People lined the streets of downtown to pay their final respects to the longtime Mayor as the procession traveled through.
Two fire trucks were positioned next to triangle park, ladders up, with American flags hanging from the ladders, waiting for the procession to pass between them. The hearse carrying Gorman’s casket stopped under the ladders as Hazard High School’s band played music for the Mayor one last time.
Local, state and national politicians were in attendance at Gorman’s funeral, including Governor Steve Beshear, Lt. Governor Daniel Mongiardo, Senator Brandon Smith, and Representative Fitz Steele. U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and U.S. Representative Hal Rogers gave remarks during the service.
“None of us ever imagined Hazard or Perry County without (Mayor Gorman),” McConnell said during his eulogy for Gorman. “How could we?”
He went on to say that Gorman was given a mission in life to promote, defend and serve Hazard, and that everyone honored him at the funeral for that.
“He saw senators, congressmen and presidential candidates – he saw it all, and he could have followed it all, too, right out of Hazard,” McConnell said. “But, he didn’t, because this was the only place he ever wanted to be.”
He recalled stories about Gorman, one in which he helped an elderly woman move to the first floor of her building after she called him to ask for help, and another story about a time he paid for the meal of city workers, without their knowledge, who had been working around the clock after a snowstorm.
Gorman’s Presbyterian Pastor Ellen Peach spoke about how even in his last days, he was grateful and thankful for the care he received.
“Underneath the title of Mayor was something else,” Peach said. “Thanksgiving; love.”
Hal Rogers recounted how Gorman would contact him about “visions” that he had for Hazard and Perry County.
“He would say, ‘You know, a vision without funding is a hallucination,’” Rogers said, as the crowd laughed.
He quoted Abraham Lincoln, and said that things may come to those who wait, but those who hustle get things done.
“I don’t want to say Bill Gorman was a hustler, but I think I can and get by with it because he did,” Rogers said. “He hustled for this city, he hustled for his people, he hustled for this county and this region. In the best sense of the word, he was just that.”
Rogers went on to say that Gorman was always trying to build a better place for all the people that would come after him. He said he visited Gorman recently in his hospital room at Hazard ARH and said Gorman was in good spirits and said he wouldn’t let Rogers leave without asking what he could do for him.
Rogers said the last words Gorman spoke to him, with tears in his eyes, before Rogers left the room were: “Take care of my city.”
Rogers said it would take all of us working together to come half way to meeting Gorman’s goal, but said he thought everyone could say that “we’re going to take care of Bill’s city.”
Others also acknowledged Gorman’s contributions to Hazard and Perry County in the days following his passing, noting the loss both will suffer because of his passing.
“Hazard and Perry County has lost a champion for the people,” Carlos Combs, Hazard City Manager said. “There is no question he will be missed.”
He said Gorman saw no difference between poor and rich, and that he treated everyone with respect no matter who they were.
“It didn’t matter if you had a lot or a little, he treated everyone the same,” Combs said.
City Commissioner and Hazard High School Principal Happy Mobelini echoed this sentiment about Gorman.
“He was a friend to the little person – the person that people don’t normally think about,” Mobelini said.
Perry County Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble worked closely with Gorman trying to extend water lines across the county and on various other projects within the county that would improve the quality of life for the people of the county, Noble said.
He said he felt like everyone in eastern Kentucky is saddened over Gorman’s death.
“I fell like the people don’t really realize what an impact this has had on the county – not just the city, but the county government as well,” Noble said. He added that he felt people needed to know how much Gorman did for the county, such as extending water lines and bringing jobs into the area.
“He played a part in just about everything,” Noble said.
Gorman was instrumental is providing Hazard ARH with a $75 million expansion, and served as the Chairman of the Hazard ARH Board of Directors for over 13 years. In the wake of his passing, Jerry W. Haynes, the president and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare, said ARH is deeply saddened by the death of Mayor Gorman, who was a “tireless servant devoted to Hazard, Perry County and eastern Kentucky.“
“The Mayor was loved and admired by the community because he could be counted on to put first and foremost the advancement and improvement of the quality of life for the people he served,” Haynes said in a statement.
He said Gorman strongly believed the people of eastern Kentucky deserved the best and that he was a friend and supporter of ARH.
“Mayor Gorman’s support of ARH was unending and he played an integral part in the advancement of healthcare services provided by ARH in Hazard and Perry County,” Haynes said.
Gorman had become synonymous with Hazard, and few guests who visited the city left without being named a “Duke or Duchess of Hazard.”
“When people considered Hazard, they thought about Mayor Gorman,” Combs said. “But, it went a little farther than that – he was here for everyone.”
Mobelini said Gorman was a friend to everyone, and there would be no way to replace him.
“The City of Hazard and Hazard City Schools have lost the best friend they ever had,” Mobelini said. “This is the end of an era.”
Noble said he too didn’t think anyone would ever take his place or “fill his shoes.” He also expressed his condolences to the family and to all who worked for Gorman, and added that he personally is very sad about his death.
“We’re going to miss him,” Noble said. “We probably don’t miss him that much today, but as time goes on, we’ll miss him.”
Gorman will perhaps be remembered most for his dedication to the City of Hazard, which Mobelini said he loved dearly.
“He loved Hazard more than anybody on the planet,” Mobelini said.
Beyond his love for his home city, though, most will remember that Mayor William D. Gorman was an exceptional person who truly was tireless in his efforts to improve Hazard and Perry County for the people who live here.
“I loved the fellow,” Combs said. “He was a great individual.”