Icons called home on same day


Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist


It was hard to believe this week when two women who called Hillsboro home, yet impacted lives far beyond the confines of Highland County, both passed away Monday.

Kathleen H. “Kay” Ayres was 81.

Wanda Lou “Captain Windy” Kesler Lewis, was 94.

Neither woman was from here, but they both found something worthwhile in this little community.

Ayres moved here after her marriage to Dr. David Ayres in 1961. The bulk of her successes came after she moved here. She was chairwoman of the Highland County Republican Party for many years and eventually became vice chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party, in addition to being deeply involved in numerous other organizations.

Lewis moved here in 1985 shortly after her 35-year hall of fame run with her husband, Al Lewis, on the WCPO’s “Uncle Al Show.” She was also a member of “The Paul Dixon Show” and hosted her own movie matinee show. But it was on the show with her husband that she entertained, while also educating, decades of children.

I did not know either woman well, but they were both a larger part of my life than they likely knew.

Kay’s husband was my doctor as a youngster, and again for a time in my early adult years. Several of Kay’s grandchildren spent hundreds of hours in my home, where my wife babysat for them. Kay and David were the stands many times when I officiated basketball games in which one of their grandchildren was participating, and as things turned out I now live just a couple hundred yards from where the Ayreses raised their family.

I am relatively certain Kay never knew that it was at that home where she raised her children that I had my first prolonged make-out session. In fact, it was on that night that I, or maybe it was the girl with me, earned the short-lived nickname of Soft Shoulders. I will tell you that it was during a party my sophomore year in high school when Kay and David were out of town, but the reason for the nickname will remain a secret between myself and the few who still remember.

In later years, Kay was always willing to help whenever I called on her for one newspaper story or another. She never dodged a question, was kind, and that was always appreciated.

Wanda came into my life at a very early age. I do not remember what time the “Uncle Al Show” aired — maybe it was more than once a day — but I know that from the time I was a toddler until a few years later I watched countless episodes.

When the show ended the Lewises moved to a farm just outside of Hillsboro on SR 138. Not long thereafter my father-in-law moved to a farm across the road and sometimes helped them with one project or another.

In more recent years my wife has served on the Hillsboro After Prom Committee with one of the Lewises’ four daughters, who has often been a guest in our home, and the daughter’s husband has been a doctor for some of my family members.

In 2004, when the Lewises were inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences “Silver Circle” Hall of Fame, I visited their farm to talk with them about the honor. Al was full of stories, and Wanda was as kind and gracious as a soul can be.

But this story really has nothing to do with me. It’s about two strong and loyal women, neither from here, who both came to love Hillsboro and Highland County, and both left this world on the same day. They both enriched our lives in ways we may never fully know.

So, thank you, Kay Ayres and Wanda Lewis, for your service to humanity. You will both be long and well remembered.

Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at jgilliland@timesgazette.com or 937-402-2522.

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2020/08/web1_Gilliland-jeff-2018.jpgmug.jpgJeff Gilliland Staff columnist