Kenneth Merrill Reading was born in July of 1946 to Roland and Gwen Reading in Oakland, California. He was the second of four children. I was the oldest child and the only girl. We grew up in Castro Valley in a modest home on a quiet street that we used as our playground. Ken and I used to reminisce about what a good “time” we were privileged to grow up in. I imagine that many of you who were young during that same period also feel that way because things are much different now.
Kenny and his younger brother Craig were very, very close and had many exciting adventures together. Some great, some not so great. They have a lot of stories yet to be told. I hope Craig remembers all of them. Craig was kind of a scrappy, fly by the seat of his pants kind of guy and Kenny was cautious and responsible. I know that Kenny saved Craig many, many times. They were perfect compliments to each other.
Kenny along with Craig belonged to a really extraordinary Scout troop. They had some great leaders; they went on marvelous, wonderful adventures with those young men, they were very close. Eventually all of the boys in that troop got their Eagle Scout Award and Kenny was 15 when he got his. He loved to hike in the mountains. I believe he often took his sons hiking or backpacking. But he also loved to fish. He spent so much time fishing on Scout trips, Craig said, that the other guys called him the “fishing fool.”
He played the trombone in junior high and high school and I know that he really loved music. In the last couple of years he would send me something every once in a while and he would say “you’ve got to listen to this song…find this on the internet and listen to it.” He also really loved pretty things.
He loved basketball and he played in High School and in Church and at any other time he could. Craig said that he was really a good shot…he could really hit the basket.
After High School he spent a year at BYU and then was called on a mission to Denmark (which in those days was two and one-half years, not just two years.) That was a long time for a boy that really loved his family and his home. I think it was kind of hard for him at first. He had some dark days. It took a while but he eventually overcame that. He grew to love Denmark and the people in his mission. He had many difficult but rich, testimony building experiences that helped him shape his life. When he got home, he had grown four inches. Four inches! I kid you not. Now he was 6’4” tall. After his return flight from Demark landed, those of us waiting at the airport asked ourselves, “When is he getting off?” Then we exclaimed... “Oh my goodness! That’s him!”
After his mission he returned to BYU and it was there that he met his sweet wife Suzanne. He likes to tell the story about how he and Suzanne met. One of his friends had a date with a girl in Suzanne’s apartment. Kenny had taken a hard test that day and he was very tired and didn’t want to go out; he just wanted to stay home and rest. But the friend kept after him and Ken finally said “OK, I’m going.” They went to the apartment and Ken sat down on the couch. Suzanne knew they were coming and it was going to be a blind date. She was thinking “I wonder what is out there.” Since he was a total stranger she sent her roommate out to investigate. The roommate said “I’ll pretend I’m ironing a scarf and scope him out and see what he looks like. I’ll come back and let you know. So she went out and came back and said “Yea, he’s not bad. But he’s too tall.” After 45 minutes, Ken was still sitting on the couch waiting. Then he looked over and saw Suzanne coming down the hall and said to himself “Oh my goodness, I’ve died and gone to heaven!” And that was the beginning of that.
He graduated in August of 1970 and they were married the next week in the Salt Lake Temple.
Ken’s first job was working for Liberty Mutual Insurance in Bountiful, Utah and also in Sacramento California. He also served his country in the Army National Guard and Air Force Reserves.
After a while, he decided he wanted to get a master’s degree in Library Science. So he went back to BYU and graduated from that program in August 1975. He was hired at a library in Wilmington, North Carolina, where Suzanne is from. They were in North Carolina for a total of eleven years. Ken eventually did get a directorship of his own at the Public Library in Smithfield, North Carolina.
Then Ken got kind of “antsy.” You know how the desire comes over you to do things better. He started looking for an opportunity to use some of his own ideas and develop some new methods. He found a job in Pendleton, Oregon. A new library district was being organized. He was hired for the job and he and Suzanne moved the family back west.
He was instrumental in changing the way libraries had been doing things previously. Ken helped initiate new and improved systems in the many rural Eastern Oregon communities. This allowed the distant regions to enjoy the amenities of the big city library. I lived in some of those Eastern Oregon communities and I can tell you they had some of the best libraries that I’ve seen. Ken did a wonderful job, he was even honored by being named Librarian of the Year by the State of Oregon.
While living in Pendleton, Ken got what he felt was a calling to research into the life and death of our mother’s brother Richard. Richard was the navigator on a B-24 bomber. He was only 19 years old when his plane was shot down over Austria. Kenny felt compelled to research and find out all of his story. He spent three years doing that religiously. He wrote letters, drove long distances to talk to people, and searched out military records. He attempted to discover as much as he could about his uncle’s life and death. We really appreciate and treasure what he has found for us. He has stated to me more than once that he felt the Holy Spirit guided him in his search.
Kenny and Suzanne spent the next 24 and ½ years in Pendleton where they raised their four sons and served their community and their Church. Ken was always a faithful member. He served as Stake Executive Secretary, Ward Clerk, Elders Quorum President, High Councilor, High Priest’s Group Leader, counselor to two Branch Presidents, Sunday School teacher, Scout Committee Chairman, and Scoutmaster.
He was also asked to set up the first Stake Genealogical Library in Wilmington, North Carolina when he was living there.
Ken was a great believer in integrity and honesty. He loved his God and his country. He was funny yet reserved. He laughed easily, he was fun! He loved his four sons and his grandchildren and Suzanne was his everything. He was a wonderful son, brother, husband, father, and grandfather. He was dearly loved and we will miss him until we meet him again.