Mark R. Chellgren, a noted Kentucky journalist for the Associated Press, died Saturday night in Ashland of an apparent heart attack. He was 62.
His former wife, Barbara Clark of Louisville, confirmed the death Sunday afternoon.
For more than two decades, Chellgren covered the state Capitol and Kentucky politics for the Associated Press in Frankfort.
A native of Ashland, Chellgren was a graduate of the University of Kentucky, where he worked on the student newspaper, The Kentucky Kernel. His colleagues nicknamed him “Bones” for his skinny frame. It stuck with him throughout his journalism career.
Following graduation, Chellgren worked briefly at the Bay City Daily Tribune in Texas but returned to Kentucky to work at the Paris Daily Enterprise.
He also covered sports for the State Journal in Frankfort and was Capitol bureau chief for United Press International.
Chellgren joined the AP on Jan. 1, 1983, and worked 2 1/2 years for the news-gathering organization in Evansville, Ind.
AP then named Chellgren its Frankfort bureau chief, covering Kentucky government, especially the state budget, and state politics.
He also was an occasional guest on “Comment on Kentucky,” a public affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television Network. He retired in 2006.
A resolution in the state House honoring Chellgren when he retired said “the citizens of the commonwealth and this General Assembly, and the First Amendment he raised as his standard, have been well-served by Mark Chellgren’s unswerving dedication to fair and honest reporting.”
Chellgren’s colleagues praised him Sunday.
“Mark Chellgren was one of the best reporters covering government and politics in Kentucky history,” said Mark Hebert, a former WHAS-TV reporter in Louisville.
Ferrell Wellman, a former WAVE-TV reporter in Louisville and former host of “Comment on Kentucky,” said Chellgren “was fastidious about facts and he operated within his own strict ethical code.
“I don’t believe there was ever a sentence fragment of bias in his journalism career,” Wellman said. “No one could detect anything about his personal feelings.”
Former Kentucky Post reporter Bill Straub said Chellgren was “one hell of a newsman. He brought intelligence to the job and probably had more sources than anyone else in town. Bones was a pro.”
Barry Peel, a former WKTY-TV reporter in Lexington, said, “Mark reported with impeccable integrity. Even though he had to write negatively sometimes, no one ever questioned his accuracy and fairness.”
Chellgren is survived by two brothers and three sisters: former CEO and chairman of Ashland, Inc., Paul Chellgren of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jon Chellgren, chairman of Devcon LLC in Pompano Beach, Fla.; Karin Lewis of Ashland; Lynn Fernandez of Miami, Fla.; and Susan Chellgren of Ashland.
Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. Wednesday at Steen Funeral Home 13th Street Chapel with the Rev. John Street officiating. Visitation will be from 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday, at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, contributions should be sent to Chellgren Scholarship Fund, c/o University of Kentucky Development Office, 450 Rose Street, Lexington, Ky. 40506-0015.