3.23.2019

Remembering: My Friend Kenn

"Is this THE Andrew Ritchie?" That was the first line of the first email Kenn Sheats ever sent to me. It was 2004, right in the midst of Martha's criminal trial. I had been writing for SaveMartha.com and this gentleman named Kenn in Michigan would often leave comments of praise on my posts; he was a kindred spirit in the fight to clear Martha's name. He had been a fan of Martha's from the very beginning: he had every issue of her magazine, every mail-order catalog, every flyer, every poster, every newsletter and every piece of advertising. I was in awe! He was THE Kenn Sheats!
 Kenn met Martha on a few occasions, but perhaps his most memorable encounter was at the wedding of Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell (the Beekman Boys) in Sharon Springs, New York, in 2013. Martha said the biscuits Kenn made for the event were among the best she had ever tasted!

Kenn and I became fast friends and over the ensuing years, Kenn was instrumental in helping me build this blog. He later became a co-moderator of the Martha Moments Facebook group. I always used to tell him that I felt this blog was 'our' blog. Kenn loved to cook. He loved to garden. He loved to 'keep house' and he loved the holidays - all holidays. Martha's books, magazines and television shows played right into all his passions. He was her biggest champion and certainly the most passionate collector of her wares I had ever met.
 
Martha Moments may have been my inception and concept, but it was Kenn's encouragement and assistance that often kept me going, even during times when I felt like throwing in the towel. I trusted him implicitly. He had all the passwords to the site and I would often run my design ideas past Kenn before going ahead with them. If it had his stamp of approval, I knew I was on the right track. Kenn was my biggest supporter and helped me so much in my understanding of Martha's ventures. He was a teacher to me, as well as a friend.

We had planned to meet in 2006 when Martha hosted the "Good Things Event" in New York City but his mother sadly passed away just days before the convention. Even though we never met in person, there were always the annual Christmas cards, the occasional phone calls, the frequent emails and the very real understanding that we were there for each other and that we loved each other as friends.

Our shared fantasy was to one day run a Martha Stewart museum together, preferably at Turkey Hill, where we would guide visitors through the gardens and the house. We would convert the barn into a gallery where Kenn would have all of his memorabilia on view and perhaps a little gift shop where we would sell - of all things - Martha Stewart logo earrings! (Kenn's hearty laugh over the telephone when we came up with the silly earring idea still resonates with me).

I am currently mourning his loss.

Kenn passed away late in the evening of March 22, 2019, after a four-year battle with cancer. There are really no words to express the loss one feels when you lose a friend; the pain must simply be felt and endured. Endurance was something Kenn had in spades. Rarely does one meet someone as courageous and optimistic as Kenn. Throughout his battle with cancer, which had many setbacks but also many encouraging signs of remission, Kenn was the epitome of grace and strength. He never once complained. He never once said, "I can't." He was the definition of a fighter and I want to remember him that way.

I will miss Kenn's insights and his friendship so very much. I dedicate this entire blog to him. Next to Martha, herself, Kenn was and is the reason I keep this blog going. Please take a moment to look through these photos of Kenn and remember my dear friend with me. I love you, Kenn. The angels are lucky to have you. Rest In Perfection.
A young Kenn looking dashing in his jacket and bow tie.
Kenn posing with his sister.
Kenn adored the holidays!
He loved all things 'home.' Setting the table was a simple pleasure he took pride in. Although, he hated the word "tablescape"! 
When he was diagnosed with cancer, Kenn's colleagues had these bracelets made to show their support for his fight. Kenn was the epitome of strength and courage.
Even during the most difficult times, Kenn always found a way to smile - and make others smile too.
Kenn's greatest pleasure was spending time with his partner of 22 years, David LaFramboise. (All of Martha's books and magazines are stored in his office).
 I will always remember you, Kenn. 

6 comments:

Lorie ~ Ferndale Lane Vintage said...

Beautifully written tribute. Rest in peace Kenn.

Jim Eber said...

Beautiful tribute

Anthony said...

Kenn was a very special person and I will miss his friendship. Always positive, always an inspiration. I remember first meeting him (though we didn't "know" each other at the time) at the 2nd Harvest Festival in Sharon Springs. He was selling T Shirts for Josh and Brent. Weeks later we realized that we had met in person. I cherish his friendship. His passion for life, gardening, baking, cooking and of course - Martha. This group won't be the same without Kenn. Thank you for the wonderful tribute, Andrew.

LEfting said...

What a lovely tribute - he sounds like a wonderful guy, and he was lucky to have such a great friend as you. I am sorry for your huge loss...

David P. said...

I still haven't had the ability to process Kenn's passing. I want to wake up and be able to pick up the phone, and give him a call like I used to on weekends. He fought a tough battle with cancer, never giving up when the chips were down. We spent endless days talking about his journey with his illness, and as much as he seemed to hit bumps on the road and have setbacks, he was determined to fight it until the end. His strength and courage will forever serve as inspiration to me.

I am devastated at the loss of such a good, loving soul.

Kenn, I love you more than you'll ever know.

Anonymous said...

This was very a touching testimony to love and friendship. I'm so sorry about your dear friend. He had a warm smile and what sounds like a beautiful, interesting life. My condolences to his friends and family.