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.