Few people - if any - have put as much time and work into helping the city of Adairville in the past 20-plus years as Nannette Starks King.
You name it, she’s done it. From sitting on the city council to serving as president of the Adairville/South Logan Chamber of Commerce to chairing the annual Strawberry Festival to just digging around in the park on the square planting trees and flowers; King has been a faithful servant to the small city in south Logan County.
In November, when it was King that needed help the city was there - raising over $19,000 to help King in her fight for cancer.
The citizens of Adairville showed how much they cared and appreciated King that night. And for the same reasons they showed up in droves for her benefit, King has been chosen as the N-D&L’s Citizen of the Year for 2012.
Ask King why she’s done so much over the years and the answer you’ll get is a simple one.
“It’s because I love Adairville,” King says.
But it’s not just because she loves the town so.
It’s also because she’s willing to help.
“Anytime I need her, I just have to call and she’s there,” said new Adairville mayor Donna Blake.
Helping just comes naturally to King.
“I’m just the kind of person that - if something needs to be done - I just do it instead of waiting for someone else to do it,” King said. “When I hear the word ‘help’ it’s like my body kicks into gear.”
It’s not totally selfless though.
King has an ulterior motive for serving on the various committees and all the volunteer work. She wants to see Adairville get back to the glory of its past - like it was when she was growing up there.
“You used to be able to walk all the streets and not have to worry about what might happen to you,” King said. “And if you did anything wrong, you’d never get away with it because someone would have told momma and daddy before you even made it back home.”
King recalls the empty lot that was beside her childhood home and how on Sunday afternoons it became a gathering place for all of the town’s youngsters.
“Every Sunday afternoon the boys would be playing football in that lot and the girls would all be on the sides cheering them on,” King said.
On one such Sunday, one of the participants had a nasty fall and dislocated his shoulder.
He was taken off to the hospital and the games continued unabated in the weeks that followed.
“Today if something like happened, you’d probably get sued,” King said.
King remembers when, just walking through the town, you could see many of its inhabitants.
“People don’t come out of their homes like they used to,” King said. “I think a lot of that is because much of the younger generation has moved away and a lot of those left are older and you just don’t get out as much when you’re older. Back then, if I needed to find daddy, I knew he’d be down on the town square sitting on a bench talking to some of the other men in town.”
When thinking about the Adairville of her youth, King decided to start writing a book in 1990.
“I just went around and interviewed the older people in town about what they remembered,” King said.
Soon after that, King’s quest to help bring the old Adairville back started.
Most of her plans and schemes included Blake.
Like when she started to get involved in the Chamber of Commerce as an officer.
“That had to be Donna’s fault,” King said.
And the duo also started the South Logan Historical Society a couple years back.
Blake says the organization’s status as a certified non-profit group is because of King’s hard work.
The historical society has worked to get Savage Cave turned back over to Logan County after years of neglect while it was owned by Murray State University.
“Before we go involved in Savage Cave, the weeds were so bad down there… it was terrible,” King said. “Now, it’s so nice down there.”
King is also a big part of the revival of the Red River Fish and Game Club.
“It was in the process of going under because the membership was dwindling down,” King said. “Then one Sunday afternoon, I got to talking to Richard Hughes about helping and I’ve been down there ever since.”
That was in 2005. Now, the Red River Fish and Game Club is a vibrant organization in south Logan County once more.
It’s not just King’s organizational talents that have benefited the city of Adairville. It’s also her ability to just “do stuff.”
“I don’t think there’s anything she can’t do,” said Blake. “One time we got the idea to put a cutout of the state of Kentucky on the back of a float for the Strawberry Festival. I had no idea how we were going to do it, but Nannette just went and did it.”
A lot of that know-how comes to being the only girl in a family full of brothers and male cousins.
“Growing up I was raised in a boy’s world,” King said. “And I would watch Daddy working a lot. You can learn a lot just from watching. And my older brother told me that you could do anything if you have the right tool. So I started buying tools.”
“And Nannette has a garage full of tools,” Blake joked.
Those handy skills went a long way toward the rehabbing of the park on the city square. In the past few years, many improvements have been made from the fountain to the bandstand to the pergola - just to name a few.
But don’t suggest to King that the park is finished.
“Some things got done, but we have a lot more that still needs to be done,” she said. “And we want the buildings around the square full and just as pretty as the square is.”
King also has unfinished business left as part of her job as the city sexton.
She took the job because she loves Greenwood Cemetery and she has been able to document almost everyone that is buried there.
“I have got all but three rows documented,” King said. “I love doing that.”
The thought of leaving her work undone isn’t a pleasant one.
Since King is battling liver cancer, she is hesitant about taking on new projects now.
“The unknown is hard,” King said. “I almost hate to get started on something now, because I don’t know if I will be around to finish it.”
She went in for a CT scan on Dec. 17 to see if the three tumors in her liver had gotten smaller after chemotherapy. They hadn’t. They were bigger - and there was three more additional tumors as well.
So, the doctors suggested to try a different kind of chemotherapy.
“That’s scheduled for Jan. 3, so I’ve got some decisions to make,” King said.
Dealing with the cancer has been understandably hard. But in at least one way, there is a silver lining in that very dark cloud.
And that came about largely because of the benefit that Blake and Wayne and Brenda Stratton had for King back in November.
“That just blew my mind,” King said. “When you’re doing all these things - digging in the park and whatever - you don’t think anyone is paying attention. But they are.”
Some 500 people showed up at the Red River Fish and Game Club building that Saturday evening.
More than $4,000 was raised in food sales alone and the auction raised more than $9,000.
But the $19,000 total was just a very small part of what made that so special.
“If not a dime had been raised, the pure good energy that I received from that was worth it,” King said. “And it has continued ever since then. The outpouring of love and prayers hasn’t stopped. People are still calling me and telling they are praying for me and sending cards of encouragement and stopping by to see me. It’s not the same one-time volume as that night, but it hasn’t stopped.”
People came out who King had not seen in over a decade.
“There were so many prayers and hugs and words of encouragement,” King said. “There has probably never been that amount of good feelings in that building before. I had never been exposed to anything like that before.”
When King was in need - of both money and support - the town she had given to so much had her back.
“It humbles you - big time,” King said. “Adairville is a good place. And it goes beyond just Adairville. It’s the people that have been touched by Adairville too.”