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Shelby County said farewell Tuesday to a beloved son, when Don Cubert Sr. was laid to rest, a man who was known all across the county for his devotion and love for his community and its people.
A longtime businessman, as well as former city councilman and mayor, Cubert died Saturday at Jewish Hospital Shelbyville after a brief illness. He was 83.
Cubert’s devotion to his community has endeared him to many, including Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger, who said he and his “Uncle Don” had a friendship that spanned decades.
“Don and I served on the multipurpose community action agency together, and on solid waste and many others,” Rothenburger said. “I’ve known him all the way back to my fire department days. I served under Don when he was mayor and when he was city councilperson. He and I had such a good rapport.”
Cubert served on the Shelbyville City Council from 1982 to 2003, except for the year, 1995, when he served as interim mayor.
He was an Air Force veteran and was married to the late Daphne “Tennie” Cubert. They had two children, Don Cubert Jr. and Debbie Fitzgerald.
He opened a service station/convenience store on Main Street at 11th in 1962 that has been in continuous operation since then. He ran the station under several different names until his son took over Cubert’s Qwik Stop in 1982.
“He was always proud of the role he played in the lives of young people, especially those who worked for him at the store and having a chance to shape their lives,” said Don Cubert Jr. “That was really a big deal for him. I purchased the place from him in nineteen eighty-one. I’ve never had another job.
“He opened up in nineteen sixty-two, and I’ve been here my entire life with him, except for when I went away to school. We have had an interesting father/son relationship over the years, because of working together that long. Working with your family is really special, and it’s something I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty said he has such good memories of Cubert and his store as a child.
“I can remember when I was a little kid, he used to sponsor little league teams,” he said. “He was always so good to us. If you needed to call your parents to get a ride home or whatever after a game, you could always go to his store and do that. It made you feel secure knowing there was a place like that, and someone you could turn to.”
That kind of camaraderie continued into adulthood, Hardesty said, adding that the man he had always looked up to as a child became his mentor and, still later, someone he could turn to for advice and guidance.
“He was a mentor to me, and he was one of my trusted advisors when I became mayor,” he said. “I relied on his knowledge and wisdom. I’m really going to miss him.”
Hardesty described Cubert as a wonderful council member and mayor, someone who always put others in front of himself.
“He was a very humble man, and he was a good team player, a good listener, and he always kept an open mind,” he said. “He served on a lot of different boards and commissions. He really cared about this community, in fact, he ranks right up there at the top of my list of people who have cared more about this community than anyone I’ve ever met.”
Fitzgerald said her father forever would be known for that love of community.
“He just wanted to make a difference, and he wanted to make this a better place for people to live and raise their children,” she said. “He opened that service station in sixty-two, and daddy always referred to it as a service station; he did not like the term filling station.”
“Dad never referred to himself as a politician, but as a public servant.”
Rothenburger echoed that sentiment about Cubert’s commitment to public service.
“He and I worked on so many projects together, and he never once asked for anything back,” he said. “Most of the committees he served on were all volunteer; he just wanted to be involved. This was a man who, up until he became ill last week, was still currently serving on several boards.”
At a meeting in spring 2011 of the Shelby County Historical Society, at which four former mayors got together to reminisce about their accomplishments, Cubert said what made him the proudest during his term was the spirit of cooperation among governmental entities as they worked together on several projects, including a new city hall.
“This will be my twenty-eighth year in city government altogether,” he said. “I love this community, and I will continue to do what I can for as long as I can.”
Cubert served as interim mayor in 1995, after Mayor Neil Hackworth interrupted his term to take a position with the Kentucky League of Cities.
“He was a great guy; and a great person to work with, always very positive,” Hackworth said. “He was always ready to serve, and do whatever needed to be done. I can say this, he was the hardest working councilman I have ever seen. And he was a good friend, in the true sense of what the word ‘friend’ should really mean.”
Rothenburger, who was Shelbyville Fire Chief from 1997 to 2003, said he and Cubert shared a special friendship since day one.
“We just hit it off from the very start,” he said.
He recalled one time when he was out mowing grass in front of the fire station at 11th and Main and decided to go across the street and mow a tiny patch of grass in front of Cubert’s store.
“There was just a small strip of grass there in front, just about twenty inches wide,” he said. “And before I could even mow it, he comes running out of the store, waving his arms and saying, ‘Stop, Stop! I don’t want people to think I’ve got the fire department mowing for me.’ It would just have taken me ten seconds to mow that little strip. But he didn’t want anyone to think he was abusing his power. Integrity was so important to him.”
Rothenburger said he will miss Cubert’s regular visits.
“He would come by the office a couple of days and week, and we would just talk,” he said. “I’d say, ‘Sit down, Don, and I’ll bring you a cup of coffee.’ I knew exactly how he liked it. He liked a certain kind of sweetener, and I always keep it here for him.
“There’s a very empty place in my heart right now. He was my very dear friend, and no one can ever take his place.”