Christopher J. Kenney, 46, passed away on Christmas Eve, surrounded by his family, following a courageous battle with cancer. He is survived by his loving wife, Kim, of Canton; his parents David and Jean Kenney of Clayton, NY; his mother-in-law Cheryl Beach of Clinton, NY; several nieces and nephews; and many, many friends and colleagues across the country. He was preceded in death by some very special people, including his grandparents Mary and George Cupernall and Mildred Kenney, and dear friends Dick Turner, John Span, and Bill “Taft” Gouge. The family would like to thank Stephanie Span and Rick Rohrer for all of their love and support during Chris’s illness.
Chris graduated from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, with a bachelor’s degree in History and Music. He went on to earn a Master of Arts degree in History Museum Studies at the Cooperstown Graduate Program, where he met his wife. They were married on September 2, 2000 in her hometown of Rome, NY. They were partners and best friends in every sense, and they spent more than 18 years working together at the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum.
Chris was truly a Renaissance man with many different interests – he was proficient in open hearth cooking, played the piano for 40 years, had his private pilot’s license, and was the proud owner of a 1969 Oldsmobile 442 convertible and a 1951 Chevy pick-up truck affectionately named “Matilda.” He was a member of the Northern Ohio Chapter of the Oldsmobile Club of America, where he served as president, membership manager, and webmaster over the years.
He published his first book entitled The William McKinley Presidential Library & Museum in 2005. A second book, The McKinley Monument: A Tribute to a Fallen President, was published in 2006 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Monument in 2007. A third book, The McKinley Years: The Life and Times of our 25th President, was released in April 2016. This book received a Silver Award for Visual Communication from the Ohio Museums Association. He recently completed an article entitled “Catalyst for Change: The Assassination of William McKinley” for White House History, the journal of the White House Historical Association.
In 2010 Chris was invited to present a four-day residency entitled “Unwrapping the Christmas Carol: The History and Cultural Impact of Modern Holiday Songs” as part of St. Lawrence University’s Arts Collaborative program. In July 2015 he was a visiting scholar at Buffalo State University where he conducted a lecture and workshop on the McKinley presidency for teachers from throughout the United States as part of an NEH Landmarks Grant Program. He served 13 years as District 5 coordinator for Ohio History Day, which covers eight counties in Northeast Ohio.
Chris has been interviewed about the McKinley presidency by WESA in Pittsburgh; KHSU, the National Public Radio station in Arcata, CA; Univision, the Hispanic News Network; and TIME Magazine. He also appeared on the PBS documentary Nine Long Days: TR’s Journey to the White House.
Chris has been the Director of Education at the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum in Canton since 2001, where he portrayed William McKinley through first person interpretation, spoke on the construction and architecture of the McKinley National Memorial, and coordinated field trips for over 10,000 students every year. In 2003 his series of school programs “Ohio & You” was honored with a Commendation Award for History Outreach by the Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums. Chris was also an Assistant Lecturer for the History Department at the University of Akron, teaching History 484/584 Museums and Archives.
Chris’s family would like to thank the wonderful staff of the Aultman Woodlawn Compassionate Care Center who took such good care of him in his final days.
A celebration of Chris’s life will take place on Sunday December 29 at 3:00 PM at the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Christopher J. Kenney Memorial Bus Scholarship Fund at the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, which through a grant program will fulfill Chris’s dream of providing transportation funds for schools who cannot afford a field trip because of the high cost of busing.
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