Western Kentucky author Lee Cole’s debut novel Groundskeeping details a love-hate relationship with his home state.
I left Kentucky in the fall of 1999. For 32 years, the state and its people were pretty much all I’d known.
Author Lee Cole was also born in Western Kentucky, about 90 miles downriver near Paducah. He knows well the people, the places, the politics that make up a state I still hold dear. His debut novel, Groundskeeping, is a testament to that.
LEE COLE was born and grew up in western Kentucky, graduating from Lone Oak High School.
A recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he now lives in New York.
Earlier this month, I blazed through Groundskeeping, which was released March 1, 2022. It’s fine, smooth writing inhabited by characters you’ll want to share a beer with or leave out in the cold on the back step on a wet winter morning. All necessary elements of a good story.
The protagonist in the story is a 28-year-old aspiring writer named Owen Callahan, who works as a groundskeeper at the fictional Ashby College and lives in the basement of his grandfather’s home. There is a budding relationship with Alma, a Bosnian-Muslim immigrant.
Louisville features prominently in the novel as well as portions of Western Kentucky. The 2016 election serves as a backdrop and Groundskeeping tells well the political division between family members that still remains today.
Maybe you call Groundskeeping a love story from a slightly different point of view. While there is Owen’s pursuit of Alma, really the love story may be all about Owen finding peace with the people and place he calls home.
As Cole told the Louisville Courier-Journal in an interview published in March 2022, there have been many stories told of characters who long to leave Kentucky, experience the “real world” outside and return home later with a renewed appreciation for the state.
“In other words, this theme of longing to go and at the same time feeling drawn homeward has a long history in Kentucky (and Southern) literature,” Cole said.
I think there are plenty of Kentuckian Expats who share that love/hate relationship with the state. While there, we can’t wait to leave. And once away, we’re consumed with homesickness.
Hopefully, the thing that remains is empathy.
Like what you see? Please share this via the following methods:
Coletta Shouse was a fighter all the way to the end, even when her final breath passed from her lips on Jan. 7, 2023, in a Henderson hospital room surrounded by her loved ones. She was 81 years old.
(Nov. 26, 1941-Jan. 7, 2023)
Coletta Shouse loved the roses she grew beside the house along the lake.
No matter how dark the winter, the flowers burst confidently each spring in a bouquet of red and white. Coletta could have a bite as sharp as the thorns along the stems, but she was also as resilient and beautiful as the blooms that would come mid-summer and endure till the cold came again. Tough, intelligent and independent she was, as hardy as any rose she grew.
In her early 30s, Coletta found herself divorced and raising four children on her own. She didn’t wither. Instead, Coletta went to school, obtained her real estate license and became one of the top real estate brokers in Union County.
Then there was the death of a teenage son so young, a pain that would stay with her through her remaining years. Yet she endured by surrounding herself with a love that would last nearly 45 years and Coletta continued on, supported by lifelong friends, her children and the grandbabies who called her “my Nan.”
She was a fighter all the way to the end, even when her final breath passed from her lips on Jan. 7, 2023, in a Henderson hospital room surrounded by her loved ones. She was 81 years old.
Coletta Dyer Banks Shouse was born Nov. 26, 1941, in Morganfield, the oldest child of the late James C. “Bud” and Lois Banks. There was a brief move to Louisville, but she spent most of her formative years in Morganfield, attending St. Ann’s School. She and her younger brother, Gene “Corky” Banks, would write fan letters to movie stars at the time and had a folder full of their signed photos.
Coletta Dyer Banks Shouse was born Nov. 26, 1941, in Morganfield, Ky., the oldest child of the late James C. “Bud” and Lois Banks.
“We come up rough. There were no golden spoons in our family. She was just a good sister. She was just like any other teenage girl,” Corky said. “I remember she taught me how to dance. She was a really good dancer.”
Coletta would graduate from St. Vincent Academy in 1959. She and Bernard Thomas married in 1960 and Coletta spent many of the next 12 years raising their four children. Following their divorce, Coletta got her real estate license and became a licensed broker and spent the next 25 years working for Kurtz Auction and Realty in Morganfield.
“She was very much a business-savvy type person and she was proud of that. Even 30 years later, she’d tell you that she was a real estate broker,” said Joanna Bingham, her youngest daughter. “She was a go-getter. She loved auctions and she’d take us with her on Saturdays when she worked auctions. She loved being with the people and being a part of the community that way. She wasn’t a sit-at-home and be-pretty-type person.”
In 1973, Coletta married banker H.T. Shouse and they’d spend the next 42 years together. In addition to her real estate work, where they had several rental properties, the couple also operated the popular Dairy Maid restaurant in Morganfield for a couple of years. It was where she’d worked as a teenager as a waitress.
Coletta and H.T. would eventually retire in 1988 and move to their home on Barkley Lake, where she spent most of the next 30 years fishing, boating, growing roses and hosting her grandkids on summer outings.
Coletta is survived by two daughters and a son, as well as 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by a son and her husband of 42 years.
She enjoyed gardening, sewing, decorating her home and shopping. She liked politics and never shied from a good debate. Coletta embraced social media and stayed up on current events and celebrities. With a big bowl of ice cream before her, Coletta’s TV was constantly tuned to the best British shows.
She’d always loved to travel and there were cross-country trips in a RV, a vacation overseas to Germany and she and H.T. would flock with the snowbirds to Arizona, Texas and Florida. She even went to Vegas for a weekend and watched Celine Dion with her youngest daughter.
Soon after H.T.’s death in 2016, she moved back to Morganfield, remodeled a home and reunited with her former St. Vincent classmates and lifelong friends such as Dodie Babillis, Linda Banks, Janet Robertson, Mary Jo Carr and Florence Alvey. There were trips to Charleston, S.C., Nashville, Tenn., and the Mississippi Delta and a jaunt to Vincennes, Ind., for watermelons. She also relished a weekly bridge group with Helen Jane McElroy, Mary McElroy and Anna Morgan.
Many of Coletta’s later years were spent traveling with friends and family.
“Most people knew her as a very fierce, strong woman,” said her daughter, Joanna Bingham. “Of course, she had to be a very strong lady with all the things she’d been through. She was very independent and very much a fighter and she fought to the end.”
Since 2021, Coletta had battled lung disease. And she continued to fight until the end when a combination of COVID and pneumonia took her life.
“Most people knew her as a very fierce, strong woman,” Joanna said. “Of course, she had to be a very strong lady with all the things she’d been through. She was very independent and very much a fighter and she fought to the end.”
Survivors include a son, Chris Thomas and his wife, Melinda, of Morganfield; two daughters, Terilynn Thomas Sellers and her husband, Tony, of Longview, Texas; and Joanna Thomas Bingham and her husband, Tommy, of Eddyville; a brother, Gene “Corky” Banks, and his wife, Cassandra, of Morganfield; a brother-in-law, Brian Ebelhar, of Sturgis; 14 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.
In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband of 42 years, H.T. Shouse; a son, Mark Thomas; and sister, Analois Ebelhar.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, at Whitsell Funeral Home in Morganfield. Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the funeral home.
Memorial donations can be made in Coletta’s memory to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Whitsell’s Funeral Home in Morganfield is in charge of the arrangements.
Like what you see? Please share this via the following methods: