ANDOVER, NEW JERSEY – Kenneth D. Davis, 76, of Byram Township, New Jersey, formerly of Abilene, Kansas, died April 16, 2020, in Andover.
He was born April 20, 1943, in Haviland, Kansas, the son of Chester Ival and Maude Rebecca (Young) Davis. He was raised in Wichita, Kansas, and attended North High School in Wichita. As a teenager, he was a member of the Kansas Civil Air Patrol and the Boy Scouts. He enlisted in the U.S. Army at 17 years old and served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division from 1960 to 1963. During that time, he was involved in military operations during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
He married Diana Mary Galloway on Aug. 6, 1966, in Wichita, Kansas. They lived most of their married life in Kansas, including Wichita, Topeka, Ozawkie, Meriden and Abilene, and also lived in Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca, Arizona. The couple moved from Abilene, Kansas, to Byram Township, New Jersey, in 2018. They have three daughters, Wendy, Cindy and Dena.
Kenny served most of his life as a firefighter, including in the late 1960s and early 1970s for Sedgwick County in Wichita, Kansas; as a federal service firefighter at Forbes Field in Topeka, Kansas; and as the chief fire inspector and fire marshal in the 1970s at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, before joining the Fort Riley Fire Department as a federal service firefighter in the early 1980s at Fort Riley, Kansas, where he served until he retired in 1995. After retiring from Fort Riley, he worked as a security guard at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, from 1996 to 2003.
Those who knew Kenny also knew he was a jack of all trades. In between his stint as a firefighter throughout the years, he also took on some interesting jobs, some paid and some voluntary, including as a cab driver, Arizona Ranger, private detective, locksmith, deputy sheriff with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department, security guard and once worked as an apprentice in Davidson’s Mortuary in Topeka, Kansas.
He had many interesting hobbies and was a collector of many things. He was an avid gun and knife collector; he had great taste in music and had an enormous collection of vinyl records he had been collecting since his teenage years – everything from Elvis to the Glenn Miller Band, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson to the Carpenters – you name it, he probably had it!
For a while, he collected model trains and set up a huge model train city in his basement he was pretty proud of. He enjoyed fishing, deer and rattlesnake hunting, metal detecting, photography and collecting military uniforms, hats and badges from around the world. He was fascinated with the Old West and enjoyed his time as a gunfighter at Old Abilene Town in Abilene. He loved traveling and planning “unique” family vacations every year – the Buford Pusser Home and Museum from the movie “Walking Tall” made the list one year, but so did the Catherine the Great exhibit and the Smithsonian Institute. He also enjoyed singing – especially Elvis Presley songs – and participating in productions with the Abilene Community Theatre.
More than anything, though, he enjoyed trying to get his girls into his hobbies, teaching them how to shoot and clean guns at a young age, fish and even a few self-taught karate lessons when he picked that up as a hobby one year as well. He was definitely one-of-a-kind and will be missed dearly.
He is survived by his wife of 53 years Diana of Byram Township, New Jersey, daughters Wendy and Scott Johanson of Tenino, Washington, Cindy Davis and partner, Peter Rawson, of Byram Township, New Jersey, and Dena and Josh O’Dell of Santa Clarita, California, sisters Bonnie and Charles Blaikie of Owasso, Oklahoma, Margie James of Holiday Island, Arkansas, Ramona Durham of Denton Texas, and Joyce Davis of Springfield, Missouri, grandchildren Braden Davis of Santa Clarita, California, Madison Davis of Abilene, Kansas, and Olivia O’Dell of Santa Clarita, California and many nieces, nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents Chester and Maude Davis and one infant brother.
The family has chosen cremation. Smith-McCracken Funeral Home in Newton, New Jersey, is in charge of the arrangements.
A memorial service will be planned at a later date in Kansas.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions can be made to the Dementia Foundation at www.dementiasociety.org or to any local fire station, family of a firefighter or emergency responder or charity of your choice in his honor.
Cards may be sent to the family in care of: Diana Davis, 41 Tamarack Road, Byram Township, N.J. 07821.