Peterson Funeral Chapel
Dr. Kenneth Dale Wilson went to be with Jesus on October 19, 2021 surrounded by his wife and children. Born April 17, 1951, in Aurora, Missouri, to Warren D. and W. Kathleen Wilson, Kenneth was raised in Republic where he also graduated from high school. After high school, he attended College of the Ozarks, where he worked hard, was involved in a number of well-executed pranks, and ultimately met and married Sunni Rae Varner on May 29, 1971, with whom he shared 50 years of marriage, raised six children, loved thirteen grandchildren, and spoiled a whole mess of dogs and cats.
Kenneth enjoyed sharing the great outdoors with his family and friends. He especially loved trout fishing, whether it was at opening siren at Roaring River State Park here in Missouri or on the Gallatin River outside of Bozeman, Montana. He also enjoyed building. Throughout his life he realized more sheds, decks, desks, doghouses, bird houses, fences, custom-seating arrangements for pickup trucks and other projects than we can count. He also liked to do his own repairs and could fix any car or thing that was broken. With our large family, he had plenty of projects – and assistance. He especially enjoyed helping his grandchildren experience the joy of the great outdoors, making huge leaf piles and bonfires for them.
Kenneth also had a clever and dry sense of humor, and was a sharp observer of people and the world. He was also an unrelenting optimist who was always looking for a way to do things differently and better. These qualities would be essential in him successfully beating multiple battles with cancer and other health conditions, starting with his first bout with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 32. A veteran of many cross-country car trips with kids and pets, he referred to a helicopter medivac after a heart attack as “the best way to travel.”
The persistence and tenaciousness he demonstrated with his health was also evident with his education in the earliest years. With the help of his fifth-grade teachers, he overcame his significant challenges with dyslexia and went on to become the first college graduate in his family. He completed his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Specialist degrees at Missouri State University; and his Doctorate at Montana State University, where he wrote his dissertation on the development of critical thinking in students.
Kenneth also had a remarkable work ethic. He bucked hay bales, pumped gas at stations and distribution terminals, sanded gym floors, made cheese, drove buses, staffed science labs, and worked in construction – many times as second jobs. He brought his trademark wit to all of these endeavors. For example, the last step of the comprehensive “In Case of Fire” protocol he developed at Continental Ozark Gasoline Terminal – where he worked part-time while he was high school Principal – was “Run like h*ll!” After he retired, he even applied for a holiday position at Bass Pro Shops. His thought was that he could enable his outdoor hobbies, and while he briefly considered it, he had finally found a job he would not do - being a Santa’s elf.
And – of course – he applied his own experience in education and student mischief to 33 years of service in public education. Kenneth was a high school science teacher at Republic, the high school Principal and then Superintendent in Lockwood, the Assistant Superintendent at Carl Junction, and the Superintendent at Lakeland. As an administrator, he expected excellence of everyone. And he cared about his janitors, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, teachers, and principals. He worked hard to create environments where everyone could be part of a team that excelled. He expected that students from all walks of life should have the opportunity to learn and succeed. After retirement from public education, he continued to work with schools through a position at Forrest T. Jones.
Finally, as the foundation of his life, Kenneth was a devoted and humble servant of Christ. In addition to sharing his faith with his family, he always found a way to serve in church, whether it be as a deacon, board or committee member, or just being a helping hand.
Kenneth was preceded in death by his father Warren, his mother Kathleen, and his brother Dean, all of Republic, Missouri.
He is survived wife Sunni of Mount Vernon, Missouri; his son Wesley and wife Kerry and children Patrick, Caedmon, Adeline, Penelope, and Aoife of Rocky Hill, New Jersey; daughter Jenni and children Kienen, Brooklyn, Paris, and Londyn of Duluth, Georgia; daughter Melody and husband Christian and children Tobin, Coen, and Aria of Blair, Nebraska; daughter Amber of Mount Vernon, Missouri, daughter Tiffney and fiancé Zackery of Bentonville, Arkansas; son Vincent and wife Gabriella of Hallsville, Missouri; and by sister Loretta and her husband Doug of Springfield, Missouri and their son Drew of Berlin, Germany.
Kenneth was very proud that each of his children graduated college and of all their many accomplishments.
A Celebration of Life service is being held on Sunday, October 24, at Church in Action in Mount Vernon, Missouri, at 2:00 PM. Arrangements are under the care of Peterson Funeral Chapel.
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to be sent to the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America.