The Grain Valley Price Chopper has been open since January of 2018. It is owned by the Cosentinos and is one of more than 50 Price Chopper stores that exist in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Recently, you may have been greeted as you enter the store by an employee who had just finished cleaning carts that had been returned for customer use.
If you were fortunate enough to have Harold Whittlesey greet you, no doubt a “hello” was offered along with a positive comment and a smile. The smile would be visible through the mask Harold wears due to the creases around his eyes turning up and the chuckle that would come out from behind the cloth.
Grain Valley News has received nominations to highlight Whittlesey in our Community Profile section. The nominations included mention of Whittlesey’s commitment to his job and possessing a happiness that would be hard for someone to steal. Whittlesey attributes his happiness to his parents and his faith.
“My mother saved my report cards from school. Teachers stated they enjoyed having me in class because I was always smiling and happy. That’s the best way to go through life because it extends your life. Having a close relationship with the Lord has also played a part,” Whittlesey said.
The Grain Valley resident believes cheering up others brings him happiness. Whittlesey attributes his caring nature being instilled in him by his mother. The work ethic the 77 year old still possesses on display at Price Chopper as a sacker and greeter was promoted by his father who worked two jobs to provide for the family.
Whittlesey works part time at Price Chopper to stay active and to keep the “wolves from growling at his door,” as he puts it, to make things a little easier financially. The former millworker, interior door trimmer, and aerospace worker has been retired for 13 years.
Whittlesey has also enjoyed watching and participating in sports his entire life. The former member of the Kansas City, Kansas Comets semi-pro baseball team relished the opportunity to travel and compete against other 12 man teams in the area during his younger working days. Refereeing was also a passion for Whittlesey. High school baseball and basketball games are on his officiating resume, as is college volleyball and softball.
Being a lifelong learner is something that Whittlesey preaches and has practiced. It took him 41 years to complete, but his bachelor’s degree from Ottawa University in Physical Education is proudly displayed in his home. Whittlesey has also tried to pass on the things he’s learned in his life to other people.
“My favorite part of customer service is getting to tell people to have a fantastic day. If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours is what my Dad use to say,” Whittlesey said.
Learning to find sliver linings in all things is a lesson that is not lost on Whittlesey as well. The current coronavirus pandemic was framed from Whittlesey’s perspective when asked his thoughts on the matter.
“We all realize it’s a problem. If the house is burning down, why would you jump into the house regarding people who have ignored social distancing guidelines and have congregated in large groups anyway,” Whittlesey said.
“Hopefully, people have enjoyed increased time with their family. My wife and Dad have grown close because they are spending more time together. Attending church and worship on Sunday through YouTube has been new and enjoyable.”
Whittlesey finished, “Being aware of best way to support others is a good way to defeat the I and me attitudes we encounter. We live together in this world and not alone, so sharing and being happy will make it the best. Try to find positive people and associate with them. Sharing life with people is important. If you make one person a day less sour, then you improve the world.”
Editors Note: Valley News readers know Marcia (Marty) Napier from her weekly “Looking Back” columns that highlight the history of Grain Valley. We gave Marty a well deserved week off, deciding that she is an ideal candidate to profile in our Community Profile series. In fact, several residents have recommended we profile Marty, and we certainly agreed with the recommendation. The truth is, it is a daunting task to encapsulate Marty’s contributions and ties to Grain Valley in just a few paragarphs. Since we enjoy visiting with Marty so much, we may just make it a regular habit to get a story or two of hers to share. It is our pleasure to introduce those who may not be familiar with Marty Napier.
Few people are as familiar with Grain Valley’s history as Marcia (Marty) Napier. As the granddaughter of James Napier, the man who eventually ran Sni-A-Bar Farm after being hired by William Rockhill Nelson as the chief herdsman, Grain Valley’s history is intertwined with her family’s history.
Napier’s father, Charlie Napier, also served as chief show herdsman from 1934 to 1942. Napier and her brother Charlie participated in the family business a bit as well, buying and raising cattle through 4-H. The hobby proved fruitful for Napier and her brother.
“We would raise cows and then rebred them. And that put my brother and I through college,” Napier said.
“Room and board then was $1,000. Well, I could sell a couple of cows and pay my tuition.”
Napier graduated from Grain Valley High School in 1964; her brother Charlie graduated in 1961 and was valedictorian of his class. Napier fondly remembered sitting around with a small group of fellow high school classmates who were qualified through grades to participate in leadership positions such as student council and National Honor Society.
“There were only a few of us and several positions to fill, so we all sat around and just kind of said, ‘What do you want to do?’. I ended up as secretary of the Student Council, secretary of National Honor Society, and the editor of the school paper.”
After high school, Napier headed to the University of Missouri and studied education. She taught home economics first at Oak Grove and then at Fort Osage until her retirement in 2000.
Not long after her retirement, Napier began a second foray into guiding young people as a “house mom” for fraternities. She first served about a year at a college in Florida and then headed to her alma mater Mizzou to serve as the “house mom” for Alpha Gamma Rho. Napier was at Mizzou for 12 years.
“As the House Mother, you’re not there to make or enforce rules. You help plan Mom’s Weekend, Dad’s Weekend, Founder’s Day, and other activities. You help plan meals, and I did a lot of that given my background in home economics. But mostly, you’re there to be a mom. I did a lot of hemming pants to help guys prepare for interviews, and always had paper clips and Band-Aids at the ready. I’d keep cookies in the freezer and pop a few in the oven when the guys were up past midnight studying.”
Napier returned home to Grain Valley and pledged to friend Jan Reding that she would get involved in the Historical Society and church activities, and that was it. Anyone who knows Marty knows that promise was not kept. Napier is active in countless organizations around town, and is a regular attendee at high school activities.
Napier can be found each Wednesday at the Grain Valley Historical Society, where she has led the effort to catalog and display the Museum’s collections. Napier is an expert on Grain Valley’s history, and many have come to rely on her encyclopedic knowledge to research family history or give historical background to leaders at the City and schools.
As the cars zoomed past the front windows of the Grain Valley Historical Society Museum, we asked Napier if she missed the “old” Grain Valley and looked back longingly to when it was smaller and slower paced.
“No. I love Grain Valley today. I remember before my father died, someone was saying, ’Isn’t it sad that they’re dividing up Sni-A-Bar?’ But my dad wasn’t sad. He was thrilled to death that they were dividing up the old farm for housing and other developments. He was always for progress, and I guess I’m kind of the same way.”
“I love seeing the new high school. Who wouldn’t be proud to say ‘This is our high school.’? It is beautiful. And not only is it a pretty school, but it’s a good school. We need to embrace the changes in Grain Valley and not try to keep things the same.”
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Editors Note: There are few things as intimidating as photographing a pro photographer. David Smith, freelance photographer from Grain Valley, is captured at left by our amateur lens. To view the professional quality photos Smith captures around town, check out his work at MaxPreps.com, follow him on Twitter (@DSmithPhotog), or check out his website at davidsmithphotography.zenfolio.com.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
Valley News recently caught up with Grain Valley resident David Smith before a girls basketball game at Blue Springs High School. Smith can be found around town capturing many exhilarating moments in prep and college sports.
Smith moved to Grain Valley with his wife in 2003. He began with the Missouri Highway Patrol in 1983, and moved all over the state with the job, including stops in Rockport, Mound City, Tarkio, St. Joseph, Jefferson City, and Lee’s Summit.
Smith credits his wife with getting him into his current profession.
“When I married my wife, she was kind of a photo bug, and she got me interested. She had some nephews who were younger than my two boys, and they were into a lot of sports.
She wanted help in taking sports pictures. Helping her got me interested, and I slowly started accumulating photography equipment,” Smith said.
“My oldest son ran track, and my youngest son played football at St. Joseph Central. I was able to take photos of them, and hang out on the sidelines. That was special, and it really got me hooked.”
The self-taught shutterbug honed his skills and landed a job as a freelance photographer for CBS Sports Max Preps in 2015. Smith also does freelance work with other media outlets, including 810 Varsity.
“I love being at the sporting events. The emotion, the intensity of the athletes. The challenge of trying to capture the perfect photo of that peak moment. When you get that perfect image, it’s just very satisfying. Sometimes when I see the parents of the athletes who may have purchased one of the images I’ve captured, and they comment about how much they enjoy it, it’s just gratifying.”
Sports photography pales in comparison to the dangers faced as a Highway Patrolman, but it is not without its hazards.
“You have to have your head on a swivel, and pay attention to what’s going on around you. You don’t ever want to be part of the contest,” Smith said.
“I’ve had a lot of close calls, but I’ve avoided anything serious.”
Smith values the relationships he has been able to make with players, coaches, and athletic directors in the area.
“I’ve met a lot of great people. It’s just amazing to me the level of talent we have in this area, and it’s fun to watch these athletes knowing that we’ll see some of them play at the college level and at the professional level.”
When he’s not on the sidelines, Smith enjoys reading and spending time with his two granddaughters.
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Hopefully, in our formative years we all had an adult who positively influenced us and meaningfully impacted our lives. A teacher, coach, neighbor, community member, etc. who we could look up to as a mentor outside of our immediate families. Someone who would guide with encouragement and be quick to correct us when needed as we learned right from wrong.
Grain Valley South Middle School Teacher Amanda Chrisman has warmly garnered the nickname of “Mom” at times from her students. A moniker she has earned through trust and wears with pride. Upon interviewing Chrisman for this story, a student approached her after school with tunnel vision while Chrisman was talking with colleagues to ask her a question. The student didn’t care that Chrisman was engaged in dialogue, she proclaimed that she knew Chrisman would know the answer to her question and that’s why she needed to ask her.
Chrisman fulfills the role of instructor, role model, active listener, authority figure, and “Mom” at times in her job as a special education teacher. The fifteen-year veteran of public education has spent her entire career with the Grain Valley School District. Chrisman also attended Grain Valley Schools from kindergarten through graduation and is proud that she was able to return home as a professional.
Grain Valley News recently received a nomination to do a Community Profile on Chrisman. Grain Valley South Middle School Principal Jim Myers was happy to learn of Chrisman’s nomination and was quick to shower her with praise.
“Amanda is an excellent educator in every sense of the word. She is a highly skilled classroom teacher who works tirelessly to meet the individual needs of her students. She will do whatever it takes to help them be successful,” Myers said.
“While her instructional skills are exemplary, what makes Amanda truly great is the fact that she is a genuinely outstanding individual who cares very deeply for all the students in her care. This allows her to connect with students and their families in an authentic way. They trust her and know that she is on their side every step of the way.”
Myers continued, “At the risk of sounding redundant, I can’t say enough good things about Amanda. She is highly respected by her colleagues and is viewed as a leader in our building. In addition to her teaching duties, Amanda volunteers to help organize and coach the Special Olympics team in Grain Valley. I would just like to say that Grain Valley South Middle School is a better place because Amanda Chrisman is part of our staff.”
Chrisman paused and thought deeply when the question was posed to her about the most rewarding thing about being a teacher.
“It’s definitely not the money. Just kidding. I think knowing that every kiddo can learn and figuring out how, along with finding the motivation they need to see the light bulb go off in their head is exceptional. Then getting to see the kids later down the road after they’ve reached their potential and still having a connection with him from the past relationship that was fostered is rewarding,” Chrisman said.
The challenges of being a teacher also weigh on the mind of Chrisman.
“Kids see themselves through what they see in social media. Teaching kids academically must be balanced with social and emotional learning. Social media is a barrier and a lens through which students allow themselves to be evaluated or judged. Trauma that kids may endure and combatting against low self-esteem has been a change in our culture,” Chrisman said.
Being referred to as “Mom” by her students doesn’t faze Chrisman. Wearing that mantle proves how comfortable Chrisman is in her skin as an educator.
“I am their school Mom. That’s my job, especially as a special educator. I’m there go to person or safe place when they are having a rough time. Working hard to build relationships makes it feel cool to be called Mom. To me it’s endearing to be considered with that highly respected name,” Chrisman said.
Another big part of Chrisman’s life is Special Olympics. The head coach sees the volunteer opportunity more as a reward more than work. Seeing a kid practice, compete, and grow on a playing field suited for them brings a smile to Chrisman’s face. She doesn’t mind being known as “Mom” their either.
Chrisman was also mentioned for her faith-based work when nominated for the Community Profile in Grain Valley News. The member of Crossroads Church works with youth in their Quest program on Sundays. Teaching seems to travel everywhere with Chrisman regardless of her geographic location.
“I enjoy that in our community everyone still has the chance to know your name. We are still small enough in that regard. My friend teases me that every time we go somewhere you run into someone you know. She’s from Grandview and I remind her that I live here and teach here. It’s kind of like being in a glass bowl, but I love it regardless of whether I’m having a good day or bad day and wouldn’t want it any other way.”
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Valley News featured Grain Valley resident Paul Juarez in February 2019 as a part of our Community Profile section. Juarez shares his “Realistick People” cartoons regularly on our Facebook page and occasionally in our print and online editions. Juarez has compiled a series of his humorous cartoons into a book now available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s website.
To read our profile of Juarez, visit the News section of our website, www.grainvalleynews.com and search under Community Profiles.
Grain Valley resident Paul Juarez has published a book of his humorous drawings featuring a couple of stick figures. Realistick People Vol. 1 is available for purchase on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble’s website.
Photo credit: Paul Juarez
Dan Nix has lived in Grain Valley for 41 years and is a lifelong hunting enthusiast. He regularly hunts deer in Missouri and has hunted quail, coyotes, and hogs. He never had a desire to take his hobby beyond the States, but after winning a hunting trip to Africa six years ago, he was hooked.
“I knew some people that had gone and they said you need to go. I never had any desire to go. I figured there was enough hunting in North America,” Nix said.
Since his initial trip to South Africa, Nix has traveled to Namibia, and back to South Africa this past July. While some recent national stories have focused on hunters who go on big game hunts, Nix participates in managed hunts of specific animals that are processed and shared with local communities and orphanages. In his most recent hunt, Nix harvested a number of animals, including two wildebeest, a blesbok and steenbok (both antelopes native to southern and eastern Africa).
“I wish I had gone 30 years ago. The hunts are really regulated and managed well by local professional hunters and guides. We had an opportunity to hunt specific animals that were no longer breeding. We went out and picked a specific female wildebeest out and they processed her. I stopped by the orphanage where the meat was donated and was able to take a tour. They were getting ready for lunch when we arrived. Their kitchen was impressive and looked just like a professional kitchen you would see in the states. The orphanage served 167 boys and girls.”
Nix said that meat processed from the managed hunts is shared with the lodge hosting the hunts, the guide and hunters in charge, and then with the local communities. Most of the farming communities he has encountered share a communal kitchen and meat is shared among community members.
“Every place that I’ve been and the people that I know that have gone have all experienced the same thing. Local families and orphanages all get a portion of the meat. Nothing is gone to waste,” Nix said.
Nix was able to travel with his father, who is in his 90s and still hunts, to Namibia. During a separate trip his father took to South Africa, a member of their group was able to assist in the hunt of a lioness who had been killing livestock and attacking people.
“Cats are a real problem in a lot of areas, and the conservation officials work with farmers and safaris to manage these hunts,” Nix said.
“Every time I get over there, I think this is how the garden of Eden had to be. You could be out in the plains or bush, and 10 miles away you’re in mountains. It is absolutely beautiful there.”
Nix plans to return for another safari in 2021.
Grain Valley School District employee Pete Carpino was recently nominated for the Community Profile in Grain Valley News. Coach Carpino is about to begin his 31st year in public education. He’s worn may hats during that time.
Tenures in rural, urban, and suburban school settings have led Carpino to believe that kids are the same regardless of where they come from. That view is clad in time spent as a strength and conditioning teacher, special education teacher, as well as a football and girls basketball coach.
Carpino believes that respect and competition are two important parts of any education a student receives. “Treat people with respect and be hard on them when it comes to expectations, and they’ll respect you. My wife and I raised three girls, and we had a rule in our house that you had to be involved in two activities during the school year. As long as you are involved, you are better off. Research shows that students who are involved in school do better academically than those who don’t,” Carpino said.
The University of Kansas is among those institutions that have conducted research cited by Carpino. A study performed by Lumpkin and Achen during the 2011-2012 school year found that students involved in athletics or activities had higher attendance and graduation rates, lower drop-out rates, and higher assessment scores than those not involved.
“I’m a huge fan, and I know all of our coaches are, of students who are three sport athletes. We don’t want kids to concentrate on one thing year around. For one thing, I think it creates injuries. It’s something that’s unwanted. Especially, in a kid who’s fifteen, perhaps doing the same repetitive motion for 12 months continuously. We’ve got kids in the band or that cheer that are in the weight room. It helps them all. They know I’m receptive to it. I love having them in there and seeing them work to get better,” Carpino said.
Spending time near the sideline or court leads one to notice the pride Carpino has in being a Grain Valley Eagle, along with his passion for coaching. These attributes are echoed by head coaches David Allie and Randy Draper who lead the Eagle football and girls basketball programs respectively.
“Pete is firm, fair, and caring. The kids like him because they know what they are going to get and it’s consistent. Coach is also quick to praise and quick to correct. He’s a good communicator and a great football mind. We both love football and have similar personalities. It’s awesome to coach with someone who’s your best friend,” Allie said.
Draper was also complimentary in his summation of Carpino. “Caring and genuine are two words I would use to describe Pete. He wants to do a good job, and the kids know he’s invested in them doing well. He’s also hilarious, and the kids enjoy his sense of humor.”
Coach Carpino is starting his sixth year at Grain Valley High School. He’s quick to light up when talking about Eagle Time Advisory Period or his teaching philosophy for strength and conditioning when asked about things he’s most proud of about being an Eagle.
“The community is outstanding. There are so many good people here. We have a session during the week called Eagle Time where we mentor twenty or so kids through their high school career. Get to know them, do enrollment with them, and provide advice or counseling. My wife being a local OBGYN, two-thirds of that class was delivered by my wife. It’s really cool to have multiple connections with that group of individuals. This is the best school district I’ve ever been in, and I’ve been in some good ones,” Carpino said.
“I also went through a paradigm shift about fifteen years ago when I went to the University of Southern California when Pete Carroll was the head football coach there. I spent several days with their staff, and a large portion of that was in the weight room. What I learned from them that’s always stuck with me is that they preached they were building athletes not refrigerators. I started teaching more ground based explosive lifts to build better athletes in the weight room. I’m also fortunate to have several guys on staff who have weight training experience that I can lean on for advice as well.”
Longevity within a profession tends to have several ingredients. A career that spans across three decades no doubt involves applying what you’ve learned. Carpino credits well respected and retired educator Bob Tavernaro as someone who had a profound impact on him.
“The best advice I’ve ever received about doing well on the job came from Coach Tavernaro. He encouraged you as an educator to be fair in what you do. When you go home, look in the mirror and know that what you’ve done is the right thing. Be nice to the custodians. Be nice to the secretaries and don’t send your kids to the office all the time and you’ll be okay,” Carpino quipped with a smile and a chuckle.
Having the good fortune to be around someone who influences you to do positive things is a blessing. Coach Tavernaro is a member of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He, just like Coach Carpino, enjoyed watching young people succeed during his time in education. It will be interesting to see who picks up the torch of motivating young people in the future with the Eagles that flock to the sideline or the court during the remaining tenure of Coach Carpino’s time in Grain Valley.
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The Grain Valley Community Center offers a variety of programs and events for our city. Overseeing the building, reservations, and financing for programs is Jim Meyer. He’s served in his current role as Community Center Manager since 2002. Meyer’s previous career experience in the hospitality industry has served him well in the 17 years he has worked in his current position.
“I get energy from people. I worked in the hotel industry for years prior to working in this position. I enjoy trying to take care of people and seeing them happy. Parks and Recreation has been a great fit for me in trying to provide a service that supports people,” Meyers said.
Meyer’s success in his professional career has been built on relationships. Stop by the Community Center, and there’s a good chance you will witness him diligently finding answers for people, making sure everyone has what they need, and working to keep things organized in the building. It’s apparent that he genuinely enjoys being an ambassador for the City of Grain Valley.
“Our goal is that once they (a community member) find us, we want to support them in finding the right class or program to best suit their needs. Building positive energy through learning in our community grows relationships.”
“We have a marquee sign, a community calendar in our town newspaper, and word of mouth that all let the information spread about we do and can offer to further interactions and personal connections among people,” Meyers said.
“Jim at the Gym”, as he jokingly refers to himself, is involved within the community outside of work as well. He’s currently the Vice-President of the Grain Valley Assistance Council, an affiliate of the Community Services League. Meyers is also actively involved in the First United Methodist Church of Blue Springs. Serving on the hospitality committee for part of the approximately twenty years he’s been a member with the church.
Meyer chooses to work and live in Grain Valley after falling in love with the community. He and his wife moved here from outside of Lincoln, Nebraska after Meyer accepted a job in the hospitality industry. They have enjoyed raising their family here and the education their children received from the school district.
Meyer encourages residents to make time to try new activities and stay active.
“I encourage people to give it a try. In today’s world, people are close to making that choice that their busy lives keep them from. That tennis class, setting up a rental of a facility, etc. Don’t sell yourself short. It usually works out well,” Meyers said.
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