‘She set the foundation’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 3, 2024

Clonch remembered for work as Chamber, LEDC head

LAKE MARY, FLORIDA — Those who worked with Patricia Clonch recall her as a visionary leader and mentor in her work as director of the Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation and executive director of the county’s Chamber of Commerce.

Former Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation executive director and Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce director Pat Clonch with then U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio. (Submitted photo)

Clonch, a native of Chesapeake and former Ironton resident, died in Florida on Jan. 23 at age 90.

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“Mom was an extraordinary woman,” her son, Rod Grant, said. “She loved Lawrence County and spent a great part of her life helping to make it a better place. Her mission was to love her community, her family and her God.  Her mission is complete.”

Clonch stepped down from LEDC in 2003, succeeded by Dr. Bill Dingus. One of her successors, Chamber director Shirley Dyer, spoke of the work Clonch had done in her position, including overseeing the construction of the Chamber’s building, on Collins Avenue in South Point.

One of the initiatives Clonch started at the Chamber was the annual bus trip of local political and business leaders to Columbus to meet with state officials, something the Chamber continues to this day. Clonch also took delegations to the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Ohio Speaker of the House Jason Stephens was serving

his first term as county commission as Clonch was wrapping up her time at LEDC.

“She was just a tour de force,” Stephens said of her. “She was very disciplined, very strong and she was passionate about Lawrence County.”

Former Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation executive director and Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce director Pat Clonch speaks at the dedication ceremony for the Sixth St. Bridge (now the Robert C. Byrd Bridge) connecting Huntington, West Virginia and Chesapeake. (Submitted photo)

He said one of his favorite memories of her was a plaque she kept on her desk.

“It said, ‘Let’s compromise. We’ll do it my way,’” Stephens said. “That was Pat Clonch. It was great. She did a lot for Lawrence County and we’re seeing a lot of the fruits of the groundwork that she laid, 20-30 years ago. A lot of people have jobs because of that. I liked her and respected her.”

Former Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham also spoke highly of her.

He said he taught accounting classes under Clonch, as part of the Chamber’s outreach to local businesses.

“I found her very easy to work with,” Burcham said. “She ran a good ship and set the foundation for what the Chamber and LEDC are doing now under Bill Dingus, with things like The Point industrial park.”

Clonch founded Grant Realty in 1966 and, over the following decades, was known a leader in the economic development of the Tri-State. 

She was known for her commitment to health care and education and served on the boards of various community groups and nonprofit organizations

“What wasn’t she involved in?” Viviane Khounlavong said. “Even if she wasn’t on a board or actively member, she was supportive of every community service organization, not just in Ironton, but the Tri-State area.”

Khounlavong recalled Clonch as a mentor who hired her as marketing director at the Chamber for her first job out of college at age 21.

“I started as marketing director and moved into the position of associate executive director of the Chamber and LEDC,” she said. “I was there for 15 years. I worked very closely with Pat.”

She said Clonch guided her, not just in her career, but also served as a “development coach.

“She really pushed me into more writing for publications and being more active in the community,” Khounlavong said.

She said Clonch was “not easy by any means” as a boss.

“But I learned a great deal from her,” Khounlavong said. “She wasn’t easy on me because she saw my potential. She saw value in areas where I didn’t at the time because I was so young.”

Former Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation executive director and Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce director Pat Clonch, along with then U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, are seen with a delegation to the U.S. Capitol. (Submitted photo)

She said among the skills taught her Clonch taught her were business strategy and business communication. 

“I learned how to tactfully speak to people in order to achieve whatever goals we needed for community development and project development,” Khounlavong said.

Clonch moved to Florida, following her departure from the Chamber, but remained a regular visitor to the Tri-State.

“Before she moved, we were really pretty close,” Khounlavong said, noting they stayed in touch. “She confided a lot in me in a lot of things, and I know, for her to do that, she was a very private person and it took a lot for her to trust, because she had been through a lot as well.

She said Clonch had “a very strong persona in the community.”

“She was a very strong women,” Khounlavong said, noting the decades in which she began her career. “In that era, there weren’t a lot of women in positions of power. She worked hard for the things she achieved.”

But she said Clonch also had “a softness” to her. 

“She had a loving nature about her,” Khounlavong said. “She always remembered special small details about the people she cared about.”

In 1988, Clonch’s achievements were recognized when was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. Her work also earned her accolades from figures such as presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, as well as Ohio Govs. Richard Celeste, Ted Strickland and George Voinovich.

“She was probably one of the most graceful women I’ve met in my life,” Khounlavong said. “She walked with grace and confidence in every situation, good and bad. There was an air about her that that showed a lot of strength and confidence, and she was one of the first real warrior-type of women that I worked with.”

Former Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation executive director and Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce director Pat Clonch died Jan. 23 at age 90. (Submitted photo)

Clonch is survived by her children, Teresa (Clark) Ramsey, Lynda (John) Snell and Rod (Kim) Grant; grandchildren, Evan (Anne) Ramsey, Christian (Annie) Ramsey, Jay Snell, Justin Snell, Kyle Grant, Kacie Grant and Kayla Grant, as well as seven great-grandchildren, one great-great-grandchild and a large extended family. She was preceded in death by her husband, Guthrie “Chris” Clonch, and her partner of many years, Lawrence “Larry” King.

Family and friends are invited to attend a service today, honoring her life, at Schneider-Hall Funeral Home, located at 313 Big Branch Rd in Chesapeake. Visitation will be held from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., followed immediately by the service at 1 p.m.   

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to Project First Impression, which conducts beautification efforts throughout the county, at  http://tinyurl.com/2zf63wkv or by mail: Lawrence County Community Foundation, Project First Impression, in memory of Patricia Clonch, 216 Collins Ave., South Point, Ohio 45680.

Kathie Gue, who has long been involved in Beautification efforts in Chesapeake and who County Commissioner DeAnna Holliday credits for making Project First Impression work through groups like Hometown Love Chesapeake, works at the funeral home and was a friend of Clonch’s.

“She was a hard worker and a go getter,” Gue said. “This is a wonderful thing for the county and it is great to see her legacy live on through this giving.”