Remembering My Dad Ken Kahler on His Birthday

March 11th 2019 would have been my father’s 84th birthday.  He’s been gone since August of 1993 and today I offer some fond remembrances of an aces guy.

My father Kenneth Robert Kahler. I believe he was about 50 years old in this photo.

Growing up I would often ask my dad about how things were when he was my age,.I’d say, “Pop,, back in your day, what did…” and he’d stop me right there and say, “Back in MY day?  It’s STILL my day!”  We always had a good laugh on that.

My dad’s sense of humor was sly and dry and something he didn’t often share with those outside of the family.  One thing he did shared was his love for all animals.  Dad could not stand people who hunted wild critters just for sport.  He adored the dogs we had and was truly broken up when our first pooch ‘Coach’ had to be put to sleep due to age related health problems.

He was also a cat fancier and we had two kitties (Prissy & Squeaks) while he was alive.  Dad would often say, “When someone tells me they don’t like cats, right away I don’t like them.”

A Kahler family photo from 1967.

Movies were something we shared a long and common bond on. He took me to see many films in their first run;  “The Godfather”, “Bonnie & Clyde”, “Rocky”, “The Great Santini”, and “Deliverance”  which dad said was one of the best & worst films he ever saw.  He also introduced me to classics like “The Hustler,” “Citizen Kane” and opened my eyes to how evil Andy Griffith could be in “A Face in the Crowd.”  Late Saturday nights were reserved for watching old time monster movies on Channel 9’s “Creature Features” show.  We also saw many great and not so great monster and horror films in theaters.

I’ll NEVER forget how hard pop laughed when we watched “Caddyshack” and the infamous Baby Ruth in the pool scene happened.  The whole segment had my dad loving the potty humor and when Bill Murray took a bite out of the ‘dookie’ he exploded with louder laughs and howls!  Pop went nuts for that!

I’ll never forget my dad’s hysterical laughing at this infamous scene from “Caddyshack.”

My dad was not shy about sharing any of his feelings. I remember back in 1990 when my car got rear ended and totaled in a bad crash.  My mother was in tears, beside herself that I had to deal with a trip to the E.R. (everything checked out fine) and the hassle of having to find a new car through no fault of my own. When mom shared this bad news with my dad, she told me he cried even harder.   Damn he was a good guy!

On the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend 1993, my father was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. This was discovered after he suffered a seizure in a store. The oat cell carcinoma started in his lungs and went to his brain and adrenal glands.  Up until March of 1993 my dad was a lifelong smoker and he knew that hard to quit cigarette habit is what did him in.  Still dad took on his short but fatal illness with bravery. His faith that heaven awaited him never wavered.

This next segment comes from my pending auto-biography titled “Raised on the Radio.”  A book I hope to self-publish later this year.

My pop said he wanted to accomplish more in his life but I assured him he did way better than he gave himself credit for. Dad was a dedicated and loving son who took care of his elderly mother after his father died.  He served in the U.S. Navy, met and married my mom and adopted her daughter Maryanne and fathered me.  Dad had a career he loved and supported his family with, settling us in a fantastic neighborhood in a good town.  The beauty shop he owned did well in spite of having two other salons on the same street, just a half a block from his place. 

After selling his business, my dad started a new career as a hair-styling teacher at the DAVEA vocational school which is now known as TCD. (Technology Center of DuPage) His students loved “Mr. Ken.”  He also became the loving grandfather to my sister Mary and her husband Jack’s children Doreen and Michael.  Back in the mid-eighties he surprised me by taking over my college loan re-payment schedule.  Dad didn’t want to see me saddled with any debt and had the means to knock out my owed balance quickly.  This was the kind of man my father was.  He accomplished plenty.   

After dad’s grim diagnosis of no more than six months to live, we quickly planned his memorial service before he even came home from the hospital.  Hospice care would soon come in and treat him wonderfully.   I was to write and deliver dad’s eulogy at the service.  My dad had about two good months with us at home before leaving us.

I finished writing dad’s eulogy two days before he slipped into a coma. Mary read it to him because I was a puddle of sobs and tears. Afterwards he and I had our last heart to heart talk. I’ll always be grateful that we got to share those vital moments together.

In the early morning hours of Sunday August 15th, surrounded by his loving family, Kenneth Robert Kahler passed away peacefully at the way too young age of 58.  Smoking ended a life that should’ve gone on for another thirty years. My dad’s own mother would live to the age of ninety-five.  Mary Ann helped with the memorial service as she handled the scripture readings and shared some of her own fond memories of the only man she knew as dad. 

I wrapped up my eulogy with a quote from the liner notes on John Mellencamp’s “Scarecrow Album”; “There is nothing more sad or glorious than generations changing hands.” Those eleven words were a great comfort to me.  Then we played the Paul Overstreet song “Seeing My Father in Me” for the packed room of mourners.  The man who raised me to think so well of others, who taught me patience, how to appreciate movies and passed on his dry wit to me was now gone.  There has not been a day since when I haven’t thought of my dad and missed him very much. 

My mother and father enjoying the summer sun and their son. (Me!)

The Paul Overstreet song we played at my father’s memorial service was timely. But today I’m thinking about this wonderful dad song from Conway Twitty.