Whitesburg KY

Thornton residents thankful for park

To the Editor:

How does one go about writing accolades about a man who was such a stalwart for these mountains he loved so ferociously? I imagine the best way is to just say it, however poorly one’s qualifications.

I’m a neighbor of the Gishes, and have been for over 30 years. This world would be such a better place if all were the caliber of them. Anyone who spoke with Tom and Pat, however fleetingly, would know in an instant they loved the mountains and the people nestled within. Those of us who have spent our lives in Letcher County can never forget the day when we heard of The Mountain Eagle’s offices being firebombed. But that was just one obstacle that had to be overcome in order to keep The Eagle screaming. Regardless of the walls facing them, Tom and Pat just brushed them aside, and worked to keep The Eagle flying to Letcher County homes. They never failed.

Yet the weekly paper was not all they contributed to their community. Few people know of their dedication to the small community of Thornton. For many years, Tom worried that many of the children of Thornton had the main highway as their only place to ride their bikes and play. He envisioned a playground for them, one that would keep them off the road and safe from the ever-increasing traffic and uninhibited driving. He worked tirelessly to see that vision come to fruition. And in August of this year, the first cement was poured, and the blacktop was laid. His vision was taking shape at a furious pace.

We, the citizens of the small community of Thornton, are proud to say we have a wonderful park for our children. We have a walking track, basketball goal, picnic tables and a shelter to shield us from the sun, and a wonderful swingset for the youngsters. The very smallest children have a state-of-the-art playset designed for their pleasure and safety. We have sturdy benches upon which to rest, a large parking area for our cars, and most importantly, an absolutely wonderful fence surrounds it. We no longer have to worry about the children playing and running in the road. All this was made possible due to the graciousness of Tom and Pat Gish.

They are responsible for the land upon which this park sits — a prime parcel of bottom land that is perfectly situated for this use. The park is utilized daily when weather is good, and the walkers are out during all hours of the day. The children are running, playing, and enjoying every minute of their newfound freedom, with no worries of oncoming vehicles. The sounds of dribbling can be heard from the basketball court along with shouts of victory at a three-point goal, as the adults are visiting, talking of recipes, daily school news, and catching up on old friends. The worst part of writing this is having to say that due to Tom’s illness, he never got to see what he had worked so long and hard to obtain.

One of the most powerful voices ever emitted from these mountains is silent. He will be missed. Godspeed, Tom.

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