Funeral services for Patricia Ann Burnett Gish, 87, were held April 17 at Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church. Burial was in the family cemetery at Thornton.
She died April 13 at her home at Thornton.
Born in Paris, Ky., she was a daughter of the late Elmer A. Burnett and Georgia Adams Burnett and the widow of Seco native Thomas Edward Gish, with whom she purchased and began operating Letcher County’s newspaper, The Mountain Eagle, on January 1, 1957. She remained the newspaper’s publisher at the time of her death.
In addition to her work at The Mountain Eagle as reporter, typist, copy editor, layout designer and business manager, Mrs. Gish was hired as a counselor with the Office of Economic Opportunity’s LKLP Community Action Program shortly after its establishment in 1966. She and LKLP’s then-executive director Ed Stafford began working with U.S. Rep. Carl D. Perkins to start an agency to repair existing homes and build affordable new homes for the elderly and low-income in Leslie, Knott, Letcher and Perry counties.
The agency, Eastern Kentucky Housing Development Corporation, was formed in 1968 with Stafford as director and Mrs. Gish as assistant director. Soon afterward she became the EKHDC director and helped the agency form its own board of directors separate from the LKLP program.
Each weekend for two years during this period, she rode a Greyhound bus to the University of Louisville, earning a master’s degree in community development. EKHDC built more than 300 new homes and repaired more than 3,500 existing homes before its funding was cut by the Reagan administration in the early 1980s.
Mrs. Gish returned to The Mountain Eagle, where she worked full time until a few months before Tom Gish’s death in November 2008.
Mrs. Gish began her journalism career as a 13-year-old proofreader at a small daily newspaper in Danville, Ill. When her family returned to central Kentucky, she was hired by the Lexington Leader. After graduating from Lafayette High School, she attended the University of Kentucky, where she edited the student newspaper, The Kernel, and met future husband Tom in a Spanish class.
Tom Gish changed his major from mining engineer to journalism and graduated from UK a year before her. He took a job as a statehouse reporter for United Press in Frankfort.
Pat Gish, who was graduated from UK in 1949, was hired as a full-time reporter at The Leader, a job she kept until she and her husband purchased The Mountain Eagle from the Nolan family. Pat enjoyed cooking, gardening and sewing.
She is survived by a brother, Thomas Burnett of Lexington; two sons, Benjamin Thomas Gish of Thornton, and Ray Burnett Gish and partner Stephen Peloquin of Brooklyn, N.Y.; three daughters, Ann Duncan Gish of Wise, Va.; Sarah Lucille Gish Oakes and husband Freddy of Thornton; and Katherine Belle Gish and husband Doug Raleigh of Mayking; four grandchildren, Tommy Oakes, Sally Oakes Barto and husband Derek, Drew Raleigh and Meg Raleigh; and a greatgrandson, Grant Edward Barto.
She was preceded in death by an infant son, Benjamin Burnett Gish; a brother, John Burnett, and a sister, Kitty Weissinger.
Pat and Tom Gish won numerous joint awards for their work with The Mountain Eagle, including:
• The Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award for community leadership, given by the Playboy Foundation in 1983
• The Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, given by the Ralph Nader organization in 1991
• The Edwards M. Templin award for distinguished community service, given by the Lexington Herald- Leader and the Kentucky Press Association in 1993
• The Gishes were named to the University of Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame in 1986.
• In 1997, the Gishes and The Eagle were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Louisville Courier- Journal.
• In 1999 the Gishes were honored as “Treasures of American Journalism” by the journalism faculty at New York University.
• 1986, the Gishes were included among the “100 New American Heroes” in a special edition of Newsweek.
• CBS newsman Charles Kuralt featured The Mountain Eagle in one of his “On the Road” visits to Kentucky.
• The Gishes and The Mountain Eagle are included in the News History Gallery of the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Donations may be made to the Fleming-Neon Fire and Rescue.