Mary Middleton

More Than a Dedicated Civic Leader, She was an Inspiring Friend

There are times when a particular news story becomes larger than the community it occurs in. Something about the event gets everybody talking and the reporting of it ends up as a cause for people to think and reflect.

Unfortunately, Northern Kentucky experienced such a phenomenon recently when Mary Middleton passed into the Hands of the Father.

The story itself is tragic. Mary Middleton, community activist and the wife of former Kenton County Judge Executive Clyde Middleton, was killed in a horrendous accident in front of her home. Within hours of Mary’s death that rainy November morning, the entire community was talking about her. People were shocked and saddened. Family and friends were grieving.

Never Met a Stranger

If you knew Mary Middleton, it was easy to understand the agony people were feeling. Mary never met a stranger. Her personality compelled you to like her.

When you talked to Mary, she made you feel like you were the only person in the room. Whatever was most important to you at the time was most important to her.

The life of Mary Middleton was that of a groundbreaker. She ran for the Kentucky General Assembly in the ‘50s — something unheard of at the time for a woman. Prior to moving to Northern Kentucky, she stood up for civil rights in the Deep South. Once she and Clyde moved here, Mary became involved in so many causes that it would take up all of my allotted space to list them in this column.

There was a time in this region when political foes dusted it up at election time and then came together for the betterment of Northern Kentucky. No one would argue that Mary Middleton was a Republican partisan, but she was foremost a Northern Kentuckian. It was telling of her life that the Kenton County Democratic Party passed a resolution in her honor following her death.

Lived Her Convictions

Mary Middleton’s death notice became more than just an ordinary obituary. The news had impact. Even people who never knew her seemed to be affected. I think it was because Mary Middleton lived her convictions with such passion. She was truly the conscience of our community. And her death caused Northern Kentuckians to look into a mirror at our own selves — both as individuals and as a collective community.

Mary’s death had us talking because she reminded us that people lead best by doing. Her involvement with the Salvation Army is legendary. Mary didn’t just ask people to go out and ring the red bell at Christmas. She went out and rang the damn bell.

There was a buzz surrounding Mary Middleton’s death because we were suddenly faced with weighing the civic value of our own lives. We were faced with wondering if we had the same deeply rooted sense of charity and community. We were faced with wondering if we possess the same Golden Rule mentality that Mary Middleton lived daily. All good questions we should strive to answer by leading lives that matter.

We all hope to make it to the Pearly Gates as our final reward. And I’m fairly confident that when we arrive, Mary Middleton will be there standing next to a red kettle and ringing a bell. ■