Fayette County

Don McNay, Lexington author and Huffington Post contributor, dies suddenly

Author Don McNay before and after weight-loss surgery that, along with a better diet and regular exercise, has helped him drop more than 100 pounds.
Author Don McNay before and after weight-loss surgery that, along with a better diet and regular exercise, has helped him drop more than 100 pounds. Photo provided

Financial consultant, author and Huffington Post contributor Don McNay of Lexington died suddenly Sunday. He was 57.

McNay was in New Orleans for the Memorial Day weekend when he collapsed, said Adam Turner, executive director of RRP International Publishing and Digital Media, McNay’s book publishing company. McNay was visiting his wife, Karen Thomas McNay, who is president of Ursuline Academy of New Orleans, a Catholic school for girls that was founded in 1727.

“It’s with a broken and heavy heart that I tell you all that my wonderful, much loved father Don McNay passed away suddenly and unexpectedly this morning,” McNay’s daughter, Angela Luhys, posted on Facebook.

“We’re still in deep shock, and don’t have much information, or any answers at this point,” she wrote.

McNay wrote on financial issues for the Huffington Post, and from 2006 to 2013 was a syndicated columnist for CNHI News Service. In addition, he owned a company which helped people who get big payouts from an insurance settlement, or maybe a lottery win, manage and conserve their money.

Earlier this year, McNay saw publication of his latest book, Brand New Man, in which he chronicled how he had lost more than 100 pounds from a peak weight of 377.

He cut out junk food and soft drinks and started eating more protein and vegetables — “although there’s nothing going to make me eat cauliflower,” he told Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen in February. McNay also underwent gastric sleeve surgery.

“He was so proud of what he’d done and we were so proud of him,” said Bill Goodman, host and managing editor of KET’s Kentucky Tonight and other programs. “To have it end like this, is just tragic and so sad.”

Goodman’s book, Beans, Biscuits, Family & Friends, was published in 2015 by McNay’s company. Goodman said McNay was an outgoing person who “always had a big smile on his face. Never met a stranger, and always willing to offer whatever advice he could.”

“In all of his writings, he tried very, very hard through his life and through his practice, through his business and then through his publishing — he tried to make the world a better place, and I think he went far out of his way to accomplish that,” Goodman said.

Turner, executive director of RRP International, said from the moment he met McNay, he was struck by his unconventional nature.

“Immediately he was very open and honest and straightforward with me, in ways that I found very refreshing,” Turner said. “We both had a love for rock ’n’ roll and we talked a lot about rock ’n’ roll. His favorite bands were my favorite bands, Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne.”

Turner, 24, served as an intern with the publishing company, but was later hired by McNay in 2013.

“He was a very, very compassionate friend,” Turner said. “He was more than a boss. He was one of the most generous people with their time for someone who was so busy. He had a schedule like no one I had ever met. He’d have a breakfast meeting, a lunch meeting, a dinner meeting. … He knew everybody in town. Political people, financial people, lawyers. It seemed like with everything going on in his life, he wouldn’t have time to sit and ask how my house hunt was going, or ask me if I was taking the time to go outside and walk my dog and get some fresh air.” But McNay did take the time to ask about Turner’s welfare and personal life.

McNay was also active in Kentucky politics. He served as assistant Kentucky state coordinator for Al Gore’s presidential primary campaign in 1988, and was campaign treasurer for former Secretary of State and State Auditor Bob Babbage.

McNay loved to recount how, before starting his own company, he went from mucking horse stalls at the Kentucky Horse Park to being hired by Mutual of New York Life Insurance in Lexington, Babbage said.

“So they gave him the aptitude test and one of the managers came back and said, ‘We’ve never had anybody score his highly on an aptitude test,’” Babbage said. “So they talked to him, but they still weren’t sure. So they gave him two books — two complicated, thick books. And he came back the next day and had digested this 800 or 900 pages and had a little analysis to offer. And there began a remarkable, well-known, financial career.”

Aside from his wife and daughter, other survivors include another daughter and her husband, Gena and Clay Bigler, and three grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending.