PITTSBURG — Pittsburg suffered a tremendous loss in late 2018, after long-time Gorilla fan, alum, leader and local legend Jack Overman died on Dec. 8 at 100-years-old.
A Pitt State Gorilla since 1936, “Jack Overman represents everything that's good about Pittsburg State … his passion for Gorilla athletics, his commitment to individual students, and his enduring love for the institution,” PSU President Steve Scott said in a release. “His impact on Pitt State has been evident over the past eight decades and will be felt for decades to come.”
Overman, who was born on Aug. 23, 1918, in Girard, Kansas, attended Pittsburg High School, where he was a yell leader.
When he enrolled at PSU — then known as the Kansas State Teachers College — in 1936, he continued to perform on the cheer squad at pep rallies and bonfires, convocations, and marches to downtown Pittsburg.
Overman started at PSU as a yell leader and remained a cheerleader for the university, making an effort to not miss a game since.
“I have a real passion for this university,” Overman said in a 2011 Morning Sun article at the age of 93. “I don’t care who or what it is or if it’s hot or cold. I’m going to be there.”
For almost 95 years, Overman was a member of the YMCA — one of the oldest active members — former YMCA Executive Director Jack Bache said. He swam nearly every day until he moved to a nursing home.
“He was a marvelous individual and certainly will be missed by the ‘Y’ and many organizations in town,” Bache said. “He lived our creed and believed in the mission we stand for.”
Overman in the past, had claimed the university and the community’s success was made possible through the all of the people who gave back.
“Pittsburg is a very, very giving and loving community,” he said in 2011. “I don’t know of any projects we’ve undertaken that we haven’t gotten built. They’ve always turned out successfully.
“This is all possible because of their love of their community. People of all types give back. It’s one for all and all for one.”
2. Construction begins at George Nettels
Pittsburg Community Schools broke ground on the construction of more classrooms at George Nettels Elementary School in January. Meadowlark and Westside Elementary broke ground in February.
The construction is the result of a $31 million bond election approved by voters March 2017. The bond has provided additions to be made at all of USD 250 schools.
The renovations for Meadowlark, George Nettels and Westside are complete. Lakeside is set to be completed by the end of December. Pittsburg Community Middle School and Pittsburg High School construction projects expected to be complete in 2019.
3. Block22 Opens
Nearly 100 Pittsburg State University students moved into Block22 in August during the university’s move-in day.
Block22 is located at 4th and Broadway and consists of four historic buildings. There are approximately 97 apartments in four different styles — suite, flat, studio and loft
The buildings — National Bank of Pittsburg and the Opera House Hotel at 408 and 410 N. Broadway, along with the Crowell Pharmacy buildings at 401 and 405 N. Broadway — are over 100 years old and were becoming unsafe for the public, Pittsburg Deputy City Manager Jay Byers said.
“Coming into this building is really satisfying,” Byers said. “Less than three years ago, we were making plans to demolish these buildings, they were becoming public safety hazards.”
Now, the buildings are “absolutely” safe and are up to code, PSU President Steve Scott said.
The National Bank building welcomed its new professional tenants in November, marking the partial-completion of Phase 2 for Block22.
More businesses are expected to move in 2019 as the construction is completed in their workspace.
4. Students protest guns, honor victims
In March, several high school students and a few teachers gathered outside at the Pittsburg High School courtyard to promote gun regulations and commemorate the victims from the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
According to the Associated Press the organizers said there are nearly 3,000 walkouts set and it is the biggest demonstration of student activism since the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
The walk out at PHS was hosted by the student group, Equality Club.
5. CHC/SEK acquire Mercy Clinics
Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas announced acquired Mercy Clinics in October after Mercy Hospital Fort Scott announced its closing at the end of the year.
In a release from CHC/SEK, it was announced the organization will assume ownership of the Mercy clinics in Fort Scott, Pleasanton and Arma beginning January 1, 2019.
CHC/SEK CEO Krista Postai said in a release that this past summer CHC/SEK and Mercy hospital entered discussions about ways to “preserve the resources they had built in Bourbon and Linn counties.”
“As an organization that had grown out of a faith-based health system, CHC/SEK shared their values and their commitment to providing quality, affordable care,” Postai said in the release. “We both agreed it was the right thing to do.
“They are doing whatever they can to make this transition seamless.”
2018 Honorable Mentions
1. ‘We can fix that’
Shriners give children an opportunity to be healed
A Shriner was eating at McDonalds and noticed a little girl with a limp. approaching her parents he said, “We can fix that.”
And they did.
The Shriner helped the family connect with a Shriners Hospital for Children.
“We couldn’t ask for better care,” Angie said.
2. Bowen’s Tree Farm to close after over three decades
A decades-old Christmas tradition will came to an end in 2018.
Over the years, many families have visited the Bowen’s Christmas Tree Farm to pick out the perfect Christmas tree. December was a bittersweet ending of the Bowens’ 35-year journey selling Christmas Trees.
3. ‘Have a taco-rific day’
Brandon Stephenson makes people's day, gifts food for homeless.
Everyone already knows Brandon Stephenson as the “straw guy,” but now he’s known for something sweet — and no, he’s not giving away free sodas or cinnamon twists.
Brandon, who works at Taco Bell, has been a social media sensation with 21 thousand reactions, over 300 comments and 7.5 K shares of a post shared by Pittsburg resident Amanda Vanderford. Amanda said she shared what she experienced because more positive things should be shared in the world.
4. Award winning journalist visits PSU
Soledad O'Brien started in journalism removing staples daily from a TV station’s bulletin boards. She flubbed her first on camera live shot after a drunk pinched her behind as the camera began to roll.
Yet, on the advice of an old boss, “make them fire you, but whatever you do don't you quit” O'Brien showcased her tenacity and love for journalism sticking out her first on air job, and rising to be one of the most well known journalists in the country.