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For Dad - From the daughter who never realized she looked like you...

Kenny Allen, age 17 - 1934

Penny Allen, age 16 - 1963

Kenny Allen, age 22 - 1939

Eulogy delivered 1 June 1998, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Kenny Allen
6 Nov 1916 - 24 May 1998

When my sister and I were growing up, our Dad did all the things Dad’s are supposed to do. He cut the grass, climbed ladders to paint the house, he played catch with my sister and me in the backyard and taught us how to float in Lake Erie. He courageously taught us to how to drive the family car - though he himself always had to use a custom gas pedal so he could drive with his left foot. Most of all, Dad loved planning and taking us on wonderful vacations every summer... Sometimes - thinking back - I’m amazed that he was able to do all those things because I’m told he had a severe limp when he walked - though I rarely remember noticing it.

Some of you who have known my Dad long enough to go back before his more recent “sit down days” in the electric scooter and the wheelchair or the “assisted days” with the walker or the cane... you might remember that limp and may have wondered why he didn’t walk like most other people. Dad didn’t talk about it much, but here’s what I know:

In 1917, when he was 8 months old, Dad contracted polio - long before polio was well known to the general public. Over his growing up years, he went through a long series of hospitalizations and surgeries to help him walk better. Nothing ever slowed him down.

Dad graduated from High School in 1934 but continued an additional year to give him the classes he needed to attend Ohio State University. While in Columbus he held down as many as three jobs at a time to pay for his tuition, room and board while majoring in accounting. During the four years Dad spent at Ohio State, he walked everywhere on that enormous campus. The only concession he made to his disability was to always choose swimming for his PE requirement.

I remember a hearing a story about how - when Dad first came to Akron - he had his first job interview with Firestone. Apparently, the people in personnel there couldn’t see past Dad’s limp and turned him down despite having both a college degree and previous experience. Their loss was Goodyear’s gain, for Dad started with Goodyear soon afterwards in a “lowly” position and ended his career 37 years later when he retired as manager of the General Accounting Department at their world headquarters in Akron.

In 1974, Dad was honored by the Hilltop Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association as their “Boss of the Year.” His secretary had nominated him for this honor with the following words: “Mr. Allen makes me feel that my job is a privilege. In the five years I have worked for him I have never seen him show anger in any way, shape or form. He’s honest, considerate, fair, courteous and dedicated. He’s just a very nice man who always has time to listen.” My sister and I - and I’m sure all of you - would echo these same words as they describe Kenneth “Kenny” Allen - our dad.

One characteristic Lela left out of her description of Dad was his sense of humor. Some of you who were at the funeral home last Thursday evening may have seen the Goodyear necktie covered with Dad’s many service pins. What you may not know is that when Dad received his 35 year pin, he had six other pins already attached to his tie and hidden under his suit coat so no one could see them. As he was called forward to receive what was to be his last service pin, Dad unbutton his coat and pulled both sides back in such a way that all could catch a glimpse of all the hardware holding his tie down.

More recently, a friend from his Sunday School class shared a story with me that is typical of Dad. She said that just before he left home to be cared for at the Hospice, she was visiting him and remarked that there was something about his hair and appearance that reminded her of Tony Randall. Dad told her that he didn’t care who he looked like as long as it was somebody “good looking.” Dr. Waller... you may remember asking Dad - back in April - how he liked his caregivers at the Hospice. Dad’s response was that they “Kill you with kindness.” Something about the way he answered your question made us all laugh.

I need to digress a little to share the most important part of Dad’s life. After moving to Akron, he joined the YMCA Hiking Club - possibly because of a certain young woman named Gretchen Hermann whom he had taken a fancy to after a chance meeting in separate canoes in the middle of Turkeyfoot Lake - after Dad had lost his shoes in the water. Whenever the Hiking Club had an outing - no matter where they went or how long they hiked, Dad managed to keep up with the group. I don’t know that he ever kept up with Gretchen however. Dad and Mom were married on July 29, 1945, after a two year engagement. I came along a year and a half later and my sister, Pam, arrived 13 months after my birth.

Mom and Dad’s marriage was characterized - during the last half of their 52 years - by their dependence on one another as Dad began to lose his mobility due to post-polio syndrome and Mom her eyesight from macular degeneration. Yet, in 1970, the beginning of those interdependence years, they traveled by plane to Spain to meet their first grandchild. The last big trip they made together - other than the annual treks to their winter home in Lakeland, Florida, was in 1986, when they flew to the South Pacific when my husband and I were living in American Samoa.

In the early 1980s, partially due to my interest in family history, I asked Dad many “searching” questions about his early years in East Liverpool, Ohio. One of the treasures of his childhood that he often spoke of was a hymnbook that had been given to him as a gift in 1928 by the Billy Sunday Crusade team after a four week tent crusade during which Dad helped sell books. Every member of the crusade team including Billy Sunday, Albert Peterson and Homer Rodeheaver, signed the book with kind words, a scripture or a thought personalized for then 12 year old Kenneth.

Exactly two weeks ago, I went to visit my dad and took along this book which he had passed down to me to treasure many years ago. Though Dad was barely able to talk that Monday afternoon, his eyes lit up when he saw what I had carried in and laid on his lap. He gently ran his hands over the cover. I asked Dad if he had a favorite hymn and he quietly but clearly replied: “Brighten the Corner Where You Are.” The first verse of this old gospel tune reads: "Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do, Do not wait to shed your light afar, To the many duties ever near you now be true, Brighten the corner where you are." Funny, now that I think about it - these words really paint a true picture of Dad.

Those of you who knew him I’m sure would agree that Kenny Allen did brighten his corner...whether it was at his office at Goodyear, his chair in the corner of the family room, or his bed at the Hospice Care Center. It was no surprise for us to hear nurses there referring to Dad as the “resident sweetheart.” Dad always enlivened the conversation of those who stopped by. He always had a smile on his face and a kind word for all who came to see him.

After Dad’s mother and step-father died, we found a letter that Grandma had saved over the years that helped us see a little of Dad as a boy of 5 1/2 - living far away from home while being treated for the sometimes debilitating symptoms of his contagious disease... Here is what it said:

Gates Hospital
Elyria, Ohio
May 11 - 1922

Dear Mrs. Allen:

I am writing for your dear little boy Kenneth, but I will write a few lines, knowing you are anxious to know his condition.

Kenneth's appetite is good and his exercises are doing him a great deal of good, yet the Dr. does not allow him to walk much, as he is too active and would undo the good done.

He is a very lovable little boy and we are all very fond of him. Following is what he requested me to write you.

Dear Mama:

I am writing to ask you to please send me a box of candy and cookies.

I am discharged, but we are in quarantine, so I would see you on the steps if you come to see me.

I have massage and exercise every day and like Miss Bartlett. I don't cry for you but would like to see you very much.

We sleep out of doors at night when it does not rain and I like it; we have good things to eat too. I send lots of love and kisses to you and Leonard.

Kenneth

Supervisor of Gates Hospital
D. Gil-Martin

In 1922, the nurses at Gates Hospital massaged his legs because of Polio... 75 years later, in the last few months of his life, the Hospice nurses massaged these same legs with Ibuprofen cream to relieve the pain of cancer. Just as he had when a boy, in the last few weeks of his life, Dad still had cravings for candy and cookies - though a few weeks ago he was careful to specify chocolate and exactly what kind he wanted. He still had favorite nurses who not only touched his heart, but ours as well - by their love and devotion to him. I can safely say that Dad had pretty much lived all of his 81 years on an even keel. He had never felt sorry for himself and had gone out of his way to put those around him at ease. Even after the four of us listen to the doctor’s diagnosis of bone cancer last Fall, Dad broke the silence by sharing that he “had never expected to live this long anyway.” It was his way of saying that he had lived a good life and gotten much more out of it than he had expected.

Dad was just as "lovable" at 81 as he was as a 5 1/2 year old. The corner won’t be quite as bright now that he’s gone...

Penny Allen Nelson

Penny Allen, age 21 - 1968

Kenny Allen, age 22 - 1939

See Penny's ALLEN FAMILY Page


Penny Allen Nelson

Spokane, WA

pennyallennelson@comcastREMOVE.net

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