John Henry Kenner, Jr.
was the only son of the late Pastor John Henry Kenner Sr. (founding pastor the Grace Memorial Baptist Church in Washington, DC) and Malinda Grace Collins Kenner, born in Washington, DC on January 4, 1944. After many years of heath challenges, John peacefully entered Paradise on Sunday, April 19, 2020.
John married his high school sweetheart, Sandra Bedney on January 10, 1968. He was a loving husband and devoted father to their two daughters, Glenda Renee and Inga LaDawn, his grandsons, Lawrence and Lorenzo, his granddaughter, Bria and his great granddaughters, Amina and Kharma.
John adored his wife, Sandra—she was the love of his life. Sandra often bragged how he used to (out of the blue) shower her with “just because” gifts before he lost his sight. When he couldn’t physically buy her gifts, he made sure (with the help of Inga) she still received birthday, Christmas, Valentine’s and Mother’s Day gifts every year. John and Sandra had a unique marriage. They did not like the same things, yet they loved each other unconditionally. John often told the story of how Sandra did not like him when they first met. He said the only way he could get her to like him was to marry her. He was very humorous and jovial with a nonchalant manner. He didn’t let anything bother him.
John was a loving father and lavished his daughters, with love and with whatever they wanted. They would also go to him before going to their mother if they needed anything because they knew their daddy would say, “yes”. They were definitely “Daddy’s little girls”. Although he couldn’t see them, his grandchildren and great grandchildren were a joy to him. They could do no wrong, especially his granddaughter Bria (who spent a lot of time with him) and was the apple of his eye.
John was devoted son. However, his tardiness would infuriate his father. If dinner was scheduled for 4:00 pm, John would arrive at 6:00 pm without a care in the world. His mother often called him “Jonny Come Late” because this was a normal pattern of his. He had a special bond with his mother. The two of them would sit, laugh and talk for hours.
John graduated from Eastern High School where he was a track star and won many medals and awards during various track meets. He always loved bragging about how Eastern won all the championships in football, basketball and track meets in the early 1960’s.
Upon graduating from high school, John enlisted into the United States Marine Corp where he served for four years. After being honorably discharged from the Marine Corp, John joined the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department in July 1968. He served in many capacities during his 28 years with the department. He will be remembered most for being the Admin Officer for several Deputy Chiefs at the Sixth District.
John often volunteered to play Santa Claus for the department and delivered Christmas gifts to children at community centers. One year he appeared on the front page of the Washington Post newspaper when he arrived by police helicopter as Santa Claus at one of the sites.
When Queen Elizabeth of England was scheduled to tour the Sixth District area, John volunteered to cut the grass in front to the police station because the landscapers were on strike. He said he did not want the Sixth District Precinct to be embarrassed as her motor cade rode by.
As a young boy, John was a member of American Boys Scout. In 1976, he became a member of Redemption Lodge No. 24 of the Prince Hall Masonic Family where he participated in delivering Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets. Until he was unable to participate, he also was a loyal member of the Woodlawn Cemetery Perpetual Association, which is responsible for the restoration of the Woodlawn cemetery in Washington, DC.
John also served as the Police Liaison for the EASY PLACE COMMUNITY SQUARE NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH COMMITTEE for several years. He was very instrumental in providing his neighbors with sound advice regarding their safety and how to protect their property. Although he was not employed as a “street cleaner,” John would often go up and down his neighborhood street and alley picking up discarded trash.
John had the most unique personality and brought joy and laugher to almost everyone he met. If you asked him how he felt, he would reply, “Dirt Ball Bad” or he would say, “Do you want to know the whole story?” No one knows where he got those sayings from. He really didn’t have story to tell. When women would kiss on the check, he would tell them to kiss the other cheek or to hug him until they sweat.” As he would often would say, “To know me is to love me.” And that is what most people did—loved him!
John also served as Chairman of the Trustee Board at Grace Memorial Baptist Church for many years. You would have thought he was on duty 24/7 because if the church alarm went off at 2:30 am, he was right there to make sure everything was in order. Needless to say, it was always a strong wind that triggered the alarm to go off.
Many years ago, John created the church’s first database to maintain the church’s financial records on his “Tandy” computer. Church members would often tease him about his old “out--dated” computer, but he would simply reply, “his records were always accurate.”
Having a willingness to help others, John was a member of his church Missionary Ministry as well, where he worked diligently with the Shares Project. On share day, he enjoyed using his pick-up truck to go pick up food from the warehouse, bringing it back to the church, helping assemble the food and then delivering food baskets to the shut-in or to those who did not have transportation. He often did the deliveries alone because he would have long conversations with everyone who received a share basket. Plus, members of the Missionary Ministry referred to him as “motor mouth” and did not want to go with him.
When it was time to restock the food pantry at church or purchase food for an upcoming church event, none of the Missionaries wanted to go shopping with John. He always met someone in the store he knew and would talk to them for almost an hour.
Although John had medical challenges during the past several years, he never complained about his incapacity to do certain things. He always spoke of the future and what he would do for other when he hit the “power ball.” It was amazing how he refused to let his blindness keep him from doing things. He continued to help around the house in whatever capacity he could. He enjoyed going out to church, eating out and visiting family and friends. People did not feel sorry for him because he was always in good spirit and kept them laughing.
John will also be remembered as a friendly, outgoing man who would literally give you the shirt off his back. If it meant using his own money to buy food for families, clothes or toys for children he did not know, he would just do it. He did not want to be praised nor did he seek recognition for his good deeds.
On many occasions, he would loan his car, truck or van to anyone. If you needed temporary transportation, for any reason, ask John Kenner, Jr., and you had a ride. He refused to accept money for anything he did. His mother-in-law, the late Osceola Bedney, used to tell John, that when God made him, God threw away the mold (there was only one John H. Kenner, Jr.). She also said, “God had a special place in heaven for him.” He is now in that special place with God smiling down on all of us.
Gratitude and gratefulness will always be remembered for the unselfish assistance John received during his time of need from the following people: Inga McNeil, Mike McNeil, Bria McNeil, Lawrence Finch, Wilfred Haynes, Carlos Gorham, Louie White, Barbara Coker, Debra Coleman, Sharon Kelsey, Cynthia Boyd, Gloria Jefferson, Maria Goodwin, Wilfred Haynes, Jr., Anthony Coleman, Antoine Coleman, Rev. Clyde Hargraves and the late Sam Kelsey.
John’s loving memories will always be remembered by his devoted wife Sandra, daughters Glenda Renee Finch (Lloyd) and Inga LaDawn McNeil (Miqua); grandchildren Lawrence Finch, Lorenzo Finch (Tycheles) and Bria McNeil; great granddaughters Amina Finch and Kharma Finch; sister Sharon Kelsey; sisters-in-law Patricia Stevens (Vincent), Barbara Coker, Debra Coleman; brothers-in-law Bernard Bedney (aka: Jhute) and Elder Charles Bedney (Annie); special cousins Eula Edwards and Rosa Tillery and several other nieces, nephews, cousins, church family, many friends and the retired 6D family.
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