2012 East Kentucky Leadership Tony Turner award winner

When Mike Mullins died unexpectedly earlier this year, he left a void in Knott County and eastern Kentucky that can not easily be filled.

In 1977, he left a job at Alice Lloyd College to become the executive director of the Hindman Settlement School, a place struggling to survive at the time.

He turned things around and decided to stay for 34 years.

Now he is being honored posthumously as this year's East Kentucky Leadership Tony Turner award winner.

Mike's office at the Hindman Settlement School looks the same as it did on February 19th, the day he died of an apparent heart attack while exercising.

He was only 63.

"He loved the work, he loved the people, he liked the challenge of the settlement school... being able to change with the needs of the community," said Frieda Mullins.

The school now provides a number of education, cultural heritage and community service programs.

There is a nationally known writer's workshop, a groundbreaking dyslexic program and the annual Appalachian Family Folk Week.

Mike served on the East Kentucky Leadership Board until his death and was always an advocate for Appalachia.

"We're not these barefoot, moonshine drinking idiots running around here committing incest. We are people who are committed to our families, committed to our region," said Mullins in WYMT interview several years ago.

He practiced what he preached. Mike was committed to his job, his church, his wife of 40 years, along with his three children and five grandchildren.

"We're going to have a sixth grandchild in August and Mike knew that. That will be one event that i wish he could be there for," said Frieda Mullins.

In 2008 on Good Friday, we caught up with Mike participating in the annual Hindman United Methodist Church tradition of carrying a cross along Highway 80.

"By the end of the day we'll all be pretty sore but we'll also be very happy to know that we've made a little sacrifice. Based on what our Lord has done, it's a small sacrifice," Mike told us.

Frieda Mullins says she misses her husband's presence more than anything, but knows his work will live on for years to come.

"It's been difficult, but he lives in my heart and he'll live on on this campus," said Frieda.

Frieda says Mike would be humbled to receive an award that's named after someone he respected.

"Tony Turner died unexpectedly at a young age... Mike's done the same... and I don't have any control over that... but i do know where he is... and I know that some day I'll be with him again," said Frieda.

There was a moment of silence in memory of Mike Mullins at Thursday night's awards program.

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