In Memory

Ken McKean

I was - and still am - shocked to learn of Ken's passing. We were close friends during the 70s and 80s but fell out of touch over the last 20 years. 

Ken and I met in 1974 when we were both grad students sharing an apartment stairwell in Durham, NC. We found we had much in common and met often to play tennis, watch football, or just enjoy a meal or a beer. We got together regularly while Ken was in MBA school at UNC, and continued to see each other occasionally in NC or in CA after he moved back to the Bay Area. We particularly enjoyed ski trips to Tahoe.

My wife Jerri and I stayed with Ken and Chris at their San Leandro house during our honeymoon trip to SF in 1982, and visited again five years later when they lived in Piedmont and we both had young children. We exchanged cards for several years but gradually fell out of touch. 

It makes it harder for me to realize Ken's passing, since the last time we saw one another was a happy occasion when both of us were much younger. I tried contacting Ken in 2012, when we went to CA for our 30th anniversary. Unfortunately we were not able to connect; perhaps he was already ill at that time. Ken and I shared important passages in both our lives, and I miss him. 

Larry Meisner

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12/24/14 10:33 AM #1    

Phil Hersey (Hersey)

Ken, you were a good mentor and friend to me for last 30 years. I notice you are pretty handsome as a young man! See you again perhaps on the other side. Phil

01/10/15 12:50 PM #2    

Lucille Lang (Day)

I met Ken at Beach School when we were five years old. In my memoir, Married at Fourteen, which documents all of the worst things I did as a child and adolescent, I recalled a fight we had in kindergarten:

I walked home almost every day with towheaded Ken, who wore jeans a couple of sizes too big with suspenders and rolled cuffs. One day as we poked along Lake Avenue, he said, “My big brother could beat up anyone in the world.”

 “He couldn’t beat up my daddy.”

 “Oh yes he could. My big brother could beat up your daddy any day.”

 “Oh no he couldn’t, but I could beat you up!” I said, pushing him into the gutter as we turned the corner from Lake onto Greenbank. I kicked him until he fell down. Then I started hitting him with a stick. I wanted to put him in his place for bragging and insulting my daddy. When he started to cry, I dropped the stick and ran the rest of the way home.

That afternoon Ken and his mother came to my house. His mother told my mother I’d beaten him up and ought to be punished. I said it wasn’t true. She said, “My son never lies. He knows he’d get his mouth washed out with soap and water if he did.”

After they left, my mother asked again, “Did you do it?  If you tell me the truth, I won’t punish you.”

 “Yes,” I admitted. Then she whipped my behind.

Needless to say, Ken didn’t want to walk home from school with me anymore. Surprisingly, though, he was always kind to me throughout our elementary school years, even after some of the other boys started teasing me. Maybe he just didn’t want to incur my wrath again, but I think the truth was that he was a sweet kid.

He was popular in elementary school, and many of the girls had a crush on him. He was good in both sports and academics, and also very creative. Our sixth grade teacher, Mrs. O’Gara, gave some of us the opportunity to have individual art exhibits in the hallway leading from the lower-grade classes to the auditorium. When it was Ken’s turn, he did a series of abstract finger paintings that everyone raved about as though he were the next Jackson Pollock.

Ken became an engineer rather than an artist, though. I ran into him again as we were walking in opposite directions through Sather Gate when we were both undergraduates at Berkeley. He was studying electrical engineering; I was majoring in biology. He congratulated me for being at Berkeley after my high school hiatus, and we talked about our studies and all the protests on campus. Both of us were more focused on getting our degrees than on changing the world, but I think it was enlightening for us to be around so many radicals.

I saw Ken again at our 20th and 30th high school reunions, and before the 30th, he hosted a mini-reunion for our Beach School class. After that, we never lost touch with each other again. As a teenager, his daughter Susan volunteered at the Hall of Health, the health museum I ran in Berkeley, and Ken, a good and concerned father, came by to visit many times. This gave us an opportunity to renew our friendship. We talked about everything from nonprofit management to parenthood and why marriages fail. By then Ken was doing financial management, and he had ideas for fundraising for the museum.

At my 50th birthday party, I mentioned the fight we had in kindergarten. I would have apologized, but by then he didn’t even remember it. I think that’s just as well! We were also there to share memories and cake on each other’s 60th birthdays. Ken came to some of my poetry readings, too, including one the day after our 40th high school reunion.

I was shocked and saddened to learn about his death. I realized that I had seen him every decade of my life, from the ’50s through the new millennium, and had shared numerous happy occasions with him. The kindergarten fight was the only argument we ever had. I feel fortunate to have known him.

03/14/15 09:26 PM #3    

David Harper

Ken and I first were classmates in second grade at Beach School in 1955. We continued to be friends all through Junior High, High School, and through his years at Cal and mine at Stanford. Also for a few years after graduation in his marriage to his college sweetheart Brenda. We played on the same Oakland Recreation Department baseball and basketball teams through his church teams at Plymouth Church at Oakland Ave and Monte Vista, where I understand he was the organist. My understanding is that he then moved East and started medical school at Duke after his degree in electrical engineering at Cal. I believe he then switched to UNC Chapel Hill and got his MBA. I don't think I saw him again until our 30th PHS reunion, when he hosted a pre-reunion for our Beach School classmates at the home he shared with his wife Chris and their three girls on Magnolia Ave., right next to the Middle School. And then just recently when I was transitioning back to the Bay Area from Portland, and he graciously offered a room when I came down for Stanford football games and to search for housing. Ken was always a good student and good athlete. But in the early years, when I spent after school hours at football, basketball, baseball and track, Ken had to go home and practice the piano. Now that why he went on to play the organ in the PHS talent show and at Plymouth Church and also Piedmont Community Church. He in his spare time was also an Eagle Scout. He finally got to play sports at Piedmont his senior year where he joined us on the track team and high jumped 5'10" and was on our record setting high jump team at the San Ramon Relays. He told me that he regretted not being able to participate in sports earlier. At Cal, he became a quite adequate sprinter, getting his 100 yd dash time down to close to 10.1 seconds. When I reconnected with Ken about two years ago, he was a licensed Fiduciary with offices in downtown Piedmont. Ken died in November of 2014. He is at Mountain View with several generations of his long time Bay Area family. He is survived by his daughters, Susan, Stephanie, and Jessica. I will always remember him as the bright individual he was, and the caring friend who shared his home to get his old friends and classmates together again, and offered a bed to an old friend and weary traveller. Rest in peace Ken, David Harper

09/26/15 05:21 PM #4    

Dave Corporandy

I will always remember Ken as a good friend.  During our college years, Ken and I worked summers for PG&E. Ken and I commuted together, and Ken would always arrive at my house with only 10 minutes to get to the Oakland office.  We always made the trip on time; as Ken would blast through traffic in his trusty Ford Maverick.  I also remember Ken as an accomplished organ player.

09/27/15 08:05 AM #5    

Owen Hoskinson

He was also very fast and one of the hardest guys to tackle during our Saturday or Sunday morning football games at Witter Field.

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