Kenneth Neal Kermes, age 87, of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, died peacefully on Sept 7, while at HopeHealth Hulitar Hospice Center.
Ken’s favorite words to say were “thank you” and “I appreciate it” and in typical fashion those were his parting words to his family and nurses at the time of his death.
Born May 21, 1935, in Lafayette, Indiana, Ken was on the move living in numerous places before settling down with his family in Darien. After graduating in 1953 from Darien High School, Ken left for Amherst College where he played football and was an accomplished track and field star along with being a class leader.
Immediately following graduation Ken enlisted in the Navy and attended flight training school in Pensacola, Florida to learn the “art” of take-offs and landings. He was commissioned as a Naval carrier pilot and assigned to the carrier U.S.S. Independence while stationed in Norfolk, Virginia and Quonset, Rhode Island. Ken also attended New York University for graduate school and later in his career Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management School.
In 1958, during his first year of flight training, Ken married his high school sweetheart Susan Pennock. Before ending his military commitments and starting his business career, Ken and Sue first had Suzanne (Suki) and then Rob.
In 1961, Ken started a 50-year career in business and active community engagement. Ken had executive leadership positions at Chase Manhattan Bank, General Foods Corp, Monsanto Company, Lone Star Industries, Ralston Purina Company, Black & Decker and Smithkline Beecham plc. Ken’s “first retirement” occurred in 1992. Ken was also a board member of numerous public and private companies throughout his career.
In retirement Ken and Sue settled in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, where he started his “second career.” Ken continued his executive leadership roles with South County Hospital, University of Rhode Island and Brown & Sharpe, always looking to find the company or organization that could benefit from his skills while never being afraid of a challenge. At every stop, Ken met people who positively shaped his life forever.
When Ken wasn’t working, he and Sue were very busy helping support numerous charitable or educational organizations. Ken was a past board member of St. Louis University, Goucher College, Baltimore Symphony, YMCA of Greater St. Louis, Fox Chase Cancer Center and Bradley Hospital.
More importantly when someone asked Ken and Sue for support, they typically said, “how can we help” and warmly solicited others to support the cause. Among other organizations they provided the founding equity support for the South Kingstown Education Foundation.
There was no place he felt more passionate about than HopeHealth Hospice Center and South County Hospital for which Ken served as a board member and chairman. Ken and Sue were awarded honorary doctorate degrees in 2006 from the University of Rhode Island for their commitment to giving.
Ken is survived by his wife of 64 years, Susan Pennock Kermes; his children, Suzanne Tobin and Rob (Janet) Kermes; his grandchildren: Elizabeth (Karl) Koehler, Christopher (Shelby) Tobin, RJ Kermes and Elle Kermes; plus three great grandchildren, Noel, Russell and Arthur. Ken’s brothers, Jim and Thom, survive him. He was predeceased by his sister, Jane Ann.
Ken loved to support charitable causes and encourages others to do so as well. In lieu of flowers, Ken would be most “thankful” if you considered South County Hospital, HopeHealth Hulitar Hospice Center or the The Chris Collins Foundation. Chris Collins was an accomplished South Kingstown athlete, attended Amherst College and battled anxiety and depression before he died by suicide in 2018. He was an inspiration to many, and Ken loved to put energy into the good cause of supporting today’s youth.
A Celebration of Life will take place at 1:30 p.m., Oct. 8, 2022, at The Dunes Club in Narragansett, Rhode Island.
— This obituary is from the Avery-Storti Funeral Home, where online condolences may be left.