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The case of a casual-encounter-turned-deadly — an encounter between two lost souls of the world — drew to a close Thursday with a 26-year-old Ottawa, KS, man, Korrey Rinke, being sentenced to life in prison for killing a 46-year-old woman he had met at a clinical research program.

It’s the story of a young man, Rinke, who was so ignored as a child that he didn’t find out until after being arrested for murder that he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. It’s also the story of an older woman, Julianna Pappas, who was so disconnected that even the spelling of her first name is not entirely clear.

We do know how her life ended, however: Rinke beat her to death near the Indian Creek Trail in August 2016 after she refused to have sex with him because he didn’t have a condom. That’s what he told police, anyway.

Both these forgotten souls were directionless and drifting through their days when they met. Both were apparently drawn to the clinical research program at the former Quintiles company by the prospect of money…either extra money or money they needed just to get by. (Volunteers for some of these medical research programs can make thousands of dollars.)

Pappas

From what I’ve been able to find out, Pappas apparently moved to this area from Houston within about a year of crossing paths with Rinke. The only photo I’ve been able to find of her — a grainy one that looks like it might have been culled from a group photo — shows her to be a thin, shapely woman with long brown hair.

At some point, she had rented a room in a house near 39th and Campbell. She told a roommate (a woman who emailed me after I first wrote about the case) that she had had a felony drug conviction when she was young and that the conviction had made it difficult for her get housing and jobs.

Her means of transportation, at the time she hooked up with Rinke, was an electric bike.

After The Star reported Pappas’ death, I scoured the internet for information about her, but all I found was a one-sentence obit in the Houston Chronicle that had her first name as Juliaanna, with a double “a,” as in a combination of Julia and Anna. But every news report I’ve seen has had her name with just one “a” in the middle.)

The obit listed no survivors, but the former roommate said she had spoken of visiting her parents in Houston while she was living here.

Rinke

Rinke, for his part, was an alcoholic who worked for an Ottawa company that manufactured and installed covers for trucks. From information that came out at his sentencing, he could have been a poster boy for The Star’s series on the failing foster-care systems most states have.

During his confinement, he was diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome. A psychologist testified that the condition was worsened as Rinke was “bounced around the (foster care) system” throughout his childhood. Since he did not receive treatment for the condition as a child, the psychologist said, any treatment as an adult to address it would be “negligible.”

A co-worker of Rinke’s once wrote a comment on a blog post I had written about Pappas and Rinke. The commenter, who simply signed in as “Stephen,” said…

One thing that stands out to me is, every time we hired any female employees, he would be very awkward, inappropriate and some times rather sexist towards them. He would constantly ask them about their ‘sign.’ I knew something was off about him, but never would have expected this. Also, his father has been in and out of prison most of Korrey’s life.

At Thursday’s sentencing in Johnson County District Court (I did not attend), Rinke at least had the decency to express remorse.

“I’m sorry for drinking and I’m sorry for the death of Ms. Pappas,” The Star quoted him as saying.

As I would have expected, no one showed up to speak in person about Pappas. A prosecutor, however, read a statement from a brother who lives in Texas but apparently didn’t care enough to make the trip.

“She was a free spirit who trusted people,” the statement said in part. “Obviously…more than she should.”

The brother’s faceless statement stood as a biographical capsule of a woman whose early mistake probably contributed to her failure to make any kind of mark in life.

And Korrey Rinke? He will be eligible for parole in 25 years, when he’s about 50. What are the odds, do you think, of him turning his life around and making something of himself after he’s released…assuming he lives that long?

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Sitting behind his curving, marble-faced court bench, Judge William B. Collins was eager to get a trial date set in the first-degree murder case of Kylr Yust.

Actually, he was more than eager; he was anxious.

“We need to get this set so we can take care of it,” he said, looking at the lawyers sitting at the prosecutor’s table and the defense table.

Assistant prosecutor Julie Tolle said, “We’re looking at October.”

…October, as in 10 months from now and nearly a year after Yust’s trial was originally scheduled to start.

At the mention of October, sighs went up from some of the 30 or more people who had come to the Cass County Justice Center this morning for a hearing in the case of Yust, who is charged with murdering Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions.

Collins wasn’t happy either…”We need to get this done,” he said.

Collins, who has been presiding judge in Cass County the last seven years, then began pushing back at the assertions of lawyers on both sides that they had other trials during the summer and couldn’t work the Yust case in until the fall.

He asked about June. No, that wouldn’t work, said one of Yust’s attorneys from the Missouri Public Defender’s Office.

“How about July, then?” Collins said.

Matt Vigil, one of Yust’s lawyers, said he had a trial in St. Louis starting July 13. But Collins kept pushing and finally got no objection to starting jury selection July 22. (Because of pre-trial publicity, a jury will be chosen in St. Charles County, and the jurors will then travel here to hear the case.)

**

It’s been a long wait for justice for the families and friends of Kopetsky and Runions.

Kara Kopetsky

Jessica Runions

Kopetsky was last seen May 2007 leaving Belton High School. Yust later told a friend he discarded her remains in a wooded area. Runions was last seen in September 2016 leaving a gathering with Yust. Witnesses at the gathering said Yust was drinking heavily and was “acting very possessive towards (Runions) and aggressive towards others at the party.”

The remains of both women were found in rural Cass County in April 2017. Six months later, Yust was charged with two counts of murder and two counts of abandonment of a corpse. He has been in the Cass County Jail ever since.

Yust

When Yust entered the courtroom this morning through a side door, he barely resembled how he has appeared in law enforcement mug shots. Instead of close-cropped hair, he had long, brown hair that covered his ears, the back of his neck and his forehead. The hair flipped up slightly in the front, and he had a full beard. All of his many tattoos were covered by drab, gray and white jail garb. Although he appeared calm and engaged, he never looked at anyone in the audience. I only saw him speak once to one of his attorneys.

His attorneys have filed several motions aimed at delaying the start of trial. One of those motions, that another mental-health exam be scheduled, fell by the wayside today. His attorneys said he is now receiving medication for psychological conditions that have been troubling him and that he no longer “lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense.”

In recent days, however, Yust’s attorneys have filed another seemingly spurious motion: They would like to have some of Kopetsky’s and Runions’ remains tested at a lab of their choosing, apparently to verify the Kansas City Police Department and FBI labs’ determination that the remains are, indeed, those of the deceased women.

Tolle, the assistant prosecutor, said this morning, however, that no part of the remains can be sent to a lab that is not accredited by a national accreditation organization. The lab the defense attorneys are proposing — Technical Associates Inc. in Ventura, CA — is not accredited.

“You didn’t know about the accreditation?” Judge Collins asked Yust’s attorneys.

“We just learned about it this morning,” Vigil said.

Collins scheduled a hearing on the remains-testing issue for Jan. 21.

He also eamarked July 7, 8 and 9 as days for other pre-trial motions to be taken up. “That should give everybody a chance to get all of these issues taken care of,” Collins said.

**

Well, we’ll see about that. Delay is the typical defense strategy in big cases, and Yust’s attorneys are in full-delay mode.

What was troubling today was that it appeared the prosecution was willing to indulge the defense strategy. The prosecution appears to have a strong case, and it may call scores of witnesses. But cases tend to weaken with time. Witnesses die (one already has in this case), move or otherwise slide away. And evidence sometimes gets stale, or even lost.

Judge William B. Collins

The people who sighed at the prosecutor’s suggestion of an October trial did so mainly because they are tired of waiting for justice to be served. But they also realized the hazard of 10 more months of delay. Their best hope for adjudication as soon as possible appears to rest with one person — Judge William B. Collins.

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Well, I got my “Dear Jim” letter (actually Dear J Fitzpatrick) from The Star tonight.

The paper is not breaking up with me altogether, but it does seem to be taking back the ring it gave me many years ago.

Horror of horrors, starting March 14, The Star will no longer publish a Saturday print edition.

This is in keeping with parent company Mcclatchy’s announcement last month that it will eliminate Saturday print publication at all 29 of its daily papers by the end of next year. (Of course, the company could be out of business by then.)

Fortunately, The Star is letting me down easy, and the letter even gave me some good belly laughs.

Here are some of the best knee slappers…

:: “The Kansas City Star is changing to ensure we are able to meet the needs of our readers and the communities we serve long into the future.”

Yep, that’s our beloved Star, always looking out for the needs of the readers and the VAST number of communities it serves.

:: “Starting March 14, we will launch a new weekend package with expanded newspapers on Fridays and Sundays and access to the Saturday edition exclusively online.”

A new weekend package! Great news, right? For instance, Friday’s paper will have “new puzzles as well as a new themed section called ‘Uplift,’ your source of good news for the weekend.” I can’t wait for the exciting new puzzles (I’m hoping for interactive tic-tac-toe) and the waterfall of good news.

:: “Saturday…You’ll also find our EXTRA EXTRA digital supplement with more national, international and entertainment news and Sports Xtra.”

Why there’ll be so much “more” and so many “EXTRAS” I doubt I’ll be able to get away from my computer on Saturdays, what with the online cornucopia The Star will be offering up.

:: “Sunday: In addition to the usual comics content, we will add the puzzles and comics that you love to read in your Saturday paper.”

More puzzles? My heart is racing.

:: “Your subscription rate will remain the same and will also continue to include 7-day unlimited digital access.”

All this bonus coverage and my rate is staying the same?? C’est impossible! 

**

The letter trundled on for a few more paragraphs about how great all this is for the readers, and then there was a final laugh. The letter was signed by Mike Fannin, whom The Star announced in October as The Star’s new “president.”

As you might recall, the story about Fannin’s ascension from editor to president conspicuously failed to mention Tony Berg, who was introduced with great hoopla, less than three years ago, as publisher. Berg was “nowhere to be found” in the October story about Fannin. Also missing was any mention of the word “publisher” — so secret and unspeakable was Berg’s fate (shuttled off to Wichita).

But in this letter, this letter about the “changing” Star, the title of publisher was back. And who had it? Why, none other than Fannin. So now we can officially say it: THE KING IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE KING!

**

Note: In a final pea-under-shell misdirection play, in Wednesday’s (today’s) print edition, the letter is signed by Fannin above the title of “president.” (This guy’s credibility is in the toilet.)

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Even though The Star doesn’t have the depth, breadth and impact it formerly did, a story that ran on the front page Sunday may well have strong repercussions for a major institution in this region.

The story was titled “Women reporting rapes in Lawrence say police department failed them.” The illustration that accompanied the story depicted a huge Lawrence PD badge dwarfing the image of a young woman. At the right side of the illustration are the words, in quotation marks, “Women aren’t safe here.”

I wonder how KU chancellor Douglas Girod felt when he saw that headline. I wonder how Barbara Bichelmeyer, who announced Friday that she is leaving UMKC to become executive vice chancellor at KU, felt. They and other KU administrators must have a sick and sinking feeling because that story will echo far and wide. Thousands of parents from coast to coast, and maybe beyond — and their daughters — will learn of that story, or at least its thrust, and have second thoughts about the possibility of attending KU.

I guarantee you there will be far fewer young women in the stands at Allen Fieldhouse in years to come singing, “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk, KU.”

Those four words — “Women aren’t safe here” — will be repeated thousands of times at dinner tables, at high schools and everywhere else that prospective college students talk about their college dreams and plans.

The Star’s story, reported and written by Katie Bernard, cited several cases of young women who had gone to Lawrence police with allegations of being raped and getting little more than shoulder shrugs. One woman who reported that her ex-boyfriend had raped her multiple times said an officer told her that “since it was a relationship, it means it was consensual.” Another woman said a Lawrence officer told her sexual assaults happen when women in college “experiment.”

Moreover, Bernard reported that the Douglass County District Attorney’s office had charged at least three women — not just one who case The Star has carefully documented — with falsely reporting rapes. The charges have all been dropped because of The Star’s questions.

And if the story wasn’t enough of a gut punch, the lead editorial in Sunday’s paper piggybacked on it. The first sentence of the editorial read, “Police and prosecutors in Lawrence have a staggering amount to learn about sexual assault.”

…It’s hard to imagine a more damaging label for a college to carry than it’s a place where women aren’t safe.

This morning, I expect there’ll be some hurriedly called meetings at KU, the police department and the D.A.’s office to start to deal with the fallout from this blockbuster story. Significant damage has been done to the reputations of the police department, the D.A.’s office, and, by extension, to the University of Kansas.

It’s a rotten development for a very good school, but The Star exposed things that needed to be exposed.

**

For those of you who don’t take The New York Times, I recommend you get to the grocery today and buy Sunday’s edition. It’s got a remarkable, 44-page tabloid section about a 40-year-old Belgian woman — a paralympic athlete named Marieke Vervoort — who chose to end her life of chronic pain with doctor-assisted suicide, which is legal in Belgium.

A photographer named Lynsey Addario and a New York Times sports reporter named Andrew Keh spent significant time with Vervoort over nearly three years. Vervoort opened up to them, allowing complete access to the physical and emotional anguish she was experiencing along her winding road to death.

Fittingly, the project is called “The End.” A short paragraph on the cover of the section sums up the story this way…

“Knowing she had the legal right to die helped Marieke Vervoort live her life. It propelled her to medals at the Paralympics. But she could never get away from the pain.”

If you want to read a great story about courage — and you’re prepared for a good cry — I strongly recommend Addario’s and Keh’s incredible report. (It’s on The Times’ website, but if you want the full impact, get the print version.)

In the days before Marieke Vervoort died, friends came to the hospital to say their goodbyes.

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Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan was off base to make a joke about President Trump’s youngest son, Barron, during yesterday’s House impeachment hearings, but she was the most persuasive and passionate of the three Democratic witnesses who said the evidence and testimony presented to the House Intelligence Committee warranted impeachment.

Here is the transcript of Karlan’s opening statement, with a couple of deletions for space…

**

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee:

Today, you are being asked to consider whether protecting…elections requires impeaching a President. That is an awesome responsibility. But everything I know about our Constitution and its values, and my review of the evidentiary record, tells me that when President Trump invited — indeed, demanded — foreign involvement in our upcoming election, he struck at the very heart of what makes this country the “republic” to which we pledge allegiance.

That demand constituted an abuse of power. Indeed, as I want to explain in my testimony, drawing a foreign government into our elections is an especially serious abuse of power because it undermines democracy itself.

Pamela Karlan

Our Constitution begins with the words “We the People” for a reason. Our government, in James Madison’s words, “derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people.” And the way it derives these powers is through elections. Elections matter — both to the legitimacy of our government and to all our individual freedoms — because, as the Supreme Court explained more than a century ago, voting is “preservative of all rights.”

So it is hardly surprising that the Constitution is marbled with provisions governing elections and guaranteeing governmental accountability. Indeed, a majority of our amendments to the Constitution since the Civil War deal with voting and terms for elective office.

…But the Framers of our Constitution realized that elections alone could not guarantee that the United States would remain a republic. One of the key reasons for including the impeachment power was the risk that unscrupulous officials might try to rig the election process. At the Constitutional Convention, William Davie warned that unless the Constitution contained an impeachment provision, a president might “spare no efforts or means whatever to get himself re-elected.”

And George Mason insisted that a president who “procured his appointment in the first instance” through improper and corrupt acts should not “escape punishment, by repeating his guilt.” Mason was responsible for adding “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” to the list of impeachable offenses. So we know that that list was designed to reach a president who acts to subvert an election — whether it is the election that brought him into office or an upcoming election where he seeks a second term. Moreover, the Founding Generation, like every generation of Americans since, was especially concerned to protect our government and our democratic process from outside interference.

For example, John Adams expressed concern with the very idea of having an elected President, writing to Thomas Jefferson that “You are apprehensive of foreign Interference, Intrigue, Influence. So am I. But, as often as elections happen, the danger of foreign Influence recurs.”  And in his Farewell Address, President Washington warned that “history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”

The very idea that a President might seek the aid of a foreign government in his re-election campaign would have horrified them. But based on the evidentiary record, that is what President Trump has done. The list of impeachable offenses the Framers included in the Constitution shows that the essence of an impeachable offense is a president’s decision to sacrifice the national interest for his own private ends. “Treason” lay in an individual’s giving aid to a foreign enemy — that is, putting a foreign adversary’s interests above the United States’.  “Bribery” occurred when an official solicited, received, or offered a personal favor or benefit to influence official action — that is, putting his private welfare above the national interest. And “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” captured the other ways in which a high official might, as Justice Joseph Story explained, “disregard…public interests, in the discharge of the duties of political office.”

Based on the evidentiary record before you, what has happened in the case is something that I do not think we have ever seen before: a president who has doubled down on violating his oath to “faithfully execute” the laws and to “protect and defend the Constitution.” The evidence reveals a President who used the powers of his office to demand that a foreign government participate in undermining a competing candidate for the presidency. As President Kennedy declared, “[t]he right to vote in a free American election is the most powerful and precious right in the world.” But our elections become less free when they are distorted by foreign interference.

What happened in 2016 was bad enough: there is widespread agreement that Russian operatives intervened to manipulate our political process. But that distortion is magnified if a sitting president abuses the powers of his office actually to invite foreign intervention. To see why, imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that’s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding. What would you think if, when your governor asked the federal government for the disaster assistance that Congress had provided, the President responded, “I would like you to do us a favor. I’ll meet with you and send the disaster relief once you brand my opponent a criminal.”?

Wouldn’t you know in your gut that such a president had abused his office, betrayed the national interest, and tried to corrupt the electoral process? I believe the evidentiary record shows wrongful acts on that scale here. It shows a president who delayed meeting a foreign leader and providing assistance that Congress and his own advisors agreed serve our national interest in promoting democracy and limiting Russian aggression.

Saying, “Russia, if you’re listening…?” You know, a president who cared about the Constitution would say, “Russia, if you’re listening, butt out of our elections!”

It shows a president who did this to strong arm a foreign leader into smearing one of the president’s opponents in our ongoing election season. That is not politics as usual — at least not in the United States or any other mature democracy. It is, instead, a cardinal reason why the Constitution contains an impeachment power. Put simply, a candidate for president should resist foreign interference in our elections, not demand it and not welcome it.

If we are to keep faith with the Constitution and with our Republic, President Trump must be held to account.

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Has anyone noticed that The Star has had some really outstanding stories lately?

Among others…

:: The five-part series on Missouri’s underfunded and beaten-down public defender system.

:: The co-opting of Independence Mayor Eileen Ware and other Independence City Council members by companies that sought, and got, multi-million-dollar contracts for projects either dubious or overpriced.

:: Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway’s decision not to look into Sunshine Law transgressions during a more than year-long audit of former Gov. Eric Greitens.

:: Eric Adler’s Sunday story on wacko, rat-breeding Carol Dille, who has been making life miserable for her Westwood Road neighbors for almost 20 years.

I sure hope readers have been taking notice, but I wonder…I wonder because, unlike the years I was at the paper (the glory years, fortuitously, for me and my former colleagues), I no longer hear people talking about the stories that should jump out, should generate a buzz and should spark demands for change.

The business is now being assaulted from two sides. On one is the fake-news river, with its headwaters at the White House. On the other are the hedge funds and private equity firms that are hollowing out some of the biggest publicly owned newspaper chains.

At the center of that unholy sandwich are the reporters, feature writers, photographers, graphic artists, editors and, in some cases, publishers who are trying to continue delivering good and important news coverage to a dwindling and less interested public.

It is beyond frustrating for two groups — the dwindling audience and the reporters and others who are still trying to practice responsible journalism.

Although there’s been a wave of bad news lately, including strong indications that The Star’s owner, the McClatchy Co., is headed for takeover or bankruptcy, it took a long time for journalism to get where it is today.

Let’s take a ride back to the roots of corporate journalism.

When I arrived at The Star — actually the morning paper, The Kansas City Times — in 1969, The Star was owned by the employees. Every employee could buy stock and had the option of having money taken out of his or her paycheck to go toward purchasing shares of the company. I got on board right away, even though I didn’t jump in in a big way, mostly because I’d never purchased stock and didn’t know what it was all about.

In 1977, a publicly owned company called Capital Cities Inc., which owned newspapers, TV and radio stations, came knocking at the door, wanting to buy.

The question for the employees was whether to sell. I didn’t have much say in it because I had not accumulated much stock between ’69 and ’77. But there was a lot of money to be made by those who had been accumulating stock a long time, and they jumped at the opportunity.

CapCities, as it was called, was offering $2 for every $1 worth of outstanding stock, so many people became overnight millionaires. (CapCities paid about $100 million for The Star.)

Even I, with my meager number of shares, made a nice gain: I had $10,000 worth of stock, which turned into $20,000. I used the windfall to buy my first house, on Grand, just off 51st Street. I was happy about that, of course, but deep down I knew, like all my fellow employees, that the paper would never be the same. It would no longer be a family-type operation, with excellent job security and the “partnership” the paper enjoyed with its readers and subscribers. And the profits, which had been staying in Kansas City, would be going to CapCities’ headquarters in New York.

At first, things went well. CapCities brought in good managers and maintained a strong workforce. But, over time, the corporate roller coaster took its toll. In a stunning move, CapCities bought the ABC network (and its ESPN subsidiary) in 1985 for $3.5 billion. Then, in 1995, the Walt Disney Co. bought CapCities/ABC for $19 billion.

After the sale, Disney C.E.O. Michael Eisner came to The Star’s newsroom and told employees Disney would not be selling The Star, despite Disney’s previous lack of newspaper ownership…A year later, in 1996, The Star was on the block.

In 1997, Knight Ridder Inc., then the nation’s second-largest newspaper company, bought The Star, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Belleville (IL) News-Democrat and The Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, PA, for $1.65 billion.

In a New York Times story about the sale, reporter Joseph B. Treaster wrote…

The deal solidifies Knight Ridder’s commitment to the newspaper business at a time when many rival publishing companies have been diversifying into broadcasting and other forms of communication. It also comes amid a continuing debate over how vulnerable newspapers may be to the Internet and other electronic media.

In June 2006, the month I retired, Knight Ridder, under pressure from a large, disgruntled stockholder, decided to sell all of its 32 daily papers and go out of business. Along came McClatchy, a company half the size of Knight Ridder. It paid an outrageous $4.5 billion for the Knight Ridder papers.

A New York Times story about that sale quoted Chuck Richard, an information industry analyst as saying, “McClatchy is a dolphin swallowing a small whale.”

The dolphin was never able to digest that whale, and now, to quote impeachment witness Fiona Hill, “Here we are.”

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When I was young and single and starting my career at The Star, I used to give thanks at this time of year for totally different types of things than I do now.

I used to give thanks for things like…

:: New girlfriends…when I was lucky enough to get them

:: Front-page or Metro-front by-lines, especially in the big Thanksgiving Day paper. I remember one in particular about the late Jim Spainhower, who came to town the day before Thanksgiving in 1971, and I wrote that he was going to run for state treasuer. He ran in 1972 and won, and he served from 1973 to 1980. (Before he died last December, he was living at the Foxwood Springs retirement center in Belton.)

:: Pay raises

:: Some place to go on Thanksgiving Day, if I didn’t have to work. (Almost all of us reporters were on a holiday-work rotation. I remember either a Thanksgiving or Christmas when a photographer and I ate at a restaurant called the Snooty Fox, which was on the corner of Linwood and Gillham and later replaced by a 7-Eleven that has been at the site for decades.)

But, like I say, it’s different now.

I’m thankful, first of all, that I stuck it out in Kansas City the first couple of years, when I didn’t know many people and was having trouble adapting. I’m thankful every day, too, for Patty, whom I met in 1983 and married in 1985, and our children, Brooks and Charlie, and my other relatives and our many friends.

But, as I as thinking about it today — on the broader front — instead of being thankful for pay raises and by-lines, I’m now thankful for more mundane things — things that just make life a bit easier.

Let me give you three examples…

:: QuikTrip. I trust you, like me, have considered, periodically, how lucky we are to have such an efficient convenience-store chain. Many non-QT convenience stores are dumps, and the clerks are unfriendly and obviously unhappy to be doing what they’re doing. Not at QT. The stores are always clean and bright, and the clerks are almost always polite and efficient. And, they can count money as fast as bank clerks. Even though the Tulsa-based company operates primarily in only the Midwest and Southeast, it was ranked No. 33 on Forbes magazine’s list of largest private companies in 2016. The first QuikTrip was opened in 1958 in Tulsa by Burt Holmes and Chester Cadieux. Chester’s son, Chet Jr., is the current CEO.

:: Costco. Thank you, Jim Glover, for convincing Costco to open its Midtown store at Linwood and Gillham. I went there today, along with half of Kansas City, and, judging from how full the parking lot was, I thought I’d be there 45 minutes to an hour, even though I only needed three items. I was in and out in about 20 minutes. Every checkout line was going, and they had two people marking receipts at the exit…It’s hard to fathom now, but back in the 1990s some people were bitching about the composition of and lack of progress on “The Glover Plan.” In 1999, The Pitch had a story about an architect named Kevin Klinkenberg complaining about the area being “a parking lot with a lot of trees.” Klinkenberg went on to say: “At the beginning, back in the early and mid-1990s, they were going to have a Price Chopper and a Payless Cashways. Now they have a Costco and a Home Depot. The designs may be different, but they are just big-box stores that have no place in an urban environment.”

I can only imagine the mess we would have had if a Payless Cashways had gone in there, instead of Home Depot.

:: St. Luke’s Health System. I used to do most of my medical business in North Kansas City, with the Meritas network and North Kansas City Hospital. That changed this year after I had complications after a February knee replacement and had a couple of hospitalizations at St. Luke’s South. Along the way, I got a cardiologist and pulmonologist, who got me back on track. Then, after my primary care doctor at Meritas retired, I found I couldn’t get an appointment with the new Meritas doctor for several months. Now I’ve got an appointment with a new primary care doctor in the St. Luke’s system.

This Thanksgiving, then, as the year draws to a close, I’m counting blessings more pragmatic than years and decades past.

Being young and an asshole was a lot of fun — very exciting and invigorating — but this stage of life also has its rewards.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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