Sam "Buddy" Brayfield JEFFERSON CITY MEDICAL GROUP, OSAGE BEACH
Just shy of collecting his pre-med degree, two things detoured Sam “Buddy” Brayfield: First, the University of Missouri declined to accept him into its school of medicine. About that time, some friends in a new Springfield band were looking for a keyboard specialist. “I’ll try this for a while,” he decided.
Thus began his association with the fledgling Ozark Mountain Daredevils, and Brayfield went along for a four-year ride that saw them achieve national fame in Southern rock. The pull of medicine, though, remained strong, and Brayfield left the band to earn his degree at A.T. Still University in Kirksville. Today he’s with Jefferson City Medical Group’s clinic in Osage Beach, where he is certified in family practice, hospice and palliative care. He also has developed an expertise in the medical aspects of child abuse.
But the music bug? It never went away, he confesses. “There’s a group of fine musicians in the lake area, and we call ourselves Buddy and the Notes,” says Brayfield, now 61. “This has opened a whole new world, musically. I’ve got some original songs I’ve been working on for years, and one day, we may put down a CD.”
Hank Waters COLUMBIA TRIBUNE
This just in: The newspaper industry isn’t dying. The big-city newspapers may be going belly-up, but community newspapers are doing more than just hanging on. Why? Because smaller papers invariably have someone like a Hank Waters behind them. For 44 years, Waters was publisher of the Columbia Tribune, and he still hits the keyboard most every day, batting out the first-person editorials that might best be described as … candid. Hank Waters says what he thinks. Take media ownership, for instance. “If I could pass a law for the journalism profession, I would require all media outlets to be under local individual ownership,” Waters declares. “Only in this model is ownership so responsive from and to the local community. When anyone in this town wants to have contact with Tribune owners, they know us and how to make instant connection.” The Tribune has been in the Waters family for four generations, and Waters’ son Jack is now the general manager, a source of joy for Hank as he ponders the direction of the paper in the coming years.
Grace Nichols STATE HIGHWAY COMMISSION, ST. CHARLES
Some people talk a good community-service game. There is no talk in Grace Nichols—she’s pure performance. She’s been a senior circuit judge in St. Charles County, was in private law practice for years, served two terms as mayor of St. Charles and had stints on the City Council and Board of Adjustment. And she’s got a long list of civic and non-profit efforts to her name, too.
It all stemmed, she said, from her interest in the folks around her. “I have always been interested in people and just naturally got involved in civic affairs and community service.” Those connections gave her some insights into the character of fellow Missourians. “They don’t call it the Show-Me State for nothing,” Nichols says. “Missourians want honest answers based on facts but they are willing to listen, for the most part.”
If you can give people honest answers, she says, and listen before you make a decision, “most people are reasonable.”
After retiring from the bench, she’s not slowing down; she holds a seat on the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission into 2013, an organization with a mission vitally important to the state’s economic future.
How has she managed to pack all of that into one career? She credits the support she received from her husband, John, and their three “perfect” sons (“I can hear them laughing hilariously,” she wisecracks) for giving her space to be so involved.
Niel Johnson HARRY TRUMAN IMPRESSIONIST, INDEPENDENCE
Get Niel Johnson talking about the current state of affairs in the U.S., even over
the phone, and you’d swear you were chatting with Harry Truman. Which is fitting:
For the past 20 years, Johnson has been a one-man cottage industry with his portrayals of the 33rd president, Missouri’s most famous contribution to White House lineage.
By his count, Johnson has donned the trademark bowtie and porkpie hat close to 700 times since his impersonations began on a whim in 1993. That was about the time he’d retired as an archivist at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, where for 15 years he absorbed the late president’s life without knowing where that was about to take him.
Johnson first bought the double-breasted suit and accessories to help in a Park University class he was recruited to teach. After favorable reception at a symposium in Chicago, “one thing led to another, so I just went with the flow.” It fit pefectly. “I was fortunate,” says Johnson, now 80. “I grew up on an Illinois farm during the Depression; we lost our house and my mother lost her life savings to a banker—that was before the New Deal and the FDIC. So I feel a kinship with Truman the farmer.”
Truman, he notes, was in debt most of his life, so he knew that even people who did the right thing could still end up behind a financial 8-ball. “He was a great example of fairness and justice,” Johnson says.
“Fortunately,” Johnson cracks, “I didn’t have to pretend very much.”