The Appalachians and a code 'improvise, adapt, overcome' underscores the life of a former commissioner's wife
Cindy, Richard and Mckynleigh
Written by Cindy Abraham
“I was born in the Parris Island Naval Hospital in 1957. The Code of this location was to "Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.” This code has underlined my whole life.” Cindy Abraham
Over the past two centuries, my paternal and maternal families were centered in Eastern Kentucky (with the exception of the years my brothers and I spent in a proverbial boot camp due to my dad’s Marine background). My father was a die hard member of the GOP in Montgomery County and my mother was a ‘Yellow dog Democrat’. At this point you may notice that ‘improvise, adapt and overcome’ were healthy directions for children of this beginning.
My playmates were mostly boys (brothers and male cousins) and we “green broke” our horses, fished, learned how to raise hogs and cattle, went hunting and just enjoyed running around wild on family farms.
I attended Mt. Sterling High School and life was sprinkled with cotillions, fancy dresses, rival football games, and basic 70’s teenage mischief. One of the highlights of the year was Mt. Sterling Court Days where court was held once a month and people came for miles to buy, sell, and trade.
It was the mid-70's and the Vietnam War was drawing to a close. Mt. Sterling embraced our troops who were loyal to the directives of the United States and our Commander in Chief. After graduating in 1975, I continued my education at Transylvania University.
While at Transy I majored in political science. After a couple of years, I decided to take a hiatus and move to Hilton Head, South Carolina. I always had an interest in art and decided to pursue it. While there, I worked in an art gallery and studied with local artists. In 1981, I went back to school.
One of my brothers was at the University of Kentucky, so I decided to move to Lexington where I would stay in his apartment for awhile. Within the first month, I met the man I knew was going to be my husband. He was my brother’s best friend, Richard Abraham.
Richard and I hit it off pretty quick. We had many of the same interests and experiences. Both of us had traveled to Europe while in high school. Both families had first hand experiences with the Vietnam War. Richard’s cousins had served and lived to tell about it. I know today’s youth may not understand the political implications of the Vietnam War. It ‘colored’ the notions of those that came back from the war and those affiliated with its presence.
I wasn’t raised to be judgmental. Both sides of my family have been educators for the past 100 years. My great grandfather rode a mule into Appalachia regularly to teach. We were taught to examine people and situations and make decisions based upon character.
However, when I announced to my mother that I was marrying Richard (remember as a daughter of a marine, you NEVER bring home an intended until you’ve decided to stand your ground, no matter what) she said, “I hope he’s Jewish."
My family’s only concern was for ‘the union’ itself and the perceived difficulties I might encounter, rather than saying Richard was not for me, because of the color of his skin.
After much flurry of conversations and concerns, my Grandmother Caudill and my Grandmother Nolan made ‘the ruling.’ Grandmother Caudill said, “If they marry, then he is family. No more shall be said about it.” Grandmother Nolan said, “He is a Christian. Done is done”. Contrary to many notions, Richard’s family had more difficulties with him marrying me. But here we are, 38 years later and smiling.
We got married in 1983 while in college. Shortly after the nuptials, Richard attended a professional football camp in Texas. When he returned from the ‘try-out,’ he said, “Cindy, I know you think I’m big, but girl, those guys are giants!” On that note, Richard decided to continue advancing his strengths in personal training, music and working with special needs kids.
While Richard finished up college, I worked for a CPA firm in Lexington. In 1984, we were blessed with our first daughter Scytha T. Abraham. After moving to Paducah, our second daughter was born Mckynleigh.
So here we are, in Richard’s hometown. He worked in the medical field while I worked in retail. I kept up with my art and went from painting on canvas to making dolls and toys. I actually sell items under “Kentucky Lace: Island Creek Critters.”
When it was time for my girls to start school, there were some concerns. Back in eastern Kentucky, I had come from a long line of educators so I was familiar with the process. My oldest was in public school for four years before I decided that homeschooling would be the best option. There were two reasons why I homeschooled. First, I was a registered volunteer with McNabb Elementary within the Paducah City Schools for a number of years and observed the tying of hands of our educators. Second, the Kentucky Education Reform Act was initiated.
One of the girls' outlets for social interaction with their peer groups was the Market House Theater. The Cochran's style of theater classes had a tremendous influence on both of the girls. I attribute much of their confidence and self-assurance to this organization.
Scytha is married and lives in Paducah. She’s a Registered Nurse and has blessed us with five grandchildren. Mckynleigh is engaged and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Her pursuit has been the stage since she was four years old. When asked at a young age what she wanted to be when she grew up, she stated, "I am going to be a star." She was performing on Broadway Tours before COVID shut it down. She has her Life Coaching Certification and is building a business that’s gaining traction while waiting for Broadway to reopen.
In 1996, Richard co-founded VIP (Vision Inner-City Paducah) with the late Carol Hoover. We continued our involvement in street ministry and had a talk radio show on WGCF called ‘The Safe Haven Show.’ We ministered to inmates and youth fleeing abusive situations. We discovered that south of Owensboro, Kentucky, there was no safe organizational home for these youth.
Since the local youth distress issue wasn't being addressed by our city commissioners, Richard was unhappy with their lack of interest or action. He said there weren't enough questions being asked by it members. “The people aren’t being represented,” he said. In 2000, Richard decided to run for office and won a seat on the Paducah City Commission.
Richard has always stated that “hard questions should not be a problem and citizens need to see transparency in those they’ve elected”. I truly believe that Richard accomplished everything that God put him to address during his 14 years of service on the Paducah Board of Commissioners. As Richard said, “if God wants me as mayor right now, no man can stop it. And if He doesn't want me there, I do not want to be there.”
As for me, along with the joy I've had as Mrs. Richard Abraham, I, like many others, have experienced abuse, pain, loss, and hardship over the last 63 years. Again, the “...adapt and overcome’ life motto, has served me well. I am a believer in our Creator and in His son Yeshua ha Mashiach. This has strengthened me beyond words.
I’ve been married to an All American, public servant, teacher of the Word, excellent father, one that has dined with a U.S. President and sang for another, a certified personal trainer/life coach, sports and radio announcer, and advocate for troubled youth and those with special needs. If I accomplish nothing else in my life, being his wife has been beyond fulfilling and always exciting. Who knows...he may be drawn to another genre of public servitude in the future. Stay tuned for the next journey.