HAROLD – Paul Robert Gearheart, the man who started and owned radio and cable stations and, later, internet providers and telephone companies, has passed away at the age of 90.
The flag at Gearheart Communications flew at half-staff last week after Gearheart’s death. The communications mogul had seen declining health since having a series of strokes, his family said.
His family had also said one of his goals was to live to be 90. Gearheart turned 90 on July 23. One day later, he was gone.
Born near the head of Toler Creek, Gearheart’s family moved to Harold in 1930 where he lived until his death. Showing an early aptitude for learning, he was named Valedictorian of his graduating class at Betsy Layne High School in 1943. In 2010 he was inducted into the Betsy Layne Hall of Fame, spotlighting graduates who have excelled in their lives and contributed greatly to community and society.
In 1953, Gearheart bought Roberts-Olga Telephone Company, a service started by Bluford Smith of Hi Hat. At that time the company served 72 customers with crank phones. The company now serves 40,000 subscribers in parts of three states and parts of six counties in Kentucky. Gearheart Communications, and the related companies, have over 165 employees.
At the time of his death, Gearheart continued to be directly involved in the operations of the companies, and had no plans of retiring.
The readers of Pike County’s Appalachian News-Express selected Gearheart as one of Pike County’s 100 Most Significant People in the 20th Century.
Gearheart and his wife of 60 years, Elaine, have three children, Stephen, who has passed away, Paul Douglas, and Susan Gearheart Schmoldt. Along with his wife, he is survived by six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Sheldon Compton is a staff writer at The Floyd County Times. He can be reached at (606) 886-8506.