Town's response is the real tribute to Ken Kern
By Randy Bell
One word summed up my reactions Saturday morning when I learned that Ken Kern had died.
How could it be? Just the day before we sat together at a Chamber of Commerce lunch meeting discussing civic plans and upcoming events.
But,the more I thought about it,how could it have been other wise? Of course Ken Kern was actively involved in community affairs even up to the day of his death.He was involved everyday,day after day, year after year.
Mayor, Alderman, Chamber of Commerce officer, business leader, Lions Club officer and active member ,civil leader, driving force of the Rural Housing Project,leader in the local Catholic Church, a key person in our town having the new Senior Center. The list could go on and on. There was little in our town that this man's life didn't touch.
On first impression Kern had a gruff and abrupt manner and I admit that in my first couple of weeks here at the Review I was a bit pit off by those mannerisms. But also in those early days I noticed how often our paths crossed. If, as a reporter, you were going to cover affairs of our community you were going to ran into Kern. If, as a citizen, you were going to take an active part in civic activities Kern was also going to be there.I soon decided I needed to get to know this man better.
I'm glad I did.I soon came to respect him. Respect for his knowledge and keen mind,respect for the devotion and efforts for the betterment of our town and respect for the countless hours he gave to Rich Hill . Very soon I came to see that the gruffness was not very deep and that underneath it was a kind heart and a generous nature. With the respect grew that most treasured item, friendship with Ken and Kathy.
I won't insult the memory of this fine man by making this tribute syrupy sweet. Ken was not a syrupy sweet guy.Many of us came to appreciate his importance in our community, but I doubt that any of us ever told him so.
That probably suited Kern. He was more interested in what we were going to do than say.
He would be much more moved by the work that went into the Catholic Church the last few days than this or any other tribute. Saturday morning word began to spread that we had lost an important person in our town. There followed a few hours of numbness.
Then the idea grew that the new Catholic Church was not all that far from being completed. The church had been an important element in Ken Kern's life and he had looked forward to the completion of the new building.Saturday afternoon people began to showing to work. Each in their way did what they could to get the church ready for his funeral Wednesday.It speaks well of Ken,it speaks well of them.They tell me it was his heart that failed him and maybe physically that's true. But I think it was his heart that carried him and along the way brought a lot of good to our town.
He will be missed.