by Michael Smith
Growing up in the town he was raised in, life-long Grain Valley resident Jason Fenstermaker had a dream of becoming a head football coach.
He was a three-sport athlete at Grain Valley High School and ended being a teacher there and an assistant coach for football and wrestling after he graduated from University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kan.
Now he’s realizing an alternative dream as a co-owner of Iron Kettle Brewery along with fellow Grain Valley grads Brian Fenstermaker, Ben Call and James Nelson. It’s a Scottish-themed pub that opened on St. Patrick’s Day this year and is located at 508 Main St. in downtown Grain Valley.
That wasn’t originally his dream coming out of high school. When he was a young athlete, his dream was to become a professional football player.
“I wanted to be the next Derrick Thomas,” Fenstermaker said of wanting to be like the former Chiefs linebacker. “When everyone else started growing I realized that I wasn’t as big as I needed to be. My focus changed, but my love of sports didn’t.”
That’s when Fenstermaker chased his second dream of becoming a head football coach. He admitted the main reason he wanted to be an educator was so he could coach football.
He started out as an assistant coach at Grain Valley before becoming a running backs coach for the University of St. Mary. He decided he wanted to start a family so he left college coaching to become a head football and wrestling coach at the now defunct St. Mary’s High School in Independence.
“It’s really hard to have a family, and be a college football coach,” Fenstermaker said.
His last stop was at Lone Jack High School where he was the head football and wrestling coach along with being an activities director and principal. This school year was his last one as he will be focusing on growing his business full time and spending more time with his family.
“I am doing more with my degree now, then I have for the last 12 to 13 years being an educator,” Fenstermaker said.
During his time at Lone Jack, Fenstermaker and his co-owners opened the Iron Kettle. The idea to start the brewery began when Fenstermakers’ mother passed away In December 2019. She left behind an inheritance to her two sons, who have a brick on the building dedicated to honoring her. The money they received aided them in realizing their dream of opening up a pub in their hometown.
Fenstermaker wanted to introduce a new kind of beer to patrons of the city. Growing up he said that he was a Miller High Life or Miller Lite drinker and that many citizens in Grain Valley mostly drank domestic beers.
He’s now converted to a craft beer drinker.
“That’s like picking your favorite child,” Fenstermaker said when asked what his favorite beer is at the Iron Kettle. “If I had to choose it would be the Merlin’s amber ale. When my brother brewed it, I said, ‘This is it.’”
“I will put our Irish ale against any ale in Kansas City. We want to convert one domestic beer drinker at a time.”
He was converted to blonde ale and amber ale drinker by his brother Brian, who has been brewing beer for 12 years. In recent years, the Fenstermaker brothers are now closer than they were before. It was the brewery that helped them develop a stronger relationship and they now call themselves “The Brew Brothers.”
“Once I tasted his amber ale, I looked at him and said, ‘We can sell this.’” Fenstermaker said. “He’s the master of potions as we call him,” Fenstermaker said. “We also call him the kilted brewer because he wears a kilt while he’s brewing.
“Slowly over time, it became what we wanted to do. We actually weren’t close growing up. It wasn’t that we didn’t like each other, we just didn’t have anything in common. What brought us together was the love of beer and the love of brewing beer.”
So far, Fenstermaker said he likes the direction his business is going and is glad he made the decision to leave the education field.
“The business is doing well,” Fenstermaker said. “It can do better. That’s my job to make it do better. I put my career above my family my entire professional life. I made them sacrifice. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to be there for them.
“Even if I have to work here at night, I can still be there in the morning to make my kids breakfast. I have never been able to do that before.”
by John Unrein
Growing up there were two must read sports writers for me. One was Peter King of Sports Illustrated, and the other was Bill Althaus of the Examiner. King’s insight was second to none when it came to the National Football League. He could bring professional football alive. Althaus captured a story with concise writing while setting up and working through quotes better than any other columnist. It made you feel like you were at the event he was covering. Something that is a gift.
Only one of those writers resides in Eastern Jackson County. More importantly, in the community of Grain Valley. Althaus and his wife Stacy are long term residents of Grain Valley and had an abundance of reasons for establishing roots here decades ago.
“We wanted a small town feel, but I wanted a community close enough to Kansas City that I could still make it out to the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals as well as concerts downtown. We came out to Grain Valley on a weekend when the Eagles were playing football in the postseason. Buildings were decorated blue, and they had painted large Eagles in the street. It was something you would see in a Walt Disney movie,” Althaus said.
“We fell in love with this town. That same weekend we bought a lot in Brigadoon Estates and six months later became residents. We have never regretted it one moment. What the school district has done with its growth academically and with activities, I could have never in a million years seen that happening. It has been fun to go along for the ride.”
Jacksonville Jaguars head football coach Urban Meyer said during a 2018 interview that the most important thing to do in a leadership role is to build trust. That doing so would allow for what was being offered to be embraced. Key ingredients among the formula Meyer stressed was to be yourself and find a message that others would find meaningful and listen to.
The Twitter description offered by Althaus is an example of how he communicates with others. It is humble, straight forward, gracious, and displays longevity in the challenging profession of journalism.
Althaus shares, “Started with a manual typewriter and now I’m Tweeting. What a memorable journey it has been. Thanks for sharing it. Thirty-Nine years at the Examiner. Is that possible?”
Relationship building and treating everyone he meets the same way allows Althaus to gain trust. The faith put in Althaus by others in the media, public education, and by student athletes has been gained through consistency in character. Something that has not gone unnoticed by Grain Valley assistant principal Mike Tarrants and local media mogul Brian Johnston.
Tarrants was the activities director at Grain Valley High School prior to assuming the current role of assistant principal and being assistant football coach for the Eagles. Johnston is the owner of Sponsorship Focus and Preps KC, the founder of Vision Sports, has formerly worked for Royals Radio Network, and was the Corporate Partnership Sales Manager for the Kansas City Chiefs. Both men who have enjoyed a high degree of success in their own careers did not hesitate to shower Althaus with adoration based on the bonds they have shared over the years.
“I have known Bill for 15 years since I came to Grain Valley High School as an administrator. I got to know him through the various activities that I was supervising,” Tarrants said.
“Bill has also served as a mentor to my oldest son Blake (who is blind). Bill took him under his wing, mentored him, wrote a couple of articles about him, and has kept up with Blake throughout his college and early adulthood years. It was through this process that I saw the true qualities of Mr. Althaus. There was no benefit for Bill to help out Blake other than just being a good person.”
Tarrants finished, “When Bill was inducted into the Grain Valley High School Hall of Fame, I could tell that it was truly an honor for him. Bill was very gracious and considered it as a personal award, not just a professional one.”
Johnston echoed many of the sentiments shared by Tarrants when reflecting on his relationship with Althaus.
“I have known Bill for 25 years. It started when I began Vision Sports – broadcasting Blue Springs and Blue Springs South football games on radio. He was a big supporter of it and really helped us get it off the ground,” Johnston said.
“Bill is so positive. I have never known a writer to create positive stories about everything he writes. He makes people feel like they are super stars. When my dad was alive, Bill would talk Detroit Tigers baseball with him. Specifically, Al Kaline who was my dad’s hero. I have never forgotten that.”
Johnston concluded, “Bill is a good friend. He would do anything for anyone.”
Althaus deeply cherishes the relationships he has forged. A reward for four decades of work came full circle for Althaus on June 10th. The Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association, an elite fraternity that is guarded by admission selection, inducted Althaus into their 2021 Hall of Fame class. Althaus is the only newspaper reporter to be inducted during the history of the GKCFCA Hall of Fame.
“It was an honor. Anthony Simone, who started the Simone Award, David Allie who is the president of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association, to see those people who have made such an impact in your life was a great reward,” Althaus said.
“Thirty-nine years in one place in the newspaper business is unheard of, especially for a smaller newspaper like the Examiner. We still put out an award winning newspaper every day of the week, even with a smaller staff. It has been so much fun along the way. Some of my best friends now are people who I met when they were student athletes during their junior and senior years in high school.”
“In the early 1980’s, I was the beat writer for the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals. My family watched Christian Okoye’s daughter when he would come to training camp. We got to attend George Brett’s wedding. We were roughly the same age. The persona of the athlete has changed today. It is more sterile now. You do not get to know people like you did back then.”
Althaus added, “That is why I like covering high school sports so much now. A Friday night under the lights with a coach and team you respect, there is nothing better in the world than that.”
Grain Valley News selfishly enjoys getting to write Community Profile stories. The effort permits for the residents of our community to know about the fascinating people who call Grain Valley home. We are blessed to have individuals who give to those around them and deserve the spotlight. If you would like to nominate someone for a Community Profile, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eddie Saffell has hung up his helmet, having recently retired as Deputy Chief of Training and Education from Central Jackson County Fire Protection District (CJCFPD), after serving 30 years with the department.
Saffell started his career as a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Harrisonville before serving 30 years with CJCFPD. Saffell began as a Fire Inspector, conducting investigations, inspections and providing public education.
His culminating role as Deputy Chief of Training and Education found him responsible for all internal training, the district’s paramedic program, and outside training for EMS.
The fire service and CJCFPD has changed quite a bit since Saffell began his career over 30 years ago.
“When I first started, we just grabbed the hose, ran in, and went to work on putting the fire out. Over the years, especially over the past 10-15 years, we really have to think about how we ventilate and having the incident commander control that, so we are doing it in a smart way,” Saffell said.
“We are doing more analysis and evaluation before we go into a fire, just to try to make it safer for our guys and do the best we can for the public.”
Saffell also notes that the majority of the department’s calls are EMS related and not fire-related calls.
“We’re not firefighters as much as we are masters of everything. We have to be paramedics/EMTs, public educators, as well as firefighters,” Saffell said.
The department has also been in a constant state of change throughout Saffell’s career.
“We went from basically volunteer with some full-time staff to fully paid almost overnight. Then in 1992, we hired another crew to take over the ambulance from Blue Springs. So, we’ve had growing pains almost the entire 30 years. We were always adding a station or adding a service,” Saffell said.
Saffell is grateful for the opportunity to serve in the department as long as he did, noting that “thirty years in one job is almost unheard of anymore.”
“I was able to go to school and earn three degrees. I was able to earn my paramedic license and other national recognitions, and all of it was geared toward making CJCFPD better. Being able to get to those recognitions and educational milestones was pretty special.”
“I was lucky enough to be promoted a few times. I went from driving the fire trucks to being a Captain on a truck, and then was promoted to Assistant Chief of our Fire Prevention Division before being promoted to Deputy Chief. Those promotions are always fun.”
“But, watching us add stations and our training facility was important as well. Every time we took a step, I felt like those of us who were there were part of being able to take that step.”
“I feel really lucky. I think I got to do everything personally and professionally I wanted to do.”
Nothing specific told Saffell it was time to retire, other than the desire to “let the younger guys come in and let them move the department forward”.
“The fire service is changing, and it really is a young person’s job. I put my time in and I helped grow and improve the department. It is time to let the younger guys come along and see what they can do with it,” Saffell said.
“I also preach to our paramedic students and the people we hire that the goal is make the CJCFPD and the fire service better than when you found it.”
As for his plans in retirement, Saffell is staying busy in the short term helping to homeschool his first grade grandchild.
“We have a six year old and five year old grandchild, and they keep us pretty busy,” Saffell said.
Saffell expressed his gratitude for the District residents of Blue Springs, Grain Valley, and Lake Tapawingo for supporting the department, and in turn, his career.
“The community we serve is really the reason that CJCFPD is what it is. They allowed us to have anything that we asked for, and the reason they did was that they could trust that we would do what we promised we would do with the support they provided. The community was extremely supportive and I would like to thank them for being as supportive as they have been and for allowing us to give them the services they deserve and expect.”
“On a personal note, the reason I was able to achieve the educational and professional milestones I did was because they supported the District and the District supported us.
“I just wanted to say thank you to the communities for allowing me to serve them for as long as I have, and for being as supportive as they have been for everything we try to do.”
Saffell lives in Grain Valley with his wife Debbie and continues to serve the community as President of the Grain Valley School Board.
The Community Development Director for a city wears many hats. They are typically responsible for, but not limited to, Planning/Engineering, Building/Codes, Public Works, Information Technology/Geographic Information System, and Fleet Maintenance. The quality and efficiency of the work done in community development directly impacts the quality of life for the residents of a community.
Mark Trosen has been the Community Development Director for Grain Valley since June of 2019. The Jackson County resident is a proud parent and new grandparent who was recently nominated to be featured in the Community Profile section of Grain Valley News.
When Trosen is away from work he loves spending time with family along with being outdoors and on the water. Boating and fishing are hobbies for Trosen.
Grain Valley City Administrator Ken Murphy works closely with Trosen and shared his thoughts on what Trosen has brought to the city in his role as Community Development Director.
“We were really excited when we learned that Mark applied for the Community Development Director position. Over the years, I have worked with Mark in his different roles with Jackson County and gained a great deal of respect for him,” Murphy said.
“Mark wasted no time getting to work for the city and has done a great job making sure that our difficult programs and projects have a clear direction moving forward.”
“Mark’s ability to find solutions to problems that the department is faced with makes him the right fit to lead in such a critical time of growth.”
Whether it’s Burger King or a medical marijuana cultivation facility, Trosen works with city staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission to facilitate the process of new businesses showing interest in Grain Valley.
There are typically seven steps a new business will go through in trying to partner with Grain Valley in seeing if there’s a fit.
1. An email or telephone call by a business interested in a property.
2. A response by the city with how that property is zoned, available utilities for that site, and rules and regulations for that zoning area.
3. If the location is desirable for a business, they go through a pre-application meeting to review pressing plans and the process of filling out an application with the city.
4. The business stays in contact with the city as they work through questions and details prior to submitting their application.
5. The business files the application with the city.
6. A public hearing is held with the Planning and Zoning Commission and they make a recommendation.
7. A public hearing is held with the Board of Alderman prior to an approval vote for ordinance.
“What I love most about my job is getting to work with people. We receive a lot of questions from people on how they may use their property and what type of development may occur. I get to share the vision of the city with people in regard to its comprehensive plan,” Trosen said.
“My role also allows me to problem solve, which I enjoy. A recent item we have problem solved and planned for is the recent presentation we did before the Board of Alderman about the city street maintenance program.”
“Back in 2018, there was a citizen survey that conveyed one of the main items residents were concerned about were street conditions in Grain Valley. When I started here last year one of the first things I did was looking at the city citizen survey and comprehensive plan.”
“That led to a proposal in the 2020 budget that would do a pavement condition assessment for how best we could improve the street conditions in Grain Valley.”
“The thing I enjoy the least about my job is that unfortunately, I have to tell people ‘no.’ Simply by ordinance they may not be allowed to do something based on land use or zoning. Those rules and regulations may make us say you can’t put that deck as close to your property line as you would like based on the minimum setback of city ordinance.”
“It’s tough to tell people ‘no.’ Explaining why that ‘no’ exists usually leads to people understanding though.”
Trosen has been complimented on more than one occasion during Board of Alderman meetings for his preparedness in providing maps, research on city ordinances, and providing answers to questions used by the Board of Alderman to make decisions.
“Knowing where to find resources that provide accurate answers is an important part of the job. We depend a lot on the Jackson County GIS system because they keep current aerial photos for maps. One of the goals of our department is to improve the capability of our local GIS so that down the road, citizens can get on the city website and find what they need as well,” Trosen said.
“When it comes to city ordinance, it’s both what you remember because of the day in and out of your job as well as doing research. I can recite the building setbacks of R1 zoning district right now, but if you said you wanted to have a particular use in the city, I would have to check ordinance to verify.”
“That’s kind of our role with citizens, developer, builders, and companies looking to locate here. We try to be ambassadors for the city regarding ordinances and guide them in where they can find the information they need to have the correct answers to make a decision.”
“We don’t want any surprises for people. We want to be up front with rules and regulations so there can be a partnership.”
Trosen has most been fascinated with the community feel of Grain Valley. The compassion that people have for wanting to be in the best neighborhoods, fire protection districts, and school district possible impresses Trosen.
Trosen paused for a second in reflection before giving his final interview answer as to what is the best advice he would give someone based on his professional experiences.
“Working for local government, the only thing you truly have is your integrity and character. If that’s ever tarnished by the way you perform in a particular job, it’s reflected in how people think of you.”
“Being upfront, transparent, and sharing accurate information is what I’m judged upon on in my opinion.”
Have a nomination for a Community Profile? E-mail email@example.com
Mohandas Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Janis “Jan” Reding has been serving the community of Grain Valley since she moved here with her family in 1977. Grain Valley News has received multiple nominations to tell Reding’s story in the Community Profile section of the newspaper. We are delighted to do so.
Reding’s service to her community reads like a grocery list of involvement and good deeds. Reding has been a member of FOCUS for Grain Valley (formerly Optimist Club of Grain Valley) since 1997. A member of the Grain Valley Historical Society since 1999, Reding is currently completing her 8th year as Secretary for the organization.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of attending “Trivia Night” for the Grain Valley Assistance Council, you know of Reding’s devotion to those in need within our community. Reding has been on the Board of Directors for the Assistance Council since 1998.
Not only do the Assistance Council’s “Trivia Nights” raise money to feed Grain Valley families, they help transform our community in a positive manner with the fellowship that comes out of intellectual thinking and conversation during the event. Reding is always quick to thank those who donate their winnings instead of keeping it for themselves. The smile and kind words are heart felt and sincere for anyone who has ever heard them from Reding.
Other commitments for Reding include: Member of the Pillar of the Community Awards Committee, volunteer at the Monterey Park Nursing Center for 21 years, Member of the Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) in Grain Valley since 2013, and Member of the task force for Economic Development and Master Planning in Grain Valley. This list is extensive and likely not inclusive of all Reding’s efforts.
Perhaps the capstone of Reding’s community involvement can be found in her love for children and her passion for learning. Reding was recently elected to serve another term as a member of the Grain Valley R-5 School Board. A post she has consecutively been elected to since 1999.
Reding credits her father for the importance that education has played in her life. A former superintendent of a small school district in Steffenville, Missouri, Reding’s dad was constantly teaching her to manage things should she ever be alone. Reding happily soaked up the knowledge as her father’s shadow growing up.
“His rule was ‘plan your work and work your plan.’ He was always telling me, ‘Never let a day go by without learning something new.’ He instilled in me wanting to be involved with schools and supporting children,” Reding said.
“I started in Grain Valley by being a school volunteer coordinator and then ran for a position on the school board. For the last 21 years on the board, I have watched our school district grow and become one of the best in the nation, and thanks to the patrons of our wonderful city, I am able to continue my service on the board for another three years.”
Reding continued, “I can say without question, that every member of our district staff is dedicated to providing the highest level of education to our students. Thanks to the wonderful support of our district’s patrons who pass our school bond issues, we continue to provide the safest and most efficient learning facilities for our students.”
Reding’s determination to give back to her community has been extensively generous across the three facets of contributions.
First, Reding loves reading and believes promoting literacy with children is great way to give them a better tomorrow. Each year, during the annual Scholastic Book Fair, Reding selects two schools (on rotation throughout the district) and permits teachers to select two books to add to their classroom library or take home to share with their children. Reding pays for this out of her own pocket. It helped her secure the moniker as the “secret donor” before her identity was revealed.
Next, Reding wanted to establish a scholarship for a Grain Valley student whose career path was either in education or business at the University of Central Missouri in honor of her father, Lyle H. Allen.
Lastly, a donation of $10 to the Grain Valley Education Foundation for every “A” her son and three granddaughters made while completing their undergraduate degrees rounds out Reding’s donations.
“During the last two Bright Futures annual meetings, Dr. Brad Welle (Grain Valley School District Deputy Superintendent of School and Community Services) and I have given a presentation on how to engage grandparents to volunteer in their school districts. I tell them about my $10 for every ‘A’ and have heard that there were many who took the idea and ran with it,” Reding said.
Grain Valley School District Superintendent Dr. Marc Snow is among those proud to call Reding one of their own.
“Jan Reding has served the community of Grain Valley as a member of the school board for over 20 years. Her legacy as a board member can best be described as ‘making sure every decision that she makes puts students front and center.’ Her legacy as a citizen of Grain Valley can, in part, be described as serving others first,” Snow said.
“During Reding’s time on the school board, the district’s enrollment has easily more than doubled. She has been a part of building two middle schools, two elementary schools, an early childhood center, a maintenance building, and a transportation center – not to mention the numerous additions done along the way.”
“Academically, she has seen the district move from little-known to nationally recognized. I am convinced that the many positive changes would not have happened if Jan was not involved.”
Snow concluded, “Jan Reding is simply the best Grain Valley has to offer. She loves her community, loves people, and loves serving others.”
Reding’s knowledge attained serving in leadership positions and working as the building manager for the Power & Light Building in Kansas City for 37 years prior to retiring in 1994 due to her husband’s illness has left her with a wealth of knowledge. Reding is not shy in her willingness to share advice with others who will listen.
“Make every day count. Do the things that make you happy and content. I am an outside person, and I love to mow. I watch the birds follow me as I blow the insects out of the grass, and I love to see the squirrels chase one another from tree to tree. When I am finished, I marvel at how lovely and clean everything looks,” Reding said.
“Life is too short to waste a minute on feeling sorry for yourself. If you must choose between reading a book or do the ironing, read a book – the ironing can wait!”
It was a joy for Grain Valley News to research Reding’s life. Numerous residents of Grain Valley went out of their way to contribute to this story. They were all happy to share how Reding makes our community stronger.
Have a nomination for our Community Profile feature? Email your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eastern Jackson County resident Sam Luttrell has been the owner of Absolute Automotive in Grain Valley since October of 2008. Luttrell’s first taste of success as a mechanic occurred at 14 years of age when he replaced his first head gasket on a motor. It was out of necessity for his father’s vehicle to assure he could still get back and forth to work. Luttrell was hooked and that has blossomed into a 30 year career.
“My Mom would tell you that I took my Tonka truck apart and put it back together out of curiosity to find out how it works at the age of five. I’ve always had a natural mechanical aptitude,” Luttrell said.
The decision of location on where to open Absolute Automotive was not an easy one for Luttrell. There were already auto mechanic shops in Grain Valley with established reputations. The building at 104 East AA Highway in Grain Valley was the most economical fit.
“Some of the buildings in the area that I was looking at to rent or buy wanted between $5,000 to $6,000 a month. I was able to secure our current location for significantly less. That was the difference, as the larger amounts would have left me wondering how we would have made the monthly payment,” Luttrell said.
Grain Valley News recently received a nomination for Luttrell to be featured as a Community Profile. The recommendation highlighted Luttrell’s honesty and his ability to communicate well with his customers. It would go on to also mention Absolute Automotive’s up front pricing and their timeliness of service in completing auto service and repair jobs.
A complete menu of maintenance, diagnostic, and repair service descriptions and costs are found on Absolute Automotive’s website (www.absoluteautomotive.net). Everything from used car pre-purchase inspections for $67.50 to a tire rotation for $25.00. Looking for the phone number to Luttrell’s shop (816-847-5252) via Yellow Pages online will also reveal an A+ Better Business Bureau rating.
The coronavirus pandemic and recent flow of business has led Luttrell to put off getting a haircut. The result was being mentioned as a Jerry Garcia look alike of the Grateful Dead by a recent customer. Luttrell accepted the observation with his usual smile and deep chuckle.
“The Saturday when they announced the shutdown was when I was supposed to have my last haircut. My wife is a fan of actor Sam Elliott and that’s the look she wanted me to go for. I said okay and I’ve let it grow. It’s pretty shaggy right now,” Luttrell said.
Satisfaction after three decades in the industry still comes for Luttrell when he solves a problem that’s been a mystery. Especially, a complicated electronic problem. Computers have made the diagnosis of these types of issues easier. However, they still often involve the process of elimination and problem solving by a skilled human who pays attention to detail
“Figuring out the right answer is rewarding. I’ll have something that I’ve been fighting all day long and then wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning and realize what I should check next,” Luttrell said.
“Finding what works will lead you to what doesn’t. We get a common powertrain control module code P0171 or that the oxygen sensor is lean on bank one. That doesn’t necessarily mean the oxygen sensor is bad. It’s a possibility, but what usually causes the code is unmetered air entering the engine. All engines today measure how much air is going into them. This allows them to know how much fuel to add and how the oxygen sensor should like when it gets the correct amount.”
Luttrell continued, “If you have a vacuum line off, a hose that deteriorates, the oxygen sensor will go lean and when it goes out of it’s operating window, the computer will send the code. It’s not an exact science. Provided diagnostic codes point you in a direction and you have to confirm the issue and cause.”
Luttrell works by appointment at Absolute Automotive and is open from 7am to 5pm Monday through Friday.
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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.”
Have a nomination for a Community Profile? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Have a nomination for a Community Profile? E-mail email@example.com
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.”
Have a nomination for a Community Profile? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org