I’m constantly reminded that we are surrounded by smart, talented people who have distinguished themselves in so many ways, often attaining national or international acclaim that we know little about. Here are some examples I happened on just recently.

Gary Cieradkowski and his wife, Andrea, live in Ft. Thomas where he established Cieradkowski Applied Art & Design. For more than 25 years he worked with design and advertising firms around the country on some major projects that included redesigning the Folgers Coffee can and designing the music department of Barnes & Noble. But mostly, Gary is an avid baseball fan (not a strong enough description) and comes from a long line of the same. So, following his heart as well as his talent, he has earned an incredible reputation as “baseball’s Van Gogh.” Just for fun he does an “Infinite Baseball Card Set” online—it doesn’t end. Check it out at his infinitecardset.blogspot.com online. He did a beautifully illustrated and acclaimed book, The League of Outsider Baseball, that is filled with stories about baseball’s forgotten heroes.

It turns out that Gary also did an intricate illustration of “Casey at the Bat” for the National Pastime Museum and created the environmental and print graphics for Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

But his big home run came on Opening Day for the Chicago Cubs when his 15 5-foot-tall portraits of great Cubs players (including Ernie Banks) were unveiled at Wrigley Field as a permanent exhibit, becoming part of a multi-year restoration of the historic field.

Gary didn’t go to the unveiling at the game that pitted the Cubs against the Reds. He was just glad to stay home and be relieved he made a very tough deadline. Besides, he’s been a Mets fan since the Dodgers left Brooklyn.

Then there’s Catherine Keen who grew up in Lakeside Park, graduated from Dixie Heights, earned a bachelor’s and master’s from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and set off to become an international opera singer performing major roles in some of the most famous venues around the world.

She made her debut in Europe in Berlin in the role of Dalila, performed with Maestro Placido Domingo at the Kennedy Center and sang at Italy’s Arena Di Verona. For 25 years she performed with some of the biggest names in opera throughout the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Switzerland—an amazing career.

Now she’s back home, having settled in Ft. Mitchell where she teaches voice to more than 40 students in all genres.

“I have found my niche, my passion and my calling,” Keen says about teaching. “Because, you know, music can open the mind as well as doors.”

And, of course, there are the Hometown Heroes who do great things for our region every day, day in and day out, just because they want to. So here’s a shout out to:

- Bev Holiday, Newport’s community liaison coordinator—and former banker and business owner—who was recently (and appropriately) honored by meetNKY as its Star of Tourism for her decades-long advocacy for Northern Kentucky. Her involvement as a volunteer with the Convention and Visitors Bureau began in the early ‘90s and continues today.

- Dale Silver, C-Forward client services manager and baseball superfan, who is this year’s president of the Rosie Reds, a philanthropic social organization focused on supporting the Reds and raising money for good works, like the Kid Glove Association and area colleges.

- Colonel De Stewart who has grown his love of spices and cooking into a million dollar business—and himself into an iconic figure. Colonel De Gourmet Herbs and Spices now has three retail locations and just opened a Production Kitchen and World Headquarters in Ft. Thomas. He plans to host cooking classes and charity events there.