On Friday we drove to Eastham (Cape Cod), MA to be a part of the celebration of the life of our best friend, Ken Grenier.
While Debbie spent time with Ken's wife and her dear friend, Cheri
I had the pleasure and honor of playing golf with Ken's 15-year old grandson,
Kenny on both Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning on two courses (Highland Links in Truro
Terry Finn (Ken's Brother-in-Law, Grandson Kenny and Dick at Captain's Golf Course
Sunday afternoon was dedicated to a casual party to remember and celebrate Ken … with more than 50 people attending, some traveling from as far away as Arizona, Montana and Michigan.
After Ken's daughter spoke both Debbie and Ishared some of our thoughts and recollections about the fifty-two-plus years we'd known Ken.
Remembering My Friend Ken Grenier
My name is Dick Newbert.
I know Cheryl, Jacque, Kim and Kenny truly appreciate everyone being here today!
My wife, Debbie, and I have been fortunate to have been able to call Ken and Cheryl our dearest friends since 1966 … and probably known them longer than almost everyone else here this afternoon.
Debbie and I were married on June 10th of that year and the following morning were at Logan Airport on our way to a Bermuda honeymoon. At one point I found myself seated outside the ladies room beside another young twentysomething who had gotten married just hours earlier and was also headed to Bermuda. While patiently waiting, our intermittent banter came down to macho joking as to whether this was what married life was going to be all about.
Unbeknownst to us, our wives had spoken before emerging from the ladies room.
An hour or so later, we found ourselves in boarding line right behind this same individual and his new bride. He, or maybe it was his wife … no one is sure a half century later who was the culprit … dropped his Old Spice After Shave which shattered and splattered on the tile floor … at which point we found out his name when his wife, with a combination of frustration and disbelief, yelled; “Oh, Kenny!”
We didn’t know it at that moment, but while helping them pick-up the pieces of the broken bottle, our incredibly special, fifty-three year plus relationship began.
It must have been fate … as we found ourselves seated behind them on the plane … followed directly behind them going through Customs … caught the next cab after them … and, although booked at neighboring resorts, we had to register at Mermaid Beach where they were staying and arrived to check-in as they were headed for their room.
On the spur of the moment, we decided to get together the following morning … which turned into a non-stop week of exploring the entire island, eating our lunches and dinners, and just hanging out around Mermaid Beach’s pool and beach together. And, as Bermuda is a left-hand drive country, navigating our rented Mopeds produced some exciting moments.
Our most memorable late afternoon and evening was at the Reefs Resort. Arriving well before the dinner hour, we enjoyed several rounds of drinks as we looked out over a gorgeous, aqua blue ocean. A very leisurely dinner and more alcohol followed. Eventually, we found ourselves the only patrons left at some time around or possibly after midnight.
As we had arrived on our Mopeds, it only seemed logical at the time that they should be our means of transportation back to our motels. Climbing on our individual scooters, we headed down a narrow and unlit roadway. Fortunately, there was no traffic.Ken was the leader of our motley caravan, followed by me and further back Debbie and Cheryl bringing up the rear. Ken, possibly more concerned with keeping his scooter upright than where we were, slowly pulled away from us.
Suddenly, Cheryl, Debbie and I were passed by a threesome of other late night revelers also on Mopeds. As the trio pulled up behind Ken, he must have assumed they were his wife and new-found friends, at which time he picked up his speed … and soon his tail lights and those of the folks who’d passed us disappeared over a distant hill.
From behind, I believe I again heard those so oft spoken words, “Oh, Kenny!”
At some point the three motor-bikers passed Ken who suddenly realized we were nowhere in sight. Wondering where we were he pulled over and waited. Several minutes later we finally caught up to a clearly embarrassed but relieved Ken Grenier.
After an unforgettable week, the four of us returned to Boston on the same flight, after which Debbie and I and Ken and Cheryl bid a sad farewell and hoped we could get together in the future, deep down knowing such one-week relationships rarely last.
However, just three months later we found ourselves living less than an hour apart … Ken and Chery in Bridgeport, CT (where they lived with their pet rabbit which delighted in chewing electrical wires behind their couch) and Debbie and I in Dobbs Ferry, NY. We made a point of getting together in both places.
After we moved back to the Boston area and Ken and Cheryl relocated to Sandy Hook, CT, distance, careers and child raising kept us from seeing much of each other, getting together only very occasionally for a number of years. However, our friendship not only didn’t suffer, it actually grew. When we did get together, it was like we’d seen each other just the day before.
During one of our infrequent visits to see Ken and Cheryl in Sandy Hook we went out to dinner at the Copper Mine Restaurant on Stevenson Dam. Suddenly, Ken and I found ourselves … once again … amazingly misunderstood and misjudged … and for some still vague reason were asked to leave. Cheryl and Debbie, however, had their own theories and were remarkably silent toward us … for several days!
On another occasion Ken and I got back from playing golf to find my son, Doug, had gotten in to and apparently swallowed some Sweet Pea seeds and had been whisked off by Debbie and Cheryl to the local hospital to have his stomach pumped. The moral of this story, as we later “learned” had we’d been watching the kids instead of playing golf, this problem would never have occurred.
As most of you know, Ken was a high school basketball star and good enough to earn a scholarship to Bridgeport University. Once there he began to discover he was playing with and against many other super stars from their respective high schools. He loved to tell the story of a game, against Seton Hall, when his team grabbed a defensive rebound and tossed Ken a breakaway pass. Ken dribbled down the court at full speed and went for the easy layup when, as he described it, all he saw was a huge hand slam his shot back in his face. His dreams of someday playing in a Celtics uniform died that night.
As we have a family cottage in Brewster on Cape Cod … just 5 miles from here … Ken and Cheryl became the only couple we ever invited to stay with us. On this fateful week, they fell in love with the Cape but concurrently discovered Jacque and Kim were deathly afraid of our dog. Soon thereafter, canines, beginning with Cassie, became full-fledged members of their family for many years.
During the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s I had to travel from our home in Massachusetts and later New Hampshire to the Norfolk, VA or Washington DC areas for my annual two-week Naval Reserve active duty training. I was fortunate to have an open invitation from the Greniers to stop and have dinner and/or even spend the night on my treks going and returning from these trips.
On one occasion, Cheryl’s meatloaf dinner became infamous. Whether or not it tasted as “unique” Ken and I recollected it became humorous folk lore. Cheryl still swears it was just a missing ingredient. However, I can vouch for the fact that Cheryl is a really good cook … when she cooks!
On another trip to Norfolk, I stopped in Sandy Hook during which time Ken and I had a way too many beers before I continued my drive south. After I had left Ken and Cheryl were worried sick that they’d let drive in my condition. Fortunately, I safely reached a motel at the southern end of the New Jersey Turnpike.
There is another story, which, as I was not there, is only hearsay. Apparently, one day Cheryl asked Ken to dispose of their rabbit hutch. Next time she checked, it was gone. Ken had come through, again! Shortly thereafter, Cheryl received a call from a neighbor asking … you guessed it … for Ken to please pick-up the rabbit hutch. In response to his wife’s request, he had walked to the end of his driveway, crossed the street and unceremoniously disposed of it in the neighbor’s woods.
While not there, I can clearly hear; “Oh, Kenny!”
The four of us returned to Bermuda twice, in 1984 and again in 1998 to celebrate our 18th and 32nd anniversaries. On our last trip, Ken and I were fortunate enough to wrangle a free round of golf at the exclusive Castle Harbor Golf Club.
And while on the subject of golf. While I enjoyed the game, it was a passion for Ken.
Those of you who had the opportunity to play golf with Ken know he was not a slave to fashion … with some of his hats, in particular, looking like they predated the invention of the game.
Their love for the Cape first brought them to Wellfleet where purchased a small cottage where we visited on a number of occasions. To no one’s surprise it was less than a mile from the Chequessett Golf Course where Ken became a regular.
After Ken’s retirement and their move to Eastham, we began to get together more often. However, retirement wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and Ken, needing an outlet and wanting to supplement his pension, became a Ranger at Truro’s Highland Links Golf Course and a seasonal tax preparer for H&R Block … both providing him with some pretty amusing stories about the people he encountered.
Ken and I often teased Cheryl about Ken’s grueling year-round work schedule during his retirement years. He could legitimately justify he worked twelve months in every a year … to which Cheryl would point out that while technically accurate, in some months he worked only a single day. Ken would just smile and claim Cheryl had proved his point.
Two New Year’s Eves with them at the Cape stand out. One where the four of us rented a tiny cottage in Eastham and attended some frigid First Night celebrations in Chatham.
Another year after they purchased their Eastham home, we were staying there and again planned to take in some local First Night activities. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and we found ourselves literally snowed it. As always, when with Ken and Cheryl we had a great time and were still fast asleep well before the ball dropped in Times Square.
If laughter is any measure of a relationship, then ours with Ken and Cheryl was a 20 on a 10-point scale. We could have fun going out to dinner, taking trips to Provincetown or Sarasota’s Siesta Beach Drum Circle, sitting around playing cards and other games or just talking. I sometimes think we treasure the latter the most!
Ken and Cheryl have always had an amazing circle of friends. Over the years we were counted ourselves lucky to become part of that special group which included Robert and Sue Ann Gildersleve – Jim and Sue DeCarlo – Doug and Penny Frank – Steve Helman – George Fernandez – Ron and Martha Hyams – Chuck and Jan Zimmer, to name just a few.
After Ken and Cheryl purchased their place in Sarasota and we began spending the winters there, we spent time with them almost daily. Ken loved it there … especially sitting on the patio he’d set up under their carport. I can’t begin to count the number of hours the four of us spent together there.
Over the years, Ken and I also found time to play a lot of golf while Debbie and Cheryl did whatever Debbie and Cheryl wanted to do. And, thanks to Cheryl’s wonderful hospitality, we seemed to have dinner at their place several nights a week throughout the winter. Ken’s mealtime assistance, aside from occasionally grilling, was wiping down the glass topped dining table with Windex sometimes as the dishes were still being removed.
There was one evening we were having hamburgers and a salad when I began to choke. On the way to the kitchen, as throwing-up on the table seemed somewhat impolite, I did a face plant on the floor… and Ken had to rush me to the hospital for several stitches. However, my accident delayed our departure from Sarasota for a week … more time to spend with Ken and Cheryl.
Frequently, after dinner Ken and I would inhale slices of Der Dutchman’s incredible chocolate cream pies or raid Cheryl’s freezer for some Klondike Pies or Fat Boys. Predictably, and in spite of Cheryl’s and Debbie’s pleas to be careful, both of us would inevitably end up with chocolate gracing the fronts of our shirts. Only two of the four of us found it humorous.
Another morning back on the Cape, on the way to play an early morning round of golf at Highland Links, Ken wanted to stop for, of all things, cream puffs. And these cream puffs were huge! We got back in the car and headed for the course while trying to eat the cream puffs. They were delicious but also full of a whipped cream filling … which squirted all over both of us. With no napkins, we were pretty well covered by the time we reached the course. All we could to is lick our fingers and laugh at the situation. However, we were unquestionably the sweetest twosome on the course that day.
Debbie and I were shocked and heartbroken when Ken called us with news of his illness in the fall of 2016. Shortly thereafter, we coordinated a surprise visit with Cheryl. When we walked into their Eastham home, Ken had a look for surprise and delight we’ll never forget. Our planned two day visit stretched into nearly a week.
Being a realist, Ken knew the seriousness of his cancer and faced several treatment options. He chose a path which permitted him to enjoy nearly a year and one-half of golf and normality (other than for his treatments), both on the Cape and in Florida.
In January of 2018, Kim and Terry visited them in Florida and the six of us took a day trip to Everglades City for an air boat trip through the Everglades. Ken and I had our picture taken that day [will show a copy of the photo] …