ForeverMissed
This memorial website was created in memory of our loved one, John Kinney, 69 years old, born on November 12, 1951, and passed away on March 11, 2021. We will remember him forever.

There will be a memorial for John on June 26, 2021, 1:00 PM, at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco.   We're looking to make this a kind of "barn raising" service of musicians playing for one of their own who has fallen.  If you're a brass player who has worked with John, expect to attend and are up for doing some playing, please drop me a note at:

russ at russbutton.com
Posted by David Fairley on May 27, 2022
John Kinney was a gentle soul. We met at the Mission Coop Nursery School, and maybe being gentle was how he let a mutual friend, Ky, and I lock him in the bathroom. Nevertheless, we became best friends, more like brothers really, since we were both only children.
We spent a lot of time together as kids, going to each other’s houses to play. I remember playing all kinds of card games, first war and later cribbage and bridge with his parents Phyllis and Tom. We went to summer camps together and to James Lick Junior High then Lowell. John’s dad would drive us there for zero period band practice, and later it was John who’d pick me up in his Corvair.
We drifted apart somewhat after that though we continued to do things together, like backpacking in the Sierras and sailing on the sloop that he inherited from his dad. We’d play occasional duets together, with me struggling to keep up on the clarinet as he easily played his own part on the trombone, transposing as he went.
We went with our families on a Sierra trip and also a vacation to Mexico, all staying with Luisa’s parents in Mexico City. There was also the annual Thanksgiving dinners rotating between our houses and Ky’s.
In later years we became closer, taking many hikes together: Mount Tam, along the coast, and off of Skyline Boulevard. He was a great companion. We’d talk about all kinds of things – books we were reading, current events, politics, our families, and our various health issues. John was always the rational one, talking me down off of my crazier notions.
Toward the end, the walks became shorter. Maybe a mile on San Bruno Mountain, or a walk along the shore in South San Francisco. Then just a walk to the corner and back. He had more and more difficulty because of his weight. Losing weight is a miserable fight. At one point John had lost 100 pounds by going on a diet of milkshakes. At the Kaiser program, they reduced eating to a discipline. I can’t imagine how hard it was for someone who loved to eat.
I came to see him the week before he died. We didn’t walk at all, but he seemed in good spirits. Nevertheless, he told me that he was thinking of quitting The Family, a club like the Bohemian Club he was a member of. He had the unenviable and unpaid job of organizing the musicians, not just playing the trombone. He said that it was tough too because eating and drinking were major activities that he couldn’t really participate in.
So John passed away as he had lived, gently.
Posted by Maria Kinney on April 9, 2022
To may dearest husband, there hasn't been a day that has passed and I haven't think about you. You enrich my life in so many ways. you gave me a wonderful son, a reason to look forward in life. I consider my self one of the luckiest people, because god put in my life. I will for ever love you and miss you.
Posted by Tess AlbinSmith on June 27, 2021
Dear John

I guess after celebrating our 50th high school reunion, we should accept the fact that we are now on the other side of the hill, in terms of life’s journey, eh? So even the best of us (which you were in my book), cannot live forever. You remind me that we should live our lives as if it were the last day, and not put off things we want to do and say. I hope that was true for you?

Thank goodness for all those HS orchestra get-togethers hosted by Russ and Katie Button. It gave us a chance to renew friendships, catch up with old friends, and to examine who we were to them. I loved that you and I could chat and share the news about our lives and families. Such a great thing.

I don’t have many pictures of you John, but I do have a lot of memories. I’m sharing four decades of photos, and here's what I can share with you about these--someone will correct me, I'm sure:

1. 1968? (black and white at David’s house). L-R are two of someone's friends (names unknown), then you, Carol Negro, David Fairley, and my friends, Tommy Eng and Matthew Miksak. I’m taking the picture. We were testing our independence and trying to be cool, mugging for the camera. Did Tommy become a psychiatrist? Matthew lives up here in Mendocino and he's a nurse and professional singer.

2. 1979? (Downtown SF). L-R are Nancy Sitton, David, Stephen Gehl, myself, and you. Katie Button (nee Reike) took the picture I think. Probably this was shortly after our 10-year high school reunion when we learned Stephen had TB (precursor to confirmation of Aids). I remember we were doing a kind of intervention, cornering Stephen to say we loved him and we wanted to help. We were so full of promise and comfortable in our friendship. A great memory. That event was possibly triggered because Stephen didn't show up at our 10-year reunion. He probably had a concert. Ten years later you didn't show--what was your excuse? So we went to your house at midnight and beat the drum and played music and sang the Lowell Hymn until you opened the door. It was fun embarrassing you, John!

3. 2010: We played a concert at Lowell for our orchestra reunion. This picture was of the brass at rehearsal in the band room. A fun time for all, especially to see all the changes and refresh our memories.

4. 2015: At the Buttons house: This was one of the HS orchestra reunions I mentioned above. Thanks Katie and Russ for making this possible.

John, I said you were one of the good guys because you helped me in many ways. You never judged or laughed at me when I made a mistake. You were a great listener, and only offered advice when asked. You were quiet, but not absent. And you knew when to laugh at my silly jokes. You were a great pinochle player, a humble winner and gracious loser.

I loved you John, and you will always be in my heart and mind. You will always be a member of our tribe.
                                           Love, Tessie
Posted by JAMES TOUPIN on June 26, 2021
John made many friends through music, including this then-flutist many years ago. He leaves a distinctive tone out of the ensemble now that he's gone. He'll be much missed, including by those who have moved far away and seldom saw him.
Posted by Doug Miner on June 21, 2021
I’ve known John for many years having played music with him numerous times. Not only was he a fine player, but a very nice guy and enjoyable to be around. He will be missed.
Posted by Steve Dambrosio on June 4, 2021
I was fortunate enough to have played with John in the jazz band at the Family Club. In addition to his exceptional playing, my favorite thing was listening to his marvelous and mellifluous voice, telling stories or simply sharing his jovial spirit. We will miss you John.
Posted by Bob Brandt on April 11, 2021
It was my good fortune to meet John back in the 10th grade in band and orchestra. He was an outstanding musician and a true gentleman, then, and throughout his life. I recall his reliable and sonorous sound in many school concerts and subsequent outside performances. Years later we would often run into each other while grocery shopping at the Diamond Heights Safeway. It was always a pleasure to stop and talk with him, not only about music but about many aspects of life. Great memories - thank you, John.
Posted by Ken Crawford on April 5, 2021
John was a thorough gentleman.
Posted by Russ Button on April 4, 2021
I first met John in 7th grade at James Lick Junior High School.  We called them "Junior High Schools" back then, not "Middle Schools." We were in math class together when the math teacher pulled a tuft of hair out of my head one time when I got out of line. John never let me forget that.

John and I have played together in various groups ever since high school.  I ran a couple different big bands over that time as well as the little brass band I have now.  You can't play music that well unless you bring your love to it, and in bands like this, it's a shared experience. That's why it's such a blessing to be a life-long musician, and such a blessing to have played with John over all these years.

At our 20 year high school reunion, I was putting together a band of players from our class to run the old game band music for the reunion party.  We had enough players to do it, but John refused to come to the reunion.  This was a bit before John and Luisa found love with each other.  He was a little depressed at the time and just didn't want to see anyone. 

The reunion went fine and finished up around 11:00 PM.  So I gathered up all of the players and we drove out to John's house on Duncan Street, near Diamond.  If John wasn't going to come to the party, we were going to bring the party to him. 

It was nearly 1:00 AM when we showed up and rang his doorbell. I knew he wouldn't answer, so we got our our instruments and hit "Strike Up The Band."
John heard us of course, but figured that if he didn't do anything, that we'd go away. Hah!!! No chance.  By this point, lights were coming up and down the block, people were sticking their heads out the window, etc.   When we launched into the school pep song, he knew he was licked and came down to open the door and invite us in.

We all had a great time and John was especially thankful that we came.  We all loved John and he loved us. We still do.
Posted by Douglas Thorley on April 4, 2021
John and I met in the early 80's and played together often. He was a thoughtful and generous guy. I will light a candle to his memory.
Posted by Anthony Serrano on April 4, 2021
To the many gigs we had together! I will miss your sound! 
Posted by Douglas Miner on April 4, 2021
I’ve known John for many years having played music with him many times. He was a fine musician and a kind and gentle person who was always a pleasure to be around. RIP, John.

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Recent Tributes
Posted by David Fairley on May 27, 2022
John Kinney was a gentle soul. We met at the Mission Coop Nursery School, and maybe being gentle was how he let a mutual friend, Ky, and I lock him in the bathroom. Nevertheless, we became best friends, more like brothers really, since we were both only children.
We spent a lot of time together as kids, going to each other’s houses to play. I remember playing all kinds of card games, first war and later cribbage and bridge with his parents Phyllis and Tom. We went to summer camps together and to James Lick Junior High then Lowell. John’s dad would drive us there for zero period band practice, and later it was John who’d pick me up in his Corvair.
We drifted apart somewhat after that though we continued to do things together, like backpacking in the Sierras and sailing on the sloop that he inherited from his dad. We’d play occasional duets together, with me struggling to keep up on the clarinet as he easily played his own part on the trombone, transposing as he went.
We went with our families on a Sierra trip and also a vacation to Mexico, all staying with Luisa’s parents in Mexico City. There was also the annual Thanksgiving dinners rotating between our houses and Ky’s.
In later years we became closer, taking many hikes together: Mount Tam, along the coast, and off of Skyline Boulevard. He was a great companion. We’d talk about all kinds of things – books we were reading, current events, politics, our families, and our various health issues. John was always the rational one, talking me down off of my crazier notions.
Toward the end, the walks became shorter. Maybe a mile on San Bruno Mountain, or a walk along the shore in South San Francisco. Then just a walk to the corner and back. He had more and more difficulty because of his weight. Losing weight is a miserable fight. At one point John had lost 100 pounds by going on a diet of milkshakes. At the Kaiser program, they reduced eating to a discipline. I can’t imagine how hard it was for someone who loved to eat.
I came to see him the week before he died. We didn’t walk at all, but he seemed in good spirits. Nevertheless, he told me that he was thinking of quitting The Family, a club like the Bohemian Club he was a member of. He had the unenviable and unpaid job of organizing the musicians, not just playing the trombone. He said that it was tough too because eating and drinking were major activities that he couldn’t really participate in.
So John passed away as he had lived, gently.
Posted by Maria Kinney on April 9, 2022
To may dearest husband, there hasn't been a day that has passed and I haven't think about you. You enrich my life in so many ways. you gave me a wonderful son, a reason to look forward in life. I consider my self one of the luckiest people, because god put in my life. I will for ever love you and miss you.
Posted by Tess AlbinSmith on June 27, 2021
Dear John

I guess after celebrating our 50th high school reunion, we should accept the fact that we are now on the other side of the hill, in terms of life’s journey, eh? So even the best of us (which you were in my book), cannot live forever. You remind me that we should live our lives as if it were the last day, and not put off things we want to do and say. I hope that was true for you?

Thank goodness for all those HS orchestra get-togethers hosted by Russ and Katie Button. It gave us a chance to renew friendships, catch up with old friends, and to examine who we were to them. I loved that you and I could chat and share the news about our lives and families. Such a great thing.

I don’t have many pictures of you John, but I do have a lot of memories. I’m sharing four decades of photos, and here's what I can share with you about these--someone will correct me, I'm sure:

1. 1968? (black and white at David’s house). L-R are two of someone's friends (names unknown), then you, Carol Negro, David Fairley, and my friends, Tommy Eng and Matthew Miksak. I’m taking the picture. We were testing our independence and trying to be cool, mugging for the camera. Did Tommy become a psychiatrist? Matthew lives up here in Mendocino and he's a nurse and professional singer.

2. 1979? (Downtown SF). L-R are Nancy Sitton, David, Stephen Gehl, myself, and you. Katie Button (nee Reike) took the picture I think. Probably this was shortly after our 10-year high school reunion when we learned Stephen had TB (precursor to confirmation of Aids). I remember we were doing a kind of intervention, cornering Stephen to say we loved him and we wanted to help. We were so full of promise and comfortable in our friendship. A great memory. That event was possibly triggered because Stephen didn't show up at our 10-year reunion. He probably had a concert. Ten years later you didn't show--what was your excuse? So we went to your house at midnight and beat the drum and played music and sang the Lowell Hymn until you opened the door. It was fun embarrassing you, John!

3. 2010: We played a concert at Lowell for our orchestra reunion. This picture was of the brass at rehearsal in the band room. A fun time for all, especially to see all the changes and refresh our memories.

4. 2015: At the Buttons house: This was one of the HS orchestra reunions I mentioned above. Thanks Katie and Russ for making this possible.

John, I said you were one of the good guys because you helped me in many ways. You never judged or laughed at me when I made a mistake. You were a great listener, and only offered advice when asked. You were quiet, but not absent. And you knew when to laugh at my silly jokes. You were a great pinochle player, a humble winner and gracious loser.

I loved you John, and you will always be in my heart and mind. You will always be a member of our tribe.
                                           Love, Tessie
his Life

Obituary

John Thomas Kinney, devoted son, husband, father, friend, musician, and teacher, passed away peacefully in his sleep Thursday, March 11, 2021. John was a lifelong San Franciscan, and son of Thomas and Phyllis Kinney. He was born November 12, 1951 in San Francisco. He attended public schools, James Lick Middle School and Lowell High School, and remained close to many of his high school friends. John earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Indiana University, pursuing studies in Trombone, and a Master of Arts from the Juilliard School.

He was a Life Member of the American Federation of Musicians’ Local 6, and played in many local musical groups including San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park Band, Horns-a-Plenty Brass Band, and regional symphony orchestras. Recently, he enjoyed playing with and organizing various musical groups in The Family Club.

John worked in a trucking firm in which he was owner and partner until his mother became unable to care for herself. He spent many years caring for his mother who had contracted polio as a child. He also cared for his aunt Marion Brown in her final years.

John met, fell in love with, and married Maria Luisa Mondragon in 1989. They traveled many times to visit her parents in Michoacán, Mexico. John and Luisa maintained a house in Mexico City as well. Their son John Mondragon Kinney lives in San Jose and is the owner and manager of Kinney Windows San Jose.

John was a patient and insightful person, who rarely got angry. He loved to read both fiction and nonfiction. John would complete several books a month. He was incredibly smart but also incredibly humble. He had an open mind and was always willing to look at a problem from all angles. John will be remembered as a true gentleman, kind and caring, reserved yet
loving a good joke, and a true and loyal friend.

A memorial for John is being planned for some time in June. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to John’s favorite charities, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (stjude.org), or the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (sfspca.org).
Recent stories
Shared by Tess AlbinSmith on June 20, 2021
Dear John
I guess after celebrating our 50th high school reunion, we should accept the fact that we are now on the other side of the hill in terms of life’s journey. So even the best of us (which you were, in my book), could not live forever. This reminds me that we should live our lives as if it were the last day, and not put off things we want to do and say. I hope that was true for you?

I’m so grateful for the (almost) annual HS orchestra get-togethers hosted by Russ and Katie Button, which allow us renew friendships and catch up with our friends. I was able to chat with you and share the news about our lives and families. This has been so great.

I don’t have a lot of pictures of you, John, but I do have a lot of memories. I’m sharing four photos to bring back memories:

  1. 1968?  (black and white at David’s house). L-R are two friends (names unknown), then you, Carol Negro, David Fairley, and my friends Tommy Eng and Matthew Miksak. I’m taking the picture. We were testing our independence and trying to be cool, mugging for the camera. 
  2. 1979? (Downtown SF). L-R are Nancy Sitton, David, Stephen Gehl, Myself, and you. Katie Button (nee Reike) took the picture I think. Probably this was shortly after our 10-year high school reunion when we learned Stephen had TB (precursor to confirmation of Aids). I remember we were doing a kind of intervention, cornering Stephen to say we loved him and we wanted to help. We were so full of promise and comfortable in our friendship. A great memory.  Stephen was able to play at my wedding the next year but passed not long after. He was the first member of our "Lowell Pinochle Lunch Club" to go. Ten years later at the 20th you didn't show up! So we went to your house at midnight and beat the drum and played music and sang the Lowell Hymn until you opened the door. It was fun embarrassing you, and that sealed the deal with future reunions! 
  3. 2010 Lowell Reunion Concert: We played a concert at Lowell for our orchestra reunion. This picture was of the brass at rehearsal in the band room. A fun time for all, especially to see all the changes and refresh our memories.
  4. 2015: At the Buttons house: This was one of the HS orchestra reunions I mentioned above. Thanks Katie and Russ for making this possible.
John, you were one of the good guys. You were a mentor to me in many ways. You never judged or laughed at me when I made a mistake. You were a great listener, and only offered advice when asked. You were a great pinochle player--a gracious loser and humble winner. I owe a lot of who I am to you. Thank you.
You will always be in my heart and mind...and always a part of our tribe.
                                                                                                                  Love, Tessie

Remembrances

Shared by Edison Liu on April 5, 2021
I went to high school with John and we played in the same remarkable orchestra at Lowell, he in the horn section ,and I in the violin section.  Because I also played piano, he asked me to accompany him on the Hindemith Sonata for trombone and piano for a regional competition.  He was the master, and I faked it, but we went onto the finals. I would recount that experience with a smile as it recalled our sense of youthful optimism. Though we diverged in our paths after graduation, I remember him with great fondness for his kindness, intelligence, and dedication to music even at those early years.