Fort Scott National Cemetery hosts Memorial Day events

Residents of and visitors to Fort Scott honored fallen heroes of the United States of America Monday with a Memorial Day ceremony at the National Cemetery, hosted by organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1165 and American Legion Post 25, along with others.

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Kevin Johnson, director of the Leavenworth National Cemetery Complex and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom II and III, said many people confuse Memorial Day with Veterans’ Day, admitting he himself did the same before he served in Iraq. Johnson stressed that Americans should take time to remember those soldiers throughout the country’s history who did not get the opportunity to become veterans, but made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their country.

“The first day you lost a brother you understood what Memorial Day was,” Johnson said of when the holiday truly gained meaning for him while he was serving in Baghdad in 2004.

American Gold Star Mother Jennifer Jackman also spoke during the Fort Scott event and praised the city and local organizations for their care for the local cemetery, which she described as beautiful.

“What a wonderful way to remember our fallen,” Jackman said of the many flowers throughout the cemetery and especially the American flags placed at each grave.

Jackman also encouraged listeners to take time to visit private cemeteries and look for similar headstones and flags marking the places where other veterans are buried outside the national cemetery.

In his invocation of the event, Reverend Chuck Russell encouraged those in attendance to make sure they never forget America’s fallen heroes, but that they also make sure their children understand those sacrifices as well, since anything less could be a disservice to those men and women who died to protect the freedoms Americans enjoy.

“We answer a call and do what we’re told,” Johnson said of himself and his fellow soldiers. “And that’s why we’re all free today.”

The event also included an honor volley, Taps, the Gettysburg Address, pledge of allegiance led by a local boy scout and the reading of General Logan Order Number 11 concerning the purpose and origins of Memorial Day.

Papa Don’s celebrates 20 years in Fort Scott

This week, Papa Don’s restaurant in downtown Fort Scott celebrated its 20th anniversary in the city, where it continues to provide pizza and other menu items and services to the community on a daily basis.

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“I’d like to sincerely congratulate you guys from the chamber and the community on your 20 years of service to Fort Scott,” Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lindsay Madison said.

Named after current general manager Brita Rygmyr’s grandfather, who helped finance the family’s endeavor, Papa Don’s has changed locations and owners but has been in its current location for the past five years. Rygmyr said they enjoy being in what she called a quaint downtown and such a short distance from the Fort Scott National Historic Site.

“We’re happy to be back here,” Rygmyr said of their arrival in Fort Scott, which first came in 1991 before the family’s decision to sell the business in 2005, only to buy it again in 2011. “We love it.”

After her family was part of the A&W restaurant business for the 20 years, Rygmyr said her family opened the pizza restaurant with her mother’s secret dough recipe and came to Fort Scott at the invitation of the city manager at the time.

“A lot of things that we do is in-house, which is very time-consuming,” Rygmyr said of their services, which include making dough and pizza sauce from scratch each day and grinding their own cheese.

New additions have also come to the menu as Papa Don’s tries to provide for all customers by adding gluten-free items and other menu options for vegans as well as take-and-bake pizzas that can be picked up and then baked at home. Papa Don’s also provides catering and has a back room that can be rented for parties or other events either by the hour or for the price of the food and drinks provided for the visitors.

Fort Scott City Manager Dave Martin congratulated Rygmyr and Papa Don’s for their years of existence and expressed his appreciation for their involvement in the community such as through hosting downtown meetings.

“You have a lot of vision and energy and you love Fort Scott,” Martin complimented Rygmyr and her team at Papa Don’s. “Thank you for being here because it’s helping everybody.”

Other announcements made Thursday during the weekly Chamber Coffee event included:

  • Friday at 5:30 p.m., a groundbreaking ceremony will be held at Gunn Park shelter #7, rain or shine, for the new dog park.
  • Saturday through Monday, the Fort Scott National Historic Site will host live history events in honor of Memorial Day.
  • The summer feeding program begins Tuesday at three locations in Fort Scott; My Father’s House, the senior citizens’ center and the Keyhole. The program will provide free meals to children through July 29, while My Father’s House will also be allowed to feed the parents and have an area on hand for games or reading for the children. At each location, children can submit their name into a drawing for a free bicycle.
  • Friday and Saturday, June 3-4, Fort Scott will host the annual Good Ol’ Days event with a parade, vendors, booths, live music and carnival rides.
  • On Friday June 10, Elks Lodge and the Chamber of Commerce will hold a steak dinner fundraiser together to raise money for the community fireworks.
  • On July 16, My Father’s House will hold a pancake feed fundraiser to raise funds for the fall, school supply program for students, grade 6-12.

Library to kick-off summer programs with party

On Tuesday May 31, the Fort Scott Public Library will celebrate the beginning of their summer schedule, reading program and other activities with a party at the Fort Scott Community College walking trail from 10 a.m. to noon.

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Children of all ages are invited to attend the event which will include water games, trivia, snacks, crafts, prizes and an opportunity to register for the summer reading program.

A family story walk and scavenger hunt will be available along the walking trail for the first hour of the event, with Fort Scott High School mascot Tigger on-hand for photos. Relay races will be held during the second hour with an Olympic-style medal ceremony at the end to award prizes with help from the local Boy Scout Troop 114.

Those interested in volunteering their time or donating items such as food, beverages and other supplies for the event are encouraged to contact Youth Librarian Valetta Cannon.

In the case of rain, the event will be moved to the public library for a scaled-down version of the planned events.

Fort Scott celebrates opening of Lowell Milken Center

Despite storms rolling through Fort Scott Tuesday morning, a large number of Fort Scott residents as well as visitors attended the opening ceremony for the new location of the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes located on Main Street.

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“This is a joyous day and event for the Lowell Milken Center,” Executive Director Norm Conard said, expressing appreciation to a number of people who participated in the completion of the project, including city leaders, LMC employees, construction team members as well as the students and teachers who completed the projects on exhibit.

Speakers during the ceremony included Fort Scott Director of Economic Development Heather Smith, Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson, LMC Fellow Dyane Smokorowski, Unsung Hero Ken Reinhardt and founder Lowell Milken.

Milken said he has traveled around the nation and even internationally to speak about the center, its exhibits and the project-based learning it encourages, which has influenced about one million participating students and reached about 80 countries. While meeting with so many people, Milken said the question most frequently asked concerns the decision to have the center located in Fort Scott, Kan.

“I believe that this center could only have been born out of a community that values education, diversity and history,” Milken said, saying the city has welcomed the center and its vision gladly.

Watson said the rich values of Southeast Kansas also provide a perfect backdrop for the center that encourages the development of students’ character, civic engagement, their own conscientiousness and importance of giving back to the community.

Kansas teacher Smokorowski said the center is an ideal place for teachers, superintendents and students to visit in order to learn and be inspired by the lives of Unsung Heroes, adding she cannot wait to see how it impacts students.

Smith said after the downtown fire in 2005, she could not think of a better organization to rise from those ashes than the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes. Smith said Fort Scott can be proud to be the home of the center, which she said is much more than bricks and mortar.

“Who are the real unsung heroes?” Reinhardt asked during the ceremony, saying he believes the students bringing him and other heroes out from anonymity deserve the title as well.

Milken said he believes history is never a done deal, as is evident by the LMC exhibits that portray the lives of people whose positive and widespread impacts were overlooked by history books.

“It’s sad to say that in an age of instant gratification and self-absorption, the concept of hero is often turned on its head,” Milken said, saying fame has become the definition of heroism. “This is the wrong message for our young people, in fact, for all citizens. Instead, the message we want to convey is that real heroes tower and guide. They are the North Star that today’s youth can look up to. But their stories need to be discovered and told.”

Visitors to the new center and its Hall of Unsung Heroes can now witness some of those examples of heroism through the interactive exhibits.


Lowell Milken Center Grand Opening festivities kick off

After months of planning, construction and preparing, the new location for the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes is finally ready for its grand opening, which began Monday with discussions with and presentations by visiting educators, students and even some of the Unsung Heroes featured in the new center’s exhibits.

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Monday’s activities included presentations by students and their teachers, referred to as LMC fellows, opportunities to meet surviving unsung heroes of projects as well as a panel discussion with educators from around the nation on the topic of why such projects are useful to them and their students.

Dyane Smokoroski, a middle school language arts teacher in Kansas, said teachers often have two goals, to help students be better students than they thought they could be and help build them into good citizens for the community. Smokoroski said the Unsung Heroes projects help accomplish those goals by giving students the opportunity to learn about role models other than the more common athletes or celebrities students might admire.

“These projects are so impactful,” said Rich Meserve, a teacher to at-risk youths in Maine, saying the impact reaches around the world by bringing attention to the unsung heroes but also is relevant and meaningful to individual students who may not otherwise be excited about their education.

Maddy Hanington, a Maryland teacher who works with students with learning disabilities or who are part of minority groups in their area, said her students gain confidence and a louder voice through their projects.

Teacher Nate Mcalister said the students take ownership of the project as they do the extensive research necessary, becoming experts on the individuals they select. Teacher Brad LaDuc, who with student Alexis Balaun shared a documentary project, said helping students with their projects has been one of his best experiences as a teacher as he sees the teens go from students, to collaborators in the project and eventually teachers through their presentations.

LMC Executive Director Norm Conard expressed his appreciation and admiration for the large number of educators helping their students through the projects, which are fun but also take a lot of work.

Attendees at Monday’s events got a taste of the projects that will be on display in the new center, which will be open to visitors after the ribbon-cutting event Tuesday morning. Many in the audience were driven to tears as they watched documentaries or witnessed presentations on individuals who stood up against injustice and did good in their lives.

Unsung Heroes present for the events Tuesday included Therese Frare, Ken Reinhardt, Ann Williams Wedaman and Harry Hue.

Festivities continue on Tuesday with the grand opening ceremony at 10 a.m. on Main Street in downtown Fort Scott. Guests include the Kansas governor, Kansas Commissioner of Education, the founder of the center and other participants in its development.

National Historic Site to host Memorial Day events

Submitted by Kathryn Danley, May 16

For the Memorial Day holiday this year, you and your family are invited to visit Fort Scott National Historic Site to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a frontier military fort. Celebrate the weekend with living history programs, cooking demonstrations and artillery firings.

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Saturday programs will focus on life at Fort Scott in the 1840s, with special presentations from our site volunteers on cooking, buying merchandise and washing clothes the old fashioned way. Gary Herrmann will demonstrate what soldiers and people ate in the 19th century. Barry Linduff will do a presentation on the many goods available for soldiers and civilians in the Sutler store. Come join Post Laundress Sarah Moppin as she demonstrates washing soldiers’ clothes, 1840s style. Living history stations will also include officer wives conducting a tea party and a soldier baking bread in the bake-house. At 2 p.m., come witness the power and sound of artillery. Kids of all ages are invited to join our soldiers in lowering the flag during flag retreat at 4 p.m.

Activities will continue on Sunday and Monday with more artillery demonstrations, a special wreath laying ceremony and programs focused on various historical events in which Fort Scott was involved. Join fort volunteer and master gardener Kelley Collins to learn more about the historic uses of herbs and flowers. Meet at the garden behind officers’ row. Help welcome several hundred motorcyclists to Fort Scott participating in the annual KC Thunder Ride to remember those who died in service and honor all veterans by joining them in a brief wreath laying ceremony at 1 p.m. on the Parade Ground. “Flash Flood” will focus on the role that the dragoon soldier played in westward expansion.

Monday’s guest speaker, Dr. Jeremy Tewell, will present a program examining the issues facing the nation in the 1864 presidential campaign. With the war seemingly at a standstill, and northern morale plummeting, Abraham Lincoln insisted on reunion and emancipation as conditions of peace. His Democratic opponent, George B. McClellan, made the Union the one condition of peace, although many in his party considered the war a failure and demanded a cessation of hostilities. That November, the new birth of freedom Lincoln and his armies had struggled to achieve hung in the balance.

On Monday at 2:45 p.m. will be a special Memorial Day program honoring Fort Scott’s fallen officers, followed by observance of the National Moment of Silence at 3 p.m.

The schedule of activities is listed below:


10:00 a.m. – “What a Mess” – Feeding a Frontier Army

11:00 a.m. – Guided Tour

1:00 p.m. – “Fish Hooks, Plug Tobacco, and Hard Candy”- Post Sutler Talk

2:00 p.m. – “The Gun That Shoots Twice” – Artillery Demonstration

3:00 p.m. – “Red Armed Women of the West” – Laundress Demonstration

4:00 p.m. – Flag Retreat


11:00 a.m. – Guided Tour

1:00 p.m. – KC Thunder Ride Wreath Laying Program

2:00 p.m. – “The Gun That Shoots Twice” – Artillery Demonstration

3:00 p.m. – “Flash Flood” – Westward Expansion Talk


10:00 a.m. – “Scents, Seasonings, and Stimulants” – Officer’s Garden Tour

11:00 a.m. – Guided Tour

1:00 p.m. – The Presidential Election of 1864

2:00 p.m. – “The Gun That Shoots Twice” – Artillery Demonstration

2:45 p.m. – Honoring Fort Scott’s Fallen Officers

3:00 p.m. – National Moment of Remembrance

County Commission discusses courthouse security

During their meeting on May 10, the Bourbon County Commission discussed recent gun control changes and other bills passing through the state legislature that could bring changes to how public buildings handle security.

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In recent weeks, the Kansas State Senate and House of Representatives have discussed and approved House Bill 2502, which includes allowing employees in public buildings—defined in the bill as “any portion of state or municipal building that is open to and accessible to the public,” though school buildings may be exempt—to carry weapons while on the job outside the building and in the community if they have their concealed carry permit.

This law would be added to others passed in just the past few years that allow visitors and employees to carry concealed weapons in public buildings if that building does not provide its own security such as through metal detectors or continuous armed security.

Bourbon County Commissioners knew they would need to provide such security if they wanted to prevent the carrying of weapons in the courthouse, but initially had until July 2017 to make a decision on that security. A decision may have to be made sooner if this current bill passes as it could be enforced as early as July 1, if signed by the governor.

“It will be something you’ll have to make a decision on in the future,” County Attorney Justin Meeks told the commissioners during that meeting May 10.

Commission Chairman Barbara Albright described the decision they face as an expensive one, since providing their own security would include adding employees as well as technology and equipment, whether they decide to add an armed guard or metal detectors.

Further detail on the house bill and other aspects it includes, such as allowing air guns on school campuses, can be seen at