Kevin J. McKenna
1923 – 2018
Our father and grandfather Kevin passed peacefully on Sunday October 14th in Mount Forest, Ontario leaving behind his four children Lynne, Susan, John and Barry as well as ten grandchildren. He was predeceased by his beloved wife of 63 years Geraldine, who passed in 2015. Kevin’s unique life spanned 95 years and he witnessed or participated in an incredibly meaningful selection of human events.
Born in the small, rural farm community of Kelly’s Cross, PEI, Kevin grew up in a close-knit community that was largely comprised of the descendants of Irish immigrants who carved an existence out of PEI’s mid-island wilderness. There, he was influenced by a large extended family of cousins, the pioneering, and independent set of sensibilities that marked the small community, and the effects of the Great Depression. Life was harsh and creature comforts few. He spent time in his grandfather’s forge, which made him technically curious and took trips to “town”, which were by horse and wagon during that era. Kevin had a very close relationship with his sister Mary, and they both thrived in the local 1-room school.
When World War II erupted, the Commonwealth responded and Kevin enlisted in the Canadian Army. He served in Europe with the Royal Signal Corps for the duration of the war. He lived for several years away from “the Island”, but returned home after the war ended. Benefiting from his military service, Kevin attended Dalhousie University in Halifax and obtained a Commerce degree, which he later leveraged to pursue his Chartered Accountant designation. He was one of the two exam writers in his exam year, and he would sometimes joke about “placing second in the Province”, with a wry smile.
Somehow he managed to woo an attractive young woman named Geraldine Clarkin, and was married to her in 1953. After marriage, he and Geraldine made their way to start a new life in Ontario. Mother famously asked for a change of decision when first faced with the traffic as they traversed Montreal, which was at a volume and level of tumult that she had never seen before. Despite the cultural collision with modernity, they made their way to Ontario and lived in and around Lake Ontario, including Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Oshawa. Kevin worked in Audit, first with the Federal Government, and then with General Motors.
Kevin and Gerry had four children, systematically spaced between 1957 and 1966. Each of his children had a unique relationship with him, and gained some type of wisdom that they apply today in their own lives. Kevin was curious and exceptionally well informed, often researching topics of interest, and collecting pages of information which became part of his own ad hoc, and often unkempt, library. He was always working on a project, fixing a car, doing electrical work or thinking about modifying something – his forge experience always on display. He had an understated task-oriented approach to life, was never “showy” and not very emotive. Yet he was committed to his family, and never lost his connection to his sister and the place of his birth. The McKenna children would be bundled up and packed precariously for the 1700km trip to Stanhope, PEI each summer so that Kevin could reconnect with his sister and her family.
Although his faculties have been eroding the past few years, we will remember our father’s unrelenting pursuit of understanding and his practical, positive approach to life. In our era of constant technological change and instant gratification, Kevin’s life serves as a reminder that it is who we are that matters, not what we are or what we own.
|A tree will be planted in memory of Kevin J. McKenna in the Wall-Custance Memorial Forest, University of Guelph Arboretum. Dedication service, Sunday, September 15, 2019 at 2:30 pm.|