Most Interesting People 2009 Our cover story on the most interesting people in the Tristate By The Editorial Staff
What makes you interesting?
For the 20 local people highlighted here, in Cincy’s Most Interesting People feature, the question is an easy one. Their answers are sure to keep you riveted, whether they’re hosting tours of haunted houses, using a squirt gun on a raucous crowd, or exploring ancient waterworks.
The non-boring bunch was chosen from more than 100 nominations. While you probably haven’t heard of most of them before, we hope you eventually get the chance to run into them at a party. When you do, we guarantee you won’t be bored.
Rev. Eric Knapp, S.J. Age 39 Pastor of St. Xavier Church
Why he’s interesting: Since Knapp took the reigns at St. Xavier Church downtown three years ago, almost 600 new households have joined. Collections have risen 135 percent, and the median age has shifted from 67 to 51. Knapp calls the church the “intersection of the rich and the poor, of the powerful and the powerless.” Its ministries and welcoming attitude, illustrated by events like regular block parties, “project a new face of what church can be and should be,” he says.
Vibrancy: No one would venture downtown in the evenings, Knapp’s predecessor advised him, so he shouldn’t schedule any activities then. The church now hosts an activity almost every evening.
Resumé: Knapp’s activities during his “formation” — an average 10-year period in which Jesuits prepare for ordination —included working with juvenile delinquents in Detroit, officiating the funerals of gang violence victims in Chicago, working in hospice with the dying poor in Cleveland, and helping the impoverished in Peru.
Prophetic: Knapp grew up on a farm, where he was in charge of raising sheep.
Endurance: Knapp has run 25 marathons and plans to run the Flying Pig this year. “For me, it’s cheap therapy,” he says.
More questions than answers: A recent church self-study found that members usually leave St. Xavierwith more questions than answers. “And isn’t that a marvelous way to leave church?” Knapp asks.
— Lindsay Kottmann
W.A. Williams Age 58 Blues musician, photographer
Why he’s interesting: In 1987, W.A. Williams photographed the Gregg Allman Band at Riverbend Music Center, where he met the headliner, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Williams’ photographs of Vaughan became the defining images of the late blues-rock guitarist, and Williams went on to shoot famous photos of other performers, such as AC/DC, ZZ Top and Eric Clapton. Williams could soon garner even more notoriety as the front man of the blues-soul band The Reverend Billy Rose and the Legendary SoulShakers.
True friends: When Williams first met Vaughan, the rocker was just short of a year’s sobriety, something Williams had struggled with previously. That fueled a close bond between them. Their friendship, Williams says, wasn’t about his music or hanging out. “It was about his heart. It was about spirituality. When I first heard him talking about his life and spirituality to a crowd at the end of his show, the hairs on my arm stood out. He was real.” Vaughan’s 1990 death in a helicopter accident still brings Williams to tears.
Getting back to music: For now, Williams has put his camera away to focus on music. His new CD,The Ineffable Billy Rose, has 12 original tunes and features an all-star lineup of guest performers. “I think I’ve secured my place in rock ’n’ roll history with my photos and experiences,” he says. “Now, at almost 59, I feel like my life is just starting. Now, I’m taking my music to the world.”
— Dave Malaska
Hazel Barton Age 38 Microbiologist
Why she’s interesting: Barton has become a leader in her field by delving deeper than most microbiologists have ever been — sometimes thousands of feet underground. The Northern Kentucky University biology professor studies cave organisms that affect everything from clean drinking water to the search for life on Mars.
An unconventional scientist: Barton, who started exploring caves at age 14 to overcome claustrophobia, has a map of South Dakota’s Wind Cave tattooed on her bicep. She’s been featured in national magazines and in the 2001 IMAX film Journey Into Amazing Caves. Friends, she says, have overheard cavers saying it’s a shame that the IMAX film used an actress instead of a real scientist. “It’s flattering, I guess, that they think that,” she laughs. “Scientists really do tend to be the life of the party.”
Leading research: In 2003, NKU enticed Barton with a promise of her own lab in its new $38 million science center and $100,000 to study in cave-rich Kentucky. She has built the program into a world leader in the study of how microbes thrive in places thought to be inhospitable for life.
Not a spelunker: Serious cavers cringe at the term spelunking, which now carries an amateur connotation. Barton gives credence to the caver bumper sticker slogan: Cavers Rescue Spelunkers. “You’ll run into them down there and they’ll say ‘Excuse me, do you know the way out?’” she says.
Jason Reser Age 30 Owner, Reser Bicycle Outfitters
Why he’s interesting: Talk about pedal to the metal. Reser opened the high-end bicycle shop, Reser Bicycle Outfitters, on Seventh and Monmouth streets in Newport when he was 20. The store has been a catalyst for the Newport neighborhood, and has helped spur redevelopment in the area. This self-proclaimed “bicycle oracle” impresses customers with his extensive knowledge.
Trailblazer: Reser and his team have lobbied successfully for the creation of new bike paths and trails in the region. They also have spent many hours working with volunteers and local agencies, such as the Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance and the Kentucky Mountain Bike Association, to build and maintain trails. “A lot of people love to ride the hills in Kentucky,” he says.
School sponsor: The staff of Reser Bicycle Outfitters has sponsored races, race teams and junior cycling development programs. They’ve also organized and promoted races.
— Felix Winternitz
Amy & Emma Bushman (with mom Alison) Ages 7 Founders of Bake Me Home
Why they’re interesting: Twins Emma and Amy and their mother, Alison, started Bake Me Home, which gives each family at The Bethany House Shelter in South Fairmount a shopping bag filled with chocolate chip oatmeal cookie mix, baking implements, grocery store gift cards, recipes and other goodies. Their motto: Making the world a better place, one cookie at a time.
Summer Camp: The idea started at a Mercy HealthPlex camp, where the girls layered dry cookie ingredients in a mason jar. Soon after, Emma saw a TV show about kids starting their own business, and the girls realized they could turn a fun activity into a charity. Amy thought of the name. “It’s like a gingerbread house,” she says. All the cookie mix jars are filled at their church, Mount Washington Presbyterian.
Happy birthday: “From (when we were) really little, we asked for gifts for Bethany House Shelter instead of birthday presents,” Amy says. The snacks and juice boxes brought by friends and family to their seventh birthday party saved the shelter more than $300 last summer.
More cookies: The sisters constantly brainstorm about ways to expand Bake Me Home since they started it in October 2008. Earlier this year, Bake Me Home partnered with Bryant Photography to provide free family portraits to families at Bethany House. The Bushman girls also recently added the YWCA Battered Women’s Shelter in Cincinnati to their charity efforts. Now even more families receive Bake Me Home bags.
— Megan Carroll
Dean Miuccio Age 51 WARM 98 Radio Personality
Why he’s interesting: Miuccio is a familiar voice to radio listeners across the Tristate as co-host ofThe Dean & Randi Morning Show, which airs weekdays on WARM 98. “I’ve appeared regularly on numerous radio stations from New York to Florida,” Miuccio says.In fact, his broadcasting career has taken him to cities as varied as West Palm Beach and Raleigh (where he also served as a deputy sheriff for eight years).
What you might not know about him: Miuccio is also a television personality. He landed his first television weather anchor job at the CBS affiliate in Orlando. Another claim to fame for Miuccio is that he was once hired by Dick Clark to be an announcer on NBC’sLet’s Make a Deal with Monty Hall. He also worked with Bob Eubanks on the NBC game showFamily Secrets.
His newest projects: His full-service multi-media company, Dean Miuccio Productions LLC, provides clients with everything from TV and radio commercials to logo design, photography and more. “After working with Dick Clark, I fell in love with the behind-the-scenes production aspect of TV,” he says.
On the personal side: Miuccio met his wife, Alison, while both were working at Magic 107.7 in Orlando. They live with their son, Devon, in Liberty Township.
Emily Joy Age 26 Cincinnati Rollergirl and team events general manager
Why she’s interesting: Also known as the gregarious “Sk8 Crime” of the Cincinnati Rollergirls, Joy works to create a more progressive Cincinnati.
Super Soaker: “Most of my fans are under the age of 11,” notes Joy, and they love the squirt gun that she uses to get the crowd riled up at her home bouts at the Cincinnati Gardens.
No more mohawk: Joy is trying a more professional look now that she is a contract employee for Bridges for a Just Community and a part-time recreation leader for the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.
Her fans: “If someone’s spending money to see me play, I’ll spend time with them,” Joy says. When little girls come ask for her autograph, she always asks if they’re going to be rollergirls when they get older.
Her message to girls: “You can be a princess, but you have to be active with your body, too.” Joy’s role at the recreation commission involves leading kids in arts and sports activities.
Fine arts: Joy studied fine arts at the University of Cincinnati, but her passion lies with social justice education. At Bridges, she works with school districts to promote diversity and inclusion through camps for kids and training for staff.
Not alone: Joy, a Norwood native, says she had little support when she came out at age 16. As past president of UC’s Gay Straight Alliance, she helped organize a summit for people aged 14-21 to network with others dealing with similar issues.
Jackie Tso Age 12 Violinist
Why she’s interesting: Jackie Tso is one of our youngest MIPs, but she is no less interesting, or excelled, than her MIP counterparts. The violinist has been performing since age 4, including soloist stints with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra this year and concert appearances in Beijing. “We’ve traveled three times to China,” notes her mother, Weiyi Li. Jackie even performed Bruch’s Violin Concerto with the famed Beijing Orchestra in Beijing Music Hall last summer. A seventh-grader at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, the young musician says, “It’s really nice to play; it’s really fun.” Jackie lives in Loveland with her mom and her dad, Patrick.
Rigorous training: After nearly a decade of training in the Suzuki method, Jackie joined the Starling String Project at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, studying with professor Kurt Sassmannhaus. She has also attended the Great Wall Music Academy in China for the last three summers, where she worked with Yaoji Lin, Michael Ma, Kun Hu and the American String Quartet. Her master’s classes include playing for Pinchas Zuckerman and Vadim Repin.
High honors: The musician won second place in the 2007 Concerto Competition and is also winner of the Blue Ash Symphony’s 2008 Young Artist contest.
Dr. Brad Wenstrup Age 50 Surgeon; Major, U.S. Army Reserve
Why he’s interesting: This Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine surgeon had been practicing medicine for 12 years when he joined the Army Reserve at age 39. He was deployed to Iraq in April 2005 and served as the chief of surgery at the 344th Combat Support Hospital at Abu Ghraib. Since he returned in June 2006, Wenstrup has given more than 55 talks on his experience and the importance of service. His first talk raised more than $10,000 for Disabled American Veterans (the organization that gave him the flag he’s holding).
Good soldiers: Wenstrup didn’t grow up in a military family, but he always respected those in the armed forces. “It’s refreshing to be around so many people who put something above them,” he says of serving.
In jail: In Iraq, Wenstrup slept in a concrete cell in the prison- turned-hospital. “It was better than a field tent, in my opinion,” he recalls.
Like us: The news often gives the impression that Iraqis are constantly at war with one another, but most just want to live in peace, Wenstrup says. The Iraqis at his hospital didn’t let their differences divide them. “The way we often see it would be as if they turned on the TV and saw 10,000 Timothy McVeighs.”
Spreading joy: Wenstrup’s family and co-workers sent him toys and school supplies for Iraqi children. “It’s amazing to see the kids light up when we give them stuff,” he says.
Kendall Wright Age 49 President of Entelechy Training and Development Why he’s interesting: Wright has traveled around the globe as a motivational speaker, working with Fortune 500 companies and anyone who wants to become a stronger speaker and leader. He calls himself “The Actualizer.” To actualize, he says, is to move from possibility to reality.
Winner: Wright grew up heavily involved in church and was exposed to public speaking early in life. “I had an aptitude but not an affinity for speaking,” Wright remarks. But he realized he had talent in the seventh grade, when he won best of state in an Ohio speech contest.
Stepping up: As the first African-American president of the Ohio chapter of the National Speakers Association, Wright increased overall attendance and diversity at meetings.
Travels: Wright’s speaking commitments have found him in places such as England, India and Singapore. Kendall recalls his thoughts the first time he gave a seminar in London’s Ludgate Circus: “I’m Kendall Wright from Middletown, Ohio, and people are listening to me.”
Staying grounded: For the most part, he has — except for the time he went skydiving.
Fundamentals: Wright’s message is that “the reward is on the other side of the risk.” Rewards are within reach for anyone willing to step up to the challenge, he says.
— Lauren Brunck
Anne Cappel Age 44 Executive Director, European-American Chamber of Commerce
Why she’s interesting: Cappel, a French native, came to the United States in the 1980s to study at the University of Cincinnati through a cultural exchange program. “I came with my backpack, with every intention to leave with my backpack,” she laughs. Now, she’s lived in the United States for more than 20 years and, in January 2007, helped establish the European-American Chamber of Commerce in Cincinnati, the first organization of its kind in the country.
Networking queen: Cappel is the honorary consul of France and the go-to person for anyone in the Tristate looking to make business connections in Europe.
Expansion: Cappel and her colleagues are in talks with city leaders in Princeton, N.J., and Indianapolis to establish similar chambers there.
Pledge of Allegiance: Cappel took her three kids out of school in October so they could watch her take the Oath of U.S. Citizenship. Although she admits it was a long time coming, Cappel says it was perfect. “I’m glad I waited this long because I don’t think it would have meant this much otherwise.”
Hans Nuetzel Age 88 Architect
Why he’s interesting: “I came here as an immigrant from Munich in 1949 (after surviving the concentration camps),” says the Anderson Township resident. “I worked for Carl Strauss and designed a lot of buildings at Miami University, as well as the physics building at Xavier University. But my true love has always been residential architecture.”
His philosophy of architecture: “I consider it has to fulfill a purpose; it has to be functional. I don’t care for labels. I try to find the right match for the family. I cannot design for myself.”
What the nominator says: As P&G’s Charlotte Otto put in her nomination, “He’s a real character. ... We live in one of Hans’ homes, and have a great fondness and respect for him.”
Phil Taliaferro Age 71 Attorney
Why he’s interesting: This accomplished attorney’s closing arguments can draw a crowd. He has been making waves in Northern Kentucky since he was a copy boy at the Kentucky Enquirer at age 14, and has defended local police officers, school principals and Bengals players in high profile cases. He has won groundbreaking verdicts in women’s rights, at one point clearing the way for Covington women firefighters to keep their hair long, and with insanity pleas, one of which resulted in his client being found innocent on account of narcolepsy.
Current case: Taliaferro is defending a Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse valet against former University of Cincinnati men’s basketball coach Andy Kennedy, who sued the valet for defamation after he claimed to witness Kennedy assault a cab driver.
Motto: The sign in the picture displays “a Taliaferro practice of law theory,” he explains. “Even a blind hog can root up an occasional acorn. So you just gotta keep rootin’!”
Boy Scouts: Taliaferro is an passionate supporter of the Boy Scouts of America. He even bought and renovated the historic Covington home of Daniel Carter Beard when it was in danger of being torn down.
Anna Reider Age 33 Concertmaster, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra Why she’s interesting: Reider emigrated from Russia (what is now Uzbekistan) to Israel with her family in 1990. After graduating from high school, she was required to serve two years in the Israeli army. She won a spot in the army’s band playing the violin. During her service she traveled all over Israel playing for soldiers.
In the army now: Her military experience gave Reider the motivation she needed to move to the United States by herself in 1995 to study at the University of Cincinnati College- Conservatory of Music. “It made me realize that I’m responsible for my own actions,” she says.
Many hats: In addition to her work with CCO, Reider is also a violinist in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and an adjunct professor of violin performance at CCM.
Learning to juggle: Reider often balances up to three rehearsals a day, each lasting about two- and-a-half to three hours. She also teaches one day a week.
Findlay foodie: In her spare time, Reider loves to cook. The Norwood resident often buys fresh produce at Findlay Market, then takes her goods home and cooks “something yummy.”
Richard Crawford Age 58 Journalist and Historian Why he’s interesting: From famous athletes and Native Americans to ghosts and Ulysses S. Grant, Crawford is the expert on Clermont County history.
Go team: If you’ve met him, you know when Crawford graduated from Amelia High School: 1968, “the best year for high school sports,” he claims. Crawford is a sports writer for theClermont Sun, and covers 72 local varsity teams during the school year.
Journalism: He first covered sports for theClermont Courierat age 14. At the time, his high school offered just five sports, all for boys.
By night: Crawford is the foremost expert on Clermont County history. Best known for his ghost stories, he has written two books and hosted two DVDs on hauntings in Clermont County. Yet he prefers to talk and write about the Battle of Grassy Run, Ohio settlers, Ulysses S. Grant, Morgan’s raid and famous local athletes. Crawford is also often recognized as an expert on Native American history in Southwest Ohio.
Tour guide: Organizations frequently ask Crawford to give tours of historic sites throughout Clermont County, which he gladly gives for an hourly fee.
The thing he’s most proud of: “I have been the best man in 25 weddings, an usher in nine and I’ve even given away the bride once.”
Jenn Jordan Age 39 Co-host of Q102’s morning show
Why she’s interesting: Jordan has been co-hostingJeff and Jenn, the most listened to local morning radio show for women ages 18 to 49 and one of the station’s longest running shows, for eight years. Her 7-year-old son, Jakob, was diagnosed with autism four years ago. Since then, she has become a voice for autism awareness.
On the diagnosis: “It’s overwhelming, it’s scary, it’s expensive.” She lists treatment options from dietary regimens and medications to behavioral therapies. “We tried darn near all of them,” she adds.
Touching the community: When she talked about her son on the air, Jordan was inundated with calls and e-mails from parents with autistic children. Hoping to support them, she started an online journal to document her experiences with Jakob.
Choosing optimism: A few years ago, Jakob had little interest in social interaction and spoke just one word consistently. Constantly worrying about her son and how she could help him was making Jordan miserable, and she decided she missed the “fun” person she used to be. “If I’m consumed with guilt and fear all the time, that’s how he’ll live,” she reasoned.
Finding hope: Jordan’s decision to be happy fell into place with a treatment program that has done wonders for Jakob, who now speaks hundreds of words. She has hope for his complete recovery.
Getting active: Jordan is the co-chair for Autism Speaks’ Walk for Autism, which will be held May 16 at Coney Island. Its goal is to raise $800,000.
Dic Gross Age 61 Cincinnati Police Museum Curator
Why he’s interesting: Gross is curator of the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society Museum, which started as an idea 11 years ago and opened in 2006. The museum’s exhibits include a case of weapons donated by a flamboyant criminal defense attorney, as well as assorted bombs, handcuffs and bayonets. There’s a stuffed police dog that’s more than a century old, and a Wall of Honor with photographs of fallen officers. “We’re there to memorialize law enforcement in this area. Not just Cincinnati, but Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana. We want to emphasize that law enforcement is not limited to a single police department or a single location. Crime spills over.”
His day job: “I’m a full-time police officer, a detective with 35 years in the Cincinnati Police Department,” says the Anderson Township resident.
Where to find his museum: It’s located at 959 W. Eighth St. downtown. Admission is free. For details, contact (513) 300-3664 or visit www.gcphs.com.
Sal Piacente Age 44 Gaming Consultant and Memory Expert
Why he’s interesting: Sal “The Hitman” Piacente can memorize a deck of cards in seconds, and an entire magazine in a few hours. He makes a living teaching casinos how to catch cheaters through his consulting company, UniverSal Game Protection.
Slight of hand: When Piacente was 12, his father taught him three-card Monte. Piacente was hooked. Today, he has more than a thousand books, some centuries old, on memory and cards.
What happens in Vegas: Piacente was 13 the first time he visited Las Vegas. He started dealing cards when he was 21 and, within the first year, his memory and slight of hand skills caught the eye of a gaming consultant.
Helping kids: Piacente struggled in school until he learned memory association techniques. He now volunteers at local schools and libraries.
— Amelia Keller
Mother of 19; grandmother of 12
Why she’s interesting: After Kayes and her husband had three children, they decided to adopt a baby from South Korea. When they realized the baby had cerebral palsy, it started them on the path to adopting more children with disabilities. In the end, they adopted 16 children, most with physical or learning disabilities, from South Korea, India, Hong Kong and Bulgaria. Today, the children range in age from 40 to 13.
Self-sufficiency: The Kayes feel strongly about teaching their children independence and responsibility. One son who was born without arms does everything with his feet and works at the LaRosa’s Call Center. He can type 33 words a minute and open a straw on a juice box. “We’ve really done a lot of research with each one to find out what they’re capable of,” Kayes says. “We want them to have a life.”
Everybody counts: That’s the name of a program Kayes started in the early 1980s that teaches students about disabilities. “You learn that kids with disabilities are kids first,” Kayes says.
— Colleen Weinkam
Ken Tankersley Age 54 University of Cincinnati Professor of Anthropology
Why he’s interesting: Tankersley has studied archaeology around the globe, but his passion is local history. He’s found evidence of a 13,000-year-old comet impact in an Ohio cave, and realized that what were thought to be prehistoric forts — such as the earthworks at Shawnee Lookout Park — may actually be ancient irrigation systems. Tankersley has been in 13 documentaries, and his 14th,History of the Earth, airs on The History Channel this spring.
Early start: At age 5, Tankersley wanted to be an archaeologist like the ones he saw on National Geographic movies. That same year, he visited Mammoth Cave, which would be the site of his first documentary, Mysteries Underground.
Focus on Education: Tankersley gives his students hands-on experience. Unlike a lecture, he says, “That’ll stick with you all your life.”
Ancient Earthworks: Downtown was covered in burial mounds and earthworks that Tankersley believes were irrigation systems. By looking at the past, he says, we can learn how people managed water to adapt to change.
Comment on this story:
Wednesday, April 01, 2009 1:01:16 PM by Anonymous
Dr. Tankersley was my instructor for an anthropology course certainly he belongs on the '20 most interesting people' list :) He is 'on fire' for his field of study, his passion is pleasantly contagious. Congratulations Dr. Tankersley :):):)
Thursday, April 02, 2009 12:06:52 PM by Anonymous
Love this story! Great choices of most interesting. Love the wa williams story.
Thursday, April 02, 2009 1:32:09 PM by Anonymous
Dr. Tankersley was my instructor for an anthropology course, too. The way he involves students with hands-on involvement in the subject really does make for a tremendous learning experience. He has definitely earned his place in this interesting group.
Thursday, April 02, 2009 5:40:45 PM by Anonymous
Hans Nuetzel is not just a "real character"...he is a genius!
Thursday, April 02, 2009 11:38:10 PM by Anonymous
Phil Taliaferro as most interesting is a complete and total joke! Sure, he takes the big cases that will ensure he garners a bag of money, but he's a sell-out. Ask him how many hospitals have lined his pockets so he didn't go to court against them for wrongful death suits!
Sunday, April 05, 2009 12:39:47 AM by Anonymous
Hazel Barton was my microbiology teacher. She is nuts and cannot teach because she is too smart. People say she does not even like to teach she just does it for the money the school gives her to cave-dive and research. She is, however, interesting.
Monday, June 15, 2009 6:57:08 PM by Anonymous
Hans Nuetzel is very special to us he designed our home and our recent studio/guest house. He is truly interested in the clients needs and not in building his reputation. He does not charge enough and we consider him family! [censored] and Sandy Manteuffel
Thursday, July 21, 2011 11:10:09 AM by Anonymous
Rick Crawford is about as important to clermont county as any person could ever be.