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Powell to celebrate 67th birthday at Homestead

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By Brent Schanding

Landmark News Service

The pictures and trinkets in John Powell's tiny room don't necessarily tell his story.

The 66-year-old Henry County native was born with a defect on the right side of his body, which forced him to wear a brace most of his younger years.

"I remember when I was little, I wore that brace all the way up to my hips," he said.

Crutches also supported the young Powell, but by high school he says he had shucked the aids and was able to walk unassisted.

Now, however, the 66-year-old wishes he could get around better.

Although he spends some of his time wheeling to bingo games, physical therapy and other nightly activities, much of his day is spent in his shared cube at Homestead Nursing Center in New Castle.

He's been there for over a year now, following a string of minor illnesses and injuries, including a fall in 2003 that severely injured his head.

Powell said he was standing outside the doorway of his Frankfort apartment watching the sun melt some stubborn snow, when his arthritis caused his knee to collapse. He hit the cement hard.

Luckily, he said a neighbor saw the incident and quickly responded.

Powell said after the accident he recognized he was no longer able to take care of himself, and he eventually ended up in the New Castle nursing home to be closer to some of his family members.

There, his caretakers call him "sweetie," and have crowned him the "king of the castle."

The nurses prep his breakfast just the way he likes it -- two packs of sugar from the pink pack in his coffee, one in his Raisin Bran -- and Powell appreciates the care and attention to detail.

But photos and other decorations in his room provide a glimpse into Powell's life, before the nursing home; most tellingly, the time he served with the Kentucky State Police.

A coaster, engraved with a KSP logo sits on a table by his bedside. A miniature replica of a KSP cruiser adorns his TV stand. And a framed picture on the wall recalls the retirement ceremony from 2002, which marked the end of Powell's career with the force.

"I stayed in the office all the time," he said, recalling his working days. "My job back then was to code traffic citations. I also worked in fingerprints."

A more recent newspaper cutout above Powell's bed shows the man less than two weeks ago, receiving a trademark trooper hat from local KSP officers.

The hats are generally only awarded to cadets, who graduate from the State Police Academy.

"But they surprised me with it," he said. "It made me feel good."

While Powell's hat lacks the signature gold emblem of active-duty officers, he treasures it just the same.

Sometimes I get it out and wear it," he said.

But Powell will be wearing a different kind of hat Thursday - a birthday hat.

The man will turn 67 and plans a lunch celebration with his two nieces, some of the bachelor's only living family members.

Homestead's activity director will also invite residents and staff to share cake with Powell, a tribute that will surely brighten his day.

What will he be wishing for when he blows out the candles?

"I dont know," he said. "Just to get better."

E-mail us about this article at editor@hclocal.com.