you like when you got your driver’s license?

“It’s human condition to have hopes and dreams. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.”

When traveling, Shannon likes to talk with the “everyday people” and get to know them better; “sit down with them, break the language barrier. I know enough Hebrew to be dangerous. … I’m in love with people.”

He recalled a specific memory of a friend he met and was invited to have dinner with in Bethlehem.

“I had dinner with him in April (and we discussed) growing up in Bethlehem, (what it was like) to live in Bethlehem,” he recalled. “When I was there in the fall I was walking down the street and this car speeds by and (a man) starts yelling ‘Bill! Bill! Bill!’ and it was this guy I had supper with. If you make a friend, you have a friend for life.”

Aside from acting and storytelling, some of Shannon’s other hobbies are bird watching and spelunking, among other naturalistic hobbies that lend themselves to “exploring nature and how it works. I’m a naturalist. I want to know more about where I am.”

He loves birds, recreating them in beautiful paintings. His favorite a Carolina Wren known for being “just like a clown.”

As for spelunking, Shannon is enamored with the idea of exploring somewhere that has the potential of being untouched. He directed a caving camp for 10 years to “help give kids an adventure” and enjoys taking his own kids.bs3

“(My oldest son and I) explored a cave we had never been to before. … I sent him up what’s called a chimney. … He’s small so I sent him, you know. Sacrificial kid,” Shannon laughed. “(He called to me), so I slithered up, and at the top of this crevasse was a pool of calcite as white as paper and the water in it was clear as crystal, and it was full of salamander babies.”

Describing the scene, Shannon encapsulates the true nature of his artistry and wonder, seguing with a connective thread his love of people and nature alike. “What a thrill it is, a gift. It’s for the adventure, and that adventure goes outside of nature to people, too.”