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Former Paducah Mayor Gerry Montgomery passes away

Former Paducah Mayor Dorothy Geraldine “Gerry” Biggs Montgomery died Wednesday, according to Milner & Orr Funeral Home.

Montgomery, 83, was a two-term mayor (1988-1996) and a two-term city commission member (2000-2004) in Quilt City, USA, a moniker she helped give to the city as she was instrumental in the 1991 opening of the National Quilt Museum in downtown Paducah.

Current Paducah Mayor George Bray is proud to walk in the footsteps of Montgomery.

“(She) was really a forerunner in many respects for our city because she recognized the importance of our parks and our downtown,” Bray said Thursday. “Those are two things that she will be remembered for and probably the most notable thing that she will be remembered for is her establishment of the ‘Red Coats’ or the Paducah Ambassadors.

“She recognized the importance of treating people well in order to make a good impression about the city and that’s what the Ambassadors do.”

Executive director of the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau Mary Hammond worked alongside Montgomery for several years, and she believes her legacy in the town will be a lasting one.

“Gerry’s passion for Paducah was just incredible. Gerry had vision,” Hammond told WKMS. “She had vision and a passion and just love of her community. And I think that’s her full legacy.”

Hammond, too, considers the founding of the Ambassadors program in 1988 to be a key achievement of Montgomery.

“When Gerry started the Ambassador program it was a life saver for us,” said Hammond, who considered Montgomery a mentor. “There’s always been a lot of community pride here in Paducah, but the volunteers weren’t organized and I think starting the Paducah Ambassadors and organizing a group of people that had a passion ... to involve them in the community.

“There’s just nothing that can replace that.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell paid tribute to Montgomery in a statement released Wednesday, recalling Montgomery’s “passion, ingenuity, and incredible generosity to her job” as well as her achievements.

“I was saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend Gerry Montgomery, who was a true champion for Western Kentucky and its people,” McConnell wrote. “Gerry will be remembered for many things, including proclaiming Paducah ‘Quilt City U.S.A.’ and opening her city’s famous Quilt Museum. Those kinds of projects – deeply rooted in the historical, artistic, and cultural fabric of Western Kentucky – typified a career focused solely on making Paducah a better place to live, work, and visit.

“Kentucky lost one of its finest public servants today.”

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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