Kentucky Stories of Loss
Story AboutLil Press
Our founding Executive Director, Lil Press, passed away on Sunday, April 26th. Lil is a legend! She is not only the founding Executive Director of the Governor’s Scholars Program; she is our Founding Mother. Obviously, she was the mastermind behind the creation of the non-for-profit organization known as the GSP, a State-related organization with the mission of enhancing Kentucky’s next generation of civic and economic leaders; but her true legacy is the conception of the philosophy that supports the mission and vision of the program, the creation of a community of learners. That concept of community still permeates the magic that takes place every summer.
Personally, I met Lil during the Spring Planning Retreat for faculty in 1992. She had just announced retirement. From her words, I vividly remember her passion for young leaders, her interest in fostering a community of citizens concerned for the common good, and her commitment to the future of Kentucky. From her words, I concluded and still believe today that the GSP is not high school, is not college, it is education at its best.
The GSP honored Lil in several occasions in the last seven years. She was invited to attend a final ceremony on one of our campuses in 2013. After the ceremony, she picked up her phone and called Len, her long-time husband and partner, and with tears in her eyes, said “Len, my dream is still the same.” In 2016, she was recognized at the premiere of our documentary Igniting the Flame of Curiosity, dedicated to her. Also, in the Fall of 2016, the GSP honored her at the National Conference of Governor’s Schools (NCoGS) in Louisville, which we were hosting that year. “Without Lil Press, there would be no NCoGS. It is as simple as that,” says Ted Tarkow, a cofounder of the NCoGS from Missouri.
To paraphrase Mr. Tarkow’s words, it was her visionary leadership that led to the creation of NCoGS in 1987, at a gala meeting in Lexington, KY, at which she presided with energy, ideas, and commitment. These same qualities she had brought for several years to the Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program, and to public partners throughout her state that shared her conviction that bright and motivated kids deserve to be immersed in summer programs that focus on intellectual, academic and personal growth and development.
After her husband Len, founding Executive Director of KET, passed away last year, Lil had moved to the State of Washington to be closer to their only son. Our current enemy took her away from us, but her legend lives forever in the spirit of the Governor’s Scholars Program.
Story AboutGarry Key
We lost Battalion Chief Garry Key to Covid in February, just two months after losing another member to COVID. He was our longest serving member, having been a volunteer for a remarkable 36 years. Chief Key was a US Army retiree and a former deputy sheriff.
Chief Key was a caring person, willing to give himself to helping others, which is how we believe he contracted COVID. As emergency responders, we still answer calls for service and have contact with the public in other ways. While we wear personal protective equipment, this reduces our risk but does not totally eliminate it.
As such we are treating Chief Key's death as a line of duty death - one where a beloved member has given his life in service to others.
His passing is very saddening in many ways. It is an irreplaceable loss to those who loved him as well as the loss of an experienced first responder with so much left to offer.
Story AboutRobert Orkies
We lost Chief Rob Orkies to Covid in December. He was our fire chief for well over 20 years and had nearly 10 years experience with another fire department.
Chief Orkies was a caring person, willing to give himself to helping others, which is how we believe he contracted COVID. As emergency responders, we still answer calls for service and have contact with the public in other ways. While we wear personal protective equipment, this reduces our risk but does not totally eliminate it.
As such we are treating Chief Orkies' death as a line of duty death - one where a beloved member has given his life in service to others.
His passing is very saddening in many ways. It is an irreplaceable loss to those who loved him as well as the loss of an experienced first responder with so much left to offer people.
Story AboutMary Lea Brown
We hadn’t spoken in years and then suddenly she was talking to my mom again. My mom was so elated to have her sister back that she didn’t think about the fact that her sister had abandoned her for years. But I remembered. She showed up at my bridal luncheon and I was friendly, cordial and welcoming. But when she went to leave I followed her to her car and said “this time, you have to stay. You can’t come in and out of our lives like that.” She looked astonished. But she stayed, just like she promised, until she couldn’t stay any more.
Story AboutJeff Jameson
We met at a manufacturing plant in Columbia that made keychains. In those days, most everyone had long hair but Jeff had a shaved head and goatee and he looked scary. He had moved to Kentucky from the Bronx. It turned out we both loved tennis and it became our favorite pastime. He was always better than me and I only beat him a few times. Mostly though I remember sitting on a porch at his place or mine, smoking pipes, and the smell of cherry tobacco wafting overhead, discussing the politics of the day or who won Wimbledon or obscure records. Rest In Peace, brother.
Story AboutRobin Smith
There were so many girls named Robin in our high school class. And in my group of friends there was me, and two girls named Robin Smith. We called them Robin #1 and Robin #2. I was just “Robs.” Sometimes, #1 and #2 bullied me, or so it seemed at the time, and they were bonded by this weirdness of having the same name. Remember crank phone calls? We started getting them at my house. Endlessly. The yellow push button phone in our kitchen, next to the fridge, would ring and my mother would pick it up and there was just silence there. Soon, we stopped answering the phone because every call was a crank. It was making my mother go nuts (or nuttier) and she would drink more. Finally, my father called the phone company and got a tracer put on the line. When we found out that the calls were coming from Robin #2’s house, my mother went to talk to her mother. I was scared about how I would be treated when I returned to school the next day. Robin #1 Smith called me though and said she had heard about it and how she thought it was dumb and that she was on my side. We were better friends after that. We shared so much and I regret now, as a 55-year-old woman that we didn’t stay closer as we aged. But I will think about her, and miss her. I promise that.
Story AboutBud Evans
My father worked at GE for most of his adult life. The radio never worked in the car he drove to the plant. So, he drove with his right hand, and serenaded himself, playing a harmonica, which he held in his left hand. I hadn’t known he did this until he drove me to school one day when I was in ninth grade (we usually always walked) because I had sprained my ankle at practice. I remember being amazed as he played “Monday, Monday” as he drove – I never would have imagined my father knew who the Mommas & the Papas were, let alone that he’d play that song. Now, in my late sixties, I play “Monday, Monday” on my guitar. I’ve been re-appreciating music from my high school years. It helps me connect to that time and to my father. I did not get to say goodbye to him.
Story AboutUncle Joe
Thinking about my Uncle Joe, I remember when I would visit his family in Horse Cave, KY. We would drive down every Sunday for what seemed like many years. We would all “sit a spell” and chat. I recall we sat on their front porch and drank sweet tea and they would remark that a “strange” car had passed by. It was the topic of the day if a car passed by that they did not recognize. There was always a couple there, Harland & Naomi. We were somehow distantly related to Harland. Naomi would ask me, constantly, if I had a boyfriend, though I was only 10 or 11 years old at the time. They probably met at a mixer when they were young. When it is hot out, and I drink sweet tea, I always have this scene in my head: Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary’s porch, on warm Sunday afternoons.