" A Life On-Call: Mexico Resident Balances Funeral Service, Photography Business"

“Tilt your head to the right a bit.”
“Go ahead and drop the front hand. Turn your shoulders, leave your legs.”
“Real smile, no fake smiles!”Directions like these were given frequently as Mexico resident David Pickering positioned best friends Hunter Mesko, Hannah Follis, and Taylor Williams, all age 17. The three posed against a white wall and on a stairwell in one of downtown Mexico’s brick alleys for a “best friends” photoshoot.

While Pickering can often be spotted around town with a camera in hand, photography is not his day job. He is a funeral director and embalmer with Pickering Funeral Home in Mexico. While he is often recognized as “David Pickering the photographer,” he has spent more than 30 years serving families in the funeral business.

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"Special Delivery: Unique Passion for Company Bonds UPS Driver and Mexico Teen"

On a sunny July afternoon, a trademark United Parcel Service (UPS) truck drives its route through Mexico. A few miles away in a residential neighborhood, 16-year-old Brenan drives his vehicle — a bicycle with a brown UPS box tied to it — down the tree-lined street, pretending to make his own deliveries.

Brenan gets excited every time a UPS delivery arrives. His mother, Samantha Wilson, isn’t exactly sure when his love for the company began, other than the fact that his feeding supplies arrive on the truck monthly. Brenan has Cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome, which has caused him to need multiple heart surgeries and a feeding tube, among other things.“There’s not a whole lot of kids that have it,” Wilson said.

The man usually delivering those supplies is UPS delivery driver Travis Aulbur.


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"Mexico Cattlewoman Blends Farm, Faith and Family"

On a scorching July afternoon, Melinda Bastian walked through the pasture of her 350-acre farm on the outskirts of Mexico, which she owns with her husband, Mike, spreading feed in the dry grass. She coaxed the cattle, mothers and calves, out of the pond — at least, what remains of the pond. The cattle stood stomach-deep in a pool depleted by weeks of drought and high temperatures in mid-Missouri. Bastian’s children — Jesse, 23, and Chris, 25 — have grown and moved out of the house but the cows still demand her full attention.

Bastian and her husband, Mike, moved to the farm in 1994 and bought the portion they now live on from her brother-in-law a few years later. Mike worked in Fulton while Melinda stayed home, overseeing the daily operations of the farm and homeschooling their sons. While it was difficult working opposite her husband, who worked a night shift at the time, Bastian said she appreciates the freedom this lifestyle has afforded them.

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"The Sky is the Limit: Nigerian Students Build Airplane in Mexico Factory"

After flying halfway around the world, five students from the International College of Aeronautics near Lagos, Nigeria, are in Mexico, Missouri, learning to build airplanes of their own.

Solomon Adio worked in the U.S. for more than 35 years as a pilot and maintenance engineer before he decided to start a flight school in his native Nigeria. He said that when he returned to open the school, he realized one critical problem: there were no airplanes.

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"Katelyn Lewis Crowned 2018 Miss Missouri"

After months of preparation and a week of intense rehearsals and competition, Katelyn Lewis has been crowned Miss Missouri 2018.

Lewis, from Lake St. Louis, previously held the title of Miss Fleur De Lis. Her platform is “Your Digital Compass,” which focuses on leaving a positive footprint online. This is her fourth year competing for the title.“I’m just really blessed and happy and humbled to be here with my whole family and directors,” she said.

“I feel like so many people have followed me on this journey and I can honestly not believe what just happened. This is amazing. I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and hit the ground running.”

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"Portraits of a Community"

Reverend Eric Mattson had only lived in Mexico for a few months when he attended his first evening football practice at Mexico High School. As the team ran drills in preparation for the upcoming season, Mattson stepped onto the track hardly knowing anyone. With a camera in hand, he began to photograph the practice — almost a year later, he’s still going strong.

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"Mexico Chapter Closes for Local Public Servant After 27 Years on the Job"

On a frigid January day, Lt. Brian Schmidt responded to the call of duty as he always had. This call was for a residential house fire in Mexico. The inferno required all on-duty officers and additional volunteers to be on scene and try to salvage what they could. A member of the ambulance crew photographed Schmidt at the scene, simply doing his job — with a mustache caked in ice. The temperature that day was 13 degrees below zero but not even an icy mustache or frozen gear could slow him down.

Schmidt recalls that fire as one of his more memorable calls while on the job. He began his career with the Mexico Public Safety Department in 1991 and retired Friday after 27 years on duty.

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Sarah Sabatke

Sarah Sabatke is a multimedia journalist and filmmaker based in Columbia, Missouri.
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