Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

November 20, 2013

Speaks loses cancer battle

Independent circulation director lived positive life

ASHLAND — Edward “Nat” Speaks, circulation director of The Independent, died Tuesday after waging a valiant year-long battle with cancer. He was 57.

Speaks, a 1973 Paul G. Blazer High School graduate who began working for the newspaper as a carrier and stuffer while in high school, is survived by his wife of 39 years, Cindy Speaks, a fellow Blazer Class of  ’73 member who works as a secretary at the school; a son, Adam, and daughter, Sara, both of whom live in Lexington; and three grandchildren, Ellie, 8, Olivia, 5, and Sophia, 17 months.

In an August interview, Speaks said he learned he had cancer in November of last year when he went to have a lesion on his neck tested. The test showed positive for cancer, but also indicated the disease was in his lungs. Subsequent tests revealed the disease had spread to other parts of his body, including his colon and liver.

Cindy Speaks said her husband’s cancer was already at Stage 4 by the time it was detected.

“Today is a sad day at the Independent,” Publisher Eddie Blakeley said. “Nat has been a part of the Independent family for parts of five decades and it will not be the same without him here. He was a valued co-worker and a friend to all. I will miss the many conversations we had not so much about work, but about his wife, Cindy, his children, Sara and Adam, and his grandchildren. He was definitely a proud dad and grandfather.

 “He fought a valiant battle and never once did I see him down or depressed about the situation,” Blakeley continued. “I have never met anyone in those circumstances that faced it head on with a more positive outlook. It’s like he decided that he was going to enjoy every moment that he had left and not let his situation prevent him from doing that.”

 In August, a Blazer alumni group known as Tomcats for Tomcats presented Nat and Cindy Speaks with a “Wildcat Weekend” getaway —  an all-expense-paid trip to New York City the first weekend of December to watch the Kentucky men’s basketball team play Providence at Barclays Arena in Brooklyn. In addition to game tickets, the package includes air fare, two nights of hotel accommodations and spending money. Speaks’ co-workers also passed the hat and raised an additional $425 for the couple.

According to Independent Editor Mark Maynard, a member of Tomcats for Tomcats, the group decided to put together the special surprise for the Speakses after another group member, Luann Serey, ran into Sue Fosson, one of Speaks’ co-workers, and learned of Nat Speaks’ illness. Serey brought it to the group’s attention.

With Nat Speaks passing before he could make the trip to New York to watch his beloved Wildcats play, the money that would have been spent on the trip will instead be given to his family, Maynard said.

In making the presentation to the Speakses, TFT member Mike Craft related a humorous anecdote of how he and Nat took a church youth basketball team to a tournament in Ohio the same weekend UK was playing in the Final Four in 1996. Because they both wanted to watch the game so badly, they brought along a small TV, he said.

On the trip home, Craft said, he juggled the TV on his lap as the reception faded in and out. Speaks, who was driving, kept asking for updates on the game, which he said he was unable to give him because the signal was so poor.

“Finally, I looked up and neither of us were watching the road,” Craft said. “It’s a wonder we made it home safely.”

A friend to all

Speaks is the third longtime Independent department head to pass away in the past five years. The others were Business Manager Rick Rakes in 2008 and Editor Mike Reliford in 2012.

Speaks and Rakes were close friends. In fact, Adam Speaks said Monday his father, a religious man, had recently told him Rakes was the first person he wanted to see when he got to heaven.

Independent Mailroom Manager Bengy Barrett, a 50-year employee of the newspaper, recalled working with Speaks in the mailroom when both were teenagers, and how Speaks didn’t really fit in with the “rambunctious” crowd who worked in the department in those days because of his quiet, gentle nature.

Later on, Barrett said, he and Speaks both worked as circulation district managers, where he said they “passed a lot of papers together.

“Back then, 99 percent of the carriers were kids, and they’d drop out on you in a heartbeat, and, when they did, you’d have to cover their routes,” he said.

Barrett recalled how he and Speaks both kept sneakers under their desks, not only for when they had to walk paper routes, but to wear during the daily in-house pingpong matches that were once a newspaper tradition.

Barrett said he remembered Speaks as being a “pretty fair” pingpong player. But what he said he’d remember most about him was how “he always had a positive attitude, even through the sickness. He was a devoted newspaperman, a devoted husband and father and he was my friend.”

Former Independent advertising representative Danny Duncan, a close friend of Speaks, echoed that sentiment.

“Nat was the most positive person I’d ever met,” said Duncan, who became friends with Speaks in the early 1970s while working at the newspaper. “He never said to me ‘Why me? This isn’t fair or I don’t deserve this.’ He never said that to me or anybody.”

Duncan, advertising director at The Morehead News, said Speaks was also a good athlete and he played on bowling teams, softball teams and basketball teams with him while working together at the newspaper.

“I don’t know if The Independent had a more devoted employee. He worked until he physically couldn’t work anymore.”

Duncan and Speaks were almost like brothers, he said. “That’s how I felt about him. He knew what I was thinking and I knew what he was thinking. We could finish each other’s sentences.”

Speaks also had a devotion for Cats — as in Kentucky Wildcats and Ashland Tomcats, Duncan said.

 “He did love his Cats,” he said.

Text Only
Local News
  • 0419sciencehs.JPG Russell High School wins State Science Olympiad

    The long ride home from Bowling Green was tinged with disappointment for Russell High School students who believed they’d finished as also-rans in the state Science Olympiad last weekend.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0419sciencems.JPG Russell Middle School state Science Olympiad champions

    From identifying hundreds of insects to designing and operating mechanical contraptions that just look like insects, a team of Russell Middle School students took their research and technical skills to the Science Olympiad in Bowling Green last week and came back state champions.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0419melodies0114.jpg Kitchen jazzes up downtown lunch hour

    Some came to enjoy the relaxing sounds of cool jazz and traditional tunes at lunch, while others attended in hopes of picking up a few tricks from a master musician as guitarist Chris Kitchen kicked off the Melodies & Masterpieces concert series in downtown Ashland Friday afternoon.

    April 18, 2014 3 Photos

  • Sparks, Waddell in Carter Coronor’s race

    Incumbent George A. Sparks of Grayson will face challenger William Waddell of Olive Hill in the Democratic primary election for the Carter County coroner’s seat.

    April 18, 2014

  • 04/18/2014 — What's Happening

    Local news

    April 18, 2014

  • Bill3.jpg 'Dreams'

    It was in her own death that Donna Schoonover helped William Schoonover redefine his life.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • guyp-rodnew.jpg 'Uplifting people'

    The snow kept gospel singer Guy Penrod chilling a little longer than it should have this spring.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418star0024.jpg Raising the roof

    Leaks will soon be a thing of the past at Star Elementary School, where workers are busy putting up a new roof.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fire at Russell care facility

    A care facility for the elderly in Russell was temporarily evacuated following a fire in the kitchen Wednesday night.

    April 18, 2014

  • Incumbent, newcomer vie for PVA position

    A longtime office-holder is facing a rare primary challenge in the Greenup County property valuation administrator race.

    April 18, 2014

Featured Ads
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP basketball
SEC Zone