We have gathered because of our common love for Kenneth Pfeiffle. I want to take some time to share with you some thoughts and memories as we honor his life. These thoughts are a composite picture from many sources.
Ken’s dad died when he was just an infant. His mom worked hard at various jobs to provide for the family. When his mom was in the Nursing home at the end of her life, Ken went to Southgate to see his mom every night. This went on for a number of years until she died.
As I understand it, Ken picked up the nickname Popeye when he was in school because some guy mouthed off to him at school and he took care of him. He said even the male teachers called him Popeye. I get the sense that his reputation was all that he needed for the rest of his school years.
Like many of his generation, Ken was called to serve in World War II. He did his duty to the best of his ability. He didn’t talk much about his military years. I suspect he saw things he wished he could forget. I don’t think he ever did.
Ken met Fab on a double blind date that was arranged by Fab’s best friend. Ken had come home from service in March and they went on their blind date in April of 1946 just before Fab’s high school graduation. They became friends and grew to love each other. They were married in 1948.
By the time I met Ken he was already retired from his job at Penwalt. I always had the feeling that even though he worked hard, his job was really just what he did to provide for his family. It certainly did not define him or take over his life.
Ken and Fab had five children. All of them are different. They worked to teach them values and tried to appreciate the unique personalities and gifts of each one while also trying to adjust to the various challenges. Cathy said, “We grew up with a very involved dad. At a time when it was common for men to leave raising the children to the mother he spent lots of time with us playing sports, camping, fishing, swimming, ice skating, bike riding, playing cards and other games. I learned to love gardening and appreciate nature’s gifts.”
Ken used to love to take the kids bike riding in the evenings. Often they would ride down to the ball diamond to watch Carol Ann play ball. They would often go out and fish in Gibraltar and enjoy the fire at Jim and Anne’s home.
When they were traveling with Margie they stopped at a number of Amusement parks. Ken was always the one to ride the Roller Coasters with Margie.
Bill said his dad taught him how to work on things rather than calling someone else to come fix it. Ken was always working on some kind of project. Bill and Ken had their disagreements but Bill always knew his dad loved him and he always respected his dad.
Cathy remembers a “one on one time” when she was 7 years old. Dad took her to the circus (Ken loved the circus!). Cathy says she enjoyed the circus, but, what she enjoyed more were the silly songs they sang in the car. She said her dad had a song in his heart and a sense of humor that lasted until the very end of his life.
Nancy remembers that Dad always called her “sunshine” (“Washy Sunshine, to be exact). She also remembers that babies and animals loved her dad.
Ken loved being a dad. He enjoyed doing things with the children and making a happy home was the most important thing. He wanted his kids to have a strong sense of family. There were many parties with the aunts, uncles and cousins. Every weekend they would get together with family. There would be fishing, poker, euchre or some other gathering. The family often came to the home of Ken and Fab’s for Fondue parties or other special occasions. In the summer it seemed like everyone got together almost every night. There is some question as to whether Alan or Ken was the best at counting cards.
I’m sure that Ken didn’t always agree with the choices his kids made (who does?) but he accepted the fact that it was their life to live. He was as supportive as possible, always wanting to keep the door open.
Ken loved being a Grandfather. Kenny remembers going camping with Grandpa and Grandpa carved him a fish out of a stick. Most of the Grandchildren went camping with Grandma and Grandpa at some time. Kelly remembers, Grandpa allowing her to sit on his lap and pour water over his head in the pool, and letting her play with the skin under his neck which she called “chicken neck”. She even remembers him playing Santa. Kelly remembers how she found love and happiness from Ken and Fab when life at her home was not so happy.
Kristy remembers Grandpa as gentle and peaceful. She remembers how she used to enjoy sitting on his lap. He would always massage her back because he knew she would stay longer that way.
Rick and Rachel remember Grandpa always used to check out what kind of cereal we had in the closet and then would mix several of them together in his bowl. When they asked him why he was doing that, he said, “I want a Mixture!” As I recall, he especially liked Fruit Loops.
Shelly’s strongest (not her favorite memory) was a vacation she took with Margie, Ken and Fab to Kentucky. She couldn’t sleep for an entire week because Ken snored soooo loud!
It was a very hard time when Don died. Yet even at this time of heartache Ken was the one doing the comforting! He was concerned about how others were doing.
We all know that Ken and Fab loved to travel. They traveled around the country and around the world. Ken was perfect for this kind of life because he never met a stranger. He made friends quickly. He enjoyed experiencing life and seeing the world.
We all remember Ken and Fab in their motorhomes. The people in La Harpe always knew when they were in town because they parked on our front lawn! The day Rachel was born we had a big sign on their motorhome announcing her arrival. Our kids (and the neighbors) remember the musical horn on the motorhome. They had lots of fun with that horn.
Ken loved to play cards. He still enjoyed playing cards even when he wasn’t able to do much else. The month before he passed, he probably played more euchre than he was really up for, but he enjoyed every minute. Fab is sure that Greg will never win at cards again because Greg would always bid big and then rely on the fact that Ken had the cards he needed! It seems like Ken always had the right cards.
My favorite “playing cards” story was at our home. We were playing 10-point Pitch. Ken and I were getting smoked by Fab and Margie. We are about to lose and Ken decided to “shoot the moon” meaning he was going to take all the points. It is kind of life being “all in” in poker. If you get it you win the game, if you don’t, you lose. (Since we figured we were going to lose anyway it wasn’t much of a risk.) We had all the cards between us. When Ken took the last hand and we had won he just couldn’t help himself! He stood up at the table and actually did a little dance! Fab apparently didn’t share Ken’s joy. She promptly stood up, took all the cards and threw them in the garbage (she contends that they were sticky)! Of course this just made Ken laugh all the harder.
Ken was one of the most loving people you could find. He was attentive to Fab and always there to help (even when she didn’t want his help!) Ken was kind and gentle. Greg said well: “he was a gentle man and a gentleman.” Ken welcomed the in-laws into the family and always treated us as part of his family. He was the guy who could always be a mediator in tough situations because he had a way of seeing with clarity and perspective. He looked for the best in everyone.
Ken was a faithful man. He went to church almost every week (even on the road) and there weren’t many meals that didn’t start with a prayer of thanks.
I remember one Sunday morning I asked Ken and Fab if I could attend church with them. They reminded me that they were Catholic. I told them that I had remembered that and still wanted to worship with them. During the entire service Ken had to explain what was happening and where to look in the service books to participate. Even though I was a real pain that day he made me feel like he was really glad I had joined them for worship.
On the other side of the coin I deeply appreciated that they came to church to hear Rick and me preach even though I know it was uncomfortable for them. They always worshipped with us when they came to visit.
Ken was a kind man. No one remembers him saying an unkind word about anyone. He kept his sense of humor right up to the end. Even in his short stay at the hospice house Kristy said, “He is still a sweetheart.”
Ken was however a character. He had all kinds of sayings,
- He would tell you he was “fine-er than a frog hair”.
- Periodically he would say, “Shave and a Haircut, two bits. Who’s the barber? Tom Mix.”
- When you wanted to do something and were mad that you couldn’t do it, Ken would say, “You know what they call that in the Russian Army?” (The answer is “Tough!”)
- If you said you were thirsty he would respond, “Nice to meet you Thursday, I’m Friday!”
- If you said the food was too hot, He would say, “Must have been cooked in an oven”.
- He was always calling the kids and Grandkids “George” as in “What are you doing George?” Which of course was always followed with “My name’s not George . . . “ (I always figured this was his sneaky way of remembering the name of the Grandchild he was talking to)
- If he saw patches of snow on the ground he would say it was “Indian Snow” because there was Apache here and Apache there!
- He sometimes said (usually to a loud child): “You should be on the radio . . . then I could turn you off!”
- If it was your turn to deal or your trick to take in playing cards he might say, “Just call it Pee-Pee….Urine (Your in).”
Ken had a great sense of humor and a giggle to his laugh that was infectious. He frequently mispronounced words just because he knew it irritated Fab. He was a man who enjoyed his life.
Ken was always quick to encourage. He was there to tell you that he was proud of you. He always made sure to give you a hug and tell you that he loved you. Cathy said, “One of the blessings of his short term memory loss was the extra hugs and kisses. Most of our “good-byes” were a little longer than dad’s memory. We would start out saying good-bye with a kiss and hug, do a little more talking and he would give me another kiss and hug, because he wanted to make sure he had said good-bye and given me a kiss. I appreciated that it was that important to him.”
Ken knew he was getting forgetful. He didn’t like it, but he accepted it. Many people would have become belligerent, but not Ken. He decided to trust Fab. He knew she would take care of him. Even if he didn’t know why she was telling him something, he would usually do what was asked. Ken knew she would take care of him or find him if he became lost. And she always did.
Cathy said, “During one of the times I stayed with dad while mom was helping Auntie V., he told me that there were two things he would never forget. He said, “No matter what happens, I’ll always remember where we keep the milk and the ice cream.” and he always remembered. He liked getting his own ice cream, (several times a day or as many times as he could get away with it.).” She said, “Last year the refrigerator was changed to a bottom freezer, so the ice cream sometimes ended up in the refrigerator, but he always found it.”
The love that Ken and Fab had for each other was clearly seen in these last years. Fab made it possible for Ken to stay at home until the few days before he died. It was a nearly perfect ending to a life that was well lived. Cathy’s words echo the sentiment of everyone in the family, “Mom was truly unforgettable to dad. Mom is the reason dad was able to enjoy his later years in love, comfort, and security. Thanks mom for being a gracious caregiver to my precious dad.” Ken and Fab gave us a visual example of what marriage can and should be.
Ken Pfeiffle was the kind of person most of us aspire to be. He didn’t claim to be an example, but He was. He didn’t seek the spotlight but we couldn’t help but notice him. We will certainly miss him, but we will never forget him. We are all different and better because Ken was a part of our lives.
The Bible says the fruit (or the evidence) of God’s Spirit in our life is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, faithfulness, and most of all gentleness.” When you read that list you can’t help but think of Ken. God lived in Ken’s heart.
This fact gives me great comfort today. I believe the words of the Bible that those who truly believe in, embrace, and follow Jesus Christ will live even though they die. So even though today we grieve, I believe we need not grieve for him. It is our loss that makes us sad; not His.
I believe Jesus really did rise from the grave. Because of that, I am confident that Jesus is telling us the truth about life and death. He says that for those who put their trust in Him, life beyond the grave is richer and more wonderful than anything we can imagine: It is the family reunion of all family reunions. It is beauty greater than anything we have experienced on this earth. It is a time of healing, freedom and life abundant. God walks with us during the course of our lives. He enriches us as He enters our hearts and homes. But on that day when we go to the home of the Lord, I believe we will gasp with wonder and laugh, and cry, for joy.
I believe when Ken died it was not the end of his life; it was the beginning of a new chapter where every page is better than the one before. So, today we put our trust in the promise God. We do so not because of wishful thinking, but because of the promise of the One who rose from the dead.
Today we give thanks. We seek to renew our own faith. We find a new reason to long for Heaven. And hopefully we remember some of the lessons Ken taught us,
- Don’t waste your life in worry; enjoy the journey.
- Every person will enrich our lives if we will just give them the chance.
- If you find a good spouse, keep them close, work hard at your relationship, thank God for them regularly, express your love frequently, and stay by their side no matter what happens.
- You never know what you can accomplish until you try. We should never be afraid to try.
- Life is more fun if you “bid high”. You never know what cards you have to play until you play them. By the same token, getting “set” is a part of life. Instead of whining, just call it “pee-pee” deal the next hand.
- Your children are a treasure to enjoy and savor. Instead of wishing your children were different, enjoy and appreciate them for who they are.
- A relationship with God is not something that begins after we die. It is something that changes the course and enjoyment of your journey right now. It is not about the church you attend; it is about the Savior whom you trust.
- A close family is a great blessing, but this closeness doesn’t happen unless you work at it.
- The person who is greatly loved is the one who first loves greatly.
- And he taught us that the things that are remembered and treasured at the end of life are not the dollars you earned, the degrees you were awarded, the body you wore, the stuff you accumulated, or the titles on your door. What is remembered and treasured is the love you showed; the spirit with which you lived; and the character that you possessed.
We have been richly blessed. Ken was a gracious and special man who taught us much. We would be wise to pay attention.