ForeverMissed
Kenan James Kern
December 14, 1943-March 31, 2021
Kenan James Kern, 77, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at his home in Hoover, Alabama, under hospice care. Kenan’s health had declined over the past several years with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP). He was born on December 14, 1943 in Statesboro, Georgia to the late Virginia Kenan Kern and John Augustus Kern, Jr.
He graduated from Statesboro High School in 1962 where he set numerous state track records. Kenan was inducted into the Statesboro High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992. He was an alumnus of the University of Georgia and a graduate of Georgia Southern University in 1967. He remained a “Damn Good Dawg” his entire life and was especially proud that his high school track records stood until broken nearly twenty years later by a talented sprinter and fellow Bulldog named Herschel Walker. He was a member of the Delta Chapter of Sigma Chi fraternity at the University of Georgia. There he forged brotherhood bonds and steadfast, lifelong friendships that endured until the day he died.
In 1966, he married his high school sweetheart. They would have celebrated their 55th anniversary in July of this year.
A graduate of Army Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning, Georgia, he later served as an Infantry officer in Vietnam. He led numerous combat missions earning meritorious citations for his unit. He was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and the Bronze Star Medal.
Kenan served as a Boy Scout leader for Troup 332 for many years in Statesboro, Georgia. He was presented with the Silver Beaver Award for his contributions to Scouting.
Kenan was a devoted Rotarian and lived out the organization’s principal mission of, “Service Above Self”, each day. He never met a stranger and saw each personal encounter as an opportunity to help others. He served Rotary in many roles over the years in several states including Rotary International Zone 34. He was President of Rotary Club of Savannah South and was named Rotarian ofthe Year by the nine Savannah area Rotary Clubs in 2001. He also served as Assistant Regional Rotary Foundation Chair (ARRFC), Regional Rotary Foundation Chair (RRFC) as well as Peace Center Advocate for Zone 34 where he received the Citation for Meritorious Service, and District Governor of District 6920 in Georgia from 2008-2009. He was a multiple Paul Harris Fellow, Will Watt Fellow, Hue Thomas Fellow, Kendall Weisiger Fellow, a Sustaining Member, and Major Donor of the Rotary Foundation. Among his most satisfying Rotary roles was participating as a host for the Georgia Rotary Student Program (GRSP) and administering polio vaccines to young children in India to fulfill Rotary’s mission to eradicate polio from our planet.
Kenan gave his heart to the Lord at a young age at Statesboro First United Methodist Church. He remained active in various United Methodist Churches throughout his life as the family moved with employment opportunities. He was a man’s man with a servant’s heart. He loved the Lord, his family, and his country. No one could meet him and not remember him or his kind selfless spirit.
Kenan is preceded in death by his parents and grandparents. He is survived by his wife Beth Nessmith Kern, one daughter, Mary Beth Kern Haynes (Shane), grandchildren: Hayden Gabriel Haynes, Emmaline Elizabeth Haynes, Arden Olivia Haynes, a half-brother, John Augustus Kern, III, a sister-in-law, Jean Nessmith Burnett (Dick), several nieces and nephews as well as numerous cousins.
Services will be held on Tuesday, April 13th at 11:30 AM at Riverchase United Methodist Church in Hoover, Alabama. The family will receive friends before the service from 10:30-11:30 AM in the Riverchase Room at RUMC. A private graveside service will follow immediately after at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo, Alabama. A Celebration of Life service will be held on Saturday, May 15th at Skidaway Island United Methodist Church in Savannah, Georgia at 11:00 AM with the Rev. Jim Giddens officiating. A Sigma Chi White Rose ceremony will be conducted during the service.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to rotary.org/donate or endpolio.org/donate or the charity of one’s choice.
Professional services entrusted to W.E. Lusain Funeral Home and Crematory of Birmingham, Alabama. 
Posted by Phil Stillitano on April 28, 2021
Very sorry to hear about the passing of Kenan. I was doing a simple search for veterans I served with, and hoped to get in touch with Kenan. We were in Pleiku, Vietnam together and bunked in the same officer area. Kenan was a LT with the Infantry company, and I was a LT with the MP company. We shared a lot of times together and I wondered if he would remember me. My deepest sympathies are extended to Kenan's family. I see by the tributes and stories that he led a great life, and that does not surprise me at all from the soldier I knew so many years ago in 1969-70. Rest in peace my friend.
Posted by Nancy Barbee on April 19, 2021
It is with great sadness that I write on this wall but I must give tribute to a fellow Rotarian and friend. Kenan traveled with me to India to eradicate Polio and was a valuable member of our team. He loved the Peace Centers and visited NC many times during the Peace Conferences. Kenan was the epitome of a gentleman and servant of the our Lord. God Bless him and his family. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.
Posted by Mia Oehlenschlaeger on April 12, 2021
Kenan was among the first to welcome me to Georgia back in 2010, and very much part of the reason for an unforgettable year in Savannah. He loved a room full of people, and was a faithful host to numerous GRSP-students throughout the years. I'll never forget the night Kenan (and numerous other Rotary club-members, I might add) bravely pulled off a tender and graceful "Santa Lucia" procession wearing only a white sheet and a candle while humming the lyrics in Swedish, to the joy and entertainment of the rest of the club! Kenan loved a good show, and his good spirit and humor will always accompany my memory of him. All my thoughts and love go to Beth and the family.
Posted by Paul Pederson on April 10, 2021
There are a few people you meet in life that have such an impact; Kenan was one. After leaving Savannah we had limited contact, but when we did it was like yesterday. That's what good friends do. I will remember the good times we had, conversations prompting memories, laughter we had, and always leaving with "see you again soon." He always brought the best out of everyone . He certainly did with me. Thanks for being part of my life Kenan.
Posted by Morgan Chester on April 9, 2021
I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Kenan. I had last touch with him after he moved to Alabama, but we spent many years together at ITT Grinnell in Statesboro GA. I considered him a Dear Friend. My thoughts and Prayers for Beth and Family. Rest In Peace My Friend.

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Posted by Phil Stillitano on April 28, 2021
Very sorry to hear about the passing of Kenan. I was doing a simple search for veterans I served with, and hoped to get in touch with Kenan. We were in Pleiku, Vietnam together and bunked in the same officer area. Kenan was a LT with the Infantry company, and I was a LT with the MP company. We shared a lot of times together and I wondered if he would remember me. My deepest sympathies are extended to Kenan's family. I see by the tributes and stories that he led a great life, and that does not surprise me at all from the soldier I knew so many years ago in 1969-70. Rest in peace my friend.
Posted by Nancy Barbee on April 19, 2021
It is with great sadness that I write on this wall but I must give tribute to a fellow Rotarian and friend. Kenan traveled with me to India to eradicate Polio and was a valuable member of our team. He loved the Peace Centers and visited NC many times during the Peace Conferences. Kenan was the epitome of a gentleman and servant of the our Lord. God Bless him and his family. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.
Posted by Mia Oehlenschlaeger on April 12, 2021
Kenan was among the first to welcome me to Georgia back in 2010, and very much part of the reason for an unforgettable year in Savannah. He loved a room full of people, and was a faithful host to numerous GRSP-students throughout the years. I'll never forget the night Kenan (and numerous other Rotary club-members, I might add) bravely pulled off a tender and graceful "Santa Lucia" procession wearing only a white sheet and a candle while humming the lyrics in Swedish, to the joy and entertainment of the rest of the club! Kenan loved a good show, and his good spirit and humor will always accompany my memory of him. All my thoughts and love go to Beth and the family.
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