Thursday, March 27, 2008

Grandpa Kennington

I wrote an article about Grandpa for our "Greatest Generation" Crossroads issue. He was fun to interview and he got all dressed up just for the interview.

From the moment you walk into his rustic wood house you can get a feel for what kind of a man William Hugh Kennington is. He is the kind of man who has worked hard to build that rustic home for his family. A man who has a love for animals judging by his friendly cat, Whiskers. A man who values his family with pictures covering the refrigerator and walls, along with mementoes from various parts of the world he has visited.
After speaking with Kennington these predictions were confirmed.
He was born on May 2, 1925 which now makes him 82 years old. But even at his age he still helps out around Kennington Farms and tends his one acre garden in the spring and summer. He may have discovered his love for gardening through the family farm he grew up on in Star Valley Wyoming. He was one of eight children, with two of his siblings still living. His father, whom Kennington is named after, had an eighth grade education and he is not sure if his mother, Luella, graduated from high school. His older brother now owns the original Star Valley family farm and his brother's son runs it.
The war would change his outlook on life, especially the discovery that not all climates were like the often-snowbound Star Valley. He knew he wanted to settle in a place where he could expand his love of growing things.
"Well, I was in the Marine Corps during W.W.II and I was in the South Pacific, and I found there was something besides snowballs. I wanted to go some place you could raise tomatoes and corn," he said.
Kennington enlisted in to Marine Corps at the age of 18 because he said everybody else had gone. Eventually he found himself stationed on Tinian Island in the Pacific. He said he spent most of his time in anti-aircraft making sure the air fields weren't disturbed.
"We guarded the air fields. I ran the search light," he said.
Tinian Island is where the airfield that the Enola Gay, the airplane that dropped the atomic bomb, took off from. He said he was there when both atomic bombs were dropped, changing the course of the war.
"We were a thankful group because instead of going to Japan I came
home," Kennington said.
After two years of service he returned to the United States and while still in San Francisco, Kennington met his future wife, Carol. She was 19 years old when he met her and she had already graduated from the University of California at Berkely with a degree in Chemistry. She later used her degree to work at the sugar
factory in Nyssa as a chemist for several years. He met her at church in Berkely and asked if he could walk her home and meet her mother.
Three days later he proposed and they got married on September 4, 1946 in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Idaho Falls Temple in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He was 21 at the time and started college at Utah State University in Logan.
He pursued his degree in Animal Husbandry and learned the feeding, breeding and care and management of cattle. His graduation on February 27, 1950 marked a simultaneously joyous and heart-wrenching day for Kennington.
"The day that my Father died. I called him to tell him he had a first kid go through college. My mother told me it was too late, he had died earlier that day," he said.
Kennington didn't let his loss deter him from finding a farm and home where he could grow his corn and tomatoes and raise a family. While passing through Ontario on the way to the Willamette Valley, another prime farming community, Kennington fell in love with the Snake River Valley's rural setting. He said it was September and the beets were still in the ground and the farmers were on their third cutting of hay.
"It was beautiful," he said.
He started out with 80 acres and a few cows on the Lincoln Heights bench, taking much of the land out of sagebrush. Kennington Farms now consists of 320 acres but they aren't milking the cows by hand as he did 58 years ago.
"We started out with just a few (cows). We milk about 130 now, I think," he said.
After settling his family in a basement house that came with the original 80 acre property, Kennington enlarged it to the five bedroom home he now lives in by himself. He said he used laminated two by sixes for the floor and walls and the roof is made out of laminated two by fours. The lumber for the entire house cost $700 which Kennington said was less than the cost of the nails.
"When you're poor you build a house the best you can," he said.
After living in Ontario for 58 years Kennington says he has lots and lots of good memories. Many of those memories are center around his seven children, all of whom helped out on the farm while growing up.
"They all learned how to work here on the farm," he said.
His children not only learned to work on the farm, they also learned the importance of education through Kennington and his wife's example of obtaining a college education. All seven of their children attended college and six of them graduated from college. His oldest son, Clinton, returned to the farm after graduation and became a partner in Kennington Farms. In the near future two of Kennington's grandsons will be working towards obtaining ownership of the family farm, which will mark the third generation of Kenningtons.
"It's nice to have Clint come back and now there will be two grandsons come back," Kennington said.
Now that Kennington's children are all grown, and now even some of his grandchildren, he likes to visit them along with doing family history, helping out on the farm, gardening and of course taking care of his cat which he said his daughter gave to him to keep him company.
"Charlotte gave me that cat," Kennington said.
He said he enjoys Whisker's company and since the house he built does not have a door to the master bedroom, Whiskers has free roam of Kennington's room at night. Kennington said he doesn't mind sharing his bed with his feline friend, but sometimes he keeps him awake at night.
"He sleeps or walks all over, whichever he wants. He is a nice cat."
Kennington said Whiskers keeps him company because his wife Carol passed away two years ago from cancer. He said he misses her and it has been hard adjusting to living alone for the first time in his life.
"The toughest part of my life is my wife dying two years ago. It's different, there's nothing like it," he said.
While his wife was alive they enjoyed traveling to different parts of the United States and the world. They visited Canada, Arizona, North Carolina, the Pacific Islands where he was stationed during the war, Germany, Washington D.C. and Argentina, to name a few. His daughter Charlotte married a man from Argentina and he and Carol accompanied their family on a visit there.
"Argentina was nice," he said.
Though he said he has enjoyed traveling, now he prefers going short distances just to visit family members from time to time. His seven children all live in Oregon and Idaho, which is a great comfort to him. When he is not visiting he enjoys doing the things he says a person does when they retire, which in his case are planting his large garden and sharing his vegetables with friends and family and enjoying the land he worked hard to obtain.


Tygogal said...

See please here

Snigger Fam said...

Thank you for that Brielle!!! That was wonderful!!! I didn't know his dad died the day he graduated. Wow.

Alycia said...

great article...very interesting. Are you missing Wiskers?

ali said...

How cool to see this blog about Uncle Hugh. My mom, Gayle, adored him and enjoyed his visits to Star Valley. I am in a genealogy class right now, and my search for Luella Kennington brought up your blog. Good job! Hey, I'm a cat lover too Uncle Hugh!
Alison in Star Valley