Each month, the Oldham Era selects a “Living Treasure,” and features that individual for the History Center in Oldham County. Publisher Jane Ashley Pace shared July’s “Living Treasure” because the individual is also a treasure within the Kentucky Press Association. Dorothy Abernathy served on the KPA Ad Division and as chair of division before working her way up to President of KPA in 1995.
I was born in Fort Branch, Ind., 30 miles north of Evansville, on Oct. 29, 1942 to Rosetta and Herbert Mayer. The area is filled with German Catholic communities – Ft. Branch, Haubstadt, Princeton.
My grandparents were third generation German. Mom and Dad spoke German, particularly when they didn’t want us to know what they said!
There were six children within a 17-year age span. My oldest brother, Leland “Ennie”, was 14 years older, Roger was 12 years older, sister Arlene six years older, Laura a year older, then me and my sister Myra, three years younger.
My mom, dad and grandpa farmed 200 acres. We grew corn, wheat, soybeans, had a dairy farm and raised pigs and chickens. All of us worked on and around the farm. We cleaned the stalls, fed chickens, took up hay, plowed, disked the fields and did whatever was necessary. My younger sister and I mostly helped around the house while my older sisters worked more on the farm after both of my brothers went to the Korean War. I learned how to do a lot of things after taking on some of these roles.
Each year, with our neighbors, we killed our own cows and pigs in the fall. We always had electricity but didn’t have indoor plumbing until I was 12 years old. Since we did not have indoor plumbing, we used a “galvanized” tub for bathing. We had a pump in the kitchen for water and Mom cooked on a wood-burning stove. Mom baked every Friday so we would have enough for the next week – bread, rolls and kuchen.
We had a cellar where we stored our vegetables from the garden and canned vegetables and fruits. There were apple and peach trees and when we sold the farm some of them were still there. We had a summer kitchen – it was a separate building where there were lots of windows and doors to have a breeze so we could stay cool since there was no air conditioning. It was there that Mom made butter and kept our fresh milk from the dairy. We also had a smokehouse where some of the meat was stored. My family didn’t take many trips because we had the dairy farm and my dad had to be there to milk the cows twice a day. I feel very fortunate to have lived during that time because I know how to do many things that have made me self-sufficient in my adult life.
We did have a phone but had seven different families on the same line. Our signal/ring was one long and three shorts. Not much was private because people on the same line could hear everybody’s ring. People would pick up and hear everyone’s conversation. We had one black and white TV for all of us to watch. Several of us at one point could drive – we had a car, tractor and farm truck. If you wanted to go into town and someone was using the car or truck, you drove the tractor and parked it at the edge of town and walked to where you wanted to go!
We played outside quite a bit and had two cousins that came and stayed with us most of the summer. We played Andy Over, Red Rover and Cops & Robbers using play money from our Monopoly game. On Sundays, we went to a camp on the Wabash River. The group enjoyed fishing, playing cards and spending time with each other.
My parents built a new house in the early 60’s and tore down the old farmhouse. There were many memories in that old house and on the farm in general. I remember one time my dad was on jury duty and there was what they called a “hung jury” and he couldn’t come home. It was getting late, and the cows had to be milked. Grandpa, my mom and the four girls went to the barn. None of us except Grandpa had ever milked before. He couldn’t help because he was old and fragile, so mom and my older sister did the milking. It was an experience, but we did it. We still laugh about what took place that night.
I went to Holy Cross Catholic School until the eighth grade then Ft. Branch High School. Although the school has been torn down, every two years the Ft. Branch Twigs Alumni Association still has a reunion for everyone that attended the school. We just had the reunion this past June and approximately 250 people attended. The oldest person was from the class of 1945.
I married George Abernathy in 1964 and we were married for 19 years.
We had two daughters, Melissa and Katrina. Melissa has one daughter, Kylie, who she adopted from China. I traveled to China with her, and it was a wonderful experience. My daughter Katrina married Chris Lashley and they have three children, Jaxon, Jordyn and Jozie. I have been fortunate that all of them have stayed in Oldham County and live very close to me. My daughters, son-in-law and three of my grandchildren have graduated from Oldham County High School. Jozie, the 16-year-old, will be a junior at OCHS and will graduate from there.
Melissa spent 35 years teaching and in administrative positions with the Oldham County Board of Education before retiring in 2022.
Katrina started working for Craig Kidwell at Craig’s Pharmacy in Crestwood part time while in high school and eventually became a pharmacist. She worked for Craig until the store closed.
George was a coach and changed jobs several times, so we moved quite often. We lived in Owensboro while he coached at Owensboro Catholic High School; Jackson in Breathitt County while at Lees Jr. College; Springfield, Ky. while he was at Washington County High School; the rest of his jobs were in Jefferson County – Thomas Jefferson and Fern Creek.
My employment career started at Tastee Freeze as a car hop when I was 14 and I worked there through high school. Other jobs that I had in the Evansville area were Kay Jewelers, WTVW Channel 7 in the accounting department and Producers, Inc., a warehouse that dispersed production items for Whirlpool Corporation. While in Breathitt County I worked for the Cooperative Extension Service interviewing families that needed assistance.
I started in the newspaper industry in 1971 at the Jefferson Reporter in Louisville, which was part of Greater Newspapers, Inc. that eventually became Newspaper, Inc. and then Landmark Community Newspapers. Since we moved quite a bit, I was able to transfer to other locations within the organization. I worked for the Lebanon Enterprise in Marion County, Ky.; Landmark Central Office in Shelbyville and then joined The Oldham Era around 1976 as Office Manager/Bookkeeper working with Gene Armstrong who was publisher. Gene was a great newspaper person and I owe a lot to him for taking me under his wing. Over time I became General Manager then Publisher at the Era and, also was Publisher of The Trimble Banner in Bedford, Ky.
There were several incidents that I remember while at the Era. Rebecca Kimball was the reporter/photographer for The Era. This was her first job out of college. There was a plane that had crashed in a Goshen field. She and I headed to the site. She was eager and took lots of photos for the story. The only problem was she forgot to take the lens cap off the camera! We didn’t have photos, but she wrote a great column regarding the experience.
The other experience that was very sad was the Lynch murders happened in 1984. Kit Millay Fullenlove, the editor, and myself went to the scene and gathered information for the story. It was production day, but we held the paper from going to press so we could have the story in the paper that week.
In that story, we reported that Delores Lynch was murdered, and it was two days before they found her body lying in the driveway at her Covered Bridge Road home. When the police went inside the home, they also found her daughter, Janie Lynch. At first, they suspected her son, Tom, but later found his ex-wife, Susie Lynch, and her cousin, Fritz Klenner, murdered them because of a custody dispute. Klenner and Susie were hunted down in a high-speed car chase with police in North Carolina. Ultimately Fritz detonated an explosive, killing the boys, Susie and himself. The book “Bitter Blood” recounts the story of their lives and The Oldham Era is mentioned in the book.
Mickey Patterson was the sports editor that I hired directly out of college. He stayed with me the whole time I was at the Era. Barbara Duncan was the Advertising Manager and is still working at the Era. I always had great people working with me and that was great because we spent lots of late nights at the paper office.
During my tenure at the Era, I served on lots of committees – Oldham County Chamber of Commerce, Oldham County Education Foundation, Red Cross and United Way. I was on the advisory committee of Jefferson County Area Vocational Schools and Vocational Education for the Pewee Valley Correctional Institute. Diane Earring, who owned McDonald’s, and I were the first women inducted into the La Grange Rotary. It was really an honor to be asked to join the club.
I became involved with the Kentucky Press Association, which is an organization for all newspapers in the state of Kentucky. It gave me the opportunity to meet lots of great individuals in the industry.
I served in the advertising division and was named the president of the organization in 1995.
The group had annual conventions with training sessions for the industry. Being in the organization as president gave me the opportunity to attend two receptions at the White House in Washington, D.C. with the American Press Association.
At one of the receptions, President Bill Clinton and Hillary had individual pictures with each attendee.
I retired from the Era in 2004 and stayed fully retired for two years. I missed interacting with people, so I returned to work part time as a receptionist in a hair salon. Tierra Kavanaugh was a regular at the salon and had recently opened her business, TKT & Associates.
As we got to know each other, she convinced me to work with her company.
I still work for TKT, a consulting firm dealing with diversity and inclusion.
Tierra passed away unexpectedly in 2020 and her mother, Sheila, is now the CEO. My position is executive assistant/office administrator. As of the fifth of July this year, I have been there 15 years.
I will continue to work as long as I can because I enjoy being active and engaged in the work.
In my spare time, I like watching baseball and am a Cincinnati Reds fan. I also enjoy the Broadway Series at the Kentucky Center and attending concerts.
I enjoy being with my family here and in Indiana.
I am thankful for all the people that I have met throughout the years and have made many great friends. I have a great family for me to enjoy and do things with that are fun.
I have been blessed.