Reading today’s Kansas City Star, I couldn’t help drawing a contrast between people who were the subjects of articles in different sections of the paper.
One story, by sports columnist Vahe Gregorian — perhaps The Star’s most sensitive writer — was about the sister of former Chiefs’ star Otis Taylor, who is in an enervated state, unable to speak or take sustenance on his own.
The concussions and repeated brain jarring from football have stripped him, at 73, of his ability to participate in the collective consciousness of the life and world around him. But he has a lifeline, someone who makes his existence as tolerable as possible. That person is his sister, Florence Odell Taylor, a licensed vocational nurse who is caring for Otis.
As Gregorian reports, Odell Taylor formerly lived in Houston, where she tended to her mother before she died of Alzheimers. Then, about 10 years ago, she left Houston and came to Raytown to care for Otis, who was already deteriorating badly. Here’s how Gregorian described Odell Taylor’s solicitousness toward her brother.
“She just about literally hasn’t left her brother’s side since (arriving 10 years ago). As you read these words, she is next to him or feeding him or bathing him or turning him in his bed or cutting his hair or rubbing his feet or dressing him or otherwise ministering to him.”
According to Gregorian, when Odell sleeps, it’s in a chair beside Otis’ bed.
Before reading the entire story, I was looking for a photo of Odell. There was none, and my first thought was that The Star had blown it and not bothered to get a photo.
But, no, that’s not the case. Odell wouldn’t even consent to an interview. Gregorian didn’t explain why, but it’s very probable she didn’t want any attention bathed on herself. Her focus is on her brother — a brother who just so happens to be one of the most popular players ever to don a Chiefs uniform.
Most of us, when we think of Otis Taylor, picture him in that slow-motion recording from Super Bowl IV…Len Dawson hits him with a short sideline pass; Taylor catches the ball at the Minnesota Vikings’ 41-yard line; breaks a tackle; races powerfully and gracefully down the sideline; jukes another defender and glides into the end zone, sealing the AFL’s first victory over the NFL.
I think that’s the memory that Odell Taylor does not want to impinge on. She does not want it disturbed.
…Then, there’s another notable story in today’s paper. It’s the lead editorial, on Page 18A, accompanied by a photo of a man named Scott Tucker. In the photo, Tucker is wearing sunglasses and a race-car driver’s suit. He’s obviously at some sort of race. He’s writing on a legal pad, and people are gathered around him. Even though he’s not smiling, it’s an image of a guy living the good life. Good looks. Prosperity. At least brushing with fame.
But, in fact, Scott Tucker is just a turd. A con man who made millions at the expense of poor people all around the country and then spent lavishly on his own comforts and indulgences.
Tucker, who lives in the Kansas City area, was indicted last week, along with two fellow “businessmen,” on charges of bilking 4.5 million people in a vast payday-lending scheme that Tucker started back in the mid- to late-1990s. He and his co-defendants and some others — including at least three men from prominent Catholic families in Visitation Catholic Parish — operated in the shadows for years and enriched themselves, often by finagling and raiding the bank accounts of people who never even requested loans.
Some of these guys, like Tim Coppinger and Frampton T. Rowland III (how’s that for a name implying “distinguished gentleman”?), used some of their ill-gotten millions to make significant contributions toward construction of a new chapel at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Prairie Village. Their generosity must have impressed at least some parishioners who didn’t know the score.
I hope indictments soon follow for Coppinger, Rowland and others involved in this cynical undertaking.
…During my many years in the newspaper business, I’d often people whine, “Why don’t they report some good news?” (So as not be be offensive, people usually didn’t frame the question in the second person singular.)
Well, today The Star reported some very good news on two fronts. First, that the government has closed in on some disgusting, self-enriching con men and, second, that we are blessed to have in our midst people like Odell Taylor who dedicate themselves to service for others and do so without seeking a sliver of attention or credit.
As far as I’m concerned it’s a great day in Kansas City. Let’s applaud and be grateful for those who inspire us with their humility and sacrificial spirits. It is they who give us hope and show us that greed and corruption are not overwhelming.