Ralph Frederick Kenyon
1929 – 2013
On Aug. 14, Lt. Col. R. F. “Steve” Kenyon, United States Marine Corps (Retired), received special orders and has left for his final muster.
Born in Newton, Iowa, Aug. 9, 1929, to Ralph and Gunda (Olson) Kenyon, with his older sister Betty, he attended local Iowa elementary schools and he graduated in May 1947 from Newton High School. In August 1947, his father was killed in an automobile accident, a stunning shock to the family. He enrolled at Central University of Iowa upon his mother’s insistence and one year later he joined the Marine Corps.
Within weeks in boot camp in San Diego, he “knew” he was where he wanted to be. The Corps was a hands-on outfit. He received discipline and a gung-ho experience that he knew he needed. He made meritorious promotion to Private First Class and received a Dress Blue uniform for graduation from boot camp.
After boot camp, he was assigned to Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, Calif., for duty. He took the competitive Navy/Marine Corps exams for naval aviation cadet and was selected for flight training. He left for Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla., in October 1949. The day prior to final carrier landings, he was severely injured in an automobile accident. After months of intensive rehab, he made the required carrier landings and catapult shots in November 1951. He received his naval aviator wings and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Steve returned to El Toro where he first flew F4U Corsairs and AD Douglas Sky Raiders. He was later jet qualified in the F4F Panther aircraft.
He flew combat missions in Korea from 1952 through 1954, extending his combat tour of duty twice. He transferred to ground artillery and was later Commanding Officer of West Loch, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He was then ordered to amphibious warfare duties in Okinawa, the Blockade of Cuba and then to Inspector/Instructor tours in Bakersfield and Los Angeles.
He was assigned to the First Marine Aircraft Wing in Da Nang, South Vietnam, in 1967, where he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and transferred to Saigon as the Chief of Sealift Command controlling U.S. and Allied shipments while on General Westmoreland’s staff.
He retired from the Marine Corps on New Year’s Day 1970. Lieutenant Col. Kenyon was awarded more than 30 medals and campaign ribbons. His awards included the Bronze Star with Combat V, Air Medals for his combat flights in the Korean War, and numerous medals and awards for his service in Vietnam. He was a founding member of the Korean War National Museum, Lifetime Military Officers Association of America member and a proud member of the Marine Corps Mustang Association.
Steve worked briefly with Buck Owens as Vice President of Sales and Marketing and for the Community First Bank in Bakersfield. He moved to Encinitas, Calif., to manage the area city terminal. There he met Fredette Kennett (Materials Management RNOR at UCSD). They married Aug. 1, 1986, after moving to Bakersfield.
Steve enjoyed his retirement and being active in East Bakersfield Lions Club, which he had joined in 1972. In 2001, he was the recipient of the highest award in international Lionism – the “Melvin Jones Fellowship Award” for outstanding humanitarianism. In 2007, he was voted to the first ever title of President Emeritus. He was a member of the Lions Club for more than 40 years. During this time, he reinstituted the “S.O.S. Breakfast” for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. The first Saturday of November was in honor of the Marine Corps’ birthday (Nov. 10, 1775). He ran the program with all volunteers until 2007. The best year resulted in a check for $10,000 to the Toys for Tots program for Kern County children.
Steve was a gregarious man, a great raconteur, who loved life and people and was happy to take a trip anytime, preferably to Laughlin, Nev. He never met a microphone he didn’t like, a standing joke at Lions functions. He loved to tease and “jerk chains,” drive Fredette “nuts,” which backfired on him when she was given the rank of “general.” He and Fredette moved to Stallion Springs in 2003. He was so happy in this community!
He was preceded in death by his parents, Ralph and Gunda; sister, Betty; niece, Karen; first wife, Virginia (Smoak) Kenyon; adopted daughter, Sandra M. Bloom; and beloved Toy Pomeranian, “Captain Boo.” He is survived by his wife of 27 years, Fredette; niece, Sarah Shockey (Ron) and their children, Andy and Christopher, as well as Karen's husband, Steve Joy, and their children, Sophie Noelle, Madeleine, and Aksel; and relatives in Newton, Iowa, and elsewhere.
At his request, he is being cremated with services and burial in Newton, Iowa. There will be a celebration in his honor at a later date.
For condolences please visit woodmortuary.net.