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Robert Worden, president-elect of Paducah Ambassadors, looks over portraits of ihe group's past leadership. The ambassdors, founded in 1988, are volunteers who dedicate their time to introducing new people to the community. Easily identifiable in their bright red coats, they are guides and liaisons who work to make the community a vibrant and welcome place to everyone.

Passport to Paducah

story by Steven Anselm

An ambassador for the city of Paducah needs many distinct qualities: local historian, helpful friend, problem solver and a bright red blazer.

The city's dozen or so red-coated goodwill greeters include Robert Worden, 66, a disabled war veteran who, when not narrating tours or helping visitors onto buses, also volunteers at the Disabled American Veterans service office, Mount Kenton Cemetery and the National Quilt Museum.

Robert, leans heavily on his knowledge of history as a way of establishing a connection between the city and its visitors. "Everything I do is tied together," he says. "Studying history helps me give more interesting tours. And when I meet someone, I can talk to them about their office building, for instance. We have a common interests."

Wednesday mornings he is in the Paducah service office for DAV Miles Meredith Chapter #7. In the space of only few hours nearly 50 disabled veterans, many of whom arrive feeling distraught, will have passed through the small office. Robert helps them navigate a complex bureaucracy. He makes calls, faxes documents and uses his network to get them to the right people. Many don't want to ask for help, he says. "I call it soldier syndrome. They're afraid they're taking away from someone else."

Next to Robert's desk, his wife, Donna, has placed a quilt on a large chair. Her expertise in quilting helps Robert in his role as a docent at the National Quilt Museum. Like Robert, she finds happiness in life’s connections. Above the chair hangs a rare poster. “My favorite band is the Beatles,” Donna says. The poster is of the Beatles with Peter, Paul & Mary, Robert’s favorite group.

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Robert helps Mike Schutzman relax before he gives his very first tour of the city.

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A moment of prayer is observed during the presentation of a Quilt of Valor to WWII veteran Morris Wayne Nelson. The presentation was held at DAV Miles Meredith Chapter #7 and attended by the Nelson family and members of the Marine Corps League.

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Paducah Ambassadors plan for the day ahead. As visitors arrive via riverboat, the abassadors serve as expert tour guides who not only recount the history and current goings-on, but can also recommend places to get everything from lunch to a haircut.

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The board of directors meets at Mount Kenton Cemetery in Paducah. The cemetery, which has a history dating back to the 1850s, is the final resting place of many historical figures, including Vice President of the United States Alben W. Barkley.

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A visitor shares a laugh with Robert during a tour of Paducah.

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Robert, in his home library, is an avid reader with a strong interest in history.