Kenneth Paul Lucien, Sr. died peacefully at home in the early hours of May 9th with his loving family at his side.
Born October 6, 1919 in Aberdeen, South Dakota to Matthew and Mary Catherine who met in America as immigrants from Luxemburg, Kenney was sixth of nine children and the last surviving member of his generation.
Growing up on the North Side of Aberdeen during the Great Depression was challenging. He, along with his last surviving brother Charlie, entertained friends and family over his lifetime with stories of their resourcefulness in survival during those days.
Tall and slim, Kenney became an accomplished athlete at a young age. After completing Central High School in 1938, he was awarded a basketball scholarship to North Dakota University where he pledged Beta Theta Pi Fraternity. He worked three jobs while there to make ends meet. Over the years, whenever complimented on some piece of clothing he was wearing, he would reply with a twinkle in his eye that it had to be “back by midnight,” a comedic reference to those days in college when it was indeed the case.
In his second year of college, Kenney met Mary Jeanne Hogan who became in an instant the love of his life. Over the years he would affectionately refer to her as a “Keeper” and he certainly proved it. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in December of 2010.
During World War II, Kenney enlisted in the United States Navy. After training at Great Lakes Naval Station in Chicago, he went on to serve for two years as Seaman First Class on the aircraft carrier USS Monterey. He sailed out of the Port of Baltimore through the Panama Canal to the Pacific where he served in every major sea conflict while stationed aboard the carrier before going on to Officer’s Training in 1945. It was from his naval service that Kenney began a deep love and devotion for his country as evidenced by an American flag ever present on his lapel.
After leaving the service, Kenney debated his opportunity to attend the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Finance. Instead, in 1946, Kenney and Jeanne settled with their young family in Billings where he joined Rector & Brant Cattle Company. Later he came a principal in L.R. Rector Cattle Company. With no prior knowledge of the cattle industry, he became a livestock broker respected and admired across the Mid-West for the breadth of his expertise in the industry. One of his colleagues remarked, “The respect for Kenney and his ethics were such that he could buy for four different competitor packers at the same time with none of them thinking they were not getting the best deal of the day.”
Kenney was Captain of the Billings Merchants Baseball Team playing both pitcher and 2nd base. He also played basketball in the Recreational League for Shadoan’s Men’s Store. The team won the 1947-48 Championship. Later, he played for the Billings Stockman who went on to win a State Championship leading to competition in Denver and Oklahoma City.
In 1983, Kenney suffered a near fatal heart attack. His eventual recovery was due, in large measure, to the outstanding care he received at St Vincent’s Hospital and the Billings Clinic as well as the remarkable skill of one young Dr. Tim Dernbach. Kenney, always the athlete, then became an enthusiastic and disciplined participant at St. V’s Rehabilitation Center, continuing even after suffering a debilitating stroke in1998.
Kenney’s passion for the game of golf began at the Hilands Club when he became a member in 1952, serving two terms on the board. He played regularly with his best mate Tom Lynch. A ‘hole-in-one’ is a golfer’s thrill of a lifetime. Kenney scored two. He was also an avid fisherman and greatly anticipated every duck and Canada geese-hunting season. In later years, he preferred not to shoot anything but would go out with his friends for the great camaraderie they enjoyed.
Kenney and Jeanne became well traveled as empty nesters. The highlight of those travels were visits to the D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches and attending Christmas Eve Vigil at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
He was a member of St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral for 65 years, a supporter of the Billings Area Catholic Education Trust and 4th Degree Member of the Knights of Columbus. Kenney was also a member of the Benevolent Order of Elks Lodge 394, Billings Golden K Kiwanis, Life Member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary #6774 and the American Legion Yellowstone Post #4 and Charter Member of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association.
At his 90th birthday celebration, family and friends over many decades gathered from near and far. There was a common theme to the speeches and tributes which spoke to his core values: a gracious and consummate gentleman, his generosity, tolerance and uncompromising integrity: “You have lived your life properly and with precision”, one colleague said. His wit and self-deprecating sense of humor were ever present to his final hours. His favorite adage “Life is too short to be small” was a quip from Benjamin Disraeli that Kenney drew upon in facing any challenge. And so he was magnanimous in all his dealings with people – in his giving and forgiving alike. He couldn’t give enough.
His family was everything to him. His grandchildren recall with delight his ever-present smile, gentleness and hands-on presence with them in London every Christmas and major life event in their childhood.
His family is deeply appreciative of his caregivers from Visiting Angels. Their devotion to him, their skilled and loving care brightened everyday and brought him much happiness.
His beloved son, Kenneth Paul Lucien, Jr. who died suddenly in 2006, predeceased Kenney. He is survived by his devoted wife Mary Jeanne, daughters Angela and Jane (Robert Scholle, Sr.), grandchildren Katherine, Juliana and Robert Scholle, Jr. and his sister-in-law, Jackie Lutgen. He also leaves many nieces and nephews in whose lives he always took great interest: Pete, Anne, Matthew and Paul Lutgen, Bridget (Kingsford), Susan (Drawbaugh), J.J (Kaye); Susan, Alex and Tom Schaeffer, Mary-Jeanne (Fincher), Rose Mary, Michael, Mark and David Santori; Lewis Jr., Mary Jeanne (Haumesser), John, Marilyn (Card) and Bill Rector.
There will be a Funeral Mass concelebrated at St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral on June 4th at 10:00 am with Rite of Committal and Military Honors at Yellowstone Valley Memorial Park.
Should friends desire, memorials may be made to the charity of one’s choice.