Kevin Palmer Paints Ron Kibbey

This year’s Beer Cheese Festival in Winchester was a huge suc­cess, with per­fect weath­er and a record crowd.  My wife Clare and I walked it from end to end, check­ing out exhibits and vis­it­ing with friends.  On North Main Street, we ran into Ron Kibbey at Kevin Palmer’s Art booth.  Ron showed us a car­i­ca­ture that Kevin pre­sent­ed to him as a gift.  We were much impressed.

The image cap­tures two icon­ic Winchester figures—the sub­ject and the artist—that most peo­ple know and every­one should.  We’ll start with the sub­ject, Ron Kibbey.  I had known Ron for a long time before I learned how he came to be in Winchester from Steve Flairty’s book, Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes 2

Ron Kibbey grew up in Baltimore, grad­u­at­ed from near­by Towson State College, and spent four years in the U.S. Air Force.  After his dis­charge, the young hip­pie set out on a cross-coun­try trip in his Volkswagen Beetle.  His des­ti­na­tion was Vermont.  While pass­ing through Winchester, his VW broke down, and he had to have it towed to Lexington for repairs.  That was in 1973.  Yep, Ron has now been “strand­ed” in Winchester for the last 50 years.

Ron took a job as a social work­er in Winchester and has been hard at it here ever since.  His list of accom­plish­ments is too long to go into in this brief sketch.  He worked tire­less­ly on pro­grams address­ing the prob­lems of drug addic­tion, home­less­ness, men­tal ill­ness, hand­i­capped access, day­care ser­vices, and many more.  He is now “offi­cial­ly” retired but has hard­ly slowed down.  After a long career in social work, he is still busy advo­cat­ing for dis­ad­van­taged cit­i­zens of Clark County.

A few of his side activ­i­ties alone would keep most peo­ple hop­ping.  He hosts his month­ly “Comedy Classics” show­ing vin­tage movies and car­toons at the Clark County Public Library.  He also has a reg­u­lar col­umn in WinCity Voices called Reel Classics that pro­vides in-depth reviews of his favorite old movies.  This is in addi­tion to his local vol­un­teer work.

The artist, Kevin Palmer, is our for­mer well-regard­ed Winchester Police Chief.  He retired in 2022 after more than twen­ty years in law enforce­ment.  His recent accom­plish­ments with the depart­ment includ­ed start­ing a K‑9 unit and equip­ping police offi­cers with body cam­eras, to name a few.

Kevin is also a ded­i­cat­ed reen­ac­tor with a focus on the Colonial, Revolutionary War, and Civil War eras.  And, as you might expect, he has put togeth­er a col­lec­tion of peri­od-cor­rect cloth­ing and acces­sories.  He was a reg­u­lar at the annu­al Siege of Fort Boonesborough. 

I can recall mem­o­rable pro­grams he put on at the Bluegrass Heritage Museum.  In one he described what it was like sur­viv­ing the Wilderness Trail in pio­neer times.  In the oth­er, he por­trayed Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at a press con­fer­ence (I found the resem­blance strik­ing.)  Kevin has been des­ig­nat­ed as the Living History Coördinator for the muse­um.  He attrib­ut­es his inter­est in his­to­ry to one of his teach­ers, Sandy Stults, now the muse­um director.

And now we’ve learned that he has been a tal­ent­ed painter all along.  Kevin start­ed a retire­ment busi­ness, The Painter’s Workshop, which offers paint­ing class­es for indi­vid­u­als or groups.  Clare attend­ed one of his group work­shops and came away impressed—she wants to go back for more.  I think Kevin’s skill is more than evi­dent in his car­i­ca­ture of Ron Kibbey.

Ron and Kevin each acknowl­edge that after work­ing togeth­er over the years in their roles in social work and law enforce­ment, they devel­oped a long-last­ing friend­ship and mutu­al respect for each other.

Ron Kibbey Caricature by Kevin Palmer
Ron Kibbey Caricature by Kevin Palmer
The cap­tion reads, “Ron, so glad you decid­ed to stay. Your friend, Kevin Palmer.”

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