Kathleen “Kay” Ayres, the longtime flag-bearer of the Grand Old Party of Highland County, passed away Monday.
Highland County Republican Party Chair Paulette Donley told The Times-Gazette the woman she called “a dear, dear friend and a mentor” died at Bethesda North Hospital following “some health issues.”
“Kay has been a stalwart for our Republican Party here in Highland County for years,” Donley said. “She was an ardent supporter of conservative values, had been instrumental in getting the party off the ground back in the 1960s, and I really did look to her for guidance.”
Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley said Ayres started her political career as a Highland County Central Committee member, representing New Market Township.
Ayres had served more than 50 years as a GOP loyalist, serving locally as the chair and executive chair of the central committee of the local party, in addition to being the vice chair of the Ohio Republican Party, Donley said.
Donley became chair of the local GOP in May 2016, replacing Ayres as a member of the Republican central and executive committees.
Ayres was honored by her fellow Republicans at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner held at the First United Methodist Church in Hillsboro on Feb. 12, 2018. The Times-Gazette reported that nearly 200 people were in attendance to celebrate Ayres being named Highland County Republican of the Year.
In a 2016 interview with The Times-Gazette when she handed the reigns over to Donley, Ayres said she wasn’t exactly sure how long she had served as chair, but that Fawley told her she had been in the role since sometime in the 1970s.
“She spent countless hours travelling around the state helping to organize women’s clubs,” Fawley said. “At the same time, she helped candidates organize their campaigns, and here at home, she served on the Highland County Board of Elections for the past 20 years.”
He also remembered Ayres as having interests that transcended politics.
“Kay had a great love for 4-H and the Highland County Historical Society,” Fawley said. “She served many years in promoting 4-H activities at the county fair, and was instrumental in the restoration of the Scott House.”
He said that Ayres was one of the fundraising organizers, and often spoke of the importance in maintaining historical buildings such as the Scott House.
“She was also one of the early promoters of Leadership Highland,” he said. “Kay saw this is an opportunity to help raise up the next generation of leaders for our community.”
While she was described by some as a party activist, Donley said people still enjoyed her friendship and being around her, noting that “sometimes politics gets in the road, but though she wasn’t outspoken, she did speak her mind.”
A celebration of life will be held Saturday, Aug. 22 at 4 p.m. at Danville Church of Christ, 4917 SR 138, with Pastor Darin Sanderson officiating.
Friends will be received at the church Saturday from 2-4 p.m.
The Rhoads-Edgington Funeral Home of Hillsboro is serving the family.
See Ayres’ full obituary inside today’s paper.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.