Opening day set for Flint Hills Discovery Center

The opening of Kansas’ next major tourism attraction, the Flint Hills Discovery Center, has been set for April 14 in Manhattan’s downtown redevelopment district.
“This project is stunning evidence of what can be accomplished when the public and private sectors collaboratively work together,” said Ron Fehr, city manager.
“The Flint Hills Discovery Center is a key component to Manhattan’s successful downtown redevelopment and the award of $50 million in STAR bonds from the state of Kansas. We are proud to have created this great place of both learning and fun. It will support all our efforts to preserve the Flint Hills and promote tourism within our state.”
Opening day will include a ribbon cutting, remarks by local and state dignitaries, and the public’s first look at the facility. Dedication of the adjoining Blue Earth Plaza also will take place April 14.
Construction of the 35,000-square-foot facility began in July 2009 with a promise to inspire and educate visitors to the uniqueness and importance of the Flint Hills of Kansas and the Osage Hills of Oklahoma, said Bob Workman, director of the Flint Hills Discovery Center.
“It’s fantastic to be planning our opening. Our visitors are the reason for this project, and on April 14 we will come alive as everyone sees and enjoys all that the Discovery Center has to offer,” Workman said.
Through interactive exhibits visitors will have an opportunity to explore the science and cultural history of the last stand of tallgrass prairie in North America – one of the world’s most endangered eco-systems. The building is nearly complete and installation of exhibits is in progress.

The $24.5 million project anchors the second phase of Manhattan’s downtown redevelopment.

The Flint Hills Discovery Center contains permanent and temporary exhibits, classrooms and meeting rooms, a store and outdoor terraces and landscaping. It will be open 363 days a year and serve as the visitor information center for Manhattan and the surrounding Flint Hills region.


Safe driving the goal, age not always a limiting factor

by Nancy Peterson
K-State Research and Extension News Media Services

Parents who fret when teens begin to drive may be surprised to see their now-grown children fretting about their parents’ driving skills.

A driver’s license is often viewed as a key to independence, particularly in rural areas with scant public transportation, said Jill Frost-Steward, a doctoral student in Family Studies in the College of Human Ecology at Kansas State University.


Driving is a meaningful activity and important in retaining independence.

Frost-Steward, who has chosen safe driving for older adults as the focus of her research project, explained that changing medical conditions, rather than age itself, often are the primary factor or factors in deciding when it’s no longer safe to drive.

Driving is a meaningful activity and important in retaining independence, said Frost-Steward, who explained that driving allows control over daily decision-making, such as when to go to the grocery store, visit friends or schedule appointments.

For many older adults, driving also is a symbol of competence, said Frost-Steward, who identified three major types of health concerns that can affect driving ability:

  1. Changes in vision;
  2. Changes in physical health, and
  3. Changes in cognitive function.

“Changes in vision are a common concern, as a decline in depth perception, peripheral vision, and the ability to manage glare that could result from the aging process, an accident, injury or other medical condition can make driving more difficult,” she said. Eye conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease may create blind spots in vision.

“Visual attention is another issue,” said Frost-Steward, who explained that this is a term used to describe the ability to manage a changing environment. For example, in approaching a stop sign, a driver will need to consider other cars either stopped at or approaching the stop sign or intersection, which driver has the right-of-way, and pedestrians in his or her decision-making process.

A decline or other change in physical health also can be a determining factor, she said.

Flexibility, strength and coordination also are important for safe driving because a driver will need to be able to rotate his or her neck to look from side to side to view road conditions and traffic, and to turn around to check before backing up or parallel parking.

Shoulder and elbow movement is key to turning the wheel, and, with or without arthritis, it’s important to be able to curl fingers to grip the wheel, Frost-Steward said.

Some physical limitations may be able to be addressed by health care professionals or modifications to a vehicle, she said.

The third factor that can affect a person’s ability to drive is a change in cognitive functioning.

To drive safely, a driver needs to be able to make judgments, such as when it is safe to make a left turn or to react quickly to a change in traffic conditions. Examples might include a sudden stop or need to change lanes.

Cognitive functioning can be affected by a variety of factors. For example, if taking one or more prescribed or over-the-counter medications or supplements, a driver is urged to consult with his or her doctor or pharmacist to rule out negative drug interactions or side effects that could slow driving response times.

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia also can interfere with cognitive functioning, Frost-Steward said.

In the earliest stage of dementia, some older adults are able to pass an on-the-road driving test. As diseases that affect the brain progress, drivers may get lost in familiar places, may lose the ability to comprehend traffic signs, and may lose awareness of how their driving is affecting others.

Adult children and others who serve as caregivers are encouraged to ask to ride along occasionally to observe driving capacity, she said.

“The topic can be challenging,” said Frost-Steward, who recommended working with a driver in question and his or her health care providers to understand and address medical concerns.

When driving is no longer an option, Frost-Steward encourages family members and caregivers to develop an alternative transportation plan that will keep the former driver connected to his or her regular activities.


Bill Anderson

Word was received this week of the death of William “Bill” Anderson, Topeka, formerly of Valley Falls, who died Jan. 6, 2012.

He married Hazel Aleen Lykins March 10, 1956. She died June 1, 2011.

The couple moved to Valley Falls in 1983 and operated The Last Straw and a furniture store for several years before moving to Topeka.

Survivors include a daughter, Teresa Rivera; two sons, Douglas Anderson and Michael Anderson; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12, at Mission Towers, 2929 SE Minnesota, Topeka.


Margaret Prather

Margaret Zimmerman Prather, 91, Kerrville, Texas, died Jan. 6, 2012, at a local care center.

She was born July 28, 1920, in Valley Falls, to Frank and Charlotte Kaufman Zimmerman.

She graduated from Jane C. Stormont School of Nursing in Topeka and joined the Army Nursing Corp. She met her husband, Larry Prather, in India where both of them served at an Army hospital during World War II.

Following their discharge from the Army, they were married Easter Sunday, April 21, 1946, in the home of her mother in Valley Falls. He survives of the home.

She was preceded in death by a sister, Mary Zimmerman; and a brother, John Zimmerman.

Other survivors include children, Barbara Prather, Grand Rapids, Mich., Janet Simmons, Saginaw, Mich., Gregory Prather, Austin, Texas, and Michael Prather, Buda, Texas; six grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were Jan. 9 at Kerrville Funeral Home. Interment will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 16 at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Texas.

Memorials can be made to the Zion Lutheran Church, 600 Barnett, Kerrville, Texas 78028, or to the charity of one’s choice.


Wanda Hunter

Wanda Jean Hunter, 70, Auburn, died Jan. 6, 2012.

She was born in Oklahoma Jan. 17, 1941, the daughter of Alfred and Alice McCaughtry Lee. She grew up in Texas and Oklahoma before moving to rural Esbon. She moved with her family to Meriden in 1956 and graduated from Meriden High School in 1959.

She married John Chapman in 1960 and they had a daughter, Debra Jean. Mr. Chapman was killed in an accident in 1964.

She married Leeman Hunter in 1965 and they had a daughter, Tami. In addition to Debra and Tami, three stepchildren were added to her family: LeeAnn, Clinton and Kenneth.

Leeman and Wanda built a home in rural Mayetta, where they lived until moving to Topeka in 2005.

Wanda is survived by daughters Debra Park and Tami Flowers and stepchildren; Clinton, Kenneth and LeeAnn; brothers, Alfred G. Lee and Bobby D. Lee; two grandsons; six step-grandsons; two stepgranddaughters; and three great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were Jan. 10 at Meriden United Methodist Church.Burial was at Meriden Cemetery.

Memorial contributions can be made to Homestead of Auburn.

Davidson Funeral Home, Topeka, was in charge of arrangements.


Betty Bechard

Betty Marie Bechard, 82, Clifton, died Jan. 7, 2012, at her home.

She was born May 13, 1929, in Clay County near Morganville, the daughter of John and Mary Gunter Urban-Lewis.

She married Norman Bechard Dec. 6, 1948. He preceded her in death.

She worked as a nurse’s aide for over 30 years at nursing homes in Clay Center, Morganville and Clifton. She also cleaned at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the post office, city hall, and the bank, all in Clifton.

She was also preceded in death by a granddaughter, Tess Gallagher, and two brothers, George and Alvin Urban.

She was a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, St. Mary’s Altar Society, Senior Citizen’s Club, American Legion Auxiliary, Crawford/Sherman Club, and the Redhatters of Clifton.

Survivors include daughters, Kathryn Kahrs, Gardner, Mary Yadon, Topeka, Michelle Gallagher, Salina, and Lisa Bechard, Clifton.; sons, Steven Bechard, Clifton, and Anthony “Tony” Bechard, McLouth; 15 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren; brothers Fred Urban, Clay Center, Clarence Urban, Morganville, and Charles “Chuck” Urban, Berryton; and a sister, Scharlotte Knitter, Clay Center.

Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 12, at the St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Clifton.

Burial will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Clifton.

Memorials can be made to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, St. Mary’s Altar Society or Meadowlark Hospice and sent in care of Neill-Schwensen-Rook Funeral Home Inc., 918 7th Street, Clay Center.


Pauline Zook

Pauline L. Zook, 98, Olathe, formerly of Topeka, died Jan. 2, 2012, at Assisted Lifestyles of Olathe.

Private family graveside service will be held Jan. 14 in McLouth Cemetery.

She was born Oct. 13, 1913, in Angleton, Texas, to Chester Russell and Eva Grace Burbaker Zook. She moved as a child to McLouth and graduated from McLouth High School.

She was a clerk for over 30 years for Kansas Power & Light in Topeka. She attended the Baptist Church.

She was preceded in death by a brother, Roswell Russell Zook.


Eleanor Edmonds

Eleanor Marie Edmonds, 90, Blue Springs, Mo., formerly of Oskaloosa, died Jan. 3, 2012, at St. Mary’s Manor.

She was born Feb. 21, 1921, at Leavenworth, the daughter of August C. and Mary Hund Orlowski. She graduated from Leavenworth High School in 1938.

She was a homemaker. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, Oskaloosa, and more recently attended St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, Nortonville.

She married Vincent LeRoy Edmonds June 14, 1941, at Leavenworth. Soon after marrying, they moved to Oskaloosa where they owned and operated a dairy farm for over 50 years.

He preceded her in death Feb. 4, 1996.

Survivors include two daughters, Dolores Priddy, Blue Springs, Mo., and Doris Dowdy, Pearl City, Hawaii; a sister, Florence Hitzeman, Olathe; five grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

A Celebration of Life Service was held Jan. 6 at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, Nortonville. Burial was at Pleasant View Cemetery, Oskaloosa.

Memorial contributions can be made to Crossroads Hospice of Kansas City, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church or Furry Friends and sent in care of Barnett Family Funeral Home, PO Box 602, Oskaloosa, 66066.


Winter Weather Advisory issued January 11 at 8:58PM CST until January 12 at 1:00AM CST by NWS


from JF-KS Situation Room

KDHE promotes exercise through Walk with Ease program

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, in partnership with the Arthritis Foundation, is offering a free, individual walking program for Kansans interested in walking more in 2012.The Walk with Ease program is a six-week, structured walking program that teaches participants how much they should walk, how to increase walking pace and endurance and how physical activity can be a part of daily life. Establishing a walking program has many benefits, to include reducing the pain associated with arthritis.

Walking for fitness

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, in partnership with the Arthritis Foundation, is offering a free, individual walking program for Kansans interested in walking more in 2012.

“Arthritis is a chronic health condition that can be improved with exercise,” said Robert Moser, M.D., KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer. “Physical activity, with proper warm up and cool down, actually nourishes the cartilage between joints.”

Walk with Ease offers information and tools to help people develop successful walking routines and stay motivated to continue walking. The training includes the warning signs of exercising too hard, tips on when to increase the intensity of a workout, stretching and strengthening exercises and information on building stamina and walking pace. Walk with Ease is available to anyone (with or without arthritis) and can be modified to meet individual needs, so each person can develop an exercise routine that fits his or her unique goals. Information and strategies taught in Walk with Ease are based on research and tested programs in exercise science and behavior change.

“Walking can help manage weight, which can reduce your risk for arthritis in the knees, heart disease and diabetes,” said Lisa Williams, KDHE Arthritis Program Manager. “Walking also helps reduce the pain and discomfort of arthritis, increases balance and strength, improves overall health and increases participants’ confidence to be physically active.”

A group format of Walk with Ease is also available to individuals and organizations interested in hosting a walking class. A class meets three times a week for six weeks and is led by a certified instructor. For more information on Walk with Ease or to register for the free individual program, visit

KDHE’s Arthritis Program works to improve the quality of life of Kansans with arthritis through the promotion of proper self-management to prevent or delay the potential joint destruction associated with the disease.