Philip Ardery excelled in service

July 31, 2012 

Mr. Ardery

Philip Pendleton Ardery packed enough for three or four lifetimes into his 98 years.

Though parts of his biography read like a vintage movie, the predominant theme is service: Service to his country, service to Kentucky, service to society's disenfranchised and forgotten.

Mr. Ardery — who was born in Lexington, grew up on a Bourbon County farm and graduated from the University of Kentucky and Harvard Law School — died Thursday at his home in Louisville where he had helped raise millions of dollars to improve the lives of the mentally ill.

During World War II, Mr. Ardery commanded a B-24 squadron, flying 25 combat missions, including leading 200 pilots in the skies over Normandy on D-Day in 1944.

Decorated by the U.S. and France, he became the Kentucky Air National Guard's first commander and led it during the Korean War to England, where he served as a NATO wing base station commander. He retired as a major general in 1965.

Back home, his law practice focused on representing the electric cooperatives bringing power and light to rural Kentucky.

He ran for public office three times, winning once — a seat on the Jefferson County Fiscal Court which he resigned after three years.

He remained an unapologetic New Deal liberal his whole life.

After a friend's son struggled with schizophrenia, Mr. Ardery helped open a halfway house in Louisville that grew into Wellspring, a network of 19 facilities that has provided housing and rehabilitation to 6,000 people in 30 years.

He was president of the Kentucky Heart Association and American Heart Association, and was a writer and memoirist.

As a pilot-in-training in Texas, he met Anne Stuyvesant Tweedy at a dance. They married Dec. 6, 1941, the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor. She survives him.

Mr. Ardery's life story is entwined with that of his boyhood friend and Harvard Law classmate, the late Edward Prichard, a wunderkind in the Franklin Roosevelt administration who went to federal prison after stuffing 254 ballots in the 1948 general election in Bourbon County.

The scandal created a 25-year rift between the two, but they eventually reconciled. Mr. Ardery accompanied the blind Prichard to a Harvard event where he recounted Prichard's advocacy for education in Kentucky, triggering a standing ovation.

Said veteran Kentucky journalist Al Smith: "The Ardery-Prichard relationship, so twisted, tense and often deeply sad, is a story of two brilliant princes of Kentucky whose legacies of success and failure are eclipsed by the memory of their commitment to what really should keep us going, the struggle for the Good Society."

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