JARS v56n2 - In Memoriam: Austin C. Kennell

In Memoriam: Austin C. Kennell
Sandra McDonald, Ph.D.

The Middle Atlantic Chapter lost its dear friend and beloved member Austin Clinton Kennell on December 30, 2001. Austin died at home surrounded by his family and friends.

Austin was born in Cumberland, Maryland, January 22, 1918. His wife of 62 years, Betty, survives him, as do his children, daughter Gloria K. Sanders and son Austin C. Kennell III. He leaves six grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Austin brought many of his family members to MAC meetings over the years as he was a very proud and loving family man. He loved a good party and when he brought his family along there was always a good party.

Austin had some special names given to him by family and friends. He was so proud of the name "Dandy" that his grandchildren gave him that he named a company he formed after retirement "Dandy Sales Inc." He had another name that most rhododendron people didn't know about. He was called "Ace" by friends and family. Austin got this name in his teenage years when he was an "ace" basketball player on his high school team, a "scrawny" 5-foot 8-inch guard who was high scorer many times and later played semi-pro basketball. This nickname reveals much about Austin and his endurance, his pursuit of excellence, and his promotion of team work to get big jobs done and handle problems, all the while making those around him feel like they were special people.

Austin served two terms stateside in the Navy, serving during WWII and then re-enlisting when the Korean War broke out.

In his professional career Austin was president of Copar Industries, president of Pennsylvania Products, owner of Dandy Sales Inc, and retired sales manager and personnel director of Virginia Metalcrafters. In his later years he volunteered at the Visitors Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Austin was deeply involved with ARS on the chapter level and Society level for many years. He was a member of the ARS for over thirty-two years. He was Middle Atlantic Chapter president from 1979 to 1981. He was active on the chapter board for many years. He spearheaded the MAC-sponsored 1988 ARS Convention in Williamsburg.

He became first District 9 Director in 1982 and rose to president of the Society in 1989–1991. He chaired the Honors Committee from 1982 to 1991 and more recently the ARS Endowment Committee from 1992 to 1998. He served on the By-Laws Revision Committee from 1986 to 1989.

Austin had a vision for the ARS and he was dedicated to that vision. He worked to ensure the Society's long-term survival by building up the membership both in his Middle Atlantic Chapter and also on the societal and international level by working to encourage agreements with the Rhododendron Society of Canada and by building membership overseas. He worked to ensure the financial security of the Society by encouraging work to create the ARS Endowment Fund which he hoped would keep the Society solvent and reduce the need to frequently raise dues and still produce an outstanding Journal. He also worked with Harry Wise and the University of Virginia Library, initially for MAC and later for ARS, to have a Rhododendron manuscripts repository there.

Austin was an inspiration for us, encouraging us to greater things in the Middle Atlantic Chapter and in ARS.