Saturday, September 5, 2020

Ken Nolan 11/1/1943 - 9/4/2020

 How to eulogize my brother?  I've puzzled about it, sometimes in teary sadness, sometimes with a grin or chuckle remembering a funny incident.  I've been busying myself all day trying to let the words form and reform before I wrote them down.  It's time. 

There was an article in the Oneonta Star some years ago calling him a Renaissance Man.  He was.  Mason, teacher, writer, inventor, politician, judge ... he was all that.  And more.  Husband, father, grandfather, volunteer firefighter, hero, friend to most, enemy to very few and never by his choosing.

When we were growing up, he always claimed to be the dumb one among the five siblings, actually among the three oldest: me the firstborn, Ken, a year and eleven months younger, and Maureen, his twin and five minutes younger (something he never let her forget.)  The other sibs, Mary and Martha, were eight and twelve years younger than Maureen — kind of a second family.

Ken went from a fun-living fourteen-year-old to a person intimately aware of his mortality, in just a few minutes, when the 1957 Chevy in which he was a passenger almost made the left turn from Route 23 in West Oneonta noto Otsdawa Road.  It hit a massive tree head on, totaling the car and driving the shift lever into his left eye, destroying the optic nerve and fracturing his eye socket. 

His 9/5 obituary tells the story of Ken better than I can.  It was sent to me this morning about 8:30.  Here is an excerpt from the Oneonta Daily Star:


GILBERTSVILLE - "The Renaissance Man" Kenneth "Ken" J. Nolan passed away on Sept. 4, 2020, at home with the love of his life, Barbara, and family members at his side.

Born Nov. 11, 1943, in Jamaica, New York, to Thomas and Violet (Mahnken) Nolan, the Nolans moved to Gilbertsville, avillage Ken loved so very dearly, in his youth.

Ken graduated from Gilbertsville Central School with the Class of 1961, before graduating from the State University ofNew York teachers college at Oneonta. Ken also earned college credits from Chicago Tech and the College ofTechnology in Utica.

A proud union member, Ken joined the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsman Local 57, Oneonta, in 1964. In 1975, he formed the Ken Nolan Construction Co., a business specializing in restoration, operating until 2010. His proudest restoration projects included local stone walls, fireplaces, bridges and schools. Ken was a Master Mason (26 years) with the Laurens Lodge 0548.

In 1978 Ken began his (official) teaching career as a guilding trades teacher at the BOCES center in Masonville. Many of Otsego County's finest craftsmen learned their skills from Ken. He was a member of SUNY Delhi's advisory board. In 1990,he was commissioned by the state Department of Education to help author the vocational education math program for the state's curriculum. His teaching career lasted 28 years, when he retired from the Otsego Northern Catskills BOCES in 2006.  The dedication plaque he received upon retiring read, "You made a difference."

On Sept. 23, 1997, Ken saved a moving bus full of students from crashing into the Susquehanna River when the driver suffered a heart attack. When interviewed about his heroic deed he remarked humbly, "I don't see why it's such a big deal." It was a big deal, but he wasn't a person who needed or accepted praise from anyone.

His keen attention to detail encouraged him to develop and invent two unique grout compressing and finishing tools. Both of his inventions were patented, and on a third he obtained a document of disclosure. Ken published five original books, including a collection of construction manuals still being used today. Ken also enjoyed sculpting in his free time. His most recent mixed media piece is on display at the Dunderberg Art Gallery in Gilbertsville.

In addition to being a loving husband, father, teacher, business owner, author and artist, Ken was also a committed public servant. An original member of the Gilbertsville Fire and Emergency Department, he joined the squad in 1962. He served as fire captain and was Fireman of the Year in 1987. Ken was a member of the Gilbertsville Rod and Gun Club for 20 years.

During his 12 years as town of Butternuts supervisor he pushed the state to test a potentially toxic waste dump in the town.Ken also served as the town justice for 12 years and the president of the Otsego County Magistrates Association. He was proud of his role officiating 56 wedding ceremonies. Most recently, Ken served as mayor of the village of Gilbertsville, securing critical infrastructure grants and local government aid.

Ken lived a truly selfless life. His selflessness continues after his passing; Ken donated his body to The Anatomy Gift Registry to help others yet again. His actions spoke louder than words, and his words will always inspire action. He is leaving a legacy that generations of Nolans will be proud of and will honor. Family was everything to Ken-dad-grandpa, and he will always be everything to his family.

Good Bye Little Brother.💔