The Remembrance Project: Wayne Kennen

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For a quiet person who didn’t like being seen, Wayne Kennen couldn’t be missed. He reached 6 feet tall as a boy, with a waist so tiny it was hard to find fitting pants. He didn’t want to be heard, either. In conversation, there were always long pauses, while the family waited for him to say something.

Yet at the same wordless time, he was utterly involved in the lives of those he loved. When he and his younger sister were infants, sharing a bedroom in separate cribs, he used to hop his crib over to hers, then vault into it, so that they could be together.

When he was 20, and his mother was pregnant with her fifth child, his father died suddenly. Quietly, of course, Wayne rose up, and took over.

Wayne Kennen's high school photo. (Courtesy June Kennen Blair)
Wayne Kennen's high school photo. (Courtesy June Kennen Blair)

He taught his younger siblings to camp and fish, shuttling them around in a van with orange shag carpet on the ceiling and window curtains he’d sewed himself. A proud 8-track blaring Olivia Newton John made the rare loud noise.

He lived protectively at home until he married. Then, with a wife and two young children, he commuted two hours each way to work, where he engineered submarine parts. Brother, father, designer, commuter: tremendous fatigue was natural. But in Wayne's case, it was also renal failure.

This time, family rose up to meet him. A sister donated the first kidney. It lasted 10 years. The second kidney, from his only brother, lasted long enough for Wayne to have a third daughter, and to sew dance costumes for their pleasure, as he had once sewed curtains for his own. It was also long enough for him to track down and purchase the trailer his father had driven on family trips decades earlier. In beautiful repetition, Wayne drove it on family trips with his own children and grandchildren.

When he died on May 21 in Warren, Massachusetts, it was 30 years after his first kidney transplant, 20 years after his second, and two days after his 65th birthday.

Did you know Wayne Kennen? Share your memories in the comments section.


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