Gene Clabes, 74, community journalist, editor, horseman and entrepreneur, died Friday November 29, 2019, at St. Elizabeth Hospital-Edgewood, after a battle with heart and kidney disease, surrounded by his loving family.
Clabes, a founder of online daily newspapers, KyForward and the NKyTribune, and a graduate of the University of Kentucky School of Journalism, is survived by his wife of 54 years, Judith Clabes, and his two sons, Joseph of Lexington, and Jacob of Edgewood, daughter-in-law Chris Clabes, and five young grandchildren, Drew, 17, Ben, 16, Allison, 14, Anna, 13 and Lily, 11. He lived in Edgewood.
He is also survived by a sister, Wanda Hutchieson, of Henderson, and nieces and nephews.
Gene and Judy Clabes married as college students at UK and built a reputation as distinguished journalists. Gene purchased the Ludlow News Enterprise from Gus Sheehan in the 80s and went on to purchase the Recorder Newspapers from the Dear Company. He built the Recorders in communities across NKY. The papers were subsequently sold.
Clabes was president of the Florence Rotary, winner of Behringer-Crawford’s Two-Headed Calf Award, president of the Kentucky Press Association, equine director for the Kentucky Equine Education Project, and a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame and outstanding graduate of the School of Journalism.
He was also a thoroughbred horse breeder and trainer on his farm in Bourbon County for many years — and was a life-long lover of horses as well as a rider who competed in Quarter Horse shows in his younger years.
“Gene was my hero,” said his wife, Judy. “He still is my hero and my inspiration. He was a wonderful husband and father to our two sons and a loving grandfather to our grandchildren. We have our fond memories to sustain us and his good humor, work ethic and kindness to guide us.”
Clabes grew up in Henderson where he started on his journalism career in high school at Henderson County High, ultimately becoming sports editor of The Gleaner while he attended Henderson Community College. He transferred to UK’s journalism school where he became managing editor of the Kernel and interned at The Lexington Herald. He eventually became a government reporter for Scripps’ The Evansville (Ind.) Press and earned numerous journalistic awards for reporting excellence. Later, he was a Visiting Professional and teacher at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism in Hampton, Va.
His wide-ranging experiences led him to travel extensively with his family and to take on the brave new world of online journalism in helping found KyForward.com
KyForward.com and the NKyTribune.com
“There was nothing his adventurous spirit wouldn’t take on,” said Judy Clabes. “His energy, his abiding interest in the news well reported, and his honest love of the Northern Kentucky community set the standard for all of us.”
Clabes will be cremated and the family will have a private funeral service.
“But there will be a party,” said Judy. “A celebration of the life of this amazing and fascinating man. Please plan to join us for the event. Gene loved a party -- and so appreciated his many friends.”
The celebration of his life will be held at Newcomer, 4350 Dixie Highway, Erlanger, from 3 to 8 p.m. on Saturday. The public is invited to meet with the family, enjoy food and drink (including Clabes’ favorite bourbons), music — and a memorial and memorable display of items from his full and purposeful life.
The family asks that memorial contributions be made in honor of Gene Clabes to the nonprofit Northern Kentucky Tribune, 644 Braddock Ct., Edgewood, KY 41017 or online here