Tuesday, October 31, 2000

'Legend' Gus Sheehan dies

83-year-old was veteran legislator, lawyer and publisher

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Gus Sheehan, who served parts of four decades in the Kentucky legislature, was remembered Monday as someone who devoted his life to helping those less fortunate than himself.

        Mr. Sheehan, also a longtime lawyer and newspaper publisher, died Sunday at The Highlands of Fort Thomas after a long illness. The West Covington native was 83.

        Mr. Sheehan's son, Kenton District Judge Martin Sheehan, remembered his dad's kindness and gentlemanly demeanor, as well as his concern for people.

        “To know Dad was to know this cadre of characters that he assisted,” said Judge Sheehan, who once shared a Covington law office with his father. “At his law office every day, there were constant interruptions from people looking for a handout or some kind of assistance from Dad.”

        Elected to the Kentucky House in 1950, Mr. Sheehan served two terms and returned for an unexpired term and two more full terms in the mid-1960s. Mr. Sheehan also served as Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney and trial commissioner to William Wehrman in the 1950s.

        In 1971, the General Assembly re-apportioned itself, and he was elected and re-elected three times to represent the 23rd Senate District in Kenton County.

        “There's not a bill pertaining to Northern Kentucky that I can think of that Gus wasn't involved in,” said former state Rep. Bill Donnermeyer, a Bellevue Democrat.

        Mr. Sheehan backed legislation creating the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky, and he was one of the chief proponents of a state lottery.

        “Gus was special,” said former state Rep. Bill McBee, a Burlington Democrat. “He was one of the nicest guys and the loyalist friends you could ever have. He knew almost everybody on both sides of the aisle, and he was very knowledgeable about the issues.”

        At age 71, Mr. Sheehan lost his bid for re-election. One of Mr. Sheehan's chief sources of pride was the Ludlow News Enterprise, the weekly newspaper he founded at age 18 and published for the next 52 years, even while serving in the Army in World War II. “When he was in the service, his father published the paper for him,” said son Judge Sheehan. “Dad would write weekly columns from the Philippines and Saipan and send them home.”

        In 1988, Mr. Sheehan sold his newspaper to Gene Clabes, who merged it with The Recorder newspapers.

        Mr. Sheehan also was the founder and past president of the Kenton County Democratic Club.

        Jimmy Williams, a cousin who served as Mr. Sheehan's paper boy and aide, said that Mr. Sheehan influenced his own political career, which included a stint as Kenton County surveyor and his current write-in candidacy for Covington City Commission.

        “He is a legend,” Mr. Williams said. “He is Mr. Democrat of Northern Kentucky.”

        Mr. Sheehan's wife, Mary Catherine, preceded him in death in 1985.

        Besides his son, survivors include: three daughters, Joyce Vogelpohl of Independence, Janet Cordiviola of Lexington and Patricia Sheehan of Ludlow; and seven grandchildren.

        Visitation will be 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Ronald B. Jones Funeral Home in Ludlow. Mass of Christian Burial will be 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Ann's Church in Covington. Burial will be in St. Mary's Cemetery in Fort Mitchell.


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