- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

WHITESBURG, Ky. (AP) - Patricia Gish, who along with her husband Tom Gish ran The Mountain Eagle of Whitesburg for a half-century, died Sunday at her home in Letcher County. She was 87.

Her son, Ben Gish, said she had been battling Alzheimer’s disease for about a decade.

“She was just such a hard worker,” Ben Gish said, recalling how his mother would take a Greyhound bus from Hazard to Louisville every weekend while working on a master’s degree at the University of Louisville in the 1960s.

Ben Gish said he recently came across a quote by his mother from a speech at New York University in 1999. It said “bloom where you are planted,” meaning one can do good journalism at small newspapers in rural areas, he said.

“That was her attitude,” he said.

Pat Gish’s first job at a newspaper came at age 13, when she was hired as proofreader at a paper in Danville, Ill. She later took the same job at the Lexington Leader and worked her way up to become a statehouse reporter. She married Tom Gish in 1948 and the couple bought the Whitesburg newspaper in southeastern Kentucky in 1956.

During the time they ran the paper, they overcame floods, advertising boycotts and a 1974 firebombing that destroyed the newspaper’s office. Despite the violence, the couple turned out another edition of the paper a week later.

They covered the environmental costs of strip mining and police corruption, but also insisted on reporting on county school board and fiscal court meetings, which had previously been held behind closed doors. The coverage led to pressure on business owners to boycott advertising in the paper, and the weekly newspaper struggled with finances.

Pat Gish has been listed as publisher on the newspaper’s masthead since her husband’s death in 2008. Ben Gish is the paper’s editor.

A funeral is scheduled for Thursday at the Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church. Visitation is Wednesday at the Letcher Funeral Home.

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