Highland Fitness Member of the Year

Phyllis and Jerry OekemOn June 30, Swabek’s Highland Fitness celebrated its first birthday. Owners Craig and Kimmet Swabek have worked to design their gym with the goal of inspiring members to strive for their personal best. But they say there is one particular member who inspired them to be better – just by being himself. 

Jerry Oekem is the Highland Fitness first annual “Member of the Year.” Jerry attends the gym almost daily, but what is particularly remarkable about that is that he has Parkinson’s Disease. 

At 73 years old, with the exception of a few months, Jerry has lived in the 40205 ZIP code his entire life. He began running at age 35 and was one of the first members of the Cherokee Road Runners, which has been in existence for 35 years, and wrote their newsletter for most of that time. Consistently finishing well for his age group, Jerry has run marathons all over the country, including three Bostons and a 50-miler from Frankfort to Louisville.

Jerry was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1992, one year after marrying his wife, Phyllis, who is also a member at the gym. He was not expected to live very long, but defying that prognosis completely, he went on to be a hospice volunteer for the next 15 years, work in AIDS education and patient care, and be a highly active member of the Parkinson’s Disease foundation where he and Phyllis both plan activities as well as give private counsel for members and their partners who are dealing with the disease. And when he retired in 1992, Jerry started a men’s group that still meets weekly.

One of the uncommon candidates for a new Parkinson’s treatment, Jerry recently had deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery. With implants in his skull to his brain and a “battery pack” device in his chest, the stimulation can reduce the need for certain therapy drugs. “Contrary to gym rumor, those bumps on his head are not horns – they’re the implants,” says Kimmet Swabek, affectionately.

“It is truly wonderful to observe the love between Jerry and his wife, Phyllis,” says Kimmet. “We’ve been honored and blessed to have (them) as members and friends. By the way, Jerry will show anyone his scars and amputated-toe foot upon request.”

A regular attendee of Highland Fitness, Jerry is a vegetarian and practices Tai Chi, as well as speech therapy. He has seven children, five stepchildren and 25 grandchildren. 

Mediative Urbanisms: Design Competition for 30-acre Site

The Irish Hill Neighborhood Association (IHNA) remains proactive in the future development of a former scrap yards site by inviting urban designers, architects, landscape architects and artists to envision the future of the 30-acre site located on a stretch of Lexington Road between Payne Street and Baxter Avenue.  

“Mediative Urbanisms” is an international open ideas competition created to encourage critical design approaches and public debate around a potentially vital zone in the landscape of Louisville. 

Each entry is expected to interpret programmatic need within the given urban context, providing an expanded idea of the site’s possibilities for public consideration. At minimum, each entry should include specific attention to three program elements: 

First, entries must examine the potential for the Lexington Road corridor to become a mixed-use zone accommodating pedestrian and bicycle traffic. 

Second, entries must provide a bus hub capable of accommodating the confluence of three separate routes with adequate waiting areas for riders.

Third, entries must provide ample pedestrian/bicycle access between the north and south edges of the site.  

Local residents would like to see the area developed into a long-lasting, pedestrian friendly zone that connects the adjoining neighborhoods with daily-use programs linked to the communal and ecological health of the city. As indicated in a survey of area residents, the most desired thing is a neighborhood market, due to the lack of grocery stores and produce markets in the immediate area. The survey further indicates support for light industrial shops, medical clinics, small-scale educational facilities, park space, high-rise residential construction, patio-style dwellings, small-scale commercial spaces, greenhouses for food production and a farmers’ market. 

Participants are encouraged to couple innovative strategies for ecologically-driven design with an urban strategy that fuses the currently isolated site into the larger urban context while preserving adjacent residential properties.

The mission of the Irish Hill Neighborhood Association is to enhance the livability of the Irish Hill neighborhood while encouraging a spirit of cooperation with other groups in the community. The IHNA seeks to foster a continued discussion of the site’s potential by inviting the input of designers worldwide to help drive the process through a public display and evaluation of concepts. 

Online registration, which opened July 15 and continues through September 15, 2009, can be found at http://irishhillneighbors.googlepages.com/mediativeurbanism. IHNA will award first and second place prize money – $2,000 and $1,000, respectively – as determined by a selected jury. The public exhibition and jury will be held in The Green Building on October 15, 2009, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information, or to schedule an interview with Nathan Smith or another board member of IHNA, contact Chandler Bainter at (502) 905-4342 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Madonna & Co. Hair Studio Now Open

Madonna & Co. Hair Studio is now open for business at 1200 E. Oak Street. Madonna and Steve Willis are the owners of the renovated building that now houses their upscale salon. The salon provides a wide variety of services with a staff of five experienced stylists, offering cutting-edge color and style, as well as top-of-the line products such as Alterna, Sebastian, Aquage and others. 

Madonna comes to Louisville from Cincinnati, where she owned and operated a successful salon. After 18 years of experience and training under top industry stylists, she brings her expertise to the Highlands. Steve says, “We are excited to be a part of the community and thank you to all for your warm welcome.” The couple live in the Hikes Point/Fern Creek area. 

Experienced stylists are currently needed at the salon. For details, or to make an appointment, call (502) 635-2040.

LYO Auditions Continue

The Louisville Youth Orchestra (LYO) continues its auditions for its 51st season through early September. The auditions are for musicians through age 21 who play any orchestral instrument.

Visit www.lyo.org for an audition application and requirements. For questions, call Melody Welsh-Buchholz at (502) 896-1851. 

Michael and MelissaCongratulations, Michael and Melissa

Congratulations to Michael L. Jones and Melissa Amos, who officially tie the knot on August 7, 2009, at the old Louisville School of Medicine. 

Michael is an occasional contributor to The Highlander and has worked as a staff writer for LEO (Louisville Eccentric Observer) and The Courier-Journal. He now works as a research editor at Video Monitoring Service and is studying history at the University of Louisville. 

Melissa is a physical therapist at a University Hospital out-patient clinic. She is also the mother of three children: Brad, 15; Kasey, 12; and Ally, 10. 

The couple have been together for six years and live on Wrocklage Avenue near the Highlands Kroger. We wish them a happy marriage and a long and healthy life together.