Oklahoma Couple Breeds the Grand Champions of Man’s Best Friend

Oklahoma Couple Breeds the Grand Champions of Man’s Best Friend

Oklahoma Couple Breeds the Grand Champions of Man’s Best Friend

By C. L. Har­mon
They are man’s best friend and prob­a­bly the most loy­al of all crea­tures on the plan­et. They have been the joy of roy­al­ty and peas­antry alike for as long as any­one knows. They are God spelled back­ward and the def­i­n­i­tion of love spelled for­ward. It should sur­prise no one that there are those among us who devote great amounts of time and ener­gy to breed­ing and rais­ing such lov­ing crea­tures. One such Okla­homa cou­ple has devot­ed the last 25 years to breed­ing the Ger­man Shep­herd breed of these creatures…and not just aver­age shepherds…but many of them grand cham­pi­ons.
“We have been very suc­cess­ful rais­ing world class dogs. In fact, we had the first Grand Cham­pi­on Ger­man Shep­herd in Okla­homa and have had sev­er­al grand cham­pi­ons, both male and female over the years. We have raised 27 cham­pi­ons and grand cham­pi­ons since we began rais­ing them,” own­er of Key­stone Ger­man Shep­herds & Ken­nels, Dean Heckathorn said. He and his wife Pat­ty focus on rais­ing one breed and they pre­pare them to do every type of func­tion capa­ble to a Ger­man Shep­herd today. Through train­ing, these ani­mals can be used as ser­vice dogs, search and res­cue among many oth­er appli­ca­tions.


“We were rais­ing Ger­man Shep­herds when in 1996, we dis­cov­ered a Hei­del­berg Ger­man Shep­herd dog ken­nel due to the advent of the inter­net. We made the 1,000-mile trip to see these Hei­del­bergs first hand. Once we dis­cov­ered them, we have nev­er bred any oth­er type of shep­herd. They tru­ly are the real deal. There are no more loy­al, intel­li­gent, health­i­er and beau­ti­ful Ger­man Shep­herds in the world,” Dean said.
One of the most inter­est­ing aspects of the oper­a­tion is the gen­uine love the cou­ple has for these ani­mals. It’s not just about breed­ing or rais­ing ani­mals that can fetch a good price, but about ensur­ing that the ani­mals live a hap­py and healthy life after they have been sold. The cou­ple explains to each poten­tial buy­er about the impor­tance of nutri­tion and how some­thing as sim­ple as prop­er nutri­tion alone will keep the dogs healthy and min­i­mize vet­eri­nar­i­an bills. The cou­ple even went the extra mile to ensure that own­ers can do just this with ease through a sup­ple­ment of their own cre­ation. Dean is not only a breed­er. He also holds degrees in biol­o­gy and chem­istry. So, he took that knowl­edge and expand­ed on a basic sup­ple­ment that was designed for Hei­del­berg Ger­man Shep­herds. Using his under­stand­ing of anato­my and phys­i­ol­o­gy, he tweaked and improved the for­mu­la to be all nat­ur­al and much more effec­tive as well. In addi­tion, this for­mu­la is safe for all breeds to aid in keep­ing them health­i­er longer.
This con­coc­tion of health and vital­i­ty, how­ev­er, is not just avail­able to the dogs they raise and the own­ers who pur­chase them, but to every­one and at a rea­son­able price. A five-month sup­ply costs only 23 dol­lars and is easy to use by sim­ply sprin­kling a tad over the animal’s food.
“We have own­ers who come in and try it because of the price and are hooked for life. They can lit­er­al­ly see the trans­for­ma­tion in their dogs. We have peo­ple tell us that they can see their dogs ‘glow­ing’ after just a cou­ple of months. I am con­vinced that we have been able to have so many Ger­man Shep­herds cho­sen as grand cham­pi­ons because the judges can see how our ani­mals seem to glow,” Dean said.

The cou­ple also offers free train­ing class­es on Sat­ur­day morn­ings with a focus on obe­di­ence and devel­op­ing social skills. This train­ing teach­es the ani­mals how to act in pub­lic giv­ing peace of mind to the own­ers that the ani­mal won’t bite some­one, bark and growl or even lunge after a cat. It also lays the foun­da­tion for more exten­sive train­ing if the own­ers opt to pur­sue fur­ther spe­cif­ic train­ing in anoth­er area. This is a free ser­vice to any­one who is inter­est­ed.

“Some­times I think I was crazy to get into this and I have no idea why I chose to do it, but I must admit how reward­ing this expe­ri­ence has been,” he quipped with a laugh. He added, refer­ring back to his crazy state­ment, that they are not get­ting rich doing this and most peo­ple don’t real­ize how much mon­ey and effort goes into rais­ing dogs cor­rect­ly. As crazy as they may think they are, one can quick­ly real­ize how much the cou­ple tru­ly cares for the ani­mals by sim­ply vis­it­ing the ken­nel and see­ing how hap­py and healthy these dogs are in their envi­ron­ment. The cou­ple even refus­es to put an ani­mal down because he/she is too old to show or sell. Instead, they choose to feed and care for those ani­mals until they pass on from nat­ur­al caus­es. Most breed­ers will not do this because of the cost, the cou­ple said.
Ger­man Shep­herds are one of those rare breeds that can be so much than just a pet. They are used the world over in a vari­ety of func­tions includ­ing law enforce­ment, the mil­i­tary, as ser­vice ani­mals, search and res­cue, herd­ing and even ther­a­py.  Per­haps the cou­ple may be crazy for get­ting into this, but that reward­ing expe­ri­ence he feels must be unde­ni­able and prob­a­bly stems from the fact that for over 25 years, they have been pro­duc­ing some­thing that tru­ly does enrich the lives of all those who are loved, helped and pro­tect­ed by Ger­man Shep­herds.

For more infor­ma­tion on pur­chas­ing a Ger­man Shep­herd, health sup­ple­ments, board­ing ser­vices or free train­ing class­es, vis­it keystonegermanshepherds.com.


Upon writ­ing this sto­ry, I was unaware of the cir­cum­stances per­tain­ing to the cou­ple who owns the busi­ness which is writ­ten about above. How­ev­er, short­ly after fin­ish­ing the arti­cle, I was enlight­ened to a blog post which prompt­ed me to place the arti­cle on hold until I could make sure the arti­cle has the prop­er end­ing. After sev­er­al weeks, I have decid­ed to run the arti­cle in its orig­i­nal draft and include the blog post from the own­ers. The fol­low­ing is in the owner’s own words.

Old Man

I haven’t blogged in a long time.  How­ev­er, after cyber-attacks to our web page, email, and social media our busi­ness at keystonegermanshepherds.com is at risk of clos­ing.  And, these beau­ti­ful Heidelberg’s will be lost for­ev­er. 


Nobody in the world is breed­ing pure Heidelberg’s Ger­man Shep­herds except for us, Key­stone Ger­man Shep­herds & Ken­nels.  My intent with start­ing blog­ging again is mul­ti­fac­eted, but the most press­ing rea­son is to save our ken­nel and these won­der­ful shep­herd lines. In decid­ing what to write, I start­ed think­ing about “The Old Man and the Sea”, a book I read sev­er­al times as a teenag­er and I haven’t giv­en it much thought since then.  How­ev­er, the love that “We” (our cus­tomers and us) have for these dogs inspired me to under­stand what that book was real­ly about.
Ernest Hem­ming­way was writ­ing an auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal sto­ry about the lost love of his life.  The one that got away.  If you haven’t read the book, read it after read­ing this.  Also, I’m doing this from 37-year-old mem­o­ries and I’m not fact-check­ing so please be kind.  Old San­ti­a­go is fish­ing for the love of his life.  He hooks a great blue Mar­lin, the largest fish San­ti­a­go can remem­ber any­body catch­ing even from when he was a young boy.  ‘The Great Prize’ rep­re­sents the woman that Hem­ming­way loved.  San­ti­a­go spent end­less strain­ing hours fight­ing this great fish, he had to pos­sess it and claim it as his own.  The bat­tle with the fish rep­re­sents Hem­ming­way and his lover’s courtship.

The rea­son he wrote in such short con­cise and pre­cise sen­tences is because that is the lan­guage of love and love­mak­ing.  San­ti­a­go catch­es his great prize and fas­tens her to the skip, but in pos­sess­ing her San­ti­a­go begins to cor­rupt her spir­it.  The pack of attack­ing sharks rip away the valu­able flesh of this great fish.  San­ti­a­go returns to his hut after suf­fer­ing a heart attack with only the skele­ton of his great fish tied to the skiff, he lays down on his blan­ket in the floor of his hut and falls asleep.  Like­wise, Hem­ming­way returned home with a bro­ken heart after los­ing the only true love of his life.  The book ends with ‘San­ti­a­go dream­ing of ele­phants’.  San­ti­a­go wasn’t defeat­ed or bro­ken, and he would have anoth­er con­quest.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I believe Hem­ming­way was defeat­ed and this loss may have result­ed in his sui­cide.

Like­wise, we have a great prize here at Key­stone Ger­man Shep­herds & Ken­nels, the love of our col­lec­tive lives, the world’s best tem­pera­ment and aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing Ger­man Shep­herds, the Hei­del­berg Ger­man Shep­herd.  Thank you to all our friends that own or have owned and love our dogs.  Please help us keep this dream alive, if you are think­ing of buy­ing a pup­py or dog from us, please don’t wait.  We need your sup­port now.  We haven’t decid­ed on a date in which we will close down, but it will only be a cou­ple of months unless we have your sup­port.  Please vis­it us at keystonegermanshepherds.com

Help KGS

We sell show-qual­i­ty Ger­man Shep­herds. Our Ger­man Shep­herds are the best val­ue in top qual­i­ty pup­pies avail­able most any­where. Our pup­pies start at $2,500.00

C. L. Har­mon

Lead Author

C.L. Har­mon a jour­nal­ist and author.

He Has worked for sev­er­al news­pa­pers as a reporter and was the man­ag­ing edi­tor for a dai­ly before start­ing his own paper, The Man­n­ford Reporter in Man­n­ford, Okla­homa. 

The Man­n­ford Reporter came with many life lessons and expe­ri­ences that I may share one day. For now my focus and my love is Unique­la­homa!

A Moment in Time

A Moment in Time

Today we remem­ber a day 75 years ago when prin­ci­ples were put before per­son­al choic­es, brav­ery was put forth to face the great­est of fears and sac­ri­fices were made that washed away in the tides of time. It was the day the great­est arma­da in his­to­ry was assem­bled. With 7,000 ships, 10,000 air­craft and over 156,000 souls, this force became one to com­bat a men­ace bent on glob­al dom­i­na­tion and ulti­mate destruc­tion. It was a few moments with­in an infin­i­ty where time stopped just long enough to allow right­eous­ness the oppor­tu­ni­ty to gain a foothold with­in an evil ide­al. Men fell and sank with­in the swal­low­ing waters gasp­ing and dying as a dark­ness in human­i­ty blan­ket­ed them with destruc­tion. And yet, these men kept fight­ing the tide, mov­ing for­ward past the fall­en, to give back to oth­ers the free­dom that had been stolen.

We will nev­er taste the salt water or feel the warmth of blood as it seeps into the sand and water that those men expe­ri­enced on this day all those years ago. We can­not expe­ri­ence the volatil­i­ty of life in such moments as those where breath was so eas­i­ly extin­guished. We can­not fath­om such a loss where so many die and suf­fered in only min­utes. But today we can remem­ber that there were those who did. We can remem­ber that we speak and live in free­dom because a few fright­ened, yet brave souls gave us the oppor­tu­ni­ty to know it.

I will nev­er have the chance to meet those who per­ished on the Nor­mandy Beach­es in France on June 6, 1944. And I may nev­er meet any who fought their way through the chaos and sur­vived. But with these words, I can say thank you for what they gave me and the rest of the world. I hope we all take a moment to remem­ber what this day meant to so many oth­ers 75 years ago and what it rep­re­sents still today.

C. L. Har­mon

Lead Author

C.L. Har­mon a jour­nal­ist and author.

He Has worked for sev­er­al news­pa­pers as a reporter and was the man­ag­ing edi­tor for a dai­ly before start­ing his own paper, The Man­n­ford Reporter in Man­n­ford, Okla­homa. 

The Man­n­ford Reporter came with many life lessons and expe­ri­ences that I may share one day. For now my focus and my love is Unique­la­homa!

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Voices of the Past Whisper to the Future with John Erling

Voices of the Past Whisper to the Future with John Erling

Voic­es are reminders that we live; words are proof that we have spo­ken and mem­o­ries are what we leave as a result. Each life is a voice spo­ken in a grace­ful flu­id­i­ty through sec­onds and years in time which becomes a whis­per to the future. It is that voice which echoes beyond our years to become the sto­ries of life and lega­cy. One man has become a voice for those voic­es. His name is John Erling. Many of us may remem­ber hear­ing him on KRMG radio in Tul­sa where he enter­tained lis­ten­ers for over 25 years with news and com­men­tary. How­ev­er, now retired for the past ten years, Erling has con­tin­ued the spir­it of his morn­ing radio show Erling in the Morn­ing by bring­ing new inter­est­ing sub­ject mat­ter to lis­ten­ers. Through his endeav­or Voic­es of Okla­homa, he is allow­ing oth­ers to tell their sto­ries and thus telling us all about Okla­homa and those who have made their mark in the pan­han­dle state.
“Voic­es of Okla­homa is a col­lec­tion of oral his­to­ry sto­ries. We have col­lect­ed over 200 of them with 67 of the inter­vie­wees hav­ing already died. This empha­sizes the rea­son we are doing this,” Erling said.

This project began sim­ply over lunch between friends. He and Walt Helmerich III, most notably known for Helmerich & Payne Drilling com­pa­ny and the pur­chase and growth of Uti­ca Square in Tul­sa, met for lunch once a month for ten years. Dur­ing those lunch­es, Helmerich would relay these inter­est­ing sto­ries about his life and career to Erling. It occurred to Erling that he “should not be the only one who gets to sit at this table.” Helmerich agreed but was not keen on the idea of a book. Erling, intrigued by the idea of telling oth­ers’ sto­ries, thought about how he could get these sto­ries to the pub­lic.

While dri­ving around one day, he thought about using a web­site as the vehi­cle to bring these sto­ries to the pub­lic. He then sug­gest­ed to Helmerich that he record the busi­ness­man and phil­an­thropist for future gen­er­a­tions in his own words and make it avail­able to every­one. Helmerich liked the idea, and so Erling already think­ing about future record­ing, asked if he would also ask his friend Hen­ry Zarrow, own­er of Soon­er Pipe & Sup­ply, and Big­heart Oil Com­pa­ny if he would agree to be record­ed. Zarrow agreed and the pro­gram was born. Erling imme­di­ate­ly began seek­ing out oth­ers he could record. Using his con­nec­tions and friends in the com­mu­ni­ty to find inter­est­ing can­di­dates, sug­ges­tions for sub­jects soon began com­ing to light. So much so in fact, that Erling had to clas­si­fy cat­e­gories for the abun­dance of options from the dif­fer­ent aspects of Okla­homa life.

It will be ten years this April since Voic­es of Okla­homa began pub­lish­ing these oral his­to­ries on its site. Erling, with the help of John Hamill, has recent­ly pub­lished the book Voic­es of Okla­homa with excerpts from many of those inter­viewed. Erling was kind enough to send me a copy, and after review­ing it, I must con­clude that any lover of his­to­ry, regard­less of where they are from, will find this an enlight­en­ing and enjoy­able read.

In our lives, we come into con­tact with intrigu­ing and inno­v­a­tive peo­ple who have expe­ri­enced remark­able events. With­in the first few pages alone, one can find out what it was like to dine at a pri­vate cas­tle with George Har­ri­son and Ringo Starr of the Bea­t­les fame along with Eric Clap­ton. One can tour with Bob Dylan, wait on J. Paul Get­ty at a depart­ment store (the rich­est man in the world at the time), Flip a coin of des­tiny with Ritchie Valens and watch your dad pur­chase a home from Will Rogers for $500 down and a ver­bal agree­ment for gro­ceries for one year, with­out a con­tract. All of these sto­ries are told in their own words from their per­spec­tives as Okla­homans.

Erling said he does not have a favorite sto­ry as all have some­thing that make them unique. But he does remem­ber some quite fond­ly due to their his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tion. One, in par­tic­u­lar, is of Mar­i­an Opala, a for­mer Okla­homa State Supreme Court Jus­tice. Erling tells of Opala’s ser­vice with the Pol­ish Under­ground after the Nazis inva­sion of Poland in 1939 and sub­se­quent ser­vice in the British Army. He goes on to speak about Opala’s cap­ture and impris­on­ment in a con­cen­tra­tion camp. Opala would lat­er immi­grate to Okla­homa, earn his degrees and work his way through the legal ranks to obtain the high­est judi­cial office in the state. He died four days after record­ing his sto­ry to Erling.

Although the book is a valu­able resource, there isn’t any­thing quite like lis­ten­ing to the sto­ries told by those who actu­al­ly expe­ri­enced these incred­i­ble moments that made up their lives, Erling explained. The dri­ving force behind this endeav­or has been to offer a valu­able learn­ing resource to future gen­er­a­tions. Many of these per­son­al sto­ries that have been shared with Voic­es of Okla­homa are bits of per­son­al infor­ma­tion that would cer­tain­ly be lost to his­to­ry if not for the efforts of those involved with the project. Erling said that many teach­ers and col­lege pro­fes­sors use the web­site as a resource to enlight­en the younger gen­er­a­tions with a vivid his­to­ry they will nev­er be able to expe­ri­ence oth­er­wise. It is avail­able to any­one at no charge who has an inter­est in his­to­ry or those who have helped forge it. One of the most inter­est­ing aspects of this project is that it does not focus on one ele­ment of soci­ety but all. Cap­tains of indus­try, musi­cians, artists, phil­an­thropists, celebri­ties or any­one who adds to the rich tapes­try of our state can all become part of this valu­able his­tor­i­cal resource.

Our expe­ri­ence with the book has been a good one and has attract­ed inter­ests to the web­site that oth­er­wise would not have been,” Erling said. The site brings in over 10,000 lis­ten­ers each month, he added. There will also be more books to pur­chase in the future as Erling stat­ed that there is enough mate­r­i­al already to fill a set of ency­clo­pe­dias.

This book is hop­ing to add to what we are doing with the web­site, and we are get­ting a lot of atten­tion with it. Peo­ple get excit­ed about books,” Erling said. He explained that the book came about because peo­ple were telling him that it was quick­er for them to read the tran­scripts which accom­pa­ny the record­ings. So he thought about a book and using excerpts in sto­ry form to reach those who may not have heard of the web­site. The book, which pub­lished ten days before Christ­mas, allows those who love to read to expe­ri­ence these inter­est­ing his­tor­i­cal sto­ries in a for­mat they enjoy. The book, how­ev­er, only con­tains parts of the com­plete sto­ries and so those inter­est­ed in the full sto­ries can still vis­it the site and read the full tran­scripts. All the pro­ceeds from book sales go back into the project to fund more inter­views and record­ings.

Our expe­ri­ence with the book has been a good one and has attract­ed inter­ests to the web­site that oth­er­wise would not have been,” Erling said. The site brings in over 10,000 lis­ten­ers each month, he added. There will also be more books to pur­chase in the future as Erling stat­ed that there is enough mate­r­i­al already to fill a set of ency­clo­pe­dias.


The project is fund­ed by both indi­vid­u­als and foun­da­tions who believe in Voic­es of Oklahoma’s mis­sion. These include, but are not lim­it­ed to: The Chick­a­saw Nation, Burt B. Holmes, George Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion, Grace and Franklin Bernsen Foun­da­tion, H.A. and Mary Kay Chap­man Char­i­ta­ble Trust, Helmerich Foun­da­tion, The William K. War­ren Foun­da­tion, and Williams Com­pa­nies. To vis­it the site or pur­chase the book, log onto voicesofoklahoma.com.

Authors Note: As own­ers of Unique­la­homa, my busi­ness part­ner Spencer Heckathorn and I believe this sto­ry to be one of the most impor­tant we can pub­lish. The very mis­sion of Voic­es of Okla­homa and Unique­la­homa is to high­light this incred­i­ble state, its peo­ple, his­to­ry and cul­tures. Voic­es of Okla­homa is doing just that in a unique and pow­er­ful man­ner that ben­e­fits us now and for gen­er­a­tions to come. It is our sin­cere hope that each of our read­ers will vis­it and sup­port Voic­es of Okla­homa and help keep our his­to­ry alive.

C. L. Har­mon

Lead Author

C.L. Har­mon a jour­nal­ist and author.

He Has worked for sev­er­al news­pa­pers as a reporter and was the man­ag­ing edi­tor for a dai­ly before start­ing his own paper, The Man­n­ford Reporter in Man­n­ford, Okla­homa. 

The Man­n­ford Reporter came with many life lessons and expe­ri­ences that I may share one day. For now my focus and my love is Unique­la­homa!

Santa is Real! You Just Haven’t Met Him Yet

Santa is Real! You Just Haven’t Met Him Yet

San­ta is Real! You Just Haven’t Met Him Yet
CL Har­mon, Lead Author, Osage Nation Mem­ber
18 Decem­ber 2018

co-pub­lished with Tul­sa Lifestyle Mag­a­zine

The True Spir­it of Christ­mas Is Clos­er Than You Might Think

You bet­ter watch out, you bet­ter not cry, bet­ter not pout, I’m telling you why, San­ta Claus’ alter ego mayust whack you with a stain­less steel can­dy cane! Okay…that’s not true, but he will find the exag­ger­a­tion fun­ny as he does so many things. What is true though, is that he is the real San­ta. I know that some may scoff and pro­claim there is no San­ta, but those peo­ple have nev­er met Richard Bax­ter Jr. Most peo­ple though just call him San­ta. He even has a belt buck­le he wears year-round that reads San­ta and is a card-car­ry­ing San­ta which he takes with him so he can prove he’s the sleigh rid­ing jol­ly man when chil­dren

Every day 365 days a year, he looks like, acts like and even laughs like San­ta. But more than that, he believes in the spir­it of Christ­mas and the true mean­ing of the sea­son every one of those days. He is a reminder to each of us why we should tru­ly cel­e­brate and to also nev­er for­get that the inno­cence of a child can teach us all that mag­ic does exist if we just believe it does.

If it weren’t for the birth of Jesus, we would be out of a gig,” he quipped. He shares that mean­ing in all
oth­er areas of his life by being an exam­ple of a giv­ing per­son through­out the year. It’s almost as though
he was born with the spir­it of Christ­mas; he was even born on Decem­ber 25 and has been fas­ci­nat­ed
with the hol­i­day since he was a child.

Pho­tos Cour­tesy of Amber Gregg Pho­tog­ra­phy. To view more of her work, vis­it www.ambergreggphotography.com

You are who again?
The fact that he nat­u­ral­ly looks and laughs like the San­ta most of us envi­sion just rein­forces the belief that he is Mr. Claus. The first time I saw Bax­ter, I told the per­son I was with that he looked like San­ta.
Unbe­knownst to me, he was behind me. Then a voice from behind me bel­lowed out, ‘well that’s because I am San­ta,’ fol­lowed by a ho-ho. Of course he was refer­ring to what peo­ple call him, but still, the image of San­ta I have always had was very close to Baxter’s nor­mal appear­ance. He even rolls his mus­tache and has “San­ta street clothes” which he wears for any sea­son. When­ev­er he hap­pens upon a
child and is out of his San­ta suit and the child remarks he looks like San­ta but is not dressed like him, he always has a sto­ry about how he is San­ta. He is just out check­ing on the naughty and nice list or that he had to meet with toy mak­ers. One might say he nev­er miss­es an oppor­tu­ni­ty to be him­self.

It took off like wild­fire”

Bax­ter is also a mem­ber of the Amal­ga­mat­ed Order of Real Beard­ed San­tas and takes the role of the hol­i­day char­ac­ter very seri­ous­ly. Although he por­trays the actu­al char­ac­ter in cos­tume only part-time, he is the spir­it of Christ­mas full-time. It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine for most how some­one could play a char­ac­ter year round, and so it makes sense that they wouldn’t believe. But that’s just it, it’s no act. That spir­it of giv­ing and laugh­ter is with him wher­ev­er he might be at the moment. I had the priv­i­lege of work­ing with him for two years at Web­co Indus­tries’ Stain­less Divi­sion, and dur­ing that time, I nev­er called him by his legal name or heard any­one else do it either. He was always San­ta. He treat­ed every sin­gle per­son with kind­ness and respect. He always con­duct­ed him­self with humil­i­ty and had a bel­low of laugh­ter that was unend­ing.

Pho­tos Cour­tesy of Amber Gregg Pho­tog­ra­phy.

His High­ness King Jol­ly
He moved here from Wash­ing­ton, where he par­tic­i­pat­ed in many hol­i­day activ­i­ties includ­ing mall San­ta. This is where he got his start 35 years ago as a pro­fes­sion­al San­ta. This was back in the days of
Polaroid's, and the “gig” last­ed three years. In addi­tion, it allowed him to become the pho­to loca­tion man­ag­er where he had seen as many as 9,000 chil­dren in just over a five-week peri­od. He even­tu­al­ly tired of the mall scene and start­ed his own busi­ness doing home vis­its, which includ­ed nurs­ing homes, par­ties and hol­i­day gath­er­ings. He has con­tin­ued that busi­ness here, and it has grown to include parades, orga­ni­za­tions, and retail gigs.

It took off like wild­fire,” he said. Even his wife Rebec­ca got in on the act as Mrs. Claus dur­ing a cruise gig where he per­formed as the jol­ly gift giv­er. It is dur­ing this cruise that he knight­ed a young boy as the
elf Son­ic using a can­dy cane. This, he said, is one of his favorite mem­o­ries as San­ta, because the child had suf­fered tragedy in his life involv­ing his par­ents and this small act of kind­ness was a gift to that child that made Christ­mas be the way it should for all chil­dren, Bax­ter expressed. He added that being San­ta is his lega­cy, a way to live on after ha has passed. Every per­son in which he inter­acts, takes a pho­to with or who watch­es him with chil­dren keeps a lit­tle piece of him with them. It tru­ly is an amaz­ing expe­ri­ence that one keeps with them always.

An ambas­sador of Good­will

It should be not­ed that a pro­fes­sion­al San­ta can work year round and make good mon­ey if he is will­ing to trav­el. But Bax­ter would rather make sac­ri­fices so that he can be close to home and care for Rebec­ca
who has health issues. Just anoth­er exam­ple of how he puts oth­ers before him­self. Of course, what else would one expect from the real San­ta? He is a true believ­er in “the mag­ic” of Christ­mas and that keep­ing Christ in Christ­mas is Santa’s job; an ambas­sador of sorts for its true mean­ing.

He has a long list of activ­i­ties this hol­i­day sea­son, and so he will be around the area spread­ing cheer and mak­ing chil­dren smile. And though I can’t promise you will meet him while he is out and about, I can promise that you will real­ize he is the true San­ta if you do meet him. He won’t be the one with a fake beard ask­ing for a dona­tion in front of the mall, but the one offer­ing to share the true spir­it of Christ­mas with you between bel­lows of ho-ho-ho and grant­i­ng wish­es with his stain­less steel can­dy cane. Mer­ry Christ­mas to all and to all a good night!

Oklahoma’s Own The Church Studio Former Stomping Grounds of Leon Russell

Oklahoma’s Own The Church Studio Former Stomping Grounds of Leon Russell


CL Har­mon, Lead Author, Osage Nation Mem­ber




As she sat there amid the hus­tle and bus­tle of the diner’s morn­ing break­fast rush sport­ing a red Church Stu­dio tee and a slight sense of anx­i­ety, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was sit­ting with a celebri­ty. Dip­ping her tea bag into a hot cup of water, she soon appeared relieved to have made her appoint­ment with me and offered a warm smile once we were seat­ed. She had already been meet­ing peo­ple since 7 a.m., and it was now 10, and she was right on time. I admit I felt a bit ner­vous at first, but that feel­ing soon fad­ed as we began to con­verse. I had been hop­ing for quite some time to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to write about Tere­sa Knox. I learned some time ago about her and believed that she is the very def­i­n­i­tion of vision; a woman who sees val­ue in what is bro­ken, beau­ty in what is decay­ing and faith in what can be. With a fresh cup of cof­fee before me and pen in hand, I jot­ted down bits and pieces of her life in my note­book. Each stroke of the pen con­firmed my belief that I cer­tain­ly was in the pres­ence of vision.

Allow Me To Introduce Teresa Knox

Although I con­sid­er her a celebri­ty, she would nev­er refer to her­self that way. The rea­son is, in part, because she is too hum­ble to see her­self that way and part­ly because she is too gra­cious to admit it even if she did. She would prob­a­bly say that she is a per­son who finds pur­pose in every­thing she does; a per­son raised on the wrong side of the tracks who under­stands we define our­selves by our actions, not our cir­cum­stances. For those who may not know her name, she can be rec­og­nized from her accom­plish­ments and caus­es. The list reads as an impres­sive resume of inge­nu­ity and preser­va­tion. We met to talk about her lat­est project, the restora­tion and even­tu­al reopen­ing of famous Tul­sa musi­cian Leon Russell’s record­ing stu­dio The Church Stu­dio which she pur­chased in 2016. And, we will get to that project soon. But to under­stand her rea­son for tak­ing on such a chal­leng­ing project, it is nec­es­sary to know about Knox, the per­son.

She is the founder of Com­mu­ni­ty Care, Okla­homa Tech­ni­cal and Clary Sage Col­leges in Tul­sa. She found­ed Com­mu­ni­ty Care first under the name of Den­tal Direc­tions, The School of Den­tal Assist­ing which she start­ed while work­ing as a den­tal assis­tant. She got into this pro­fes­sion at 18 years of age after grow­ing up in what she called “poor.” She explained that peo­ple in that type of sit­u­a­tion often live with low self-esteem and tend to make poor choic­es due to that feel­ing. Unlike many peo­ple in her sit­u­a­tion who found escapes in drug depen­den­cy or crime, she had a will­ing­ness to work hard and to let her mis­takes become a teacher. She spent three years as a carhop for Son­ic Dri­ve-In build­ing a work eth­ic and learn­ing busi­ness lessons from books she checked out from the library that still fol­low her to this day. These expe­ri­ences gave her the con­fi­dence to move in a new direc­tion.

Becoming A Better Decision Maker

Den­tal assist­ing prob­a­bly saved my life,” Knox said. Ini­tial­ly head­ing down a neg­a­tive path in life, the pro­fes­sion gave her a sense of pride and self-worth that had been lack­ing in her life to that point. This new per­spec­tive allowed her to become what she called “a bet­ter deci­sion mak­er” which ulti­mate­ly led to her as an advo­cate for oth­ers who need­ed an oppor­tu­ni­ty to make bet­ter deci­sions in their lives. She real­ized ear­ly in her cho­sen pro­fes­sion that she had a knack for train­ing and decid­ed to mar­ket that skill. So she placed a four dol­lar ad in the clas­si­fied ads of Tul­sa World offer­ing to train peo­ple to become den­tal assis­tants. As a young sin­gle mom work­ing in a den­tal prac­tice, she bor­rowed some equip­ment from the den­tist for whom she was work­ing and began train­ing peo­ple at her River­side Dri­ve apart­ment on Sat­ur­days. Things were going well…for a while any­way, she explained. Then her first snag hit when the state attor­ney gen­er­al sent her a “nasty” let­ter inform­ing her she was oper­at­ing a school ille­gal­ly and would have to stop and pay back the mon­ey she had accept­ed from her stu­dents.

The School of Hard Knox

I was scared. I was dev­as­tat­ed. I didn’t know I had to be licensed.” She said. She then spoke with her employ­er and offered to work for free if he would allow her to use his office to teach her den­tal assist­ing class­es. He agreed, and she became licensed a short time lat­er even­tu­al­ly turn­ing that into the for-prof­it school Den­tal Direc­tions. From that endeav­or, Com­mu­ni­ty Care Col­lege was devel­oped with the oth­er two schools fol­low­ing a few years lat­er. With her con­fi­dence and desire to give oth­ers oppor­tu­ni­ties, she, along with oth­ers who shared her vision, cre­at­ed a learn­ing lega­cy that con­tin­u­al­ly grows while offer­ing mul­ti­ple pro­grams of var­ied stud­ies to hun­dreds of stu­dents each year. The schools have pro­duced thou­sands of grad­u­ates since its incep­tion in 1995.

I made so many mis­takes. But I would build on each suc­cess, and I learned from tri­al and error. I have a sil­ly blog called ‘The School of Hard Knox’ a play on my last name and it lit­er­al­ly was the school of hard knocks.” She quipped. She added that she loves to work with start-up busi­ness­es now and share all she has learned. She admits that she was a “screw-up” and knows how dif­fi­cult it is to keep going when mon­ey is tight, and entre­pre­neurs can’t afford to pay for ser­vices such as attor­neys and accoun­tants that are so ben­e­fi­cial to busi­ness own­ers. She used her knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence to help busi­ness own­ers under­stand that the busi­ness prin­ci­ples of old are still the best. Treat­ing oth­ers bet­ter than you want to be treat­ed, the cus­tomer is always right, giv­ing back to the com­mu­ni­ty and tru­ly show­ing grat­i­tude are just a few of the ideas she offers to oth­ers. These, along with per­se­ver­ance, are what bring about suc­cess, she said.

I made so many mis­takes. But I would build on each suc­cess, and I learned from tri­al and error. I have a sil­ly blog called ‘The School of Hard Knox’ a play on my last name and it lit­er­al­ly was the school of hard knocks.”

Graduating To Greater Things

At our 20 year anniver­sary, I was going to sell the col­leges, and then I just chick­ened out. I pan­icked. I thought about it, prayed about it and went to bed one night to awak­en with the deci­sion to make the orga­ni­za­tion a non-prof­it. It made sense. We employed the most gen­er­ous team, hadn’t raised tuition in over a decade, gave mil­lions away in schol­ar­ships, and I real­ly felt like we were run­ning a mis­sion at the cam­pus,” Knox said. It took two years to make the change, but upon com­ple­tion, she stepped down as CEO, moved out of oper­a­tions and vot­ed on to become a board mem­ber. She had been tied to the schools for over 20 years, and now they would no longer be a part of her dai­ly life. She found her­self in a “funk” and real­ized that she was going through the griev­ing process. She also real­ized that the future was wait­ing with open arms.

She was already enjoy­ing com­mer­cial real estate devel­op­ment but want­ed to expand that busi­ness and pur­sue her love of his­tor­i­cal preser­va­tion. She first pur­chased a prop­er­ty near the his­toric Cir­cle Cin­e­ma in Tul­sa and began restor­ing that with a friend. Soon to fol­low was var­i­ous prop­er­ties in the Pearl Dis­trict includ­ing the Church Stu­dio. Her love of Leon Russell’s music would be the hook, and the stu­dio would be her great­est his­tor­i­cal catch.

Finding A New Church

First off, I am a huge Leon Rus­sell fan. He was so tal­ent­ed, and I don’t think a lot of peo­ple tru­ly real­ize the tal­ent that he was. He wasn’t just a singer but a bril­liant song­writer, com­pos­er, and entre­pre­neur. He was a top musi­cian in the coun­try in 1972 and could have gone any­where. But, he chose to come back to his home­town. That alone is incred­i­ble,” she said. For her, it was as though she was drawn to The Church Stu­dio as almost hear­ing Russell’s melody of ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ beck­on­ing her to turn the for­got­ten stranger into a new friend. With a nudge from her big broth­er, Lar­ry-anoth­er huge Leon Rus­sell fan—she found her­self dri­ving past it and even pick­ing up the garbage that drift­ed onto the prop­er­ty. She sought out the own­er and bought the stu­dio with­out even going inside.

At that point, I want­ed it so bad­ly! I want­ed to bring it back to its orig­i­nal glo­ry. I want­ed it to be a pos­i­tive reflec­tion on Leon Rus­sell.” He hadn’t passed away at that time but did a cou­ple of months lat­er. Rus­sell had turned the church into a stu­dio in the spring of 1972. It was also home office to Shel­ter Records. Rus­sell closed the stu­dio in 1976, and it was even­tu­al­ly sold. Knox pur­chased the stu­dio in August of 2016 and decid­ed to breathe new life into a with­er­ing land­mark. She did not know Rus­sell and was “pure­ly a fan” but held his lega­cy in high regard as some­one who men­tored and pro­pelled so many artists includ­ing Tom Pet­ty & The Heart­break­ers, Dwight Twil­ley, and the Gap Band to star­dom and for devel­op­ing the “Tul­sa Sound” with Tul­sa native singer/songwriter J.J. Cale. Famed gui­tarist Eric Clap­ton would pick up this sound and record Cale’s songs ‘After Mid­night’ and ‘Cocaine.’ Lynyrd Skynyrd would also record his song ‘Call Me The Breeze.’ Leon’s mag­net­ism and the oth­er Tul­sa Sound musi­cians like Walt Rich­mond, David Tee­gar­den, Carl Radle, Jamie Oldak­er, Jim­my Markham, and Chuck Black­well to name a few also attract­ed greats to Okla­homa such as Willie Nel­son, Tom Pet­ty, Bob Seger, Peter Tosh, Fred­dy King, George Har­ri­son, Ringo Starr, Kansas, Eric Clap­ton, Taj Mahal, Bob Dylan, and Bon­nie Raitt.

I not only want to hon­or Leon’s lega­cy but have a place that inspires a younger gen­er­a­tion of musi­cians and is an incu­ba­tion cen­ter for these artists. I am very excit­ed about this and believe the stu­dio will be a des­ti­na­tion for vet­er­an musi­cians and new tal­ent alike,” she said. The stu­dio will be an ana­log, and dig­i­tal state-of-the-art record­ing stu­dio after the restora­tion is com­plete next year. She has hopes to make The Church Stu­dio a beau­ti­ful and func­tion­al facil­i­ty that can com­pete with the major stu­dios around the world. In addi­tion, Knox has also been able to get the stu­dio list­ed on the Nation­al Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places and is mak­ing it the home to the Church Stu­dio Archive, a 4,000 piece col­lec­tion asso­ci­at­ed with Leon Rus­sell, The Tul­sa Sound, Shel­ter Records, and the his­toric church.

Charity Begins At Home

There is also The Church Stu­dio Music Foun­da­tion which focus­es on the preser­va­tion of the stu­dio as a land­mark, the lega­cy of Leon Rus­sell, the pro­mo­tion of the Tul­sa Sound and engage the gen­er­al pub­lic through music, pro­grams, film, video, record­ing, and activ­i­ties. She is an avid lover of her home city of Tul­sa.

She has recent­ly com­plet­ed the restora­tion of a his­tor­i­cal build­ing in the Kendall Whit­ti­er neigh­bor­hood and is in the process of restor­ing the Har­welden Man­sion in Tul­sa. The three-sto­ry man­sion was built in 1923 by Tul­sa oil­man and phil­an­thropist Earl Har­well. In recent years it has been used to host wed­dings, fundrais­ers, and oth­er events. Knox plans to keep that tra­di­tion, along with adding a bou­tique hotel ele­ment, while pre­serv­ing its his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance. “In the future, I’d like to con­tin­ue iden­ti­fy­ing his­toric prop­er­ties that need atten­tion, care and love and bring them back to rel­e­vance,” she said.

Writer’s Church Sermon

Much can be said about Knox, much more than can be writ­ten here. Her life with its inter­ests, pas­sions, and beliefs weave togeth­er in this com­plex and beau­ti­ful pat­tern mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to cat­e­go­rize her and explain her with a sim­ple def­i­n­i­tion. This pat­tern of hers con­nects and recon­nects to every­thing in her life con­tin­u­al­ly build­ing a lega­cy while pre­serv­ing the lega­cies of so many oth­ers and then offer­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ties for so many more to cre­ate new lega­cies. Whether it’s a stu­dent from one of the schools she found­ed, a new musi­cian who will be giv­en a chance to make a mark in the music world, a his­to­ri­an who appre­ci­ates her restora­tion efforts or just a fan who believes he had cof­fee and tea with a celebri­ty at a Tul­sa din­er, I believe we could all agree that land­marks are cre­at­ed when some­one takes the time, effort and pas­sion to build them. Tere­sa Knox has become one of those Tul­sa land­marks. I bet Leon would be proud!

For more infor­ma­tion about The Church Stu­dio and its his­to­ry, vis­it https://thechurchstudio.com/

To learn more about The Church Stu­dio Foun­da­tion, vis­it https://thechurchstudio.com/foundation/

Tere­sa Knox has kind­ly donat­ed some items that we will give away! To join the give­away click here: https://uniquelahoma.com/go/the-church-studio-giveaway/