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Katharine Ann Lake, widow of Times publisher, dies

ST. PETERSBURG — Katharine Ann Lake, the widow of former St. Petersburg Times publisher and baseball booster John B. "Jack" Lake, died Tuesday, of cancer. She was 84.

Mrs. Lake came here in 1960 with her husband from Short Hills, N.J. The former Katharine Ann Kerr was born into the newspaper business. Her father, R. Kenneth Kerr, published the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette in Ohio, where her future husband attended Ohio State University.

Before her marriage to Jack Lake, she worked as a secretary to Gov. Frank Lausche of Ohio.

After World War II, Mr. Lake returned to Ohio from military service and went to work for the small-town daily in Lancaster. He began in classified advertising and remained with the paper for a decade.

They were married on June 28, 1947, and in 1956 moved to New Jersey, where her husband joined the Elizabeth Daily Journal. Four years later, her husband became advertising director of the Times.

Mrs. Lake served on the City Beautiful Commission and was active in First Presbyterian Church. Her bright disposition drew people to her.

"When she walked into a room, she never had to announce herself," said her daughter, Charlotte Lake McGahan. "She never had to be the center of attention, but she always was."

"My mom's friends were the man who cut the meat in the meat market, the guy who put air in her tires at Bob Lee's, the lady that cleaned her house, the man who mowed her lawn, the man who sold her vegetables at City Produce," said daughter Cynthia Lake. "These are the people who ask about her every day."

Mrs. Lake was just as attentive to her five mixed-breed dogs, reassuring them as she went out the door: "You all stay here and hold down the fort."

Her daughters put the line in a book they gave her called Sunny Says, after Mrs. Lake's self-chosen nickname (her friends all had nicknames, she said, so why shouldn't she?), along with other expressions.

Among them: "Many hands make light work," a hint often delivered in the kitchen at crunch time; "FHB," for "family hold back," dinner-table code for when she was concerned about having enough food for guests; and, "That is the best thing I have ever put in my mouth," when she was eating at someone else's home.

After Jack Lake's retirement in 1984, he and Mrs. Lake were closely identified with his dream of a Major League Baseball team in St. Petersburg. He had helped begin the movement to land a franchise for the city in the mid 1970s, and threw out the first pitch to the expansion team Devil Rays in 1996.

She remained upbeat as ovarian cancer weakened her, always starting conversations by asking about the other person. But increasingly, a new Sunnyism began to creep into her speech: "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired."

Her husband of 52 years died in 2000. Survivors include three daughters, Charlotte Lake McGahan of Leawood, Kan., and Cynthia Ann Lake and Diane Lake Weatherell, both of St. Petersburg; brother John E.M. Kerr of Athens, Ohio; and five grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Northeast Presbyterian Church, 4400 Shore Acres Blvd.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or Craig Basse, former obituaries editor of the Times, contributed to this report before his death in 2008.

Katharine Ann Lake, widow of Times publisher, dies 01/07/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 7, 2010 9:52pm]
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