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Journalist and entrepreneur Gene Clabes, 74, dies after extended illness, a beloved family man

Gene Clabes, 74, community journalist, editor, horseman and entrepreneur, died Friday afternoon at St. Elizabeth Hospital-Edgewood, after a battle with heart and kidney disease, surrounded by his loving family.

Gene Clabes

Clabes, a founder of 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.

Gene and Judy Clabes married as college students at UK and built a reputation as distinguished journalists. Gene purchased the Ludlow Enterprise from Gus Sheehan in the 80s and went on to purchase the Recorder Newspapers from the Dear Company. He went on to build 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 and 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.”

Gene Clabes, horseman

Clabes grew up in Henderson where he started on his journalism career in high school, ultimately becoming sports editor 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 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.”

Arrangements are not yet complete but will be announced shortly.

“What we do know is that there will be a party,” said Judy. “A celebration of the life of this amazing and fascinating man. We will have details as soon as possible. Please plan to join us for the event. Gene loved a party — and so appreciated his many friends.”

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.

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  1. Chuck Stinnett says:

    Our sympathies to Gene’s family. RIP.

  2. Gene was a wonderful person. As the article says, he was recipient of Behringer-Crawford Museum’s Two-Headed Calf Award for outstanding leadership in our community. Our hearts go out to Judy and the family. Gene will be missed. GaryJ BCM Past President

  3. Tom Tuley says:

    So sorry to hear this. God be with you Judy.

  4. John Strother says:

    Very sorry Judy! He was a great guy. He’s too young to be gone.
    I wish you all the best as you deal with the next month.

  5. Jim Robke says:

    I am so sorry to hear about Gene. He sure was a great guy. He always had a smile on his face and was always welcoming. We sure had great times together in Richwood.

  6. Shirley Neff Agnor says:

    Dear Judy and family, I am so sorry to hear of
    Gene’s passing.

    What a wonderful boss he was to all of us at the News Enterprise
    and Recorder newspapers.

    I was there for 10 years and Gene was an inspiration to all.
    I was always so grateful for the opportunity to work with such a fine,
    caring man.

  7. Chris Burns says:

    Gene was a great mentor and good friend. He practiced community journalism the right way and helped elevate every community he lived in. He will be sorely missed. My heart goes out to Judy and Clabes family.

  8. sylvia lovely says:

    Thoughts and prayers are with you and family. I did not know Gene as well as I would have liked but I knew instantly that he was special just from our brief encounters. We love you.

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