Brockenborough, former Sun reporter, philanthropist dead at 91

Pat Brockenborough (second from right), a former reporter for The Paducah Sun and local philanthropist, died Sunday. She can be seen alongside Char Downs, left, Stefanie Graves, Gayle Kaler and Bonnie Browning when she announced she would be sponsoring a painting in the Quilt City USA Murals project in 2019.

Patricia Paxton Brockenborough, philanthropist, proud community member and a former reporter for The Paducah Sun, died Sunday.

She was 91 years old.

The Paducah Sun, along with the wider western Kentucky community, continues to mourn the loss of Brockenborough, the daughter of former Sun publisher and editor Edwin J. Paxton Sr.

She started working at The Sun in the mid-1950s, serving as a reporter up until transitioning to Posh magazine before her retirement in the 1990s. During that time she was the original voice of the newspaper on quilting, covering the first American Quilter’s Society QuiltWeek in April 1985, as well as several in the decades to follow.

AQS co-founder and president Meredith Schroeder fondly remembers Brockenborough.

“When we first started the quilt show, she covered it for the Paducah Sun and she also helped me with American Quilter’s Magazine early on. She was always helpful,” Schroeder said. “Pat was very gracious and, I always thought, very beautiful.

“She really appreciated art and she loved Paducah.”

Former Paducah Mayor Gayle Kaler was a longtime friend of Brockenborough’s.

“She was a wonderful family person. She loved her kids and talked about them all the time to me. She was very proud of all her grandchildren and loved them dearly,” Kaler said. “She had many, many friends who will miss her and the conversations that they had with her dearly, as well. We’ll miss her most of all just because of her presence in the community.”

McCracken County Commissioner Bill Bartleman, who worked alongside Brockenborough as a reporter at The Sun, was sad to hear of her death.

“She was a great asset to the community. She worked for the paper for most of her life writing feature stories that helped record Paducah’s history,” he said. “I think her father, Ed Paxton Sr., taught all of his children to be involved in the community and to contribute to the community and she followed that mandate.”

Her early coverage of QuiltWeek was something that always impressed Bartleman.

“I think the rest of us on The Sun’s staff were scratching our head and wondering what it was all about, but she dug into it and wrote a lot of stories during the first 20 years of the quilt show,” he added. “She covered it every year and did a great job with it.”

Brockenborough never stopped her efforts to better her community. She committed $500,000 to the city of Paducah’s efforts to establish a health park in 2017, a park that is now named after her and her late husband, Jim.

In 2019, she donated $20,000 to sponsor Paducah Quilt Murals’ second painting in its Quilt City USA Murals project, a recreation of California quilter Melinda Bula’s “… and Our Flag was Still There!” on the side of the floodwall facing the Paducah-McCracken County Convention Center. Kaler chairs this local arts initiative and believes her generosity was rooted in a deep understanding of how it could help Paducah.

“She was just such a strong supporter of Paducah. She loved this city and wanted it to thrive. She understood the importance of the art of quilting and what the quilting industry had done for Paducah,” Kaler added. “She understood that Bill and Meredith Schroeder were the drivers for that and that having that quilt show here in Paducah and having the National Quilt Museum was so important to our area.”

Though she did so much, she seldom wanted recognition, Kaler said.

“(Her modesty) is what made her such a gracious contributor to Paducah.”

Paducah Symphony Orchestra artistic director Raffaele Ponti had a special relationship with Brockenborough, who was an ardent supporter of the symphony.

“She was just a wonderful lady who cared about art, culture and her community. She wrote a check and supported me and was the underwriter for my position for the last couple of years,” he said. “She never boasted, she never bragged. She did so much for the community.

“She did things for the right reasons, because she wanted to improve people’s lives in Paducah and she certainly touched a lot of people and did that.”

A death notice for Brockenborough can be found on Page A6 of Monday’s newspaper. A full obituary is expected in the coming days. Arrangements will be through Milner & Orr Funeral Home and Cremation Services of Paducah.

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