A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Journalist and horseman 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 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.

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, 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 Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism, 644 Braddock Ct., Edgewood, KY 41017 or online here.

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  1. Buck Ryan says:

    Oh, Judy, I am so saddened. Among his many accomplishments, Gene Clabes was the force of leadership behind resurrecting a high school journalism association for the Commonwealth. As president of the Kentucky Press Association in 1997, he reached out to me as director of UK’s journalism school and many others to help him achieve his goal. I hope the many beneficiaries, representing the future of journalism in the state, will join his celebration of life. Perhaps Gene’s contribution can be permanently recognized in the KHSJA history, which begins: “
    A new organization was formed in 1997 to fill a critical need in Kentucky’s high schools — assistance for journalism teachers, advisers and their students. The Kentucky High School Journalism Association (KHSJA) was officially launched in March of that year by the KPA board of directors.

    An advisory council comprised of teachers/advisers, university officials and media representatives provided initial direction for the new association and established the organization’s motto: ‘Dedicated to preserving and enhancing scholastic journalism in Kentucky.’ “

  2. Markus says:

    I didn’t have the pleasure of being around Gene much, but he was a total gentleman and as the saying goes, a ‘genuine class act.’ His and Judy’s vision of KyForward was high quality journalism stressing accuracy and a wide variety of areas and stories from all across our fascinating Commonwealth. Thank you Gene!

  3. David Ratterman says:


    I am deeply saddened at Gene’s passing; my heart is with you and your family. Please send me the details of his service when your plans are set.

    Kindest regards,

    David Ratterman

    • judyclabes says:

      Thank you, David — it’s so wonderful to hear from you. A flood of good memories and great times comes washing over. Hope to see you Saturday afternoon in NKY — details coming soon. A celebration of the well-lived life of the best guy ever!

  4. Judy and Jacob,

    I am so sorry about your husband and father’s death. I haven’t met you all, but I feel like I know you from kyforward.com.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.


    Joan McKinney, Campbellsville University

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